Mums-only privileges

"Surely parking limits don't apply when you're ferrying children to the park" … Jacinta Tynan.
"Surely parking limits don't apply when you're ferrying children to the park" … Jacinta Tynan. Photo: Ellis Parrinder

To the parking inspector who tried to slap a ticket on me the other day: an apology. I was in a clearly marked No Stopping zone and you didn't deserve my teary tirade. You had every right to threaten to call the police and to call for backup from not one but two supervisors. It's just that I had two children in the back of the car and I thought that bought me dispensation.

Ever since I became a mother, I have learnt to cut corners, ignoring not just traffic signs but all manner of procedures designed to make life easier because in my state they no longer do, and I brazenly now consider myself exempt. Surely No Stopping means unless you have babies on board and are attempting to drop off stuff at St Vincent de Paul, as I was. Surely parking limits don't apply when ferrying children to the park. Why can't I jump to the front of the Jetstar check-in when I have a baby in my Björn? Don't mums deserve to bypass the queue at Woolies?

I get quite resentful. Especially as there is no opportunity for payback and no appreciation shown, particularly by the mums.

We are entitled to flexible working hours, too, the only way we can sustain our careers post-baby. It's a big ask: childcare-friendly hours, school holidays off and a definite "No way, not happening" to staying back late. The catch is, for every special privilege bestowed on a mother, someone else is carrying the load. Pre-motherhood, I was always happy to work weekends and Christmas, ever hopeful the time would come when I would benefit from the same treatment. But what if you're not a parent and are never going to be, either through choice or circumstance?

All hail the progress being made on redressing the mass exodus of experience that tragically walks out the office door when skilled women choose motherhood over work. But while some working mums are often preferred employees for their keenness to get the job done (and get on home), others are the unspoken bane of the office.

A woman I know – who doesn't have children – claims it is taken for granted that she will be available to work late and do the interstate trips because the working mums in her team have family commitments. "I get quite resentful," she says. "Especially as there is no opportunity for payback and no appreciation shown, particularly by the mums. It just seems so unfair."

This is why paid parental leave is a no-brainer, freeing women from having to make a choice between motherhood and paid work. But the system we have – the first in our history – is embarrassingly retro and hardly enough to make it financially viable for many mums to stay home. Even for a bit.

Nevertheless, the philosophy that underpins this special privilege payment is encouraging: honouring the role of parenting so much that the government will pay you to do it. For 18 weeks, anyway. At minimum wage. There is economics in it (keeping skilled women in the system because it costs more to train new ones), but it is also about human rights. And preservation of the species. If mums are not cut a bit of slack to be human beings as well, they might decide having babies is hardly worth it, and then where would we be?

I have come to covet those Parents with Prams parking spots with the little pram symbol (no parking inspector can reach me there), but it seems even this tiny prerogative raises the ire of some. "You are no more special than anyone else just because you procreated," vented a woman – a mum – on a mummy blog. No more special perhaps but grateful to nab one of the four (out of 400) parks for 20 minutes to do the shopping. She would take real umbrage travelling in Asia where, on holidays with our then 16-month-old baby, we were whisked to specially designated airport gates and strange men carried my bags. It is not just mums who are revered over there but mums-to-be, which I was also at the time.

That's not always the case back home. A pregnant woman was recently refused a seat on a bus in Tasmania, with one passenger yelling out, "She chose to be pregnant." So did his mother.

Yes, pregnant women are equally demanding in the entitlement stakes. Queue jumpers. Seat takers. You would think this would be a given. When growing a baby, should you not be given a little kindly leeway from strangers to ease the load?

At least that nice parking inspector understood. Much to my surprise, I was issued with a warning for that blatant misdemeanour. I won't park there again, I promise. But what a treat to have my circumstances taken into account.

Jacinta Tynan is an author and presenter with Sky News. She is a summer columnist with Sunday Life.