Stay-at-home mums are heroes!

As a working mother of two young children, of course I inwardly cheered as I read the headlines this week. It turns out that, despite the grim daily warnings from the Daily Mail, and the nagging guilty voice inside my head, the children of women who work do very nicely indeed.

That is, indeed, happy news. So why did I also experience a kind of sinking feeling? It became clearer to me as I read on, and encountered the spin that was going to be put upon these findings. Rather than women feeling empowered to make their own choices, apparently it is now those who stay at home who should be feeling guilty.

Rebecca Allen, a senior academic at UCL’s Institute of Education, said that the study should be a read as a “signal to women who don’t [work] that they have to think hard about how the role they have within the household is going to impact their children’s perceptions of what it means to be a woman and to be a mother.” I am as tired as the next woman of the rightwing press telling me that I should spend my life painting my nails and cleaning the kitchen (quite apart from being generally tired, which I am, constantly).

But I also feel that something is missing from the debate in more enlightened circles. We social progressives tend not to say clearly, loudly or often enough that the mothers – and fathers – who prioritise staying at home and caring for their families are a valuable and grossly undervalued asset to society. Rather than focusing solely on pushing women out to work, putting them under ever-greater obligation to feed the capitalist machine, we should be making space for them and their partners to enjoy a stable and happy family life. Nothing could be more important.

Economic and social factors are piling the pressure on to women of my age. Whereas once a single full-time income would have been enough to buy a house, now any family without a high double income (and parental help) doesn’t stand a chance. This arrangement assumes that caring for children is a little hobby, something we can all do in our spare time. This is so far from the truth it is laughable. Whereas once our partners might have counted on a living wage and a job for life, they are now being made redundant or working zero-hours contracts.

My mum-friends and I don’t only worry about our career paths – indeed, bleary-eyed with sleep deprivation, that is often the last thing on our minds. We worry about paying the mortgage or the rent. Constantly. Is that healthy for our children? Is it healthy for us? As I schlepped daily into work in central London, eight months pregnant, constantly nauseous, and with a two-year-old at home, it didn’t feel that way.

If we look to the feminist movement for support and guidance dealing with this insane situation we are sorely disappointed. The debate seems to focus entirely on women’s status in the public sphere – how much they are earning, how many of them sit in boardrooms. Any mention of children and childcare responsibilities is always and only in reference to improving access to institutionalised childcare. These debates leave me, and many other otherwise progressive mothers I know, completely cold. We don’t want our children to spend their tender years in an institution. We don’t care about money-grabbing, hard-nosed capitalists, be they male or female. We care about our children, and we’d like to see them a little more often.

by 

Link to original article

https://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2015/jun/26/stay-at-home-mums-working-mothers

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