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Does this Government believe that ‘mothers at home matter’?

Why does the Coalition assume the ‘Sovietisation’ of childcare is a good thing?

By on Monday, 4 February 2013

David Cameron and Nick Clegg joint press conference

There was a letter to the editor of the Telegraph last Friday which I read with some interest. Written by MP Elizabeth Truss, Education and Child Care Minister, it had the heading “Nursery standards”. She wrote: “Sir – You claim that the Government’s child care reforms will diminish small nurseries. The opposite is true: we are giving providers more flexibility to hire better qualified staff instead of being compelled to maximise staff numbers. We will reverse the decline in the number of child minders by creating agencies that will do the paperwork and allow them to focus on quality care. Britain’s adult-to-child ratios are more restrictive than those in many European countries that have good child care. We are not saying that every nursery worker must have C grades at GCSE, but we want to give nurseries greater freedom to hire better-qualified professionals. Where they do so, ratios need not be so restrictive. World-class early education and care is what really matters for children.”

What is this letter really about? Sending very young children out all day to nurseries (to receive a “world-class education”) so that their mothers can be freed to go back to work as soon as possible after birth. This year we are celebrating the centenary of George Orwell, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. What a field-day he would have had with Elizabeth Truss’s choice of words, as well as her outlook. “Providers”, “agencies”, “quality care”, “ratios”, “professionals” and so on. It is positively Orwellian; Newspeak for the official modern way of bringing up young children – almost entirely outside the home. Janet Daley, in her column in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, echoes Orwell, writing “How have parents of this generation been persuaded that the sovietising of day care – herding children into nurseries and registered centres – is the best solution for them?”

I have occasionally mentioned before in blogs that I am a member of an organisation called “Mothers At Home Matter”. The title speaks for itself. This organisation isn’t judging mothers who choose to go out to work rather than bring up their children themselves (though it believes that the government should consider this as an acceptable alternative and not do its best to persuade mothers otherwise), but it is very critical of officials and people like Elizabeth Truss who assume without question that the best “early education and care” is given by “professionals” (with Grade C in English and Maths) rather than by mothers.

Last Friday morning I happened to listen to Aung San Suu Kyi on Desert Island Discs on Radio 4. She said many thought-provoking and impressive things, but most especially – for me – were her comments about her childhood. As is known, her father, General Aung San, who led Burma to independence after the War, was assassinated in 1947 when his daughter was aged two. Aung San Suu Kyi was brought up with her two brothers by her mother. Her mother was clearly an enormous influence on her. Suu Kyi described her as “Very disciplined, very courageous, very strict” and comments that she was grateful for this upbringing as it helped her later on to cope with the long and lonely rigours of the years of house arrest she was forced to endure by the Burmese military dictatorship. Her mother, a woman of strength and fortitude, condemned selfishness, taught her the idea of public service and not to waste anything. She remarked that she adjusted very quickly to the long solitary life imposed on her by the Junta. Asked by interviewer Kirsty Young how she had coped, she replied that it was her early discipline and training -her upbringing – as well as learning to meditate, which had made it possible.

I mention this to show, admittedly in an unusual instance, the importance of the influence a mother can bring to a child’s formative years. If Ang San Suu Kyi had been raised as an infant by “professionals” in a nursery while her mother worked long hours at a career outside the home, she would hardly have emerged as the woman she is today. How well would she have withstood the extraordinary pressures she later encountered in her life? This question is obviously hypothetical but my wider point stands: children generally develop and flourish best when they spend their early, pre-school years largely at home, cared for by a parent who knows and loves them better than semi-trained young girls in impersonal state nurseries. Babies and very young children need to learn attachment, to bond with one loving person, not different and ever-changing members of staff in “sovietised” state care. “Mother knows best” is an old adage; but mothers usually do, following their instincts, their common sense and their hearts. Feminism and successive British governments have bred a generation of women who think that raising their own children is boring and uncreative compared with the exciting life of the office. Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother would not have thought so.

  • scary goat

    Couldn’t agree more, Francis about mother’s at home mattering and the sovietisation of childcare in this country.  Thanks for the tip about “Mother’s at Home Matter”.  Just found their website….I shall be joining that. 

  • la catholic state

    Neither the secular godless Left nor the secular godless Right are in favour of stay-at-home mums.  The Left sees state schooling as an ideal opportunity for indoctrination and the right wants the mother as a cog in the economic wheel.
    The independant 2 parent family is viewed as a threat to the power of Left and Right.  Stay-at-home mums challenge the people as serfs to serve the state and economy view.

  • sclerotic

    It’s called paying the mortgage.

