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The newsletter of Mothers at Home Matter, PO Box 43690, London SE22 9WN

Autumn
2011
T
his summer the nation
remembered that the home
matters. We wondered why
teenagers were allowed out at
night to run wild and the media
talked of hard-pressed, often
single, parents working night
shifts. Is the penny dropping
at long last? Are we willing to
admit that some of the freedoms
that parents have come to take
for granted actually come at a
price which is too high for the
next generation to pay?
Voices are going up for a more
traditional lifestyle, but let us not
forget that when we collectively tore
up the old conventions we also littered
a possible road back with obstacles
that are going to take a long time to
dismantle. Te fnancial, social and
ideological impediments that stand
in the way of no more than the kind
of simple life that our grandmothers
once took for granted, even if its only
whilst the children are young, are
considerable. It is these impediments
that MAHM wishes to address.
Afer considerable correspondence,
Anne Fennell and Poppy Pickles
rattled the gates of Whitehall and
spoke to the Rt Hon Oliver Letwin
MP about the current unfairness of
the fscal system where single earner
families are concerned. Anne furthers
this theme in her article on the beneft
traps that drive women to work for very
little recompense
and takes up the
thread again in an article
that demonstrates how the
family of a higher rate tax payer (even
in the case of a single earner) stands to
lose all its Child Beneft.
It is the view of too many policy makers
that the Swedish way of life with its
high quality afordable childcare
is the universal panacea for all social
and economic ills. Alas, an article
by a Dutch journalist and mother of
four who lived in that country for a
while, takes the scales of our eyes. She
feels that its time for parents to start
worrying more about the growing
gulf between parents and the children
who spend too many hours away
from the family setting. Afer several
generations of this lifestyle parents
have become de-skilled and they
look to parenting classes for practical
solutions.
Our usual features such as a book
review, a review of the papers and
letters to the Editor lead us, last but not
least, to details of our AGM at the end
of November. Please make an efort to
attend, for we have a wonderful speaker
from Sweden, Jonas Himmelstrand,
explaining where family politics
are leading his country. He will be
followed by David Burrowes MP,
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the
Minister for Policy, who will refect
on how the Government can keep the
Prime Ministers pledge to be the most
family friendly country in Europe.
Anna Lines _
||cm lne Cne||
W
elcome to
our new look
Newsletter, the first
official newsletter
under our new name,
Mothers at Home
Matter.
Afer protracted consultation
and hard work, we have
designed a new logo and have
re-branded our newsletter.
Tis has been the reason why
this newsletter is reaching
your doormats a little later
in the year than usual! We
would like to reassure our
readers that although the
look is diferent the general
style and quality of the
content remains the same.
And of course our aim, to
champion the mother at
home, is still very much at
the heart of all that we do.
2
Ccoleols
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
From the Chair
Rattling the gates of
Whitehall
Why we must say
Bye Bye Mummy
Parents ought to be
worried
Child Benefit: another
nail in the family
coffin
Motherhood and
fulfilment
Motherhood and the
Big Society
What about the
Children? National
conference
What the papers say
Book review
Letters
AGM, Facebook
Pell||og lne Oeles cl Wn|lene||
O
n the 23rd May Anne
Fennell and I were invited
to the House of Commons to
meet Rt Hon Oliver Letwin
MP, who is Minister for
Government Policy.
He is the man under whose scrutiny
all policy passes so we could not have
reached a more senior man to discuss
Government policy on Families. At
the appointed time, with feelings
of pre-performance nerves we were
ushered into Mr Letwins ofce,
having been escorted through endless
twisting corridors smelling of musty
old books.
Afer introductions, Anne presented
a spirited appeal on behalf of middle
bracket single-income families, who,
under the current tax system, pay a
disproportionate share of their family
income in tax and receive little or no
government support back (once child
beneft is withdrawn). Mr Letwin
listened carefully before stating
unequivocally that no government
will alter its taxation system to support
those who appear to be in the top 20%
of earners regardless of whether they
actually end up with less money
than those on a fraction of their
income.
Tis was political
reality and although
he conceded a hint
of sympathy under
Annes persistence in
pointing out that the
numbers simply do
not add up, he did not
budge from his position.
Mr Letwin reiterated that
80% of people supported
the abolition of universal
Child Beneft, (he was presumably
referring to the Suns poll of the 4th
October 2010) and that no one will
sympathise with a minority of people
who appear to be substantially better of
than the majority of the population.
On a more positive note he did point
out that the Conservatives had been
considering including Transferable Tax
Allowances in their last manifesto, but
due to the current fnancial climate had
had to remove it. He felt that if we could
campaign for universal transferable tax
allowances, this would beneft single
income families across the board.
Although we seemed to come away
with little encouragement, anyone
who reads Mr Letwins Neighbourly
Society should be confdent of his
goodwill in this area. David Burrowes
MP, Mr Letwins Parliamentary Private
Secretary, who also sat in on our
meeting, advised us that it is a ministers
practice to call up a thorough briefng
in preparation for such meetings and
so at the very least the issues have been
fagged up in the heart of government.
As for us, we gain in experience and
our arguments will be strengthened
by such testing as we draw up the
list of more doors to knock on. We
hope that a seed has been sown which
will eventually lead government to
support those who have chosen to be
at the coalface of bringing up the next
generation.
Poppy Pickles _
We regularly send out emails to
the membership but many do
not reach you because we do
not have your current details.
