Cherie Blair will not be happy, it seems, until the words mother and father are redacted from the English dictionary and men are made to have babies and do whatever childcare the State doesn’t provide.
Not content with the revolution in women’s work and childcare that has taken place in her work lifetime, Mrs B is now dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. The era of mothers and fathers must end at home as well as in the public sphere.
‘They’ must call themselves parents instead. And, in case of doubt, fathers (if they exist) should play a more hands on role in bringing up their children while employers need to do still more to promote the rights of mothers in the workplace.
The revolution is unfinished and will be until the private sphere falls in with already compliant public sphere and adopts this depersonalised and dehumanised nomenclature. Change the terminology and you change how people behave and then – how they think.
Cherie has form. A few years ago she was directing her censorious fire at spoilt ‘yummy mummies’. How could educated women want to bring up their children themselves?
This last outburst left me thinking about her motivation. Cherie has rarely seemed comfortable in her own skin. How does she square her refutation of motherhood with her Catholicism? Is she so very discontented herself? Is she cross and why? Finally has she thought about practising what she preaches at home?
Imagine this scene in one of the globe-trotting Blair households designed no doubt to meet their so important needs:
“Hi parent,” ventures Leo, back home from a long school day, tentatively peering round an office door: “Where’s parent today?” “Here I am,” parent replies, “but I am leaving shortly to give a speech”. Leo: “No I meant other parent, not the one that has five homes but the one that visits five countries a week”. “Not a clue,” parent replies, “could be in any of them. I am busy”. “Oh” says Leo, “I’m hungry”. Parent replies: “ Go and find the housekeeper in the kitchen – she’ll get your tea and ask you how you are.”
Were it just a joking matter.
Over Mrs Blair’s working lifetime, mothering and family life has all but disappeared for the majority of children. She is right – a new era of ‘gender, work and family’ has come about and it is bleak for children.
Some 60 per cent of mothers with three-year-olds today are back at work; 57 per cent of 0-2-year-olds are already in some form of childcare (this rises to 90 per cent of the 3-4 age group). For most, it doesn’t mean granny or even a child minder; what it means is ‘formal’ or institutional childcare. You’ve seen it painted up for politicians’ visits on TV. The reality is basic rooms housing too many infants (never born to be herded), too little freedom of movement, long repetitive days, little intimate, committed attention, staffed too often by fat young women, slow in movement but high on turnover.
Such day nurseries now look after about 440,000 children aged 0-2 years.
Is it any wonder that subsequent years have seen a blitz of self-harming adolescents and that mental health problems, escalating amongst non-coping young people, are now rife?
It is not done, however, to put two and two together.
Formal childcare is the new norm justified by ‘PC’ childcare ‘experts’. They usually come with a handy line in jargon, such as that childcare “is an investment in human capital”. To give us comfort, they also insist it is good for children regardless of whether mum goes out to work or not – all in the absence of rigorous evidence and against all common sense. Not that Woman’s Hour, their natural habitat, cares.
Of course, it’s far better to offload you baby or infant onto someone with no special interest in it or long-term commitment to it.
Really, we have the Mrs Blairs of this world to thank for this abandonment of common sense – the feminist grand dames who know what’s best for the nation’s women and their long suffering, off-loadable kids. Inconvenient childcare effects are brushed to one side in the name of that greater good of getting women to work.
So what of the behavioural problems in childcare children? Don’t worry. Dr Denise Hawkes, an economist at UCL’s Institute of Education, has given us the answer. “Maybe that’s just life”, she opined, “when we meet people we have to learn to interact with them.”
They are babies, Denise, not people, whatever you think your Millennium Cohort tells you. One and two-year-old babies cannot be expected to ‘learn’ from interacting with other unhappy or difficult babies dumped in a day centre.
Actually, please read some developmental psychology. Oh, and about the Millennium Cohort study she is so free with – how I wonder did this expert manage to ignore its latest findings?
For guess what, a new study based on its data, suggests that mothers should be giving their babies as much time as they can. Why? ‘A young child’s cognitive and social skills are improved considerably by spending more time with their mother between the ages of three and seven’. You bet they are. Yes, there is a direct relationship between the time mum spends with her children and the skills they go on to develop. Don’t say!
But don’t expect this to hold back the childcare juggernaut. The Government plans to extend its early childcare provision to 30 hours a week.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Parents and Families is similarly pre-occupied with ‘the challenges for new parents returning to work’, particularly maternity discrimination and shared parenting’ and ‘the implications of discrimination and unequal patterns of care on gender gaps in pay, employment and career advancement’. Everything to get young mothers back to work as quickly as possible.
It makes me want to weep – for them and their babies.
The State has already deprived the family of its responsibility for children. If Cherie has her way it will deprive it of its humanity.