  • Maccabeus

    Generally speaking, you make an absolutely correct point: children develop much more positively when brought up by their mothers, especially in their early years. I say ‘generally speaking’ only because the Catholic Church does have a tendency to idealize mothers as creatures who can do no wrong (part of the Madonna complex), a tendency unfortunately exacerbated by feminists who have applied Orwell’s line about ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’ to women vis-a-vis men. A case in point: I was brought up by a stay home mother who had good parenting skills. My best friend at the time was not so fortunate: his mother did nothing but scream and shout, hurl foul-mouthed insults at him, knock him about and generally abuse and humiliate him (we are talking about a little boy, 5 years of age). And she did this not because – as the feminists would have it – she was some kind of ‘victim’ of circumstances, but because she was, quite simply, one extremely nasty, evil piece of humanity.

  • JabbaPapa

      … the Catholic Church does have a tendency to idealize mothers as creatures who can do no wrong …

    Deary me …

  • JFJ

    I note the comment below, that paying the mortgage comes into the decision, and I’m sure that it does , quite often for couples.  When our first child came along, my wife worked in a job that she enjoyed and that was fulfilling.  However, soon, it paled in comparison to her desire to stay at home with our children and so, she decided to leave teaching (in a time when this was very unfashionable to do) when her contract was up for that year and stay with the children.  The decision was not taken lightly.  We had no desire to take any help from the state, and little, if any was offered and so, we made the sacrifices necessary to accomplish what we saw as the best for our children, and indeed it was the best.  She did for them what I never could have done in their early years.  It took sacrifice.  We downsized, sold a car, and adjusted our lifestyle to live off of one salary.  It was difficult but we were happy, both our kids were happy and I never worried about my children because I knew who was with them and how they were being treated and later in life when they were older and in a different place, my turn came to take a greater role in their development.  I was always there when they were little, available for baths, bedtime stories and other things (giving my wife a needed break) but I never could have done for them what my wife did.  We still have a close family and both their mother and myself are important to them, though they are well on with their lives.  If modern ideas about women involve choice, why shouldn’t staying at home be encouraged as a one of those choices, one of the better choices and without apologising or blushing at making the suggestion. 

  • scary goat

     Lovely.  Thank you for that comment. 

    ” If modern ideas about women involve choice, why shouldn’t staying at
    home be encouraged as a one of those choices, one of the better choices
    and without apologising or blushing at making the suggestion. ”

    I notice these days that what started out as a woman’s “choice” or “right” to work has now become an expectation that they “should” work.  I notice women feeling that they need to apologise or excuse themselves for being stay-at-home-mums in case they are seen as lazy or incapable.  When someone asks “do you work?” or “what do you work?” heads drop, faces become red, the self-explanations and justifications start.  Motherhood is not seen as a valuable role in its own right any more.  There is something wrong with a society that thinks this way.

  • Maccabeus

    Pray elaborate – are you attempting to be funny? agreeing? or simply being crass?

  • Alidylan73

    Children should be brought up by their Mothers, they need to bond. I live not far from a Nursey and I am mortified to see the Nursery girls out every day with prams containing such young babies, these little ones need to be with their mothers, not strangers.
    By the time a Mother gets home from work, she’s tired, and the baby needs to sleep so much for quality time with the little one.  Also as a Mother you are more than likely going to miss their first words, their first steps, all the milestone in the child’s early life.

  • Frank

    My situation is very similar to yours although some children are still at home. In terms of our happiness and that of the children it has turned out for the best. There is so much to be achieved through home, school, parish and other areas of community life.

  • JabbaPapa

    No, just bewildered by your apparent confusion of the Catholic ideals with the individual realities of actual Catholics.

    The ideal of Christian womanhood is something to be strived towards ; NOT a presentation of what any actual mothers are like in person.

  • Cybermentor

    Very well put point about Ang San. I heard that too, and was struck by the great influence of her home life as a child. 

  • Jonathan

    I think that there is much truth in what you have posted there, scary goat.

    I continue to wonder that far better, stronger provision is not made in employment law to enable women to leave the workplace for several years and return to it effectively, eventually so that the “choice” genuinely is a choice.

    It annoys me no end that the contribution of women in business, law, health and other fields is curtailed at the point at which they raise families.  In so many fields, the contribution of a mature, experienced, female voice is of great value.  So often though, that voice finds significant barriers to returning to work after a long time away.

    The city (for example, it’s one of the few working environments I know) remains utterly unforgiving of women who decide – or want to decide! – to spend many, many years devoting themselves to their children and then at a much later date to return to work.

    I don’t suggest that particular jobs are held open for years and years, only that better legislation is needed to provide for genuine choice with respect to raising families.