Time for Parenting...
...because raising children is a full-time job
January 2002 Newsletter
It was only the second time in four years (no I don't "work" - "just" a full-time mother of four!) but I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to listen to the whole of Woman's Hour this morning (internet permitting - frustratingly missed a few minutes!).
It was terrific to hear the topic aired so thoroughly, though of course it raises so many more questions that one wishes could be followed up in a whole series of programmes! I'm sure you, like me, will worry about the prominence given in the programme to the role of outside-the-home childcare, but we have to start talking somewhere, and in my opinion this programme was very good publicity for the FTM cause, despite the "bias" (it did appear to be weighted, despite Jay's (?) repeated and laudable attempts to stamp on the dichotomy of FTM versus working mum!)
Many burning issues in life are so complicated, but it seems to me that "home-parenting" is another one through which runs a main thread - MONEY and our "consumer society"! This is good, inasmuch as it helps organisations such as FTM to focus their efforts, and members (such as myself) to redouble their efforts at support when we are able to extract one practical measure to promote (tax-credits, I think). But could we usefully involve comment from some "anti-consumerism" organisations?
Do you agree, that part of the problem not mentioned this morning is that families these days simply cannot face taking a drop in income, when society these days puts so much emphasis on whether one has the "right" clothes, new car etc i.e. MONEY Is there a danger in supporting the "rights for mothers = rights to money" issue in that basically this drop in income is always going to be a "problem" (despite the sterling advice from the financial advisor to the woman on this morning's programme!) and that society needs to value the role of parenting over and above CONSUMERISM (Yes, this could just be seen as just yet another cause in addition to the practical considerations of careers, and the status of full-time parents etc. but I do believe it's common to all these difficulties.)
Time With the Children
I worked full time until my eldest
daughter was born (she's how 4) and am still at home with 2nd little one
(she's 2). I was a nanny before I married and my husband would never dreamed
of asking such questions as "will you do X, Y, Z" whilst I was
looking after someone else's children. He went through a serious mental
backslide when I was no longer being paid to care for children.
Choosing to be "Hard Up"
My experience is that I stopped work
15 years ago when my first son was born. I have enjoyed staying at home
and looking after the children, but in recent years the general attitude
towards mothers who choose to do this has, I find, become derisory.
The reason I gave up my job was that
the hours I worked and the long journey time would not have been compatible
with picking up a baby from a childminder, most of whom want 9-5 type
working hours. I would have been collecting my four month old baby at
10pm at night and would also have had to give up breastfeeding. Most of
my salary, which was not high, would have gone on paying the childminder
plus I had certain ideas about how I wanted him brought up, which I would
not have trusted a stranger to do.
I feel that there is now a certain
social pressure on mothers to return to work especially if they are well
qualified. This was starting to be the case 15 years ago; my work colleagues
were horrified that I was not coming back.
Some even said that they thought I'd
be bored and was wasting my qualifications and would not be able to find
another job! I know that if I had gone back the stresses and strains of
commuting, running a home and job and children would have been detrimental
to our quality of life. We would have had slightly more money but much
less time to spend on family life and I would have been exhausted. No
wonder the divorce rate is so high.
When I first gave up work, our income
halved and it was so low that we qualified for free milk tokens, etc.
However, we managed by making drastic cutbacks in our spending. I feel
that the problem nowadays is that people are very materialistic and wouldn't
be prepared to scrimp and save to this extent.
However, the problem with all of this is that now I cannot find any suitable work, am not qualified or experienced to do anything in my area, and cannot afford to do courses to retrain for anything. I won't qualify for a pension as I don't have either a private pension or enough state contributions. However, I still think I did the right thing in the circumstances. So I have just resigned myself to the fact that there seems no prospect of ever working, unless I could do something at home. Child care should be shared between partners, but still too few employers are prepared to cater for the needs of families. Part time work was not available to me and due to commuting time would not have been feasible, so more part time working is not always the answer.
We need to value childhood and not regard babies as accessories than can easily be farmed out to enable life to get back to normal as quickly as possible - this seems to be the increasing trend. Is work and money really more important than sharing love and caring? If these are our values should we not be surprised if our children grow up to be selfish and materialistic?
Is FTM Pro-choice?
I would like it clarified that you ARE trying to offer women more choice. Although I agree entirely with your aims I would not like to be a part of an organisation that tries to enforce them on others. Is Full Time Mothers really the right name? Doesn't it risk alienating people who might like to support you? Like me. I do work.