Friday, 5 October 2012

Should I get paid to stay at home with my kids?

First up I must state that this is not a post that in any way sits comfortably within the realms of 'mummy wars' or whatever other patronising term is used by the media every time a person has something to say on the subject of child rearing, work, breast feeding etc.

I've just been reading a bit lately about parenting and working and you know, the sort of stuff that is designed to make you think. And I've been thinking.

So now I'm writing, as much for myself as you. Just to see where I'm at really. So, I had a child eight years ago and made a decision not to return to the freelance TV world. I didn't always expect to have children. He came as a bit of a shock actually. But I did know that if I ever did have children I would not be a working mum. Although I knew there would be a lot of work involved in bringing up a child, and that is how I've looked at it over the years to be honest. I have a job to do. To raise a child. Or children, in fact, because I went and had another one 5 years ago, at a time when we were in a mess financially, my husband struggling to launch a new business in a recession. But I am in the lucky position of having a husband who loves and respects me and went along with my decision to give up a steady income (and a good income at that) so that I could be the one who took on the main carer role in the early years of our children's lives. It could have been him who stayed at home. We talked about that. But maybe he's more driven in terms of wanting to achieve things in the field of paid employment/career. If I'm honest nothing would have stopped me being at home full-time with the kids. I love it. And more than that, I feel it's what I am supposed to do.

But there are sacrifices. I'm not talking here about a loss of career, ambition, connection to the real world or friendships. The sacrifice for me has been purely financial. While successive governments are constantly striving to provide low cost child care and get women back to work the stay at home parent gets nothing. And so there's no choice for a lot of people. If they cannot afford to stay home, they won't. But for many working parents, I know, child care costs are the biggest expense they face, and it only gets higher the more children you have. But let's face it, the teenage nursery nurse or veteran childminder with 30 years experience aren't reaping the financial benefits. They're only getting close to minimum wage usually. And I don't think the kids are gettinig much out of it either. So why not just give parents the choice. Get paid to stay at home and look after your own kids or choose childcare and benefit from help with the costs if necessary. If people have a choice, can actually make decisions about their lives like the adults they are, I'm sure there'd be many more happy parents and the knock on effect? More happy children.

There are many issues here, and I'd welcome your comments or even a debate. I just feel we've lost something. And we need to start thinking differently about how we do things. Especially the big things. How we care for our elderly and sick. How we educate our children. How we eat and how we spend. And somehow we need to find the time to do all of this thinking, and then turn it into action. Because while we're all so busy working hard and often struggling to balance our finances, time, emotions, other people are making decisions. And I'm pretty sure they're the wrong people and the wrong decisions.

 

8 comments:

  1. The other half had a chance to stay home with the kid for a few months when she was a baby. I tried the whole mother goes back to work thing for an employer. Since finding out that it would not work for me, I forged a little career from home for myself. It's nothing like my career was beforehand, I would not even say the term career applies, but to me, one thing was clear that my daughter would never have to go into full time nursery and that I would see more of her than just the hour after getting her up and the hour after picking her up from nursery. My universe revolves around the small person and some people especially in government may see this as a fault in my views.
    I do believe that we live in a very child-unfriendly society. Britain has not moved on very much from the "children should not be heard" approach. It's all about meeting targets, fulfilling someone else's ambition and getting stickers for "sitting nicely".
    God forbid that you take your child to a place where children are "not supposed" to be.
    As long there is no party that really embraces the fact that children are indeed our future, nothing will change. And yes, I do believe that families should receive more help in bringing up children and yes, I do believe this should be of a financial variety. However, there is little hope this will ever happen.

    And now, I am depressed and need more coffee. And possibly a cookie. While I work some more this morning, before picking up my kid up from school and listen to all she wants to tell me from her day, cook dinner with her, spend time with her and get her to bed, to then sit down and work some more.

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    1. Now I'm depressed Mel. But you are right, about our society and that no government will change things - unless we make them. Keep enjoying time with your lovely girl. Maybe by the time she's grown up we'll have learnt our lessons and things will have changed.

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  2. I worked before having my children, and me and my husband always planned on me staying at home while they were little, it was what I wanted. Financially, despite choosing a house and a lifestyle to suit one wage, things are tough, and it makes me cross, that I am encouraged to pay someone else to look after them (if I then go to work), that someone else can have a paid job of raising my children ( and support from the government) yet if I want to raise them myself, not only is there no payment but I also don't qualify for any benefits or benefit- related discounts such as free prescriptions.
    To a certain extent I accept that having children was our choice, however, it is the fact that the government will pay someone else to look after them, but not me, that gets my goat!

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    1. Hellymum, totally understand your frustration with the system. Thanks for your comment. It's nice to know I'm not the only one having these thoughts.

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  3. I'm completely with you on this, and I applaud you for standing up and saying it - or sitting down and blogging it!

    I worked before I had my little girl, it wasn't an amazing income and was only just full time, but it was an income that I lived on along with my partner who worked full time. I chose to stay at home to raise our girl because at the time we could afford it and I wanted to more than anything.
    I have finally made the decision to return back to work, but financially I can't afford it. Don't get me wrong, we are by no means 'well off' and we scrape by every month, but we are happy. For me to return to work now to earn an extra income, I would literally be paying for childcare. However, as a stay at home Mum with a partner off work on SSP, I am entitled to free childcare.

