Thursday 5 December 2019

Wendy Grace: 'Why do women judge my decision to be "just" a stay-at-home mother?'


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Wendy Grace

Telling other women I try my best to make my family a freshly cooked meal every day is usually met with a sarcastic sneer about how I am doing very well at playing the role of the 'Good Wife' nicely.

It seems this is the same attitude the Government has when it comes to making sure I'm not the 'Good Wife' but a 'Good Woman', who needs to get back out to work. This message is coming through loud and clear with the Government's launch last week of the National Childcare Scheme, which is going to subsidise anybody but me to look after my children.

Institutionalised childcare will continue to be pushed above all else and parents who want to stay at home will go on being financially penalised. Never mind that robust research from the largest childcare studies ever carried out, both in the US and the UK, say the best place for small children is at home with mum or dad.

Who cares that the majority of children in the State are looked after by a parent - by choice - and that families are repeatedly saying the type of childcare the Government is incentivising is their least-preferred option. Apparently it's progress that, for every hour my children spend away from me, the Government will give me 50c. But if I want to raise them myself, well, that's worthless.

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Hollow sound-bites about 'affordable childcare' ignore the preferences of many parents and, more importantly, what evidence-based research shows is actually best for children.

The Government is speaking out of two sides of its mouth. On the one hand, it has a policy paper, First Five, which stresses the importance of having young children cared for by a parent at home for at least the first year of life.

It goes on to highlight that children under three in full-time childcare have poorer outcomes in language and cognitive development. On the other hand, it wants you back in the workforce, whether you like it or not, and your six-month-old spending 40 hours a week in a creche.

It had a chance to give young families real choices in how they will raise their children, such as investing in more paid paternity and maternity leave or making sure the payment goes directly to the parent wherever their child is cared for.

Yet all this week struggling parents across the country will realise this scheme won't help them one bit as they hear from their childcare providers that their fees are being raised by the very amount the Government promises.

Right now I am 'just' a stay-at-home mother. To some, I have hit another nail into my 'independent woman' coffin by staying out of paid work for a little longer and embracing my role as a wife and mother. I see it as a privilege, but because I can't wax lyrical about a flashy job title I am invisible.

Why are parents who stay at home so afraid to raise their voices and say this is work, it matters and, arguably, it is the most important job in the world? We are patiently and painstakingly raising the men and women of the future.

The pivotal societal job that SAHMs (that's stay-at-home mums) do is not only being taken for granted but it is often frowned upon by self-proclaimed feminists who continue to remain silent on the lack of support in this new scheme for women who want to work in the home. Their current narrative is that taking a career break to stay at home is a betrayal to womankind - our intellects and talents are wasted.

They refuse to accept we are not being oppressed into this role, we are choosing it. Why can't we stop seeing value solely in promotions and payslips and recognising how being manager of the household is just as laudable as being a CEO.

I look at my son just coming up to six months old and I can't accept that dropping him off in his babygro at 7am and picking him up bleary-eyed just before bedtime is progress. It's heartbreaking to think of so many mothers who are doing this not out of choice but out of necessity.

Our new role now is to be a working woman contributing to the Government's coffers, because this has nothing to do with what is best for children or what women might actually want and everything to do with the Ireland Inc's bottom line.

The Government seems to be set on autopilot in the wrong direction when it comes to childcare. It continues to do nothing to support the overwhelming majority of mums who say in the early years they want to be at home or work part-time. It is intent on ignoring the research and forcing both parents out of the home and into work.

I've spotted a few more grey hairs in trying to figure out how we will pay the mortgage so I can stay at home that little bit longer but, in my eyes, it will be worth it.

Such a shame Children's Minister Katherine Zappone and many of her fake feminist cheerleaders don't see it that way.

Sunday Independent

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