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Time for Parenting...

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

January 2002 Newsletter

Editorial; From the chair; New members write; Financial report; AGM; What the papers say; Emotional development; What does the committee do?; Poem; Your letters

10th Anniversary AGM November 2001

Guest Speakers Dr Catherine Hakim and Melissa Hill: a summary of their presentations

Dr Catherine Hakim

Dr Catherine Hakim is Senior Research Fellow in the Sociology Department of the London School of Economics. Going against the mainstream she has encountered much opposition to her work from the establishment, however with perseverance backed up by impeccable research she has now become a respected authority on that on which she speaks.

Dr.Hakim provides welcome relief from the "politically correct" view of women's life-style preferences so often peddled by the media and unwittingly believed by those of us who do not have the facts at our disposal. Dr. Hakim challenges this view with carefully analysed, hard data gathered over many years. She states her unconventional conclusions with quiet courage.

She has shown, for example, that the egalitarian model of the family where husband and wife (that is, if they are married) have no role differentiation, is not preferred by the majority of the population, as the EC and our present government assumes. On the contrary, after the age of 25 and once women are married and have children, this "egalitarian idealism" quickly gives way to a preference for different roles for husband and wife. Nor is it true that "men impose the housewife role on women and seek to constrain women's paid work". Forty nine percent of married or cohabiting women choose a compromise work/home situation where the wife has a less demanding job outside the home than her husband and where she does the larger share of housework and spends more time caring for the children.

An impressive 75% of couples still regard the husband as the main bread-winner and only 13% think that man and wife should be earning the same. Very few, about 10%, adopt role reversal and when this does occur it seems mostly due to force of circumstance rather than active choice. Furthermore these figures cut right across social classes, educational levels, racial/ethnic groupings, age groups and income levels.

Most importantly, we also learn from Dr. Hakim that Britain has adopted the EC's aim of imposing the Scandinavian egalitarian model of the family on the nation as well as the related EC goal of getting 70% of women of working age into employment, the same as for men. Her research clearly shows that this is not what the nation wants. For that matter do we want any social engineering imposed on us, by our own government or worse still, by some European monolith whose power base has been hi-jacked by a group of Scandinavian ultra-feminists?

The courage and clarity of Dr. Hakim's work was greatly appreciated by those of us who were fortunate to be at her talk.

Catherine Hakim's Book, Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century published by the Oxford University Press is available from good bookshops now. It is readable despite being academic and an authoritative work on the choices of women today.

Melissa Hill

Melissa Hill describes herself as an at home mother of two. She is author of the Smart Woman's Guide to staying at home. Born, brought up and educated in the United States of America she admits to having been a workaholic who worked her way up after college from Wall Street secretary to high flying researcher. After marrying an Englishman she continued to fly high in the City here working in "Nutriceuticals". In her own words upon the arrival of her first child she resigned herself to being an at home mother because she was concerned that her family responsibilities would weaken her career and would have an undesirable effect on the team she worked with.

Melissa in the "flesh" was even more lively and engaging than she is in her book - which is quite an achievement.

Her enthusiastic, wholly positive approach to being an "at home mum" is inspiring. She urges us to discover and value our own qualities, talents and abilities and to encourage others to do likewise. To this end she had the novel idea of getting us to fill in a questionnaire so that we could confront ourselves with our own talents and skills. This was both entertaining and revealing.

Just because we feel the need to share the difficulties that we inevitably meet while being "at-home-mums" does not make it an illness! In fact she recommends that we turn these "difficulties" into challenges to be addressed with vigour, determination and reason. Her passion for overcoming obstacles is infectious : whether it be lack of money, or those well-documented feelings of confinement, inadequacy or loss of self- respect Melissa has a unique and thoroughly positive way out which stems from experience.

Those of us who heard Melissa's talk undoubtedly felt renewed enthusiasm for being an "at-home-mum". It is a really great decision to have made, she says : not only does the family benefit but because the family is the backbone of society the benefits extend way beyond the family to the community at large.

Her most powerful point ended the presentation: what changes your life most is changing your ideas and attitudes, not your wall-paper, your husband or your income. Or in Melissa's own words, "Change your mind, change your life."

- Jane MacRae