Why isn’t MAHM called ‘Parents At Home Matter’ rather than ‘Mothers At Home Matter?
The name was chosen to draw attention to the large number of women bringing up children and in ‘care’ roles generally. Mothers engaged in unpaid work are frequently isolated, politically ignored and the work they do at home is largely invisible. This is simply not good enough if we really believe in choice and equality across the board so that all roles in society – whether carried out by women or men – are counted and valued. Whilst the feminist movement campaigns for better opportunities for women in education and employment, MAHM calls for the same level of recognition for women when they take time out of the workforce to fulfil other important responsibilities on the ‘domestic’ front. There are many ways of being useful, productive and aspirational and it’s not just through paid work.
We also recognise the work of fathers at home – in fact anyone who devotes time to caring deserves to be valued and recognised for their contribution (dads – please send us your stories). Many of our campaign aims, such as fiscal fairness for single-earner couples, and the importance of valuing ‘time spent caring’ apply to fathers just as much as mothers. We applaud the work of other organisations set up to represent fathers.
So why not ‘parents at home’?
Our group was set up by mothers so it’s partly historic. Also, unlike mothers at home, fatherhood already attracts substantial funding to highlight the importance of a father’s role in children’s lives (excellent news and long overdue). Sadly, mothers are in many ways unique in being completely invisible when they spend time caring. We ask this question:- why is it viewed as ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’ when a dad stays at home or when both parents go to work/ use childcare – but it’s considered ‘retrogade’ and ‘old-fashioned’ when a mother stays at home to provide care? We disagree! We argue that motherhood-at-home is as modern a choice as any other family model and that children’s needs have not changed over the years.
We’re keen to develop a new section for Dads (under ‘Links’). For more information and send your views to[email protected]
Is MAHM anti working mothers?
Of course not! But we challenge the social and economic pressures on mothers to hand over their babies and toddlers to other carers before it feels right. This is not ‘progress’. And we believe infants thrive best in family care where possible. Personal circumstances dictate when a mother feels it’s the right time to look for more work outside the home, and that choice should always be respected. Families negotiate care and work responsibilities between them as a family unit and this depends on a number of factors including the availability of support from extended family, and the number and ages of children.
Furthermore we don’t believe that working families, paying tax, should feel under pressure to have two people in paid work when there are children to care for at home. It’s not necessarily a gender issue, but more about having time for children. The tax paid on a family’s earned income should take into account the couple’s care responsibilities to dependents.
Children’s needs change over time and so does the amount of time a mother or father needs to be physically there for them. Mothers should have the choice and opportunity to return to paid employment, when the time feels right, in an environment that respects and supports family circumstances. Employment policies should facilitate the demands of being a fully engaged parent meeting responsibilities at home.
Is MAHM anti-feminism?
If Feminism is about Women’s Liberation, women should be free to be mothers and to take care of their children. We recommend this clip on You Tube exploring Feminism and Motherhood with Rebecca Walker.
We believe Feminism should be about choice. That choice, however, is a hollow one if it is not practically supported through policies which value all mothers so they can spend time raising their children – for example family-friendly tax policies (such as Income Splitting) and child allowances.
What other policies might support women as mothers? MAHM would also like to engage with other groups about the merits or otherwise of a ‘citizen’s wage’ or a carer’s allowance that recognises the contribution made by mothers , as they have in Finland. It is also important that a mother’s pension is protected. When a mother is ready to return to work it’s vital that she is able to work part time and be available to take care of the children when needed, for example when a child is sick.
Taking Child Benefit away from some mothers is not ‘progress’ for women when it’s not replaced by other measures that recognise the work of mothering. Many women struggling in low-paid jobs around school hours have had their Child Benefit removed whilst other families on far higher incomes retain their Child Benefit which makes little sense.
Income splitting for families would recognise the shared project of parenting and the important role played by mothers andfathers regardless of how they share care and work, whether one-earner/one carer, or one and a half incomes.
Is motherhood a barrier to equality?
It depends how equality is measured. There are four measures of gender equality according to the World Economic Forum (the clue is in the name). They are : a) health b) access to education c) economic participation d) political engagement.
But what about equality of choice and opportunity to take care of children? How is care valued in these league tables? If engaging in productive, worthwhile activity is a measure of equality then the work of ‘care’ needs to be factored in somehow, as this is arguably the greatest contribution of all.
MAHM and the debate about marriage
MAHM was set up to highlight the needs of children and their carer, who is usually (but not always) the mother. It was not set up to promote the institution of marriage although many members are staunch supporters. Some ‘mahms’ are married and some are not. We recognise that parents’ circumstances change and evolve over time and that the vast majority of parents do their very best to put children first.
There are a number of ways of supporting the care of children, including a family-friendly taxation system. For example we campaign for Income Splitting or Transferable tax allowances for couples because single-wage families ( with one parent at home taking care of dependents) are taxed disproportionately and this imbalance needs sorting out. For income tax to be assessed on joint household earnings rather than independent taxation we believe the legal document for claiming entitlement should be the marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate. Following the coalition govt’s announcement of a Married Couple’s Allowance it is estimated that around 4 million people will qualify to apply, so that a portion of their non-taxable single person’s allowance (up to £1,000) can be transferred to their partner – it will not happen automatically. MAHM believes this should be available to parents with dependents rather than all married couples as some married couples will not have children.
The debate around marriage is an emotive one. We believe that when individuals/ groups talk positively about marriage it shouldn’t be interpreted as being in any way judgemental against other family models – and such an assumption is not at all helpful. MAHM campaigns for recognition of the ‘time’ that is necessary to take care of children and for govt (and policy analysts) to be positive about this role in language used. This includes married and non married mothers. However if fiscal arrangements are to recognise ‘the couple’, especially view the current fiscal penalty against single-earner couples raising children (ie they are expected to pay far more tax than dual earners on same household income), there needs to be some form of legal document for validating eligibility.
At present it’s unacceptable that a single parent is discouraged and disincentivised from re-marrying due to the fiscal penalty in the system. Children benefit from a loving, stable family environment and the support of two parents where possible and the tax and benefits system should be fair to married couples raising children.
Does MAHM support the idea of Full Time Dads?
At-home dads are welcome to join MAHM. The number of at-home dads is rising rapidly. Other groups have been set up to champion the work of at-home dads and we would welcome opportunities to work closely with these groups.
Most women have no choice. They have to work. They need the money. Why should we talk about mothers who are at home?
We challenge a system that gives mothers so little choice. We believe that raising children is the most important job in the world and as such families should be supported through fairer family taxation, which would ease the financial burden on parents struggling to make ends meet. Families need affordable housing and decent pay. The answer is not more ‘Great Affordable Childcare’ which takes choice away, forcing mothers (or fathers) to separate from their babies and young children long before the time feels right and long before children are developmentally ready. Funds currently directed at subsidising the provision of professional childcare services should be redistributed to all parents, who ALL have costs in ‘childcare’, whether the responsibility for care is outsourced or carried out by a loving family member who has given up an entire salary to ‘be there’.
Mothers returning to employment also need support. What do we offer them?
MAHM would like to see better opportunities for part-time work around the school day. Wrap around care schemes mean very long days for children. It’s not rocket science – they get tired and want to go home!