Please update me asap
by email:
Sine Pickles
(Membership Secretary)
membership@
mothersathomematter.org
3
Wny We M0sl Sey Bye Bye M0mmy
Levelling of family income:
50,000
45,000
40,000
35,000
30,000
25,000
20,000
15,000
10,000
5,000
Zero
income
10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000 50,000
earned income (gross) >
d
i
s
p
o
s
a
b
l
e

i
n
c
o
m
e

(
n
e
t
)
>
income support
child benet
housing benet
council tax benet
child tax credit
working tax credit
Key:
Single earner family with 3 children
Calculations based on renting 2-bed
house in Eneld, London at 230 week
Council tax band E
tax
free
allowance
income tax at
standard rate 20%
higher rate taxpayers
income tax at 40%
7,475 42,475
e
a
r
n
e
d

i
n
c
o
m
e
e
a
r
n
e
d

i
n
c
o
m
e
(
a

e
r

t
a
x
)
disposable income
in
c
o
m
e
su
p
p
o
r
t
child benet
housing benet
c
o
u
n
c
i
l
t
a
x
benet
child tax credit
w
orking tax
credit
A man with
3 children may
be on the minimum
wage or on 40k but
his familys disposable
income will be nearly
the same at about
35k.
YouGov poll for Centre for Policy Studies 2009 What Women Want. Sample: 4690 men and women.
Calculations use website www.turn2us.org.uk and enfield.gov.uk and are based on April 2011 budget.
Research and article by Anne Fennell
S
taying at home is a choice
mothers want. In a 2009
YouGov poll, 49% of mothers
wanted to raise their children full
time & only 1% wanted to go
out to work full time while their
children were at pre-school age.
Te beneft trap where people were
poorer when they worked than if they
lived on welfare now also snares
the average working family, but in a
diferent way.
Te tax and beneft system is a complex
one, variable by location, in which
the several benefts and tax credits
increase with the number of children.
Te graph above shows a family with 3
children on a range of incomes. What
is remarkable is how fat the level of
disposable income is across a very wide
range of wages. A man with 3 children
may be on the minimum wage 12k
or on 40k but his familys disposable
income will be nearly the same at
about 35k. Tis may be a triumph for
equality but it is almost impossible
for the primary earner to earn extra
net income, because for every extra
pound earned an equal pound is lost
by having to pay more income tax, or
through the loss of tax credits or
benefts.
Take a family
whose principal
breadwinner earns
a wage of 24k: as a
new situation arises
such as the care of an
elderly parent, saving
for a deposit or one
of any number of other
eventualities, the family
calculate that their fnances need
to expand to the tune of a modest 3k
extra per year in disposable income.
Te frst and obvious question would
be whether he could work harder or
longer, get a promotion or apply for
a better paid position? Should any of
these routes be taken he may well be
rewarded by an employer but they will
discover that it has made very little
discernable diference. It is barely
credible but it is a fact that his wage
would need to double to make that
3k.
Who can hope to double their value
in a competitive wage market however
hard they might study or work? Tat
would be a fnancial revolution no
family could seriously contemplate.
What they can contemplate is the
mother entering the workforce.
So for a small sum, but
one that may be of
great importance to
the family, countless
mothers are making
this choice, ofen
suppressing their
instinctive desire to be
at home, and re-entering
the workforce. But of
course she cannot earn 3k
to get 3k. Te same beneft trap
ensures that she must fnd 18k! Tat
is more than a full time classroom
assistant earns or 4 days/week for
a recently qualifed teacher. So she
works fat out for the paltry reward of
2k or 3k, a rate of reward for efort
amounting to exploitation as bad as
anywhere in the world and passing
largely unnoticed.
Te system was intended to help
families on low incomes but once
it levels to the extent shown then it
destroys aspiration, denies fathers
the opportunity to provide for their
families, guarantees that mothers will
have to work to make up the diference
and then makes them work full time or
nearly full time for very little reward.
To his great credit Rt Hon Ian Duncan
Smith MP (IDS) has recognised the
problem and his proposed universal
credit is designed to change the way
benefts taper of so that efort will reap
more of its due reward. It will still be a
long way from earning 1 and getting
1 but it is a welcome step in the right
direction.
IDS is not the frst. Many, from
Beveridge onward, have recognised the
tendency of means-tested benefts to
trap families in poverty. What has not
been seen at all is how it would change
the very shape of the family itself:
such that right across the working and
middle classes even to well-established
professionals, we could come to lose
sight of the possibility of both parents
working being other than the norm.
4
N
o army of experts will be
able to solve the problems
caused by the separate lives of
parents and children.
Professor of Pedagogics (the art or
science of teaching), Micha de Winter,
has written a book entitled Improve
the world, begin with childrearing.
He views the behavioural problems of
the young, whether medicalised or not,
in the light of the individu
alisation of our society.
As a solution he pleads
for a pedagogical civil
society that creates
social cohesion. Social
changes can produce
the desired efects, but
only on condition that
our society wakes up to
the fact that taking care of each
other and mutual attachment are not
subordinate to earning money and
personal fulflment.
For all the advantages that science
and technology have brought us,
they have also led to a mechanisation
of our society whereby time and
care for each other have become
increasingly classifed as technical,
economic factors. At the same time
the babyboomers liberated themselves
successfully from the sufocating ties
of religion and social norms. Whether
intended or not, this process was
accompanied by the loss of associated
values such as care for others and
solidarity, even if it was only because
parents and children began to live
further away from each other. In the
meantime it is now accepted that
people are too busy to take care of their
parents.. Washing my mother? Not
for me!. Or Im not a care worker afer
all. But at the same time a holiday in
Tuscany is booked.
