Childcare

(80 Posts)
avenueone Sun 30-Sep-12 23:28:14

I have been watching the political party conferences so far and women's issues are always discussed. When it came to childcare put into the same bracket I felt this was in some ways wrong - am I right to feel this way?
Don't get me wrong - anything that helps women have more equal rights to gain employment/ opportunities is a good thing and we have to live in current reality and the childcare does still tend to fall to the female (wrongly)- but I feel it could be looked at as `parental' help and something both parents have a responsibility for or would this be too difficult to have a policy on?
My thoughts on this subject go a bit further regarding maintenance and responsibility for childcare when parents split. Why should the resident parent (usually the mother but not always) have to fund this or face unemployment - their employment opportunities are at the very least restricted by working/school hours already unless shared care is taking place.
I would be interested in you very bright and insightful women's opinions.

BexFactor Mon 01-Oct-12 13:33:37

Why don't YOU tackle the root of the problem, Abigail rather than wait for someone to do it for you. Your approach hasn't worked so far and it didn't work for Pankhurst el al who got off their arses and did something themselves.

BexFactor Mon 01-Oct-12 13:36:24

Notcitrus - what would happen if he took one of these jobs and then requested part time working?

Lesley- that sounds rubbish sad

LesleyPumpshaft Mon 01-Oct-12 13:47:23

Bex, I suppose the point I was trying to make is that there are quite a lot of women who have had similar experiences to me, and the only option is to just get on with it and do it yourself.

Unfortunately there are no laws to ensure that fathers behave responsibly. XP quit his job, claimed benefits and worked cash in hand to avoid paying maintenance.

As a naive 21 year old I wrongly assumed that he would behave like any 'normal' father would. In fact, you can't make these men do what they don't want to do. This is why I think the focus should be on helping the parent who actually cares for the child.

It's more sad when mums feel as though they can't leave useless partners though. sad

BexFactor Mon 01-Oct-12 14:02:04

I completely agree Lesley. There should be more provision for all parents and more support for a parent wanting to leave a situation like yours - I can't imagine how hard it must be to leave with a child. I guess a fairly useless DP is often better than no DP at all.

LesleyPumpshaft Mon 01-Oct-12 14:16:01

Most men are relatively reasonable people, if a little entrenched in their views about a 'woman's place'. They could probably be persuaded to take more responsibility, but there is also a contingency of men who just aren't reasonable and you can't make them do anything.

Leaving with a child was a no brainer for me. I already felt like I had two children, only one was the same age as me and not my responsibility. It was my flat too. wink

AbigailAdams Mon 01-Oct-12 14:18:06

hmm OK, no need to be so rude Bex. Politicians are employed to tackle problems like this. Unfortunately, personally I don't have the power to change laws and change the required systems to chase men who aren't paying for their children, take DV seriously, prosecute more rapes etc. Politicians do have the power (or at least more influence than we do)

I can (and do) raise awareness, lobby MPs and other organisations. However, I can't stop men being violent and abusing women. Society can.

CaringMum28 Mon 01-Oct-12 14:22:49

All my friends are Marrying men their age who agree to work flexibly after having children and both parents have 50/50 careers.

People involve are in all (professional well paid) careers - nhs consultants, big 4, legal, teaching.

My friends all say they wont have kids unless it's 50:50 responsibility.

My DH and I both work 4.5 days 1 at how and take parental leave extra 2wks per year.

It's an education issue and of self respect I think.

notcitrus Mon 01-Oct-12 14:38:20

Bex - most likely, knowing people who do work for such firms, he'd be told no and expected to work 50+ hour weeks, and have little flexibility. Especially as many have adopted the 'management' strategy of firing the lowest 10% of performers each year. Though getting offered a post and negotiating hours before giving notice on current job would be the way to go when he really wants a move - I'm about to return to work and probably change jobs, so we're happy with his company being very secure right now. Once kids are at school in a couple years, we'll rethink.

I do get the impression many couples never discuss life/work/child balance until after having children, whereas MrNC and I started debating it 5 years before moving in together - which did scare me, being 21 at the time!

sleepyhead Mon 01-Oct-12 14:39:10

I agree that things are changing. The man being far away the major breadwinner isn't common amongst my friends and the consequence of this seems to be more childcaring by the male partner. There's no longer an automatic decision that the female will work part time, or leave early to collect from childcare, or take all the time off to cover sick leave. Instead it has to be negotiated and what's best for the whole family, and each partner, and their jobs/careers taken into account.

