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Time for Parenting...

...because raising children is a full-time job

January 2001 Newsletter

Editorial; Voices; Baby to child: the importance of emotional well-being; The Nurturing Programme; New members write

Voices : The Sequel

We were delighted to read the headline on the front of the latest 'Voices' magazine that 'Mums matter - it's the most important job of all' - but disappointed to find that the sentiment is only skin deep. Most of the discussion of motherhood in this document is concerned with how children can be fitted in around the all-important work culture. Alex Nightingale reports.

'Voices' is the latest publication of the Government's Women's Unit, a sequel to the magazine of the same name issued in 1999 (see our Autumn 99 newsletter). It is supposed to be about ensuring 'genuine choices' for women, but the list in the introduction by Margaret Jay and Tessa Jowell covers maternity rights, childcare and the minimum wage with no mention of support for full time mothers.

We all know that lack of financial support and social recognition means that many women are denied the choice to stay at home with their children. We should like to see the Women's Unit campaigning for the Government to recognise and value the importance of this role.

Motherhood tends to be ignored in a society which values people according to their financial worth. Voices propagates this materialistic culture by concentrating on 'the cost of being a woman' and the ideology of financial independence. Sadly, it is simply not true to say, as this document claims: 'whatever choice a mother makes, she will be supported and her role recognised as the heart of the family'. Full time mothers do not have that support and recognition: the Government has steadily eroded fiscal benefit for married families whilst asserting that it believes in supporting these choices.

The section 'Mums matter' was a golden opportunity to celebrate the joy and value of motherhood. Instead, the discussion concentrates on the image problem of the word 'housewife', thus neatly covering up the fact that it is largely the Government's work-centred ideology which 'makes you sound like a failure because you aren't working in an office'.

This section also carries a large DFEE advertisement recommending jobs in childcare - being paid to look after other people's children is clearly valued more highly than looking after one's own!

Yet the view expressed in Voices appears to be that paid work is key to women's sense of self worth and her value to society: 'the solution to economic problems depends on enhancing women's economic role. If the Government really believes that motherhood is 'the most important job of all', the job of motherhood should be financially recognised.