Without values
For decades as a society we have
pursued personal development and
economic progress. Tis has stripped
our society of values. Parents too are
encouraged in all quarters to earn
money and spend it and to delegate the
care of their children to care agencies.
Parents are with their children less and
less and that is, in my view, at the root
of the present crisis in child rearing.
For parents who do not spend much
time with their children gradually
become de-skilled as educators.
Less self-suffcient
Not only are they less capable of
supporting their children in
daily life, but also when
illness strikes. Not only,
on account of their
absence, are they unable
to notice and tackle
problems, but they hardly
develop skills and a natural
professionalism with regard
to the raising of children. As a
result children encounter problems
unnecessarily and parents are less
self-sufcient and more dependent on
experts.
No wonder that the number of children
with behavioural problems is
rising exponentially and that
parents are glued to the
box watching Te Baby
Whisperer, for children go
of the rails and parents no
longer know the answer.
Childrens World
Sadly, the situation is unfortunate
for children too, for they no longer
have a normal part to play in the
normal world of grown-ups, but are
kept occupied in a separate childrens
world, which contributes to a sense
of uselessness. If theyre lucky they
may kick a ball in a playing feld or
they may go to a climbing wood.
But more and more ofen, for want
of anything better, they spend hours
watching television or sitting at the
computer, which suppresses further
their natural need to move. How can
we possibly be surprised that children
increasingly bounce of the walls?
Parenting Classes
No army of experts will be able to
solve the problems caused by the
separate lives of parents and children.
Apart from anything, one reason
alone is because the root of the
problem cannot be eradicated with a
temporary treatment plan or a tablet.
In Sweden, where I live at the moment,
parents are referred en masse to
parenting classes. Te knowledge of
parents about childrearing here is
already several times more tenuous
than it is in the Netherlands, because
fathers and mothers here have already
been working full-time for several
generations. Swedish parents are less
knowledgeable, more uncertain and
less experienced than Dutch parents.
But the guidelines that they do receive
amount, as Micha de Winter explains,
to little more than puppy training.
Good childrearing does not consist
of the following up of guidelines, but
the inculcation of values. Tat calls
for strong adults who know from
experience how a situation should
be handled. Its remarkable to see
how people tiptoe around the
elephant in the room. For
instead of serious concerns
being raised regarding the
lack of confdence among
Swedish parents, they are
given re-assurance and told
to have more confdence in
themselves.
However, theres not a single reason
for that. Afer all, if all you ever do
with your children is to put them to
bed at night and to do fun things with
them at the weekend then you are
no childrearing heavyweight. Never
mind, it does not matter. We cannot
do everything. And no doubt in this
way you can give your children plenty
of fun and love. But do be honest
about this. For you cannot make up
for the lack of parental insight into
childrearing with a pat on the back.
Wendy Schouten
publicist, archaeologist.
Translated by Anna Lines _
Pe|eols O0gnl lc ce Wc|||ed
Pe|eols neve mede lnemse|ves |oc|ees|og|y depeodeol co c0ls|de cn||d|ee||og expe|ls.
Its
remarkable to see
how people tiptoe
around the elephant
in the room.
Improve
the world,
begin with
childrearing
read Anna Wahlgren Modern Times Old-fashioned Children
5
Cn||d Beoel|l. Aoclne| Ne|| |o lne |em||y Ccll|o
T
hese are the stock phrases
which apparently justify
the last remnants of family
allowance being removed from
higher rate tax payers in 2013.
George Osborne used them on
launching the policy and they
have been repeated since by
Treasury officials and by MPs
to their constituents. And they
were persuasive: 76% of Sun
readers polled in approval.
With all due respect to Mr Osborne,
they are plausible nonsense. Firstly, low
earners get much more than they give.
Since Gordon Brown introduced tax
credits the UK has been exceedingly
generous in this respect. Yes,
individuals on 15k see 2k deducted in
PAYE taxes but they receive back 9k
in working tax credits, council tax
rebate and housing benefts. If they
have a family that rises, eg. to 23k
with 3 children. Far from subsidising
others, those on 15k receive generously
from higher grossing taxpayers and in
particular from those on the higher
rate.
Secondly, although
singles and dinkies
(double income, no
kids) in the higher rate
bracket are in the top
20% of households, they
do not get Child Beneft so
cannot be the ones referred
to. Tat leaves the 1% on bankers
bonuses that are, but for the far greater
number of higher rate taxpayers on
only a little over the 42.5k threshold,
if they have 2 children their net income
is in the middle of households. With 3
children they are below the average.
Tat is now. Removal of Child Beneft
will put that higher rate family into the
bottom 40%.
Misleading the public in this way and
then quoting their approval to justify
policy surely makes a nonsense of
the processes of democracy. And
this policy is a nonsense. A
single earner on 42.5k with
four children will lose all
Child Beneft while the
family next door could
have double incomes of 40k
each putting them in the top
10% of households, have only
one child and continue to receive
Child Beneft. Tying Child Beneft to
individual-assessed income tax bands
creates a new beneft trap designed
specially for single income families
on about 40k where to earn 1 over
42,474 would lose them 3,500!
One thing this reveals is that the
family, not the individual, is the logical
unit for economic consideration.
Tis and the poverty-trap efect of
means-tested benefts were both
understood by Sir William Beveridge
in his 1946 blueprint for the Welfare
State. Since then, attempts to legislate
help for single mothers and fnancial
independence for women generally
have led us into a tangled mess. In
1989 Margaret Tatcher and
Nigel Lawson switched the
basis of taxation from
households to individuals
and in 1999 Gordon
Brown replaced married
couples allowances
with tax credits aimed at
reducing child poverty.
