Isabel Hardman is a happy camper today. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, she is happy that girls are trashing boys in all areas of the education system. She contemplates her feminist heaven: “No wonder some thinkers have made excited prophecies of “the end of men”. As a mother to a two year-old-son this fills me with less joy, even though it might be “good” for my daughter.
Ms Hardman also celebrates that “Angela Merkel is basking in the glow of World Cup victory.” This makes you think that Ms Merkel was out there in the pitch having her hamstring oiled up with the rest of the German squad – all made up of men. But let’s ignore this for now as Ms Merkel’s real job is one of quite considerable responsibility. Then there is today’s Conservative reshuffle packed to the rafters with (token) women.
However there is a fly in the ointment of this great female victory. It is the kids, or as the politicians like to say “the cost of the childcare”. Really they mean the children themselves as they have the temerity to require looking after when they are born. So Hardman is not happy because if you do not want to care for your children yourself, sacrificing a salary in the process, you will have to pay another to do so.
What irks Hardman so much is that this can be expensive. Now I am not saying that there could be some improvement in the childcare market and Labour overregulated it. What baffles me, however, is how many people – usually successful middle-class women – find it surprising that childcare is expensive.
If you are not up for caring for your children yourself and want another to do so this care for another living breathing dependant human child for up to ten hours a day, five days a week will be expensive. Now some families are willing to pay a full-time nanny on a very respectable salary because they want very good one on one or one on two care for their children. And they don’t moan about it. But there are plenty more that think that people who care for children, should be paid less, so that it can be “affordable.” Many childcare workers are paid the minimum age.
What makes these middle-class women believe they can walk all over their usually poorer sisters? What imbues this awesome sense of entitlement? Is it because they believe their middle-class job is just so important and fantastic and (let’s face it) looking after children is child’s play? It does make me wonder.
The alternative of course is not to pay the carers less, but to get the taxpayer to cover one’s childcare bill. Now you would expect this from Labour, where spending other people’s money is their favourite pastime. But it is odd – to say the least – that it should be implemented by a Conservative government or indeed advocated by a Conservative commentator. It is ironic – no predictable – that when it suits a Conservative politician on commentator personally, spending taxpayers money for their own benefit is not a problem.
No doubt Ms Hardman would say, “ah but it is not solely for the benefit of ambitious middle-class career-focused mothers that taxpayers foot the childcare bill, as we need them working for the sake of the economy/the system/gender equality”.
Never mind that the emotional outcomes for children who spend very long ours in nursery care are questionable to say the least.
The idea that grates the most is that it is better for the common good if mothers are separated from their children rather than being at home caring for them. This is not the common good, as most of the research has shown.
Now, if you have to work for the sake of the family budget, that is one thing. If you have to work for the sake of your sanity, that is fair enough as well – but you pay for the childcare yourself. But if you work because you love your job and eating sushi at lunchtime this is a matter for you – but you pay for the childcare yourself. Just don’t pretend you are doing the rest of us a favour. You are not.