An article in the Telegraph on April 25 has made me sit up: “Mothers needed to save the economy.” What? So mothers aren’t needed to “save the family unit”, “save the psychological wellbeing of young children” or “save the state the task of raising children” – all the traditional ways that mothers have contributed, indirectly but vastly, to the “economy.” According to the Telegraph report, “Stay-at-home mothers would help to revive Britain economy by returning to work after having a baby, the Government has suggested.”
The article adds: “David Cameron’s official spokesman said it was “good for the economy” that the Coalition was helping parents to pay high nursery fees so that they could overcome “obstacles” to work.” Although this same spokesman paid lip service to “all mums” (note the faux-chummy expression), he made it clear that high child care costs “can be a significant obstacle and helping people tackle those obstacles, yes, that is good for the economy.” Mothers who choose to stay at home with their children when they are young, often making large financial sacrifices to do so, are right to think that the Coalition is not really interested in them or their crucial role in raising future stable, happy, self-disciplined citizens. What the Coalition wants is workers, and their children cared for in day nurseries by “professionals.”
The campaign group Mothers At Home Matter has pointed out in the same Telegraph article that this latest news clearly shows “the Government is “obsessed” with GDP at the expense of family life. Laura Perrins, a spokesman for the group, commented, “I don’t know what type of government dedicates itself to separating mums from their young children.” Cristina Odone echoed her in the Catholic Herald of April 26: “Those in authority see no need to make special concessions to mothers in terms of benefits or (for stay at homes) tax breaks…Women’s groups try to convince mothers that they are replaceable with a rota of child care professions or a minder recruited from an agency.” She emphasised that although “successive governments prize formal work over family work, yet there is no business or industry more important than raising children.”
I suspect the Coalition doesn’t grasp this fundamental truth partly because its two leaders are both married to high-powered working women who wouldn’t dream of ever being full time mothers. As Kathy Gyngell, quoted in CFNews for 28th April said, “The message is, “Go back to work and put your child in nursery where he can socialise. Don’t feel guilty.” But what if nurseries are bad for children?…Young children aren’t designed to be separated for parents all day and made to socialise in large groups of their peers.”
Intriguingly, a report in the Telegraph on April 27, titled “Tax break for married couples within two years, Cameron pledges”, suggests that the Tories, if not their Coalition partners, sense the discontent of the country’s mothers: “The Prime Minister said he will recognise marriage in the tax system …after receiving heavy criticism in recent months for his failure to support traditional British families.”
I’m not holding my breath.