Tis ideologically informed
attempt to help children without
discriminating the form of family
in which they are raised has led to
the family in its traditional, and
still ideal, form being economically
discriminated against.
And here is a postscript. Most of the
children in poverty supposedly being
helped have lone mothers but if their
mother secures an earning husband,
which should be a happy result for her
and them, then most of their benefts
are withdrawn. Looking on
the bright side, that means
that Broken Britain
may have far fewer
lone mothers than
the statistics suggest;
they are probably just
prudently not declaring
their partners. It does,
though, create yet another
impediment to marriage, the best
chance of their partnership surviving.
So there it is. Seen through the
ideological spectacles of classes pitched
against one another: lone parents
versus hard working double incomes
versus luxury mums at home, it all
looks fair enough. But seen in terms
of the life choices of one woman
with children, who at some time
fnds herself alone but wants to fnd a
husband and if she succeeds may want
to raise her children supported by his
income, then at every step of the way
she is fghting against the system.
We must stop believing the
characterisation of policy in terms of
classes and retranslate it to ourselves
in terms of one class, one real person
trying to get on. And we must give up
the attempt to be politically correct
about forms of family, speak out for
what we think is ideal and press for
an economic playing feld that tips
towards it, not away from it.
All calculations use the website
www.turn2us.org.uk (registered charity
no 207812) and www.enfeld.gov.uk.
Tey are based on calulations afer the
April 2011 budget and cuts to welfare.
Calculations based on a north London
residence. Rent of a 2 bed house at 230
week and council tax 1700 yr. _
Removal
of child benefit
will put that family
into the bottom
40% of
households
The
family, not
the individual, is
the logical
unit for economic
consideration
|TS NOT |A|P |OP THOSL LAPN|NO I5K TO PAY TAXLS TOWAP0S A BLNL||T
|OP THOSL LAPN|NO SO MUCH MOPL.
THL H|OHLP PATL TAXPAYLP |S |N THL TOP 20/ O| HOUSLHOL0S |N THL COUNTPY.
3,500 is what a single earner higher rate tax payer with three children must earn (gross) extra to replace 2500 child benefit lost.

Mclne|nccd eod |0|l||meol


E
arlier this year I was asked
to be on Vanessa Feltzs
TV chat show on Channel 5
as a representative of Mothers
at Home Matter and as an
example of a fulfilled stay-at-
home mother.
My counterpart, an unfulflled stay-
at-home mother, turned out to be an
experienced ex-journalist, who had been
both on the radio and the TV. Luckily
before going on the show, aware that
I was bound to be on the back foot in
terms of ready arguments, I had sent out
a general plea to other full time mothers,
asking them to describe what they found
fulflling about being at home.
Of course, when it came to it, and the
camera swung towards me, my mind went
rather blank, but the one point I made
which I felt was of some value was that
mothers who stay at home arent thinking
about what is best for themselves, but are
taking the long view on what is best for
the whole family, including themselves
or words to that efect!
However, in the process of gathering
together my evidence that being at home
can be just as fulflling as going out to
work, I managed to re-inspire myself. We
are all searching for self-fulflment in life,
so if we can get that from bringing up our
own children, what better way is there!
Tere were certain key things that gave
mothers fulflment:
Being There
It sounds very simple, but in a world
where time is an increasingly precious
commodity, simply being there for your
children is a key part of being fulflled as a
mother. Laura Boon, mother of Maria 2
and Rose 11 months, points out that the
fulflment comes not only from seeing all
of their frsts, but also witnessing their
whole experience - I dont have to wonder
what they were doing for 8 hours of the
day without me there.
Julia Bonell, mother of three children
under 3 says that being a mother at
home you have the luxury of time and
autonomy and Mel Tibbs points out
that If you are really parenting by being
fully present then it is the one job that
naturally takes up all your time .
Tis is true, not only for toddlers and
babies, but also for mothers of school-age
children, Emma Cooper, mother of Joel
10 and Libby 6, says that Primarily, I want
to be there in the morning to drop my
children of at school and in the afernoon
to pick them up. It sounds like a simple
thing, but that continuity of care can be
crucial for children at an emotionally
vulnerable stage in their lives.
Raising your Children
Children are like sponges. All parents
know that if they ever let slip with a swear
word then their children are bound to
repeat it at the next most embarrassing
opportunity. But this works the other
way round too. Children subconsciously
copy the behaviour, language and
emotional state of their primary carer,
in other words, it is from them that they
learn how to be an emotionally-rounded
human being.
For mothers who make the choice to stay
at home to raise their children, fulflment
comes from knowing that no one else gets
to teach them these valuable lessons:
Melody Berthoud, mother of Clara 3 and
Will 1, says for her being at home gives
her the satisfaction of knowing that I am
the main infuence in their lives, helping
them to grow into the kind of adult I
would want them to be, and if it all goes
wrong I only have myself to blame!
Laura Boon says that its fulflling being
able to choose how we spend our days
together. And Julia Bonell says that you
have the opportunity to spend your time
getting to know, loving and shaping your
own children.
Developing Ourselves
Before I got married a wise Aunt took
me for a walk in Regents Park to tell
me that you cant live your life through
your children. I have since found this
to be true however much you give to
children, they always want more, and
at some point, in order to be the best
mother you can be, you have to recharge
the parenting batteries by devoting some
time to yourself. Most of the mothers I
spoke to agreed that fulflment comes
from doing something for yourself too.
Julia Bonell
warns that
being at home
is a full time job
though, and you dont get any
time of, so you need to do some things for
you and not just do it all for the children.
