Here we go again. The summer holidays are upon us but on no account must working mothers feel even a twinge of guilt for not being there for their children.
According to The Sunday Telegraph, ‘mummy guilt’ is a modern epidemic that peaks in the summer.
That presumably was why this weekend Tanith Carey of ‘taming the tiger parent’ fame was commissioned by the paper to quash any such feelings that might be surfacing.
Not content with reprimanding those middle class mothers who apparently marshall every minute of their children’s lives, Ms Carey has now taken it upon herself to assure mothers that it really does not matter if they spend no time with their children at all.
Too many mothers feel bad about this, she says. We can’t possibly have that can we?
Terror about being a terrible mother is a purely negative and unnecessary emotion, she goes on. Read Tanith and you can relax and do as you please instead of cuddling baby because the amount of time you spend with him or her matters not one jot.
Dr Spock would be turning in his grave at her advocacy of child neglect.
For the basic tenets of child psychology don’t seem to bother Ms Carey. Nor should they the rest of us. According to her particular interpretation of one longitudinal study of parent time, the amount of time you spend with your kids is irrelevant. For they’ll do just as well if you don’t bother with them at all. Never mind the speciousness of this deduction (the major determinant of children’s success later in life is their mother’s educational attainment, not interestingly their father’s). It conveniently gives mothers the right to cut themselves whatever slack they like – or so she advises.
If an unhappy or insecure child is the top of your worry list, you can dispense with that anxiety too, according to Tanith.
For that all important basis of infant-mother bonding, attachment, is not, I learnt from this article, affected by the amount of time a mother time spends with her baby. Quite a revelation since attachment theory demonstrates the opposite. Time, with intimacy and closeness, is necessarily the pre-condition for attachment which leads to a lifelong sense of security. Feminists, of course, have always resisted this inconvenient truth – whether this be the findings and analysis of the ground-breaking psychologist, the late John Bowlby, or those of the highly respected social data analyst, Jay Belsky. Professor Belsky’s recent finding is, contrary to the tenor of the article, that the less securely attached the child is to his mother, the more (not the less) he needs of his mother’s time.
But not to let the facts get in the way of her astonishing claim, Tanith wheels in tame clinical psychologist, Linda Blair, in support of her cause. The levels of attachment of babies whose mothers left them at three months to go to work is not significantly to different to those who didn’t this lady confidently asserts on the basis of one research study.
How this ‘evidence’ squares with the detailed and extensive research showing the negative impact of early and long hours of daycare for infants is not dealt with. Instead a highly complex area of research is picked from and over-simplified to support Tanith’s glib ‘how to avoid the mum guilt trap’ advice.
Nor are rises in cortisol levels as measured in toddlers as they adapt to the stressful experience of daycare something Tanith draws attention to even though large rises are known to cause physiological problems in children. Better that mothers remain in blissful ignorance of such matters. Better to continue to give them the spurious reassurance that it is only the quality of her time that matters not the quantity.
Of course, there is nothing new in all these hoary old chestnuts and bromides about worry not.
But the need to keep replaying this record is telling. Forty years of feminism have not yet managed to repress mothers’ instincts and doubts that explain why most first-time mums simply don’t want to return to work even when they have to; and why the majority of full-time working mothers (88 per cent) would rather work part time or stay at home with their children.
Whatever the reassurances dished out, most mums can’t in the end buy them. Acting against their instinct makes them feel guilty and for good reason
The basis of guilt is the ability to feel others’ pain and it is at its strongest in connection with a mother’s relationship to her children.
So it is little wonder that erasing mothers’ guilt is at the root of campaigns by feminists and the anti-family Marxist ideologues. They want to destroy the very social bonds and attachments that guilt strengthens.
It is for similar reasons that modernity, so influenced by left brain thinking, also translates guilt negatively, as an emotion to be derided, escaped from or avoided. Some mothers may resent it. But not liking it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to feel guilty about.
It is a signal to examine ourselves and our consciences. Nowhere is it more needed than where babies and children and their survival is concerned.
Ms Carey and Linda Blair would have us turn off this vital personal alarm system. Their advice may seem superficial but it is dangerous and has already proved so in undermining the motherhood instinct.