Time for Parenting...
...because raising children is a full-time job
June 2000 Newsletter
Women @ the Millenium
"Women @ the Millenium" is the title of a project which being run on behalf of the Government by the Women's National Commission. It aims to investigate key trends for the future in four important areas of women's lives: the changing shape of the family, paid and unpaid work, balancing work and home and the ageing population.
As part of their nationwide consultation, which has also included such groups as "Women Who Work", Roisin O'Connell-Hussey and Alex Nightingale attended a focus group for full time mothers at the Cabinet Office on 18 May. Alex reports..........
At first it was the diversity of our backgrounds - from FTM to the Mother's Union to Single Parent's Action Network - that seemed most apparent to the eleven of us there. But as so often happens when full-time mothers get talking, we soon found ourselves united in the joys and challenges of motherhood and the importance to ourselves, our children and our communities of our decision to be at home with our children.
We were asked to discuss the main challenges and opportunities we faced, to explore what current trends and changes in society will mean for us and to set down what we felt the Government should do to improve our lives. Our experiences were many and varied and I was forced to re-evaluate the difficulties I encounter when hearing the stories of two single mothers from the north-east, for whom life on a council estate with no money for the bus fare and nowhere short of the Social Services to turn for help in raising their children seemed a continual battle.
It was wonderful to find, however, that the overriding concern of us all was the importance of providing continuity of love and care for our our children. We agreed that there is a huge gap between the low social and financial status accorded to full-time mothers - by Government and media - and the real significance of our role, not only giving our children the best start in life but also being so involved in our local communities.
Constantly undermined by pressure to have a career and be financially independent, the message always seems to be that our children would be better off in "professional" childcare. It is certainly the case that with the inadequacy of benefit provision, the abolition of marriage tax allowance and the bias in the tax system against the one-earner family, many women do not have a real choice to stay at home. Yet what job is more important than raising the next generation?
The discussion was in many ways an opportunity to get some of these gripes off our chest, but it was also a hugely positive affirmation of the importance and joy of motherhood. I hope that the WNC's report will send a clear message to the Government that children need full-time mothers and we should be valued, not taken us for granted Mr Blair, you ignore us at your peril!