I make sure I ft enough stuf I enjoy into
my days to keep me happy. Tats good
for me AND the children! Anne Fennell,
mother of four boys, and due to have
number 5 at the end of November, has
learnt to play the piano whilst being at
home as she agrees that to be fulflled
I believe one has to use ones talents.
Mel Tibbs fnds fulflment by creating a
beautiful home by sewing and making
things, as well as continuing her writing
whenever she can.
Expanding the Role
Anne Fennell refects that as her children
grow up there is a natural widening
of the mothering role , for as we grow
in confdence as mothers of our own
children we can start to look outside our
own circle and see other children as the
same as ours and recognise needs. We
help out in schools and churches, help
to run play groups, organise community
and school events. So, our fulflment
comes from our ability to contribute not
only to the family, but to the community
in which we live.
Diane Aldridge, mother of Matilda
6, says that I do spend more time on
the house and doing chores but it is
probably the other stuf outside, as part
of the wider community, that is the most
fulflling. Emma Cooper spends one day
a week volunteering at a St Christophers
Hospice, which I fnd very rewarding
and fulflling. I feel that is my way of
contributing to my local community and
I know the hospice relies hugely on their
volunteers.
So, to conclude: by collating our
experiences of how motherhood can
be a fulflling role by itself, we can also
encourage each other to really enjoy
being mothers, because, as the previous
generation never tire of reminding us, the
years of raising our children are over all
too soon.
Poppy Pickles _
7
Mclne|nccd eod lne B|g Scc|ely
W
hat is a Big Society?
Do we need to create
one or are we losing the one we
already have by undervaluing
what mothers at home do?
68% of stay at home mothers help in their
local community for at least two hours a
week and 58% work on a voluntary basis
for ten hours a week. Mothers with young
children carry out more than 173 million
hours of community work each year.
Unfortunately when mothers spend
long hours in the workplace, whilst the
children are cared for away from home,
a neighbourhood dies. Tese mothers are
the link between the generations, they
are the Neighbourhood Watch, the party
organizers, the voluntary workers, the
school helpers and so many other things.
Aupairs and carers cannot substitute as
their duties are narrowly circumscribed
and their local connections usually
transient.
What mothers do is hard to calculate in
monetary terms but researchers claim
this unpaid labour saves the government
billions and certainly enhances the
wellbeing of society.
Together with citizens and
communities, the voluntary
and community sector
sits at the heart of the
Governments ambitions to
create a Big Society.
Te government is exploring new
ways to encourage volunteering
and philanthropy. Te whole
debate on the Big Society is
encouraging individuals and
organisations to think about the
contribution that they make now
and how that might change. [We
will] promote social action by
creating a society where taking
an active role in society is both
expected and rewarded... We...
have a common objective; to build
a stronger society and improve
the lives of our fellow citizens.
Te Big Society agenda is not a
Government programme; it is a
call to action.
Building a Sronger Civil Society.
HM Gov. Ofce for Civil Society 2010
...|s |l ocl l|me lc ce |eccgo|sed?
Above (clockwise from lef): Armed with
brooms and brushes local mothers clear up the
smashed glass littering local playground which
the local councillors and council failed to do
in 2 months. BEFORE and AFTER: a 2 year
boarded up local playground - with pressure
and design input from local mothers, a new
playground is fnally erected.
Above right: A community charity salsa night,
Tea with neighbours, Mothers at Home
forming the backbone of PTA
funding events. Below (clockwise
from right): Mothers at
home visiting the elderly
in hopices; they organise
political discussions;
they bring together local
mothers and toddlers in
play groups; they provide
voluntary weekly career
guidance for local college
students and weekly help
in school.
Study of 2,000 mothers conducted by Mother & Baby Magazine
and Tesco Baby and Toddler Club, August 2008.
8
F
ounded in 1994, WaTCH?
is a small organisation
run by volunteers whose main
aim is to raise awareness of
the never-changing emotional
needs of the under threes in
our ever-changing society.
The Conference was opened
by the organisations Chair, Sir
Denis Pereira Gray.
Sir Denis spoke of how the importance
of the role of mother is being
underestimated in this era of striving
for absolute equality. A mother has
three biological privileges: she carries
the baby, she is able to breastfeed and
she produces the hormone oxytocin
during the birthing process which
allows the let-down of milk and
bonding with the child. Where the
attachment with the mother is not
secured there is evidence of long term
damage to the emotional development
of the child. It is therefore important
that more choices are available to a
mother for bringing up children and
that the right choices are being made.
Stephanie Mathivet was the
frst speaker, a Curriculum
and Standards Manager
in the Pre-school
Learning Alliance.
She spoke of her
experiences as a single
mother in the 1970s,
the heyday of womens
liberation and feminism.
Te stigma had gone from
single parenthood and she felt she
could do it all herself . She worked
in a casino and afer three months
maternity leave she wanted to return
to work and so began a long period of
childcare. She spoke of the difculties
of constancy and consistency, the
fnancial limitations to the quality of
care, the adoration of the child for his
carer rather than the mother and the
jealousies that provoked, or the case
when the childminder did not like her
child. Years later she feels that childcare
is not the optimum way and had lef
her child with a sense of rootlessness
and insecurity. For it to work well
there needs to be commitment from
all sides, love, constancy and security.
