Please find below our response to the Daily Mail article that was published on the 23rd of May.
The right to reply – a ‘clarification’ of the Daily Mail article 24/5/18, ‘Why Stay at Home Mums are more under attack than ever’
In a media and political world where there are constant calls for ‘more childcare’ as the answer to all our woes, it is important to take the opportunity to talk about the value of children being raised by a stay at home mother.
Unfortunately, in the print media, comments made in a verbal interview can be skewed according to the agenda of the publication involved. In this case, the mighty Daily Mail. Cristina Odone, our interviewer, was extremely sympathetic and I personally can say that she worked with me to try to find a way of expressing things that didn’t feed into the working mother vs stay at home (available) mother phoney war. At the same time, the Daily Mail doesn’t exist to promote the cause of Mothers at Home Matter. They have an agenda in every article they write and the question is, do we enter that maelstrom and try to come out with our heads above water, or do we just not engage at all? In this instance we threw our heavyweights at the topic – the Chair and Vice Chair of MAHM, both of us experienced in dealing with the media, and we did our utmost to make the points that we think need to be heard. We were very grateful to Jenny Knight for putting her neck on the line as well, although we didn’t realise quite what the results would be, as you can read below.
On the whole, the article was fairly sympathetic. However, there were a number of misquotes and skewing of what we had said which took place between when we conducted the interviews and when the article was published. We would like to take this opportunity to correct these because we feel it is really important that this topic isn’t always played out as mother against mother, but rather mother against the Government. I think it might also be interesting for those who haven’t been interviewed for the mainstream media to see behind the headlines, literally, to warn against believing everything that is written.
I (Claire) will write first. Starting with the headline, ‘Why stay at home mums are more under attack than ever’. This should read, ‘why stay at home mums (I hate that word but it works in headlines)/mothers are more under attack from the Government than ever.’ I went to great lengths to say that I do not feel under attack from working mothers, that we don’t discuss the topic, and that I don’t feel judged or ‘belittled’ by working mothers. Many of my friends are working mothers. I don’t feel there is fierce competition at all. I’m sure some mothers do but I don’t.
I never get asked ‘what do you do all day?’ I don’t remember a time when this was the case. Anyone who knows me knows that I always have quite a bit on. I’m sure I went to some length to say that I never get asked this question. But apparently others are asked this so they wanted to cover it, which is fair enough, but it is misleading to say that I get asked that. If anyone did, I would be more than happy to tell them!
There are several quotes attributed to me which are entirely accurate, the piece is not that misleading from my point of view. But the big hook on the online version, that working mothers tell me they feel guilty is categorically the opposite of what I said. I was asked about this a few times but I kept saying that working mothers don’t tell me they feel guilty – why would they? They do mention it in the Mothers at Home Matter Facebook group though, and media interviewers often say I shouldn’t say anything against mothers working because it makes them feel guilty. So others tell me that working mothers feel guilty, but my friends are not beating a path to my door with their tales of regret.
I’m pleased that the article highlights the issues around long hours in nursery which can be damaging to children and it is helpful to celebrate mothers at home as an antidote to the insistence on all mothers working but our real concern is with Government policy and with a general assumption that children are equally well off in nursery. I’m also delighted that they name checked the charity I help run – The Mwezi Foundation – there it is again!
Over to Anne….
It is always a difficult decision whether to do an interview for the media. We were approached by Cristina Odone who has been a great supporter of us and not only written positively about the value of staying at home to raise children on many occasions but also invited us to speak and engage with both politicians and members of other organisations working to strengthen the family.
Cristina rang me to say she had got the Daily Mail to do a positive piece on mothers who had decided to give up work to stay at home to look after their children. Could I be of help? It seemed a reasonable thing to engage with. I categorically stated that I did not want to be part of a battle between working and staying at home mothers. Bridging this gap is something I have worked hard as Chair to do and the first event I organised as Chair was to invite Miriam Clegg to speak with us about the value of home. Ironically at this event not even one journalist from any media outlet was interested in attending.
I was unprepared for the headlines and felt sad that the editor chose to highlight a point that none of us made. In no way do I feel belittled by working mothers, in fact many are my close friends who I have great respect for and they support me in what I am doing at MAHM.
There were a few inaccuracies reported in what I said. I was in my early twenties when I left working. This was before I had children and my husband and I made an idealistic decision for one of us to be at home to in some way give back to our community which we saw as deserted during the day and as I knew I wanted to be at home to look after our children when we had them I chose to do this. I never assumed I would go back to work.
I did point out the British Attitude Survey to say that there was a trend showing a shift in young people’s opinion. There was an increase in young people who thought that a job was alright but it was more valuable to be able to care for their own children.
The challenge for us at MAHM is how to get our message across. We are a campaigning organisation. We do wish to change government policy so that our tax system is more family friendly and so that the value of raising children is recognised. In my first few years joining the committee I met with Rt Hon Oliver Letwin and challenged him about the unfairness of the child benefit changes. His reply was that nobody cared. We did not have the support behind us – politics was about numbers and having popular support behind us. The question is how do we do this and we do need to engage with the public?
It is an open question and I am inviting you as members and supporters to help us. We do need to spend time honing a message that is true but engages with the media. Most of the time they are uninterested.
Finally I would like to apologise to my friend Jenny who I asked if she would like to participate. It was her first exposure to the media and I feel she should have been better protected.
“I was disappointed and a little shocked to read the piece in The Mail. During my telephone interviews, the journalist Cristina Odone seemed to be sympathetic to the main points I expressed: That mothers are being forced to go back to work for cultural and economic reasons, despite their children’s need for them; and that what is required is a fairer system that makes it possible for mothers to choose to look after their own children at home, if they would prefer to do so.
Unfortunately, The Mail chose to spin this into a battle between working mothers and mothers at home and there were a few instances in the article where the questions that were put to me have been turned into my own opinions – inaccurately. For example, when I was directly asked about this so-called ‘battle’, my response was that in my case I hadn’t really been exposed to much overt negativity – and that if tensions did exist, they were largely ‘unspoken’ – that for the most part my working mum friends and my mum-at-home friends respect each other’s choices – even if they are sometimes a little perplexed by them – and rarely voice any disapproval.
I was asked a question that I ridiculed at interview – about whether I was ever worried that my husband might find me ‘boring and limited’ because I was looking after our children rather than out at work. In the first place I found it saddening that this might actually be a mum’s concern – it certainly wasn’t mine, because life is so busy and eventful that it’s impossible for this to be the case, and because my husband is behind me all the way in the choice we have made together. But what shocked me most was that The Mail put their own question into the mouths of my antenatal group. This group of highly supportive mum friends certainly never asked me that question, nor did they ever imply or suggest it. They have all gone back to work; I was the only one in the group who stayed at home with the children. My only reason for mentioning them was to illustrate my experience of the way it has become socially and culturally the norm to return to work after maternity leave.
There are some instances where I have been accurately quoted in the article. I do feel that children’s needs are being sacrificed for the sake of short-sighted economics and that the effects of this will become clear in time. For this reason, I do regard myself as progressive rather than old fashioned. However, I am not waging any kind of war with working mums – only at the system which drives some into that position against their instincts. I applaud those ‘busy mummies’ who make it to the school playground and manage somehow to look after their families both financially and emotionally.
Click here to read the Daily Mail Article: