Barnaby Joyce with his wife Natalie and daughters Odette, Caroline, Julia and Bridgette.
Barnaby Joyce with his wife Natalie and daughters Odette, Caroline, Julia and Bridgette.

Tell your daughters all men are bastards

IF I had a daughter, I'd tell her that all men are bastards.*

*There are only two things wrong with this plan: a) in truth I know most men are definitely not bastards; and b) as a mum of boys I don't even have a daughter - which for the record doesn't bother me in the slightest since, as previously mentioned, I am a big believer in the fundamental decency of the male species.

That said, however, if I was responsible for raising a girl into an independent young woman I would indeed tell her that all men are bastards.

Why? Because every woman needs to understand the only person ultimately responsible for your happiness, your wellbeing, your success, your failures, your career - and this is the really critical one - your bank balance, is YOU.

Yes, you. Not that guy who vowed to take care of you and assured you that you were in it together for better or worse - but you.

And it is here that so many otherwise smart, capable and strong women come unstuck. Not because they fell in love and decided to build a life with their significant other. That's not the dangerous bit (full disclosure: I'm as much of a sucker for the happily-ever-after narrative as the next person); no, the problems creep in when a besotted young wife laps up promises made about them being a team and how one-half of the team goes out into the big bad world and earns a living and the other half stays home to clean the house and change the nappies if and when a bundle of Joyce - oops, I mean joy - arrives.

After putting her own career on hold to support her husband, Barnaby Joyce has left Natalie, his wife of 24 years. (Pic: supplied)
After putting her own career on hold to support her husband, Barnaby Joyce has left Natalie, his wife of 24 years. (Pic: supplied)

For several generations now, women have been patronisingly reassured that the most important work to be done is in the home, and not in the workplace. There can be no more important job, we are constantly told, than taking care of children.

That's quite true, of course, as every parent knows - although funnily enough nobody ever seems to question why if staying home and taking care of family duties is really the most fulfilling and vital role of them all then why aren't men clamouring to chuck in their day jobs to be stay-at-home dads?

The answer is a truth that is all but forbidden from being acknowledged in polite society: and that is by the time a child is in school, there is no reason both parents shouldn't be working outside of the home in some capacity.

Despite the relentless eulogising of stay-at-home mothers in contemporary Australian society, all of these platitudes about the so-called selflessness of mothers who give up their career and their identity is only doing these very women the most grave of disservices.

Let's be honest - there's nothing liberating about a woman relinquishing the final shreds of financial independence or autonomy under the guise of being a full-time wife and mother.

Plenty of women manage to be the epitome of a devoted spouse and a loving parent while also juggling the demands of work and a life outside of domesticity. Just like plenty of men do every day too.

Perhaps the greatest myth sold to Australia women over the years has been the enduring furphy that a wife's greatest achievement is to keep the home fires burning while her husband takes on the world - or at least brings home the bacon.

Strip away the PR spin, and what these dutiful wives and mothers are actually being told is not to worry their pretty little heads about things like earning a wage and paying the bills.

And yet millions of women fall for it.

The First Wives Club could have been a documentary.
The First Wives Club could have been a documentary.

It all sounds nice enough - after all, what's the harm in stepping away from the 9 to 5 drudgery and letting your other half take care of the bills while you focus on homework supervision and redecorating the living room?

But what if it all goes wrong … what then?

And goes wrong it often does, with 40 per cent of single women of retirement age in this country living below the poverty line.

With Australian women retiring with just over half the amount of superannuation as men, it's clear there's a heavy cost to be paid by those who giddily gave up their independence as wide-eyed young homemakers, only to be left stranded and alone years later in a world that has long ago moved on without them.

Then there is the heart-wrenching betrayal endured by Natalie Joyce, who has spoken out about the devastation she felt after her husband left her "as a wife of 24 years, who placed my own career on hold to support Barnaby through his political life."

No, not all men are bastards. But some are. And even if he wasn't a bastard when you walked down the aisle, he may well turn out to be one a decade or three down the track.

So what's a girl to do, short of swearing off men all together?

Don't lose sight of who you are as an individual. Keep your skills up to date. Don't surrender control of your finances. And keep at least one foot in the workplace - "lean out", by all means, but don't "opt out" entirely.

Don't leave your fate in the hands of a potential bastard, I would tell my daughter. Despite the best of intentions and youthful optimism, you might just find yourself married to one.

Don't fall for the same old nonsense Australian women have been buying for far too long, I would caution her. Remember to always stand on your own two feet, even as they are walking down the wedding aisle.

Sarrah Le Marquand is the editor-in-chief of Stellar magazine and the founding editor of RendezView.