Our second speaker was Dr Suzanne
Zeedyk whose task was to demonstrate
how the direction a buggy faces afects
the child. Evidence shows that much
of a childs development takes place
in the frst three years and school
had little efect on changing a childs
development. At birth the brain is the
most immature of the bodys organs,
By one year it has attained 70% of its
fnal mass and by three years 90% of
its fnal mass. Barriers to educational
achievement emerge at as young as
16 months. Language development is
signifcantly advanced where a mother
has been to college or university and
these children achieve better results at
school regardless of which school they
go to. Te National Literacy Trust has
documented a decline in vocabulary
and delay in the standard of language
in children coming into schools. It was
Dr Zeedyks task to discover whether
the direction of the buggy infuenced
how much parents talk to their
children and whether this
has an efect on emotional
development and
language production.
Children naturally
produce two hormones:
cortisol or stress
hormone and oxytocin
or trust hormone. Where
babies are nurtured and cuddled
oxytocin is boosted. Where babies
are disconnected with their parents
cortisol is produced. Tere is evidence
to suggest that there is rising levels of
cortisol production in young children.
Dr Zeedyk claims that it is the frst time
in evolutionary history that babies are
so disconnected from their parents.
Our main mode of transporting babies
is in buggies mostly facing away from
us and infants have to endure busy
roads. We sleep our children in cots
away from us, put
them in car seats to
the rear of us and
mobile phones and
television cut of our connection with
them. Her studies show that where the
buggy faces toward the mother there
is more interaction, more speech,
more laughing and making faces.
Te infants also tend to sleep more,
indicating security.
A third highly topical and emotive
subject that was covered was nurseries
and its practitioners. Julie Revels
and Emma Ackerman work for local
London councils in Early Years
Childcare. Tey spoke of the huge
drive by the previous government and
continued by the present government
to increase early years childcare and
the increasing pressure on families to
use it.
What had once begun informally
in church halls run by experienced
parents and grandparents based
on old fashioned playfulness, was
now becoming fnancially unviable
and being replaced by all singing,
all dancing clinical institutions,
with a high staf turnover rate, ofen
run by young teenage girls without
the emotional experience of raising
children and with low self confdence.
Te unique selling point of these
nurseries is the CCTV camera,
childcare available from 3 months and
opening hours from 7am to 7pm. Ten
there is the baby room where there
could be up to 30 cots lined up in one
room. Ofen these rooms are cramped
with not much light and babies get to
go outside once or twice a week. Tese
are not only found in poor areas but in
the city where mothers have to work
long hours. It was Emma and Julies
job to help the practitioners with the
practical knowledge of raising children
and boost their self worth. However,
with government cuts pending, funds
for this kind of work may well be
axed.
Wnel Acc0l lne Cn||d|eo? (WeTCH?) - Nel|coe| Ccole|eoce
Me|cn 20II. Wnel Bec|es Need lne|| Pe|eols lc Kocw
...the
importance of the
role of mother is
being underestimated in
this era of striving for
absolute equality...
Anne Fennell _
9
Wnel Tne Pepe|s Sey
Being a good parent is hard
A recent report published by Unicef
found that many British children are
living in media bedsits within the
family home, due to their time-poor
parents feeling unable to say No to
their ofsprings demands for the latest
entertainment gadgets. Childrens
bedrooms contained TVs, the
internet, games consoles and phones,
independent of the rest of the family.
Te fact that Britons work among
the longest hours in the EU may also
contribute to this lack of time in daily
life and parents consequent over-
reliance on screen-based babysitters.
However, by resisting childrens
demands for the latest material goods
and simply spending time with them
parents are giving children what they
really want. Bob Reitemeier, chief
executive of the Childrens Society,
said the Unicef report could have gone
even further:
We need to tackle the pressure that
parents feel in this country to buy
material goods for their children. We
need to educate parents so they know
what their children want, because our
research has shown us time and again
that what they want is time together
with their families.
Tis report is a timely reminder that
parenting is not something that can
be ftted around the edges of the day
but a job that requires consistency and
dedication.
Te Times, September 14th 2011
Affordable childcare no such
thing!
Despite calls from feminists, activists
and politicians, Minette Marin argues
that there is no such thing as afordable
childcare. Indeed she states that it
is genuinely uneconomic and the
only way most parents can aford it is
only with massive support from the
hard-pressed taxpayer. So should the
government continue, or even increase
this subsidising childcare and all the
related costs? Te obvious answer is
that they shouldnt.
Because, she argues, It is doubtful
whether it is good for young children
to be given over to strangers. It is not
doubtful at all that many nurseries are
barely satisfactory. Te fact is that
children beneft from one-to-one,
consistent, long-term attention, which
they cannot get from nurseries; and
that the majority of mothers wish to be
with their young children.
Te solution she ofers is radical:
Whats needed is a revolution in tax
and benefts. Two-parent families on
low incomes should be taken out of
income tax and families on better
incomes should get large tax rebates
so that they can look afer their own
children.
Sunday Times, 11th September 2011
Time to reclaim the M word
Naomi Stadlen, author and
psychotherapist, mother and
grandmother believes mothering is a
word that has fallen out of use. In her
books she marries the words mother
and love. Its about how crucial a
mothers love is in shaping a baby as a
human, and why mothers are therefore
vital in society. Te key to this is the
special, ofen silently communicated,
intimacy between a mother and her
baby. Intimacy is crucial for a person
to realise his or her potential to the
maximum. It enables a person to
reach genuine original, loving and
creative energy. Mothers do not seem
to recognise their importance in being
able to introduce or inhibit this whole
dimension for their child.
Te Guardian, 10th September 2011
Was Bad Parenting Behind
Summer Riots?
