This is a piece which I posted on Huffington Post in the week before Mother’s Day 2015. The first in my ‘Politics of Mothering’ trilogy.
Alright, so I’m not talking yellow little things of Despicable Somebody fame. I’m talking about that Old Bag, that waste of space over there. You know her name. Mum, isn’t it? It’s like that joke, everyone’s got one. It’s International Women’s Week and fast approaching is Mother’s Day – Hurrah, a day to buy a card and some flowers from the garage for the woman who only grew you from her blood and bones, birthed you at considerable risk to herself, nursed you and wiped your sorry bottom.
Granted, I am being a little harsh, and with good reason. Amongst all the hypocrisy and talk of valuing our mothers on an allotted day of the year, is the fact that mothers – the name, the occupation – are fast disappearing. In its ‘Family Test’, the Government considers ‘mother’ such a dirty word you will not find it mentioned once. ONCE! Not even in the context of pregnancy and birth. That’s one gender-neutral number done over on Mummy, right there.
Not exactly She-who-must-not-be-named, more an Inconvenient Truth: all children need mothering – the question is who’s going to do it. Given the fact that the right and conditions of women to raise their children at home are being chipped away in the name of full employment and equality of opportunity at work, the answer is becoming: the State.
The reality in the 21st Century is that policymakers want to do away with mother. The only care which is valued is that which is paid for. The only mothers who count are those who have usable PAYE Codes – families where one parent stays at home to care for the children are taxed to the hilt, to the tune of thousands more than dual income counterparts, as though the loss of income wasn’t quite enough damage to the household purse.
I should know. Hands up – you’ve got me. I do nothing more than sitting on my backside doing nothing. That’s if you ignore the fact that I am raising two young children, at home, with the eye-bags, fine lines and stash of wet wipe to show for it.
What has bitten me is the fact that, in this Election Year, the Labour Party is clueless as to why millions of women have removed themselves from the democratic process. The Conservative Party believes that a married person’s tax allowance for those in the basic tax bracket will appease growing discontent that no value is placed on families (someone tell them, please, that children can be raised in loving unmarried families, single parent families, single-sex partnerships and others – this is not, and has never been, about the institution of marriage) and pursues a reorganisation of the welfare state which is shafting women and children. The Liberal Democrats believe that parents who do not place their children into institutionalised childcare are disadvantaging their progeny (I kid you not) and brand women who stay at home ‘Edwardian’ but men who do the same progressive.
So, where does that leave a mother who wishes to stay at home and raise her family? Between a party who loathes them, a party who patronises them and a party who ignores them. Each of them is committed to increasing spending on formal childcare, neglecting mothers’ rights to care for their children. Each of them will maintain a discriminatory tax system: when the State giveth, you’re a unit (minimise exposure); when it taketh away you’re on your own (big up those receipts) – what a way to exploit loving, caring families.
Has it occurred to them that mothers might (just might) be deserting the democratic process because their interests are not represented, are dismissed, are belittled, and are denigrated? That a woman is told, by men and women in a distinct occupational and political elite, that they may not wish to confine themselves to such a regressive, boring, mind-numbing, wasteful and belittling task of raising a family full-time. It is impressed on a mother that the only care that matters (and even then not much) is that which is paid: childcare in nurseries and the rest – but care by a loving mother and all the unpaid work which goes to raising a family full-time? Not on yer nelly.
Having children and seeking to care for them yourself is deemed by the mainstream political parties as a ‘lifestyle choice’ – either a privilege for the wealthy or a frolic for the ‘feckless’. Such parents are deemed lazy, dull and unproductive, rather than performing a public service, undertaken at considerable financial cost. It is not seen as something valuable to a child’s wellbeing or as raising productive, well-adjusted and caring people of the next generation. Quite simply, mothering is ignored by policy, deemed worthless and mothers are duly taken for granted. Write that on a mug this Sunday.
Looking at the treatment of mothers politically, socially and economically, it seems that sadly, family life – the good stuff and a calm, nurturing (and nurtured) loving home – has no place in 21st Century UK Plc. Well, that’s got to change.
So, this Mother’s Day, listen up, Mummy’s got something to say.
Follow me on Twitter: Mother Political @VOlorenshaw