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Time for Parenting...

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

May 2002 Newsletter

From the chair; New members write; Then and Now; A Mum's CV; Women's National Commission; What the papers say; What the committee does

FTM and the Women's National Commission

Alexandra Nightingale

So-called "women's issues" have been at the forefront of many government policies since Labour came to power in 1997 and Full Time Mothers is just one of the many women's groups, from Women in Management to the Mothers' Union, involved in liaising with the Women's National Commission and with the Women's Unit at the Cabinet Office.

To try to represent the views of so many diverse organisations at once is a bold undertaking, particularly considering that, as full time mothers are all too aware, women are hardly a homogeneous group. The WNC has nevertheless boldly undertaken various listening exercises, ranging from travelling "road shows" to interviews with different focus groups. A full time mothers' group was held at the Cabinet Office in 2000, where different perspectives on full time motherhood were offered, not only by FTM, but also by groups such as the Mothers' Union and the Single Parents' Action Network. Similar groups have been held for working women, Asian women, older and younger women - showing just how many different viewpoints have to be considered.

The idea is that the WNC discusses the issues raised by women across all government departments to ensure that women are represented in all policy areas. The newsletters and papers presented by the WNC - such as Future Female - A 21st Century Gender Perspective and Voices, the regular WU magazine - have been excellent in areas such as public health and education services, where women (and indeed men) can be seen to be broadly in agreement. Perhaps inevitably, however, the loudest 'voices' are those campaigning for 'equal pay' (there is now a Women and Equality Unit), 'competitiveness and choice' for parents in the workplace and more widely available childcare. Issues surrounding working women and childcare, with a basic message that 'you can work and have a family life', are at the forefront. Much of my job in representing FTM involves challenging the assumption that mothers want to undertake this horrendous balancing act rather than being properly supported in choosing to devote themselves full time to their children.

The WNC is doing much to raise the profile of poor and under-privileged women and children and to represent the views of all women. Constant vigilance is needed by organisations such as FTM, however, to ensure that vociferous campaigners for 'equality in the workplace' do not deny a voice to those of us who believe that a child's need for a full time mother is a more important issue for government policy to consider.