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Time for Parenting...

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

Summer 2005 Newsletter

From the Chair; A Family Party?; The politics of motherhood; A New Arrival - starting a local group

The Politics of Motherhood

FTM members reflect on what the election did - and didn't do - for them.

Children must not be Seen, Heard or Parented

We have turned into a 'Baby-lite' society.

All the various political parties will be congratulating themselves on their planned future provision of childcare for under fives and maternity benefits. But yet again their visions do not provide real choice for parents. The policies only assist parents in choosing to return to work; there is no support for either parent to choose to remain at home with their child.

With Labour's recent offer of 'Wrap-around Care', parenting is demoted yet again. Will Tony Blair's next policy be to instigate 'Bed and Board' so parents won't even have to bother with putting the kids to bed at night after a hard day at the office?

May I pose three questions?

· Why will financial support be given to any childcare provider, apart from the parent?
· What is behind this Government's agenda in wanting both parents in work and the child in nursery care as soon as possible?
· Why is there this continual search for answers to child care provision? - Working Tax Credit, childcare vouchers, the idea of funding grandparents to give childcare - when there is a large section of mothers and fathers in society who, if given a viable choice, would stay at home?

All babies, children and adults crave parental attention, love, touch, guidance, yet are denied it at every turn in our society today. We need to create an environment that not just raises, but nurtures our children. Society cannot lose. So, instead of everyone working and being taxed to fund programmes to fight crime, tackle childhood obesity and anti-social behaviour, we should invest in our children at source: solid investment in good parenting in the early years will reap true, long-term rewards for all - especially the respect Tony Blair seems so keen to promote.

The perpetuated non-status of motherhood in our culture only serves to continue a vicious cycle of needy, demanding, spoilt humans who really just crave that original parental care. I wonder what the consequences will be for a future society where children are only raised in a communal setting, not on individual parenting.

Sarah Spicer
(from a letter sent to Messrs Blair, Howard, Kennedy, all my local MPs and councillors, the local newspaper, the national newspapers and anybody else I can think of!)

Public Recognition

I am horrified at the moves the current Government is making which promote the separation of children and their parents (wrap around childcare, tax incentives for mothers to return to the workplace, handing over the care of children to professionals rather than family, etc., etc.). I would like to see the Government making a public recognition of the value of full time parenting, which would mean a complete turn-around in terms of current policies. I would applaud any move in this direction - be it transferable tax allowances, payment for carers, or some creative plan to raise the public esteem of mothers (and fathers) at home. The teaching campaign (everyone remembers one influential teacher in their lives) could be usefully applied to encourage recognition of the unquestionable power that lies in the hands of parents!

Esther Peacock

Choice and Flexibility?

The Department of Trade and Industry produced a consultation document in April entitled Work and Families: Choice and Flexibility, in which it put forward for consideration various proposals to support 'family friendly working'. Responses were invited from various organisations, including the National Childbirth Trust, which prompted Julie Kelly to write the following:

This document excludes a whole portion of society by ignoring the needs of the two-parent family where one parent goes out to work and the other parent works at home caring for their children, providing the best childcare option to enable them to grow up as well-balanced adults.

The document contains a lot of provision for working mothers but nowhere did I see anything which would help families where one parent opted to care for their children themselves, rather than paying someone else to care for them. The Government claims in the document that it aims to ensure that all children have the best start in life, that parents are the best people to make decisions about the interests of their children and that the Government's role is to support families and to ensure they have meaningful choices. It also states that parents and home environment will always have the most important impact on a child's development.

If parents are to have meaningful choices, for some parents that means one of them (most often the mother) staying at home to care for the children. Unfortunately, that choice does not seem to be supported by the Government in that the tax and benefit system now undermines the family. Policies now appear to discourage mothers from staying at home in the vital early years by only subsidising childcare outside the home. The one-earner family is discriminated against since it pays proportionately more tax than a double-income family. No allowance is made for two adults in a single-income family and the mother or father who stays at home with their children is treated as either a liability or a luxury.

The Government has also widened the gap between two-earner families and those with a parent at home. Families using registered daycare can receive up to £7,000 p.a. towards the cost of that care (the childcare element of the new Working Tax Credit). Families where one parent looks after the children cannot claim, despite the fact that they have sacrificed earnings in order to provide that care.

"Billions of pounds are being spent to get mothers back to work too soon and to subsidise universal daycare for our youngest children. This is taking them away from the people who love them best when they are at their most vulnerable. It devalues parents and risks traumatising the children." (Extract from a speech by Chris Ponsford, chairman of WATch.)

While I might agree with longer hours of daycare being available to parents, so enabling them to work a variety of hours to fit in with their family requirements, I do think that the number of hours per day that a young child is in daycare should be restricted. Otherwise, I feel that we are starting to institutionalise our children. Also, if children under 3 years of age do not have a consistent primary carer (not always possible in nurseries due to staff turnover), then their emotional development suffers, often surfacing in later life to the detriment of the individual, their families and society as a whole.

Jam tomorrow

I applaud New Labour for its move to introduce pensions for full time mothers, which is surely a response to the growing strength of a New Feminist movement. The vast majority of women in this country, whatever their circumstances or aspirations, have at last found the strength to acknowledge publicly that it is not necessary to prostitute their femininity, or to deny it, in order to live a satisfying life in a "woman's world" and to make a valuable contribution to society.

The opportunity is available to every mother to influence the course of world politics - not by merely voting, but by taking a full and active role in raising the next generation, who are waiting in the wings to take their place in government.

The present Government have finally taken one step towards a demonstration of the public respect that is so richly deserved by this community of full time parents. But a pension in recognition of the years of service put in by full time mothers surely goes hand in hand with recognition that is deserved at the time that the work is underway. The most obvious way to do this would be to give every adult member of the working community a transferable tax allowance.

The immediate and unwelcome financial implications of such a move for today's Government, as opposed to their "jam tomorrow" award of pension rights, are obvious. Until society is rewarded with a new generation of politicians which actually shares values with the people of the country it serves, I suppose we will have to applaud Tony Blair for at least attempting "to do what is right", whilst continuing to have his hands tied by the party political machinery.

By the way, we should be aware that in fact women ALREADY get "pension credits" for years spent raising children - although something minimal like one year per child. And of course they can also choose to continue to pay their National Insurance whilst at home, and so qualify for a 100% pension in any case. So the whole thing is political spin anyhow!

Esther Peacock

Politiciennes?

Politiciennes? I wrote (at some length, unfortunately) to my MP, Scots Tory career woman lawyer Elena Laing, as requested by FTM, enclosing literature from us and from other sister organisations, WatCh and Concern for Family and Womanhood. No reply even! Should I vote for her? Blair is even worse for the family. Cherie, I mean: she fiercely protects her own family, but does nothing for anyone else's - only yet more family-smashing feminism.

Andrew Slade

Women's Lib.?

I have personally found the sidelining of a woman's traditional, and indeed natural, role distasteful. There are many like me who feel the same - and, whilst I believe the philosophy is rooted in feminism, and that the philosophy of feminism is one of the most harmful ideologies in the world today, it is our Government who have hijacked feminism to draw as many bodies into the workforce as possible. Meanwhile, children are more and more raised by outsiders and, more worryingly, by the state, which gains more control over our children's minds.

It seems that women's liberation has gone a step too far if we must liberate women from their mothering role.

Spencer Newton