16th Oct 2013 – Chair’s address – OPEN MEETING MAHM – morning session.
By Marie Peacock
I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone
We know how tricky it is for mothers around the school day and special arrangements have to be made. Many of you will have asked for help from friends, neighbours, grandparents who will have perhaps travelled a long way to take care of the children or pick them up from school, so that you can come here today.
It’s difficult enough getting into central London from other parts of the UK but some of you have travelled from further still – from Germany – from Belgium – from Ireland .
Thank you also to many other groups who campaign along the same lines and who’ve come along today to support our event – Home Renaissance Foundation – What About the Children – CARE – MIP to name a few. Sorry if I’ve left anyone out.
For many of our members it’s not possible to make arrangements and home life and care commitments simply have to take priority.
The fact is – people’s CARE commitments to people at home – are very real. They can’t just be put to one side for a meeting like this. I feel particularly strongly about the word CARE and how it’s so terribly overlooked in today’s society. It is takes TIME to care.. You can’t care over the telephone or through the odd 15 minutes here and there as is happening with the elderly and the crisis in Social Care.
ON this note we’ve had apologies from members , including committee members , who’ve explained that they have commitments to attend to at home . They are not only caring for children but also :
… quite often elderly or sick relatives who depend on them
..or that their husbands or partners work away in the week so there’s no one to help out with the children.
..or children who’ve got a virus – it’s the time of year . It doesn’t get any less time consuming as they grow older as many of you will already know!
Someone – often the mother SIMPLY HAS TO ‘BE THERE’ OR THE WHOLE PACK OF CARDS FALLS DOWN. THEY WANT TO BE THERE.
I don’t intend speaking more than a few minutes this morning . We have two wonderful speakers today – Aric Sigman and Sally Goddard Blythe. But if I could just tell you that I bumped into a friend yesterday who doesn’t have a television at home. She rather guiltily told me she’d started watching the Midwife on her i-pad. And then she said ‘Why is it that the special moment of new life – which is so amazing – which is so humbling and which affects a mother and father so profoundly – why is that lost so soon?’
I don’t really know why – but I think it has a lot to do with the consistent message from govt that mothering can be easily substituted. We know it’s not true and both Aric and Sally will hopefully tell us the same thing.
Before I hand over to Dr Aric Sigman I’d like to I’d like to thank the MAHM committee who have worked so consistently hard this year – it really has been an incredible few months of campaigning.
I’d like to thank Sine Pickles our membership Secretary who had such an incredibly busy time putting new members onto the database earlier this year.
A special thank you also to our Treasurer Pat Dudley who has managed the finances for many years now. I know she really wishes she could be here today but she’s receiving hospital treatment at the moment.
Most of our media work has been done by Lynne Burnham , Laura Perrins who made the call to the Nick Clegg show and has been incredibly busy writing for the Telegraph, Anne Fennell and Claire Paye. We’ve had appearances on Newsnight and a number of different radio stations – too many things to mention here and I look forward to reports from everyone at our AGM this afternoon. We’re enormously thankful to the help and advice we’ve had from Nick and Beatrice at MIPPR this year – this has been tremendously supportive for us.
I often say that if we have been able to reach out to support just a few mothers – and fathers – who felt isolated , invisible, ignored, marginalised – then it’s been worth it. And I can tell you that WE HAVE definitely reached out – I receive so many letters from all around the country. People tell us that they don’t know which party to vote for and they can’t understand why no-one is listening!
In their letters they ask ‘Why do they want everyone to use childcare when we know that this is not the best start for babies and small children?’ ‘Why do they want to extend the school day when young children can’t wait to go home?’ ‘’Why are they spending more and more money subsidising nurseries when families want more family time?’
Mothers want to follow their deepest instincts and they want to be there for their children –and I know from being a childminder what a wrench it is for most mothers to have to separate from their children too soon and often for long hours. It really is heartbreaking. The sad thing is that even when they’re physically present, mothers are so busy these days that they often aren’t mentally there – you’re planning the next thing – the next meeting – the next trip away – the next paper that has to be written. Children can tell when you’re distracted – you can’t really hide anything from a child. They know what’s important and they know if you’re really listening or if you’re focus Is elswewhere – it’s not your fault – but the point is they know!
Sometimes mothers don’t seem to realise how special they are – they have to be reminded. It seems that they’ve been brainwashed into thinking that anyone can take care of their baby as long as they feed it and change it and talk to it during nappy changing times. But there’s a missing ingredient – and that’s motherly LOVE. No-one will love a child more than parents and we should celebrate that special bond.
CHAIR’S ADDRESS TO MAHM MEMBERS – 16th October 2013 – afternoon session:
Thank you for all the reports from the committee members this afternoon . It leaves me with very little left to say except thank you. But just a few words if I may….