However, employers (it would seem to me) still make assumptions about men and their responsibilities to their children. Dh finds it much harder to get his employer to be flexible about ds's hospital appointments. I guess this will also change gradually as women out-earn their partners.

Dh is planning to take 50% of the parental leave when dc2 is born and I'll go back to work at 6 months. We're keeping it quiet from his work at the moment though because they won't like it and I wouldn't put it past them to try to get rid of him.

EatsBrainsAndLeaves Mon 01-Oct-12 14:41:49

It is great if parents genuinely split the childcare and housework responsibilities. Too many couples however agree to do this and then when it comes to the crunch, the woman is left doing the majority of childcare and housework

Xenia Mon 01-Oct-12 15:00:53

I think it's very sad so many women on here don't know feminist men. In the mid 80s it was as much my husband's responsibility as mine to find childcare and get home first from work. I know lots of men like that both my own age and the age of my graduate chidlren. Is it a class/educational issue - that bright middle class men from feminist home take it for granted things are fair at home and their bright high earnings wives willn ot tolerate sexism even for a day whereas some religious and other cultures and working class culture is women earn a pittance and serve men?

Anyway things are changing very well. I certainly think it helps a lot if you both do everything except breastfeeding from day 1. For example their father did all the washing for years to the point where I am not sure I nkew how to work the machine at one stage and I got stuff ready for school next day. He took the 5 children to the dentist for 17 years and I plaited the girls' hair for school etc etc.

I think it depends on your family too. My grandmother was widowed with a baby so of course my mother was therefore brought up in that kind of a household - no sexism. She worked and used to talk about the 10 years her earnings put my father through his medical degree and she claiming the married man's tax allowance, first claimant in her town who was female. Her own grandmother was pretty formidable as well and her own mother went off to India on her own to work int he 1920s. if you have that tradition behind you and you grow up reading Greer and Friedan as most clever girls will do and you earn 10x your husbamd's pay it is very very unlikely you will end up in a sexist relationship.

LesleyPumpshaft Mon 01-Oct-12 15:27:08

Xenia, you have touched on a point that I think is very important. Men should be brought up in such a way that they have a responsible attitude towards relationships and parenting.

Tbh DP's mother was not highly educated or middle class, but she instilled good values in him. I also know men from very privileged backgrounds with successful mothers who are complete wasters and coke heads. It's not down to class, but rather sensible parents.

if you have that tradition behind you and you grow up reading Greer and Friedan as most clever girls will do

I think it's harder for clever girls to get their hands on feminist literature, feminist thought, or get themselves under feminist influences, than it was In My Day.

I think there's a lot more 'cultural' sexism now than there was in the 80s, Xenia. This is slight thread-drift but when I read Greer in the mid 90s (my early teens) I was a bit of an oddball at school, but I wasn't actually pilloried. Now I have very bright female undergraduates in my Ivy League classes saying "I'm not some kind of feminist or something!" in horror when we discuss Homer. As if a feminist was a terrible, terrible thing to be. By contrast, in my first university classes (1999) I was far from the only student (male or female) saying "let's look at this from a feminist perspective". That's all but gone now (hah, not in my classes, where it's a big part of my requirement!) in their cultural terms. And these are the academic elite in liberal NYC.

Returning to the point of the thread somewhat, when you're both earning good money in your new flat, taking turns to make dinner, enjoying being a young couple, you don't tend to assume that things will change for the worse (and sexist-er) when you have a baby. But they do, they seem to, and one of the parts of it I'm afraid is that when a woman is on Maternity Leave she takes a huuuge paycut, and suddenly somehow it seems like the man makes the money and so gets to, eg, make decisions about large purchases or whatever. I've seen that happen a lot. I agree that "I am breastfeeding. You do all nappies, walk the dog, do all housework and incidentally please look after our other children" is a fine way to establish fair household roles (worked for me smile ) but it doesn't work if the man is out at work all day. Suddenly you are breastfeeding, the dog needs walking, house needs cleaning, food needs preparing, other children need entertaining, and before you know it you're a miserable drudge, or, perhaps woman who hasn't intended to become a housewife, but has become one by being there when things need doing.

My H changed all the nappies he was home for, that was the 'I'll do input and you do output' deal we made when the baby was born. Would I have left our son in a wet/shitty nappy when his father was out 'because it's his job?' no - that's shocking. But that's also how women end up doing all the childcare. Because it needs doing, and because women are there when it needs doing.

