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Welcome to parenthood, Abby Bishop

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A woman’s dreams and aspirations have been put on hold because she’s become a parent. Well, there’s news.

While one feels for Abby Bishop, who quit the Australian Opals ahead of their world championship campaign after Basketball Australia introduced a new parenting policy that would make it near impossible for her to juggle her roles, my first thought was welcome to parenthood. Sometimes things don’t go your way.

Bishop made a courageous and life-changing decision when she took custody of her niece Zala and perhaps only now she’s becoming aware of the new direction her life is heading.

In many respects she has been extremely lucky given her WNBL team the Canberra Capitals, and her European team in Hungary have assisted her in looking after Zala.

That her employers have been flexible and willing to help financially support her as she combines her dual roles.


How many employers do that?

But now that Basketball Australia, for all its gender bias failures over the years, have come out and said they won’t be able to financially help her, it’s the bad guy?

The school holidays start tomorrow, hey Canberra Times, would you mind forking out some money so I can put my kids in care and keep working? No, didn’t think so.

OK, over the years you’ve paid me maternity leave and carers leave, most grateful for that, but I’ve decided to work for an employer with conditions that suit my situation.

Sure Bishop made an abrupt leap into motherhood, and probably had a lot less time than most to think about what it would mean for her employment. But sometimes, even when you’re given the full nine months, you still really have no idea where it will all lead.

BA have said they’re happy for Zala to travel with the Opals. Plenty of workplaces wouldn’t even go that far.

The new policy allows children to attend games and camps but, according to BA high performance manager Chuck Harmison, ‘‘we want to keep the sanctity of a high-performance environment and make sure kids don’t disrupt training, games, or team accommodation.’’

You know Chuck, I get it. Work is work and home is home and whether your work is a basketball court or a court room there is a line between the two that sometimes has to remain separate.

How could a baby on the sideline be distracting, someone asked.

I know, on the occasions I have to drag my own children, who are of an age where they’re almost totally capable of looking after themselves, to my own low-level hockey games it is distracting.

For me, and for my teammates, and coaches and anyone else who feels some level of responsibility for them. Not being able to focus solely on the job at hand is a detriment to performing at any level.

The working parents in this office are lucky enough that we’re able, if there’s no way around it, to bring our children into the office.

There are rooms where we can tuck them away, but it’s still distracting, and usually it’s older children who are happy for some iTime. I can’t remember the last time I saw a baby in the office for any period of time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for championing the fight for flexible working conditions, regardless of your chosen profession; I’m all for striving for equal rights for female athletes; I’m all for working towards the day a woman can achieve her dreams regardless of her family situation.

In an ideal world all workplaces will have on-site child care, all parents will be given access to flexible working conditions that suit their individual circumstances, and while we’re at it child care will be tax deductible and we’ll have 12 weeks of leave to cover school holidays, and there’ll be equal pay for men and women, and female athletes will be front page news because they’ve won a tournament ... but it’s not an ideal world.

And if I slip into a maudlin, reality-filled moment I wonder if it ever will be ...

For me here, the main problem is this story wouldn’t be news if Abby Bishop worked in a factory, or was a teacher, or was a nurse, or even a journalist. She has chosen to be a professional athlete, and accepted all the conditions that come with that, rightly or wrongly as the case may be; she has chosen to be the primary care giver for little Zala.

This is her lot now. Get on with it.

There are plenty of women in all walks of life who are in similar situations, even given the unique circumstances of this particular one. Do we ever read their stories?

Perhaps Abby Bishop is starting to realise that once you do become a mother you’re condemned to a life on the sidelines. In some ways. Without that being as bad as it sounds.

Or in saying: ‘‘It’s disappointing I won’t be with the Opals this year, but Zala comes first for me’’, perhaps Bishop has made the most important realisation, that, at the end of the day, there are things in life far far more important than work.