Good dominion

Justine Toh shares why she's optimistic about the Albanese government's proposed new parental leave scheme.

The Albanese government recently announced it will increase its paid parental leave scheme from 18 to 26 weeks – and for the benefit to be shared by both parents.

The detail of how it’ll be divvied up between mum and dad is forthcoming, but fingers crossed it shifts entrenched patterns of work and family life.

Sure, all families are different. But plenty of us are stuck in a groove where mums care for kids and do twice as much housework on top of any paid work they “juggle”, while dad works full-time and occasionally chips in at home. After all, it’s not his main gig.

Since the current parental leave scheme bakes in this gender imbalance, the new version sounds promising. I’ll cheerlead any attempt to nudge men to lean in at home and women to lean in at work if they choose. It feels like good dominion to me: the shared enterprise of being human in the world.

In the Bible’s creation story, God tells humankind to “have dominion” over the earth (Genesis 1:26). We’re down on “dominion” these days, hearing “domination”. But this isn’t a license to oppress the powerless or exploit the earth and animal life.

Dominion might instead suggest wise and just responsibility or the chance to develop latent skills and potentialities. An invitation to become more than competent, it’s a vision of growth and mastery.

Further, “dominion” stems from “domus”: the Latin word for “home” and the common root for words like “domain” and “domestic”. Do you see where I’m going here?

For too long, we’ve considered the home the female domain and leveraged (exploited?) her skill in the domestic arts. But so much outside the home might also call mum to mastery. And maybe dad could see dominion differently: home-making is his calling too.