    Why do they pay for someone to look after children when their parents are fully able, yet not when the parent wants to work?

    SAHM/D's should be entitled to a wage (or at least a small government funding) just like a nursery/playgroup!

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    1. Misty Bird, thanks for your comment. I'm just glad I got it off my chest. Think there re many issues that need to be addressed, like the inflated costs of housing and utilities. Life wouldn't be quite so hard if we had reasonable expenses in the first place. Someone is getting rich in this country though, and it ain't stay at home parents.

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  4. For some women (including me) it is important to work, earn money and be part of a working, contributing society. I love my daughter more than life but bringing up children, doing the day to day chores, day in day out can be boring and dull. Okay, there it is I said it, being a mum can be dull! Judge that as you will ... But I am a mother who knows that being a parent is the most important job in the world but I can't ignore the fact that I am me. Someone who still loves to do what I spent years training to be.

    When I was a child I barely saw my dad. He had his own business, working literally all hours to provide for his family. Never have I resented him for not being there. Someone had to earn the money, to keep the home, buy the clothes and pay for holidays. If anything I thank my dad for working as hard as he did because he is my role model. If you want something, you work hard to get it. You understand the importance of contributing to society, helping each other out, give and take. You do not get something for nothing. I think it is important for children to realize this at a young age. Part of being a parent is teaching your child about how to be independent, which is a slow process that starts as soon as they are born.

    You can still love your child and be a working mother. Most women like me have to work to pay for mortgage/rent. And some, also like me, choose to work because it makes them feel good, simple as that.

    What kind of social role model is someone who refuses to work and sucks off the state. That in my eyes is a bad parent, a bad role model.
    I really do not like on this war on working mothers, making out we are hard nosed selfish bitches who don't deserve to have a family.
    As I see it, as well as love, empathy, etc.. being a good parent/mother is working, earning money, being a good role model, building independence and sharing quality time not necessarily quantity. Showing children that women are important to society, that what we do is valued and that we make a difference and that we matter. Not teaching children our sole role is to have babies, being in the home, cooking cleaning, etc ... We need more strong women in this world. And more importantly we need to show respect for what others wish to choose to do with their lives be it a employed mum or a none employed mum. Peace.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Maria. I'm glad you took the time to write down your passion filled point of view. First up, you're right. Bringing up children can be dull. Just like most jobs. I'd hope no one judged you for stating a fact. I'm glad you shared some of your own family history. I think our own experiences can definitely affect the way we go on to parent. You don't mention your mum, and I won't make assumptions, but your dad's strong work ethic has obviously influenced you. I would just say though that contributing to society positively should not just be measured in monetary/employment terms. There are other ways.

      I believe all mothers (fathers too) should be able to make their own choices and I would never dare to tell a working mum she should be at home. Similarly, a working mum who disapproved of my choice to stay at home with my kids, would be taking an anti-feminist stance in my opinion. We need to stick together on this, to fight for more choice, not each other. Personally, I'm skint and just about scrape the mortgage and bill payments together each month (thanks to my partner's pretty average earnings and my good budgeting) but staying at home with my kids makes me feel good. And makes them happy. Simple as that.

      I have to say, the language you use when you describe someone "who refuses to work and sucks off the state. That in my eyes is a bad parent, a bad role model." comes across as pretty judgmental and incendiary. There really aren't that many people who refuse to work and suck off the state. You're falling for Tory bullshit I'm afraid. Daily Mail hype, aimed at turning the poorer classes against each other so we leave those with all the power and money alone. I'm not sure there is a war on working mothers either. I think mothers get pressure from many angles, whatever their choices. Some see mothers as fair game, just like unemployed people and immigrants, they're easy to have a pop at.

      Of course you can still love your child and be a working mother. And you can still be a good role model to your child if you choose to stay at home and care for them full-time. I am important to society, I am valued, I do make a difference and I do matter, and none of that is dependant on my working or not. I left school with a handful of 'O' Levels and worked from 16 until 34. I enjoyed the first (education) and second (employment) stages of my life but I have grown more as a person and become more content in this third stage of my life. It wasn't planned and has surprised me to be honest. Having a daughter too has made me think long and hard about women's role in society and how girls and women are treated and perceived. I see it as my biggest challenge - to raise a happy, healthy, strong woman who can realise her dreams. I'm horrified by the sexualisation of young girls, the emphasis on body image, inequality in pay and employment opportunities, the lack of women in parliament, etc.

      You seem to contradict yourself at the end of your comment, saying that "being a good parent/mother is working.....not teaching children our sole role is to have babies, being at home, cooking..." Then "we need to show respect for what others wish to do".

      Indeed we do.

      But the point of my original post wasn't to pitch working mums against the stay-at-homes, but to question how we manage and pay for childcare. If you choose to work, then it is likely someone will end up getting paid to look after your child. If I provide the child care myself - should I be compensated financially? Suppose it depends on whether children are seen as dependent leeches on society or the future of our species - the ones who will have to support our generation in old age, stave off environmental disasters, negotiate peace, eradicate famine, reduce poverty, and cure cancer. If we value children and their potential, then shouldn't we value the people who care for them?

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