‘Don’t forget about stay at home fathers‘.
That comment on a Facebook group throws up a clear example of the difficulties and barriers which face a mother who advocates greater support for maternal care, and a greater recognition of the needs of women who are mothers ‘doing the childcare’ of their kids.
Not quite ‘what about the menz’ but certainly a reminder that to talk about mothers, maternal care and mothering is a minefield. Someone’s going to feel left out (women who are not mothers; women who have chosen a different path in their life as a parent; men; fathers – including ‘stay at home dads’). Don’t get me started on a comment on said Facebook group that, should more women actually have the freedom to stay home with their children, and they exercise their right to do so, people who work in nurseries will be out of a job. Well forgive me for not taking up that banner, too, it’s just not on my agenda; but one suspects it is certainly on that of policymakers.
Here’s the dilemma. I stuck my little head above the parapet and pursued a political campaign about the raw deal experienced by mothers who wish to care for their children full-time but cannot do so because of financial penalties against her family, or the neglect of mothers who struggle by on a modest family income which is taxed disproportionately in a system which exploits loving, caring families. I nodded to the fact that, when talking about care of children, whether maternal or paternal, families are penalised by the State. I fully recognised that there is a small number of ‘stay at home dads’. I know one with triplets – not a big deal. No bigger than the many women doing the same thing.
But does this all mean that I am compelled to remove the word ‘maternal’ in my Blog or Facebook Page out of fear of ‘forgetting stay at home fathers’ and to embark on a genderneutral exercise which erases the word mother and any mention of maternal care (an exercise perfected by the State to the detriment of women).
No. Sorry, but I’m not gonna do it.
To censor myself, or adapt my Blog and FB Page to remove mention of the maternal, would amount to succumbing to the taboo of mentioning – let alone promoting – mothering and maternal care, and to the unease with which women often feel in proclaiming their rights or protecting the interests of themselves or their families.
I am a feminist (put those pitchforks away) and I am concerned with women’s issues. I intend my campaign in the future to focus on women, while recognising the right of fathers to be the primary carer if right for that family (and indeed the fact that the State should value that care as much as that performed by a mother or paid-for provider) as a side issue where appropriate.
My impression is that many women, raised in a ‘post-feminist’ age and experiencing greater economic freedom than our predecessors might well experience a shell-shock on becoming a mother and experience a fear that the moment we confront maternal desire we are back to the dark ages of inequality. To unabashedly say ‘I do not want a career or I do not want to be in employment while my children are dependent and I would rather be with my children’ is so utterly unfashionable and, in many quarters looked down upon that, actually, I see even greater need to focus on childcare by parent as a feminist issue. Politicians and ‘gatekeepers’ do not accept the validity, benefits or, at times, even existence of many women’s desire to care for their children themselves. So, yes, Mothers. Yes, our experiences and our fears. The challenges and the joys.
You have probably guessed that maternal care is my personal experience. My own mother cared for me and my siblings. Her mother before her. My sister cared for her children. My sister-in-law cares for her daughters. I know many women who provide maternal care. Many friends do so. Many online contacts do so. I attend breastfeeding support groups – guess who? Women. They have the equipment, see?
In my Blog and FB Page, I am interested in mothers’ experiences and accounts in matters ranging from pregnancy, birth, postnatal depression, post-partum recovery and breastfeeding. I am also interested in other women’s experiences as primary, full-time, carers of children. All that considered, is it any wonder I principally focus on mothers?
Now, should there be a stay at home father who is interested in setting up a similar campaign to debate the benefits/pitfalls/social issues around parents or fathers at home – and who wishes similarly to press the political class on the economic and social promotion of paid-for child care over loving parental care – I would happily work with him and would wish him well. I would hope that a father out there might take up the challenge. The organisation Mothers at Home Matter, despite appearances from the name, do also advocate for families with stay-at-home fathers, amongst other issues.
IF you know of a father at home who is prepared to join in, do pass on the details of the Politics of Mothering – this campaign cannot rely only on a single voice or the work of a few volunteer organisations. The greater number of people advocating political recognition of parental – whether it be maternal or paternal – care the better.
But, no. I am not going to go genderneutral in all this, as though men regularly lactate too, or grow a child from their blood and bones and birth the baby to considerable risk to himself. There is a role for fathers. They are indeed special. My children love theirs. I love mine. In some families, they might well do the mother-work. However, do forgive me if I concentrate my efforts on women in my little campaign and my insignificant protest.
You don’t mind, do you?