by Mel Tibbs
We’re very pleased to be hosting a panel event at the forthcoming Feminism in London conference www.feminisminlondon.co.uk on Sunday 25th October.
What is absolutely at the core of MAHM is the breadth of our membership and interests. We all approach the importance of the maternal bond, family time and developmentally appropriate care for children from different angles but we share a passion for these important issues. It is one of our great strengths and means that we can highlight the issues facing families at all sorts of events from political party conferences to faith groups, from think tank meetings to childhood wellbeing forums.
Feminism in London is our chance to engage with our supporters, champions and feminist allies, to reach out and meet new people who might not have thought about things from ‘a mum’s’ perspective before, to challenge stereotypes and to listen to the women there who have their own stories to tell. Feminism is one of those words which can mean different things to different people, but we’re sure that motherhood has a place at a feminist event and we know the organisers are really excited about looking at the work women do from a new and refreshing angle.
It was way back in February that MAHM member Heather Ticheli first approached the FiL team about MAHM holding some kind of event at the conference. Heather has been involved in MAHM having a presence at the conference for the past two years. We’ve had a stall there (last year it included miniature home baked treats with #valuecare flags stuck in them!) where some of us have been able to share MAHM newsletters, leaflets and information with people attending the conference.
Initially we were met with some puzzlement; why were mothers being represented here? What could feminism offer mothers, and vice versa? But people soon came to a place of acknowledgement and appreciation (if they had not had the opportunity to debate the issues previously) that the work done by mothers, whether or not they are also in paid employment, goes virtually unrecognised in policy. Worse, it is heavily penalised.
And when we were able to highlight to people the fact that the idea of ‘choice’ over whether or not parents returned to paid work after bearing children is disappearing rapidly for all but the very well off and/or highly paid, they became very enthusiastic about MAHM and its vital work.
This year we are excited to be able to build on these foundations and host a panel event. It is called Worth Their Weight in Gold: the contribution of women’s unpaid labour to the economy. I will chair the panel, introducing its themes and MAHM’s work, and committee member Karen Roitman will be there both as a mother and as a researcher interested in gender and development. We will be welcoming Vanessa Olorenshaw who blogs at Politics of Mothering and is the author of a brilliant pamphlet on what is happening to mothers today economically, socially, and politically. And Esther Parry of maternal feminist campaign group All Mothers Work www.allmotherswork.co.uk will be speaking on the exploitation of women’s unpaid caring and domestic labour and the importance of maternal feminism.
We look forward to hosting the event and having an open, honest discussion which will unashamedly focus on motherhood and the mother-child relationship. It would probably surprise some to find us presenting at a feminist conference, but I think they would agree that lifting up the women whose work caring for their families is not properly counted as ‘work’, has its place at just such an event. It’s important for today and also for our children’s children, challenging policy that fails to value caregiving and which takes the work of carers for granted. After all, the economy depends on the contribution of an invisible army of people caring for children and other dependents, including the sick and elderly relatives.
The broadminded approach of MAHM volunteers over the years has earned us opportunities to speak out on behalf of a broad church of parents and children. It’s our aim to continue campaigning, to raise awareness of the penalties against caregiving, to make policy proposals so that our daughters and sons can, in turn, do what feels right for their own families.
Mel Tibbs will be Chair of the Panel for MAHM and invited guests on Sunday 25th October.