Afer four nights of youth-led rioting
in cities across the country in August,
the nation needs to take a long, hard
look at the way it is bringing up the
next generation. However, rather than
highlighting who to blame, perhaps
this extreme bad behaviour should be
seen as an opportunity to promote
support to families, the building
blocks for a strong society. Te price
of failing families is not
only the immediate cost of
cleaning up afer the riots, but also the
potential future price of criminality,
unemployment, and benefts resulting
from a generation of children who have
been raised without the emotional and
behavioural skills to make a decent life
for themselves.
Te Guardian, 10th August 2011
One Older Mother Regrets
Choice to Delay Motherhood
At a time when the trend in older
mothers is rising, one such mother
speaks out about how she wishes she
hadnt put of having her children. In
the UK in 2009, almost 27,000 babies
were born to mothers in their 40s,
which is approximately three times
the total 20 years ago. Encouraged
by their peers her generation went to
university and forged careers, which
was fantastic, but there was no real
discussion as to how a husband and
children would ft in with this. She
states, just as we were told, falsely, that
we could put of having babies forever,
we were never told just how wonderful
motherhood would be.
Te Daily Mail, 27th May 2011
High % of Working Mothers
could be Harming Children
Despite research showing that mothers
who stay at home to bring up children
who are better behaved at school, half
of British mothers now go out to work
before their childs frst birthday. A
report by the OECD, entitled, Doing
Better For Families, states worryingly,
that the children of mothers who go
to work before they are six months old
end up performing worse at vocabulary
tests, reading and maths in school infant
years compared to the children of stay-
at-home mums. Children are losing
out due to successive governments
push to get women back out to work
too soon. Pressure group Family and
Youth Concern comments that Too
ofen the needs of children take second
place to the desires of a minority of
women to impose their feminist agenda
on every family.
Te Daily Mail, 28th April 2011----
I0 Cover image from Remotely Controlled by Dr Aric Sigman,
published by Vermilion. Used by permission of The Random House Group Ltd.
Pemcle|y Ccol|c||ed - Hcw
le|ev|s|co |s demeg|og c0|
||ves cy 0| A||c S|gmeo
Published by Vermillion, 8.99
ISBN 978-0091906900
A
s a parent, this book is
definitely an unwelcome,
yet an incredibly enlightening
and important read.
Unfortunately for me, the familiar
feeling of relief when my toddler sat in
front of the television and gave me ten
minutes of peace has been turned very
frmly on its head.
Remotely Controlled is a real polemic,
and Dr Sigman has a good old rant
about the numerous harmful efects
of television throughout the book, of
which there are far too many to mention
in this review. Tere is no doubt that the
book is well researched and excellently
argued, although the evidence of some
chapters did seem quite anecdotal.
However, the chapter on how TV is
afecting our children is littered with
references to legitimate and ofen very
large studies in peer-reviewed academic
journals and publications, and the
results of this huge body of research are
alarming, and have been sufcient for
me to restrict my toddlers TV-viewing
until shes a little older.
Television interrupts the natural
processes that need to occur in our
childrens brains in the frst few years
of life to enable them to form a sense of
reality in which they will then be able to
function. Te interruption occurs when
the attention centre of the brain, the
frontal lobe, is distorted by the
excessive stimulation that
TV provides, making
it permanently
less efective and
conditioning it
with unrealistic
expectations in
Bcck Pev|ew
short, real life becomes boring. Tis can
be one of the causes of attention defcit
disorders, amongst other problems.
Children really need social interaction
to develop this part of their brain
properly, and TV hinders this in many
ways. What is even more frightening
than the results of this research is that
it is becoming increasingly difcult to
carry out further scientifc research to
test these negative efects, as there are
almost no children lef in the world who
have not been exposed to TV to use as a
control group.
For adults too, the results of the
collective research are no less gloomy.
Even watching a small amount of
television, such as one hour per day,
has been linked to increased anxiety,
depression and poor mental health,
violence, obesity, lowered libido, poor
brain function and attention problems.
Te average UK household watches for
four hours per day.
Dr Sigman laments the distortion of
family relationships shown on TV in
soaps, dramas and even reality TV, in
particular the portrayal of mothers. He
says that Full-time mothers are now
ofen portrayed as unfulflled, killing
time until they can get back to work and
do something really worthwhile... the
full-time mother who derives a subtle,
more enduring form of reward and
satisfaction and a deeper contentment
lacks televisual excitement and an
immediacy. Contentment is hard to
capture on camera. It lasts considerably
longer than 24.6 minutes, so it never
even makes it to the casting couch.
He continues to argue that eroding the
status of the full-time mother in this
way naturally results in underplaying
the importance of children in society.
It is not just the image
of motherhood that is
negatively afected
by our television
addiction, a broad
sweep of social
problems are in part
caused by it; television presents us
with role models not of our choosing,
which in turn breeds dissatisfaction;
it encourages excessive individualism
and a sense of entitlement which is a
particular problem for the younger
generations. All these things (and many
more) are the opposite of those which are
known through wisdom and research
to make us happy solid values, a sense
of community, even simple respect for
our fellow humans, to name a few. And
sadly, these negative efects are now
apparent in almost all cultures as TV
has become accessible worldwide.
What really won me over to Dr Sigmans
cause in this book, however, were the
revelations about how corrupt the
media are in preventing this knowledge
reaching us. Te lengths to which even
reputable organisations such as the BBC
have gone to withhold and downplay the
vast quantities of evidence is shocking.
Te book is worth a read for this alone
if nothing else.
Tere are so many books out there
telling us how to bring up our children,
what is right and wrong, and usually I
try and avoid them. For me, this book
is an exception. It does preach, but I
think youll be hard-pressed not to
see the common sense in Dr Sigmans
arguments. Remotely Controlled will
make you stop and think, and whether
or not you turn your TV of, you wont
watch it with an uncritical eye again. I
strongly recommend it.
