I first heard this story on the BBC News – Emma Barnett’s shock horror that the (male) minister in charge of promoting shared parental leave says he can’t take advantage of it himself.
Andrew Griffiths, the minister in question, though due to become a father, would not be ‘sharing the joy’ of the Government’s £1.5million campaign for 50 weeks shared parental leave rights.
This used to be called maternity leave until Nick Clegg came along. Woe betide you, should you now be so foolish as to assume it’s the mother of the new-born babe who needs the time off, is best able to meet the infant’s needs or is the individual most responsible for her child.
Heresy. Expect to be lynched. The Government is fully signed up to the new think. There must be no gender discrimination.
But not, it turned out, for the minister in charge. It doesn’t apply to him, he confessed to Emma on Radio 5.
Cue outrage which had me tweeting mine in turn: ‘My heart bleeds. She’ll be demanding a job share for him next.’
You bet the government knew exactly what they were doing when they fielded dad-to-be Griffiths. And so did he. Why else choose Wonder Woman herself for the interview?
I call this playing to the feminists’ tune in order to get gender parity on childcare right to the heart of government. The shadow agenda. Remember last week’s Westminster feminist fest and their mantra ‘there’s still a long way to go’?
What more perfect, co-operative and right-on (if not yet Rt Hon) ‘new man’ helpmate than Andrew for the cause? A more caring and concerned MP on social issues you will not find.
I was not the only one to be irritated by it. One mother in contact with me yesterday hit the proverbial nail on the head.
When I saw the BBC headline: ‘Fathers failing to share the joy’ I wondered, Had the government finally grasped the importance and the joy of bringing up babies? After reading the article, I sadly concluded that they probably always knew but are only willing to admit it when it suits them.
When it suits them. Yes, when they are pushing ‘male maternity’. When it comes to real (female) maternity, she observes, the rhetoric is quite different:
The anthem ringing in my ears for the past four years has been ‘Helping mothers get back to work’ as early as possible – usually accompanied by a picture of some demented soul trying to operate a laptop with a baby on her knee, some rhetoric about the gender pay gap and tear-jerking tales about poor oppressed women stuck at home against their will.
Rarely, she went on to point out, is there any acknowledgement that perhaps these women too might experience the joy of motherhood.
My question in response was, How can they know when motherhood has been stolen from them, when so few women these days get a chance to experience its joys? When motherhood is continually being run down, both in terms of being undervalued and of being outsourced to third party childcare? What are women to think when they are told that maternity and motherhood have no sex-specific meaning and when, in a nightmare of Orwellian proportions, all words maternal are redacted from the language?
If thought can corrupt language, then language can corrupt thought, and she describes just that here:
‘I note how irreconcilably positive the BBC report’s description of child rearing is when trying to entice men into taking time out to care for their infant . . . accompanied by a touching picture of a dad cuddling a lovely baby: ‘Business minister Andrew Griffiths said the policy meant dads didn’t have to miss out on their baby’s first step, word or giggle . . . Missing milestones is never a consideration when trying to get women back into the workplace. This emotional aspect is brushed neatly under the office carpet.’
She asks: Is this latest scheme part of the Government’s campaign is to get more mums back to work as soon as humanly possible? You bet it is. And to deny, the while, that biology is relevant; and last but not least to teach every man to learn his childcare place.
Is this, though, what normal, decent and intelligent mothers want? Minister Griffiths should be aware how many deeply resent:
. . . the emotive push to encourage women to relinquish the time with their infant by suggesting that they are being greedy with leave. To take one issue as an example, the World Health Organisation recommends that women breastfeed beyond the initial six months, up to two years, because of the benefits for both mother and child. This is so much more difficult on return to work. And yet despite the intense propaganda for breastfeeding at all the NHS antenatal classes I went to, the government’s drive for women to concede a ‘fairer’ share of leave to their partner will encourage women to ignore this advice at a potential cost to their health and that of their child. It has only confirmed my deep suspicion that women’s personal choices and health are sadly less of a priority than the great ideological aim to ensure a 50/50 participation in the workplace at whatever the human cost.
Amen to that.