THE LANGUAGE OF POLITICS:- In our work we often end up talking about Economics and Childcare and it was a good opportunity today to focus on celebrating motherhood and the kind of language that speaks about love and kindness, care and empathy, rather than the harder language of Economics and Fiscal Policies and Early Learning Goals in nursery education etc . We make no apology for focussing on the kind of language we simply don’t often get a chance to use.
Talking about Language, all too often Language used to describe time spent caring can be very demeaning. Language dismisses motherhood and puts it down. Mothers are viewed as déclassé.
In policy it’s presented as retrograde and old fashioned to spend some time at home whilst so-called progressive policies are those which encourage us to put our children into daycare and return to the office, briefcase in hand. What’s progressive about leaving young babies in nurseries, however well trained the individuals might be – it’s still not mum!
They talk about ‘family friendly’ but they mean ‘employment friendly’!
We hear about work/life balance – but in reality there is very little balance .
They talk about caring for children but they mean paid registered childcare!
Today we’ve shown a different way of thinking – one that celebrates and talks-up motherhood and care and presents it as being central to all our lives.
A couple of weeks ago I attended another conference run by Kids Co. Camila Batmanghelidj gave a very inspirational talk and towards the end talked about LOVE. She laments the absence of Love in policy. She’s so right.
There’s another campaign we’re involved with called Save Childhood Movement. In their work on early childhood education Dr Richard House pointed out that the expression ‘School-ready’ implies that children need to be made ready for school . And he said this: ‘’ Shouldn’t we look at it another way – shouldn’t schools be ready for our children?’’ The last time I looked the statutory school age was 5 but it’s being brought down to 2 years old – children still in nappies – and all this seems to come in by the back door!
Language is very powerful and it’s all too often used to manipulate the way we think about things. Or else the right words don’t appear at all! Words like ‘mother’ and ‘love’ let alone mother and love together! We ‘d like to challenge the language of policy and question why the word ‘mother’ is fast disappearing from policy documents!
Language around motherhood at home , for example ‘’ Stay at home mother’’ or even the word ‘’Marriage’’ for some reason , it’s considered all very cosy and middle class in politicians’ minds – and therefore not worthy of support. In reality most people want to find a good relationship – it’s not a class thing – and the vast majority of mothers at home are struggling to make ends meet so there’s a disconnection between perception and reality . Many stay at home mothers in couple relationships don’t own houses or cars or go on holiday – they struggle with day to day living.
Sometimes it’s about our preconceived ideas or what we’ve been taught about how life should go – about what’s important and what’s a bit less important. For example raising children and care work is positioned ‘down there’ and a professional life/ paid work is ‘up there’ and ‘aspirational’. We ask young people what they want to ‘do’ with their lives, meaning what career/job? Most don’t know yet – but what they do know is that they want to have a family – maybe children one day and find a loving partner.
Lots of other myths are perpetuated by policy makers – for example saying that only the rich are being denied child benefit – but in fact many part time working mums working in care or in low paid work – are being denied child benefit. Again what they say just doesn’t reflect reality.
So in a way the work we do at MAHM just seeks to address some of these myths and put the record straight.
We DO want to look after our children. What mothers do when they are caring IS as important as working.
We DON’T find it easy to make ends meet. We actually pay MORE tax quite often. People who’ve lost child benefit are NOT rich or in the ‘top 15 percent’ as they keep on saying. It’s simply not true.
Mothers struggling with poverty and low income, or coping alone need the welfare net to protect their families. Isn’t this why we pay our taxes – in other words to support everyone and particularly mothers caring for children. Between 20 and 70 years old surely there’s time to care as well as work?
Babies DON’T necessarily benefit from being ‘socialised’ away from home too early in their lives.
Children surely don’t need EXTRA FUN after school – isn’t the school day long enough already?
Mothers at home are not lazy and non aspirational or else rich and comfortable.
Personal message: For me personally it’s been an incredibly busy year – it’s been my fourth year childminding and it’s been an enormous privilege to get to know so many different little faces all with their individual personalities. I studied for the Early Years Professional Status qualification at Chichester University and have spent many hours alongside nursery workers. Every day I see the difficult and challenging circumstances faced by mothers and fathers who sometimes have no choice other than to leave their children with someone else – and also the difficulties faced by women working in childcare and in children’s centres etc They want to do their best for families but face lots of barriers in their work including a tickbox culture, safeguarding , paperwork , EYFS
Thank you for your support. Thank you to Lynne, Laura, Sine, Pat, Rebecca, Sarah, Claire, Anne and also to the newest committee members Heather and Imogen. END