Yet again the media has lent a platform to the disturbing narrative that suggests working women make bad mothers.
There is so much to be infuriated by in this latest round of ridiculousness sparked by this research it is difficult to know where to start. It claims that children of working women are likely to be unhealthier than those with stay at home mummies. Whilst my fury is predominantly directed towards the media coverage that has positioned the research in terms of an ‘ongoing debate’ about whether mothers should work or not; the very premise of the research is, to be frank insulting. Why on earth is the research focused on mothers? What about single Dad’s or House Husbands?
In simple terms, why say mother when you mean parent? It all contributes to the implicit vilification of women who want to ‘have it all’ – I mean, how very dare she.
If a woman chooses to have a child and give up work – points to her, but, isn’t she lucky to have the choice? What of the families that can’t sustain themselves without both working? What of single parent families?
Do we think that the fact that London has the highest child poverty rate is unrelated to the fact that children in London are more likely than children in other regions to live in a household where no adult works? Methinks not. The predominant cause of child poverty is parental worklessness; there are multiple government and charitable initiatives in place to rectify the problem. In light of this, aren’t there some pretty serious flaws in the implication that children will be better off if mummy stays at home?
Instead of ridiculous headlines such as ‘Working Mothers’ Children Unfit’ why not use the research in a positive way? I say more initiatives promoting healthy body image, decent childcare schemes and dare I say it let’s finally extend paternity leave and give families a real choice.
Alas, alack. The media coverage this has had today has only served to perpetuate a widespread and frankly unsettling notion that working mothers are either incompetent, irresponsible or both.
As I settled down to work yesterday with PMQs in my ear, I caught the split screen fronting the BBC news channel website: half the screen was dedicated to the House of Commons and the other half to the predominantly peaceful G20 protests. As I listened to David Cameron rolling out the one-liners and generally slagging off Gordon Brown as much as possible without making a meaningful point, it occurred to me that the politicians could learn a lot from the protesters.
Every time I think about it I’m astounded at the way this crisis has provoked not only anger, but unity. Not just in fury against the financial sector, but through the G20 protests and actually, through the G20 summit itself. Some of the most ideologically disparate world leaders have come together in London in an effort to find a way out of the economic mire, but it has also become a platform for discussion of some of the most divisive issues. Today America and Russia held talks about reducing their nuclear arsenals by a third and President Obama accepted an invitation to China. These are encouraging steps towards breaching some serious divides. Admittedly the election of Barack himself has been instrumental in these developments but one can’t help marvelling at the confluence of events that have facilitated his efforts.
Yesterday, campaigners from more than 80 organisations marched under one banner. China invited America to visit. Yet our politicians remain as entrenched in their party lines as ever. They can’t seem to see past the latest polls and their own re-election.
The world has been knocked for six by this crisis and there seems to be a growing concensus that the only way to survive it will be by helping each other to rebuild and to move forward in unison. Why then are our politicians still fettered by this uncompromising ‘party loyalty’? The world has changed irrevocably over the last year. Surely, if there is ever a time to move from dogma to pragmatism, to come together for intelligent discussion rather than zingers and to lay the foundations of progress in mutual respect, it is now.