This piece is the second in my ‘Politics of Mothering’ trilogy featured on the Huffington Post.
They say that the personal is political. Well, so is the maternal.
Downing Street got a treat on Mothering Sunday. Mothers from up and down the country made their way to the Prime Minister’s residence to deliver a Mother’s Day card, a feat organised by Mothers at Home Matter to be a timely and polite reminder that parents at home do exist and that what they do is important. At the same time, millions celebrated Mother’s Day with traditional flowers and chocolates, a day of rest, and a few hugs and kisses.
Then, the hangover, and the realisation that a mother who mothers full-time is the persona non grata of the political agenda.
In the Pamphlet, The Politics of Mothering, I criticise politicians, economists and commentators in their eagerness to justify increasing separation of parents and children. I explore how a mother at home is reduced to skivvy by a blinkered economic lens and social ideology which encourages all mothers to engage in paid employment without any consideration of the desire of many to remain home with their family or the value of her doing so.
The benefits to her children and society by a mother caring for her family at home are denied, the mother derided. And some of this is even done in the name of women’s rights. Say what?
So, how about the money? The State applies a household ‘family unit’ approach for the grant of benefits to families yet applies an ‘individual’ system for the removal of tax from the family purse. Just think about this double standard for a moment. When it suits the Government, it uses a global assessment of the household income but ducks the same approach for tax, thereby rendering a parent who chooses to care for the children economically invisible and worthless, and maximises tax revenue at the expense of a significant number of families on very modest incomes indeed. Surely it should work both ways.
The fact that it doesn’t tells you everything you need to know: the values behind a political and economic system which cares nothing for family life.
The reality is that, in 2015, we live in an age of consensus politics in one area: prioritising and subsidising more paid-for childcare. There is no policy of the money following the child, as advocated by Mothers at Home Matter amongst others. No mainstream political party seeks to recognise or place value on the prospect of a parent at home, doing the work of childcare and supporting the family. We may only speak of childcare being productive and valuable if it is performed by strangers, for a fee, and under the guise of ‘Early Years Education’. There is no room for recognition of the productive and valuable work performed by loving mothers up and down the country and throughout time.
This consensus political blockade is hardly democratic, is it?
Mothers at home are expected to keep quiet in the face of the increasingly vocal advocates for non-maternal care. But in keeping quiet and carrying on, the debate is being skewed. The voices with the biggest bank balance are being heard; those with vested interests in perpetuating institutionalised care have cosy access to the political ear; and those who wish to be at home and in the community caring for their children instead of in employment are ignored at best and denigrated at worst.
In this year’s political manifestos, the many women at home who do an amazing and worthwhile job will be confined to a footnote as an anachronism – if that.
The reason our voices are not respected? The mainstream agenda has no place for anyone who dares to forego participation in the workforce, during an important time in the family life cycle. In the current climate, women do not feel able to say something so unfashionable and so ‘retrograde’ as: I wish to devote time to raising my family; or something so radical and fundamentally important as I demand the right to support, recognition, value and equality of treatment in doing so.
To put it mildly, the entire terms of reference, the agenda and terms of modern politics and economics, are being set by elite educated white men and professional liberal feminist women so that families who make, or who yearn to make, the decision that a parent stay at home to raise and support the family are entirely neglected by accident or design, depending on the policymaker’s whim.
The political jargon of ‘hardworking families’ and ‘families who do the right thing’ is, in this context, a singular insult.
So, party activists (just for fun), tell a mother of two, providing full-time care for her family, that she does not work hard. Tell her that the fact her family is a caring, loving and nurturing one does not count. Tell her on the doorstep while you canvas for votes.
I dare you.
Follow me on Twitter: Mother Political @VOlorenshaw