by Marie Peacock
21st October 2015
The dominant narrative in family policy at the moment is the need for more men to be involved in care and for women to focus far less on caregiving and more on paid work with fewer gaps in their CVs.
Let’s be clear… both parents actively earning and caring is only one model. It works (and will work) for only some parents, some of the time. It can never work for everyone all of the time and it’s not what everyone aspires to..
In fact even the model of ‘shared work and care’ itself (utopia for some) comes in different forms depending on number of children, availability of extended family, potential income of mother/father, type of work carried out (whether there’s travel overseas/night shifts/home based work etc).
Also, key point, whether mum is still breastfeeding or expecting a second/third/fourth child etc
In short, more men caring and more women in paid work does not reflect everyone’s experiences, wishes, preferences, intuition, possibilities..
It’s vitally important to recognise the diversity of people’s life experiences and the challenges faced, both as individuals and as part of the team that is ‘family’.
Each family story is very different.
It’s important for mothers’ stories to be heard and celebrated…but this isn’t happening right now. In fact many mothers feel they are being silenced.
Mothers at Home Matter exists not to say that ever woman should be at home caring all of the time. Of course not. It exists to explore the penalties against this being a realistic option when the time feels right.
At the moment there are significant penalties against caregiving in tax, welfare, allowances. There are penalties for mothers in social status, expectations (to keep a foot in the world of paid work), in being marginalised, in losing a voice in the democratic system, in losing the right and opportunity to secure paid employment later in life when children are more independent.
Some of these penalties do not affect men in the same way. Because a man at home is deemed progressive, ‘the future’, whilst to be at home with your child as a mother is considered (by policymakers ) as ‘old fashioned’ …
MAHM exists to highlight the prejudices against a mother at home – eg the negativity she encounters in policy language or when the word ‘mother’ isn’t even mentioned in policy docs…. (a way of ignoring, denying or downplaying the value of her contribution).
In policy circles there’s already a lot of debate about supporting working mothers, employment options, more childcare, more help for grandparent-carers, more men encouraged to be involved and valued as caregivers…. This is all very well covered and debated fully.
But sadly the ONLY debate which policymakers do NOT want to have is the one about mothers caring for children and how we/future mothers can be supported and valued when mothering our children, and our social and economic contribution fully factored in.
This is why MAHM exists – to keep the debate about mothering open – and to provide support for mothers where otherwise they feel completely marginalised, to highlight the challenges faced by mothers in caring for children….
Above all to celebrate motherhood for the **powerful experience** it is.