A new movement is emerging amongst parents who are ‘rebelling’ against the expectation to return to work as soon as the kids are weaned. The views of these parents runs counter to current government policy that rewards through the tax system both parents (or a lone parent) in employment. Free childcare entitlement for 3-4 year olds has been doubled from 15 to 30 hours per week, but is this really what parents want? And, probably more importantly is this in the best interests of our children?
I am a stay at home mum and I have been accused of being “brain dead” “sponging off my husband” and being “from another generation”. Like many parents I want to be there for my children; I believe that my kids will only thrive if they are cared for by either myself or my husband. I want to be respected, appreciated and valued by society; however I am an invisible carer – discriminated against financially by this government for my choice.
The modern way, we are told, is that women can enjoy a high flying career, have a beautiful home, happy content partner and high achieving kids however social media forums are full of women complaining that they have had enough, are exhausted, burnt out and resentful and would actually much rather be the ones at home with their children rather then paying someone else to raise them.
I’m talking from experience …
When I was bringing up my eldest daughter I did work full time, however, I was extremely fortunate to have the support of my parents for childcare, and, as with many parents in this position, I felt that my parents were the next best thing to me. But what about all the parents out there that do not have this level of family support? It is not impossible but very difficult, even when your children get to school because …
School is not childcare
The school day simply isn’t long enough to cover the average working day. That’s even before you factor in inset days, holidays, sick days etc .. and although some schools provide afterschool and breakfast clubs, many don’t – and anyway children generally find the school day long enough and just want to get home after a busy day, have a decent meal and relax before bedtime.
Two full time jobs
If a mother works then this means that she effectively has two full time jobs. Don’t kid yourself that all the housework, cooking, washing, organising the children’s social lives is suddenly going to be undertaken by a supportive husband. Most women report that they still do the lions share of domestic work in the home despite having a job outside the home too.
The financial balancing act
Free childcare for preschool children only applies during term time, in effect any shortfall in childcare hours will have to be paid for by parents and with school age children covering holiday and after school care is no small financial undertaking. Many parents ask themselves whether they really wanted to have children just to pay a stranger to look after them, often the extra wage only just covers the childcare bill or if there is surplus it isn’t significant. Also, having a parent at home full time can reduce overheads, for example, the parent at home has the time to cook healthy meals from scratch, saving money. I know when I was working I found I was relying on convenience food a lot simply because most of the time I was too tired to cook when I came in from work.
What about what the kids want?
I’m going to stick my neck out on this one and say that in the absence of a family member to help with childcare I’m not convinced that a childminder can provide the level of emotional attachment that a very young child needs. Also, looking after young children can be particularly testing of patience for even the most devoted parents – is a employee going to feel that same depth of love?
I am fortunate to be a stay at home mum now to our two younger children, but it’s not a picnic in many ways. My husband earns a decent wage but with the spiralling cost of living we have to go without luxuries. It’s a price we consider worth paying to have one of us at home for the kids, at least whilst they are still very young.
The governments policy to push mothers out to work is purely financially motivated – to earn more revenue for them; or at least a bedrock of their ideals, to ensure that everyone contributes financially – the contribution to our children’s future is not sufficiently quantifiable to them, it is simply expected. I don’t for one minute believe that government ministers are thinking about what is best for our children, if they wanted to help facilitate choice then inequality in our tax system could be amended to remove the discrimination against single income families.
Giving parents choice is a good thing…
Of course I appreciate that for many people who need to work this is a blessing and will leave a lot of hard working families better off and with so many families struggling to make ends meet this can only be a good thing. I am all for choice, I am just asking for equality.
Personally I hated the stress of working and childcare pressures when I was a full time working mum. I used to feel sad that I could never attend a sports day, play or event at school. As my daughter grew older I sometimes used to meet her during my lunch hour in school holiday time. When our time was up and I had to return to the office she would plead with me to stay with her, I think the days during the summer holidays were long and often lonely for her, it was heart wrenching at times and many a time I found myself having a quiet sob in the loo at work. Yes, I was exercising my grey matter at work and I enjoyed my job, it was interesting and varied and hugely challenging, but why do I need to put on a business suit to get respect?
Is there a middle ground?
Flexible home working/both parents working part time
Since I have been writing this blog I have met and spoken to other bloggers who have been incredibly resourceful and successful in carving out a career for themselves working from home around the needs of their children. Often their blog is a stepping stone to other things and they have been extremely clever and entrepreneurial; whether they are writing for or editing publications, make money out of their own blog, or managing social media accounts for clients. The opportunities are there and often these women work evenings and shorter school hours because they want to be around for thier kids. I applaud them, these women work hard and appear to have found a perfect balance.
I also have friends who work part time and tell me that this works well for them. I can appreciate that if you have family to fall back on during school holidays then this set up sounds ideal. If, like us, you don’t have help from family available and, feel, as we do, that you really don’t want anyone else looking after your kids then that isn’t an option. Also many families report that the gender pay gap prevents shared care/shared working between couples which is extremely frustrating. When I consider the measly amount that childcare workers are paid on average (as typical with most female dominated professions e.g. teaching and nursing) this is unsurprising.
I would like to see a level playing field in the tax system; maybe I am being naive but I believe that the government should be there to facilitate choice, not engineer social change. And, finally, I would really like to see women supporting other women in their choices and not putting others down; I would absolutely appreciate it if I was never asked if I get bored again.
Because I don’t, by the way. I can listen to Radio 4 most of the day and discuss the state of the world with my husband ad nauseum, trust me – the grey matter is not dead yet…
What do you think? Are you a full time mother? Is it tough financially but worth it? Do you work part time and believe you have a nice balance? Do you think that if you were at home full time you would be bored silly? Do you have family help with childcare? What is your situation and how does it work for you? Please comment below or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you …
Jules (a retro mamma) xx