Human

human

A wonderful film, http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/human/.

See the website http://www.human-themovie.org/.

At heart, politics is about human needs and experience. It is not about Westminster. It is about you, your children, your family, your neighbours and your communities. It is about the world we live in and the people in it.

“I am one man among seven billion others. For the past 40 years, I have been photographing our planet and its human diversity, and I have the feeling that humanity is not making any progress. We can’t always manage to live together.
Why is that?
I didn’t look for an answer in statistics or analysis, but in man himself.”

Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Why Do I Write?

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Here is a personal piece, on Huff Post today:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/vanessa-olorenshaw/why-do-i-write_b_8191330.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-entertainment&ir=UK+Entertainment

“…Why do I write?

Because I have the right.

When the question with its permutations and accusations ‘why do you write…’ is not asked of me or others, I might decide that I can lay-off it, still being happy amongst the mothers.

Even then, I will probably write between the times I read, knit and mother my children – my loves, my light.

Because although, when I write, I do not claim to speak for everybody, I know that when I speak for myself I speak for somebody.”

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/38740025@N03/3819626579″>Rifelssione</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

My Letter to the Guardian – Thousands of Shares and Striking a Chord

I was of course over the moon when my letter to the Guardian was published this week.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/22/jo-brand-tribute-to-stay-at-home-mums-put-a-smile-on-my-face?CMP=share_btn_fb

What has been surprising is that the letter was in the top 10 most popular on Guardian life and style for two days and, today, a friend told me that it has over 4,000 shares. EDIT – NOW 8,000. EDIT – NOW 10,000.

Well, does that mean that what I have written has struck a chord, or that people, like me, really really like Jo Brand?

It’s also interesting isn’t it that the Guardian assumed that Jo was praising only those mothers who mother full-time. It is also interesting that in their headline they used the phrase ‘stay at home mums’, one which I avoid and didn’t use. As a colleague in campaigning said, we are all nuanced in our views, and I was careful to use her exact phrase in my letter. It just goes to show that people take what they like from what they read, identifying with some or disagreeing with others.

I was overjoyed to see Jo praise all women who slog their guts out raising their families – and, to me, that was a clear recognition that all mothers who get on with bringing up their families, and who work hard to do it, are worthy of admiration (Amen to that). It was a recognition that mothers work hard – whether it be in employment to bring in money to support their family, or whether it be slogging it out while down with the kids at home doing the stuff of nurture and daily care. My mother had three children and worked hard when she was at home full-time and then still when she went into employment full-time.

Jo did not qualify her statement in any way: to refer only to those mothers in employment; or only to those staying at home; or only those who do X, Y and Z. And that is what I loved. Those of us at home finally saw a high profile statement that did not immediately divorce our investment in motherhood (to quote Drew Barrymore) from ‘doing the right thing’ or being part of a ‘hardworking family’. And that is a refreshing change. We mothers work hard, and as a feminist who admires those of us who do it despite pressure, financial hardship, in the midst of career or job, or while taking time out of the workforce, it was a great interview to read.

It is wonderful that the debate is taking place – people have obviously been sharing it – in the run up to the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences.

Either way, here is the letter in full:

“As a mother of young children at home and a feminist who supports the rights of the many women who either work tirelessly at home to raise their families or who would love to do so if finances could stretch, I was delighted to read Jo Brand’s interview (Q&A, Weekend, 19 September). When asked which living person she most admired and why, she answered: “All women who slog their guts out every day, quietly getting on with bringing up their families.” That was a refreshing change from the current script, trotted out by politicians and commentators, that the only women worth admiring are those who combine parenthood with employment or career – those women who are “doing the right thing” and who, somehow, are deemed to have a monopoly on the attribute “hard-working”.

This usual script is an insult to those women who see value in caring for their families at home, and who are struggling financially to do it in a political and economic system that penalises the household income by biased tax and allowances, fails to recognise the financial sacrifice of losing an income to care for children ourselves, and places the notion of “economic contribution” as a higher priority than the nurture, care and love of our children.

Thank you, Jo. You put a smile on the face of a woman who, at times, feels like persona non grata in the age of capitalist individualism.
Vanessa Olorenshaw
Author of The Politics of Mothering, Sevenoaks, Kent”

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/10390868@N07/1544799712″>EX1 424, Sweetbriar Lane, Heavitree, Exeter</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

I Am a Childcare Provider

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I am a Childcare Provider

Gulp!

Yes, you’re on to me.

I am a childcare provider.

Nursery workers, nannies, childminders and au-pairs. They do what I do. But with Early Years certificates, assessments and everything. Yet not in a way a mother can: With love, kisses, cuddles and breasts.

And it’s not just the present. There is future relevance. When they are older, they will know I cared for them at home. That it was me. That it was I who wiped their bottoms, their noses and their hands – not in that order (that would be gross). That it was I who taught them to use their knife and fork, their manners, and their words. That it was I who guided them in learning to use the potty, a crayon, and a spoon. That it was I who was there to kiss away those tears, cuddle away those upsets and nurse away those fears. That it was me, their mother, who loved them in the way of the verb, everyday.

So. I am a childcare provider. To my own children, at the cost of a professional London salary. Yet despite that cost, I am deemed to be making a ‘lifestyle choice’; I am dismissed as making a personal decision, as though other parents who take the employment/nursery option are not.

I regularly read articles about politicians’ meetings with ‘childcare providers’ and how the cost of ‘childcare’ is crippling – when, really, it’s the cost of living which is crippling; when, really, how can we separate the cost of childcare when housing, fuel, food, heating and travel are so high – and how ‘hardworking families’ deserve increasing subsidy for their ‘childcare costs’. I read about how ‘childcare’ costs are those outgoing to a stranger, but with the added bonus of a salary at the end of it.

Some days, I ignore what I am reading, moving on to obscure texts on women’s liberation.

Others, I get riled.

Others, I get writing.

Today is one of those days.

So, while I define myself as a human being, a mother, a woman, perhaps it is time that I remind politicians, media and policy-makers that I am also a childcare provider. And that my children are benefiting from my care – in ways which no stranger can replicate.

There is value in my care.  There is personal investment in their future.

There is love in my care. The love of a relationship of importance.

The political, financial and social pressure on families to replace that care with formal childcare is increasing. It is huge. Every family must do what is right for them, and I believe every family should have the respect and support to frame their family and employment/career balance as they wish. And this works both ways. Any mother who is compelled to be separated from her child is not being respected. Economic policies should value the childcare and nurture she is providing just as much as it values the mother who returns to employment. And when I say mother, you know that I include father – but I am talking about this from a feminist perspective. How a woman who is a mother is only valued when she is also a woman who is in receipt of a PAYE Code.

No family should have to trade loving care for formal childcare unless that is what they wish to do. Yet, politically, no value is placed on parental care of the nation’s next generation.

So in all, what a sad place to be – where a mother feels she can only hope to have some status in political eyes if she degrades her position and her worth to ‘childcare provider’.

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