by Kerry Hedley
Who is standing up for families with a stay at home parent?
In the run up to the general election we’ve heard an awful lot from all the major parties about appealing to women voters, supporting ‘hard working families’ & having ‘family friendly’ policies. Labour had it’s infamous pink bus & a separate women’s manifesto. The Tories had their ‘family test’. But where do families with a stay at home parent fit into all this?
Although there are increasing numbers of stay at home dads it is still overwhelmingly mothers that stay at home to look after children. Last time I checked, stay at home mothers are still women & we still have a vote. But no one seems to be trying to win our vote. In fact politicians seem to be in denial about our very existence. Whenever politicians are asked about appealing to women voters they immediately start talking about offering more subsidised institutional childcare. But what about those of us who actually want to look after our own children at home? Politicians act as though this preference is unthinkable & that the only barrier to women’s 100% participation in the workforce is affordable childcare. The barriers that many stay at home parents would like politicians to focus on instead are those of low pay, high housing costs, inadequate benefits, unfair taxation & social stigma which mean that so many families who would prefer to have a parent at home cannot do so.
For all their insistence on wanting to listen to what women want, all the major parties seem determined to ignore survey after survey which indicate that what mothers actually want is not for their children to spend more time in childcare but to be able to spend more time with their children. A friend of mine, also a stay at home mother had a Nurse break down in tears in front of her at her hospital appointment yesterday when she told her that she stayed at home looking after her children. This Nurse desperately wants to do the same but simply cannot afford to. She told my friend her circumstances. Her whole family, including her Mother in Law & Father in Law are living together in a cramped one bed room flat. Her parents in law have moved from abroad so they are able to look after the Nurse’s son while she & her husband work full time. They have no other option. She misses her son desperately. She doesn’t want her son to go to a nursery. She wants him have the loving care of a family. No politicians are listening to women like her.
As for supporting ‘hard working families’, try telling any stay at home parent that their family is not working hard. It is a myth that only the wealthy have a parent that stays at home. Many families make huge sacrifices to have a parent at home & even for those that are better off, relying on one income can be a significant financial strain. Looking after children is physically, emotionally & intellectually draining. It may not pay to look after your own children but it is certainly hard work. Yet for our politicians, ‘hard working families’ can apparently only mean dual income families. Of course dual income families should be supported & have access to quality affordable childcare but this is not the only family model that exists. There may be fewer of us single income families than there used to be but we exist! Politicians of every hue take note. We have a voice & we have a vote!
This article first appeared on Kerry’s Stay At Home Feminist Mum Blogspot
18th April 2015