Laura Boon _
II
Lelle|s
Defending the Status of Stay at
Home Mums
I dont ofen feel moved to write to a
publication, but in December 2010 I felt
angry enough to reply to an opinion
piece featured in Nursery World, a
magazine for everyone in the early
years community. My letter was
in response to Rosemary Murphys
viewpoint article We need the
returnees in which she expressed her
disappointment that female nursery
staf do not always return to work afer
having babies.
I grew up watching my parents run day
nurseries, and am now involved in the
family business myself, so understood
Rosemarys frustrations of nurturing
and training good staf, only to see them
become pregnant and leave. However,
in my position as a mother and editor
of parenting magazine JUNO, I
could not leave some of Rosemarys
statements unanswered. She seemed
to imply that to choose to stay at home
and raise children is a mistake: Many
more young women are now able to
return to work and become the useful
members of society we encourage
them to be. Why do mothers have to
return to work to become the useful
members of society we encourage them
to be? Surely, staying at home to care
for children and become part of a local
community ofers as much, if not more,
value to society?
As a society we have to recognise that
mothers who give up careers to raise
children have not opted out, but rather
opted in. Tey can create communities,
caring networks and help the next
generation to thrive, which ultimately
will have beneft for all. I respect the
choice of every mother to work, to stay
at home to raise her children, or to
manage a combination of both. But what
I dont respect is the view that choosing
to stay at home somehow makes that
mother less useful to society.
Raising the next generation is, afer all,
the most important job of all.
Safa Farr
Editor of Juno, a parenting magazine
with a natural approach to family life.
www.junomagazine.co.uk
Past its care-by-date date?
My attitude to modern motherhood
is at a crossroads right now. Am I out
of touch with modern society? I know
lots of young mums for whom staying
at home is not an option. Not because
of fnancial restraints. But simply
because all their peers return to work,
so why wouldnt they? As far as they
can tell, children settle at nursery
quickly enough and its a pleasant,
social environment for their children.
Besides, why stay at home when your
friends are working? Tat could only
mean isolation.
Now dont get me wrong. I was a full
time mother and wouldnt have had it
any other way. It was the natural choice
for us and I loved every moment.
Anyway, why would I have allowed
someone else to take on my duty to
raise my ofspring? And it still breaks
my heart to hear of babies handed over
to full time carers.
So where does that leave me? In my
heart I believe that mothers should
look afer their children. Its a unique
experience and I have no time for those
who complain about loss of status,
boredom or the drudgery of changing
nappies. Motherhood is a life enriching
experience, a unique bonding
opportunity and, for goodness sake,
we are the natural carers. But what
Im really trying to get to grips with is
whether the concept were fghting for
is simply past its care-by date.
Sandra Smith
My first teacher
My frst teacher was my mother. What
she instilled in me from an early age is
indistinguishable from the best parts
of my character and circumscribed
only by the intervention of my own
nature. She cherished my curiosity
about God. She gave me good
literature and kindled a love of
classical thought, fne language, the
meaning and etymology of words and
the pleasure of playing with them. By
example and instruction, ofen in the
face of tiresome resistance, my mother
trained my speech and grammar
and protected it from the creeping
insurgence of charismatic
dialects. She gave me birth and love
unconditional, education and music
and a sense of honour like a grit in an
oyster on the deepest bed of the sea.
A grateful son
Benefiting Society
A few people have recently told me It
is people like you who keep the fabric
of society together, you are the glue
that holds us all together. etc... I
wouldnt be if I werent at HOME! So
it is not just the children who beneft!
Mrs Gina Purrmann
Time to Ditch the M word?
On 28th June Fiona Bruce MP tabled an
amendment to the Finance Bill which,
if passed, would have introduced
transferable tax allowances for married
couples. Te debate, for the 4 hours
that it lasted, was sidetracked into
arguments, distractions over status
as between marriage, cohabitations
of various degrees of formality and
same sex civil partnerships. I fear that
it has done our cause no good and has
probably set it back seriously.
Before the general election the
Conservatives pre-empted these
obstacles by suggesting that TTAs
should apply to a legally recognised
partnership. I believe in marriage
but if we are going to keep getting
stranded on the M word it may be
time to compromise. If it could get
around the problem it may be time
to look at the possibility of civil
partnerships for heterosexual couples
(as is already the case in France and
in the Netherlands). Once such a civil
pact has been signed and witnessed
(and it is no more romantic and no less
necessary than a rental agreement),
such a couples relationship would be
recognised by the state and the fscal
advantages of marriage (were they to
be introduced) could apply to them
too. Such an arrangement would
create social order and take the sting
out of the kind of senseless debate that
took place in Parliament in June.
Name Withheld __
Please send letters & contributions to P O Box 43690,
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The Editor reserves the right to edit letters and articles for space and clarity.
Opinions expressed on the letters page are not necessarily those of MAHM.
I2
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Jonas Himmelstrand
The Rise and Fall of the Swedish Family Model
Sweden is forever held up as the country whose family policy
the UK should aspire to. Jonas Himmelstrand, an expert in
Swedish family policy, challenges this view.
David Burrowes MP
Reflections on British Family Policy
David Burrowes, MP for Enfield, Parliamentary Private
Secretary to the Minister for Policy and father of six children
looks at how the Government can keep the Prime Ministers
pledge to be the most family friendly country in Europe.
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In the meantime we have launched a
Facebook group: Mothers at Home Matter