I didn't want to go back to work when my son was 6 weeks old (had no choice) - and I wouldn't recommend it as a fun option. But I am fairly sure it is one of the reasons I have an extremely equal division of household labour.

avenueone Mon 01-Oct-12 16:57:17

Great responces - I'm at work so just a quick nip on but will reply and read a bit more thoroughly.
Blackcurrant your point on what you should say instead of what you (me) may say is great - can I have a direct line to you and ear piece for the rest of my life.

I dunno about that, avenue - I put my foot in it quite a lot grin

avenueone Mon 01-Oct-12 20:28:31

I totally understand that whilst it may only be women MPs who speak out and at least someone is, they need to say that more male MPs should speak about the subject and they themselves can talk about the importance of shared childcare responsibilities and not just ask for more support for `women'.
There are many I know who may to a girlfriend say they don't like the situation but they will not address it with a male partner for fear of loosing them. They can't even turn the question to them and ask why don't you share the childcare - can no blame be lay at their door? My refusal to do as I was told (everything and not just because I was the one there - well I was in the end he left) lead to my EXP leaving and I will feel no guilt for this. What was the other option? I didn't leave. And I wasn't being `emotional' in expressing my views.
There is a point well made by a few of you that there are no guarantee that when the child is born partners will behave in a certain way or should I say responsibly but is it better to accept their ways as even if questioned they don't change or what?
When generally talking about childcare esp. in relation to legislation and political policies I feel it should be the word parent/s that is used not just women. I agree that not just politicians can help this and I would never say `women need more help from the government with childcare' I would always say `Parents need more help with childcare' in relation to enabling them to work - if the parents want/have to work.
With regards maintenance I would suggest this is considered in payments - why should one parent be allowed to work free and the other not. If the majority of single parents were men do you think the current situation (childcare not considered) would be the same? - I think not.

Xenia Tue 02-Oct-12 11:54:40

It would have been easier in the last 70s for me to read feminist books although I did not mention it at school as most of the others there would hradly ever read and very few did A levels even. At that time the weekend newspapers, colour supplements were often filled with feminist stuff - it was the feeling of the moment after the 60s and 1970 equal pay act.

We then had a period when it was harder to use the word feminist, where legal rights were better and men were doing even more at home, but there was a huge emphasis on looks (in social media, magazines etc although I do not even watch television or films so I suppose I am shielded from much of that and just see women in the City working and being good at work).

I think people like Caitlin Moran of the Times who one of my daughter likes have helped make feminist "cool" again and that in the last two years it has started to lose its dirty word status.

I agree with avenue and I always try to use gender neutral terms and ask propsective fathers what their childcare arrangements will be without making an assumption a mother will sacrifice her career for life yet again on the altar of a male career.

I would hope most of my chilren before they got too close to someone would be able to find out if they were sexist - in either direction, male or female - or not. One ex of my child I remember once saying a housewife was the most important job (ugh......) if these men think it's so important here's the apron - get into the kitchen do the job for 40 years.

avenueone Tue 02-Oct-12 20:20:40

Totally agree Xenia I find it depends on the age of the person I talk to the response I get to the word `feminism' I pass my Caitlin Moran Books around as much as I can. I don't agree with every word she writes but I think that is the point. I see so many of her words repeated on talk forums and it is great to see. I didn't see the importance of really making sure my partners were not sexist.. I didn't see how harmful and serious it could be down the line. I have lived and learned and try to pass on what I have learned. What I find sexy in a man now it very different even if harder to find it stands out so much easier.. can I go back to being 20 with my new found knowledge please.

kim147 Tue 02-Oct-12 20:29:40

How many MPs try and work around their family commitments? Doesn't Nick Clegg do the school run?

avenueone Tue 02-Oct-12 20:35:50

I always think that Kim when I see them in downing street at 8am or overseas. Guess some have to.. nannys? (not grandparents).

Xenia Tue 02-Oct-12 21:33:44

Yes, the bottom line is often where women out earn men (I earned 10x my children's father) and Miriam G is a law firm partner who will outearn her husband by a very l;ong way, then men have to pull their weight just as women who earn a pittance pin money end up doing the lion's share of childcare and dull cleaning stuff. Money and power.

Anyone interested in economics should watch the BBC series I just finished watching tonight - tonight was Marx (you see I am very open minded)
Episode 1:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01mxpzv/Masters_of_Money_Keynes/

I prefer Hayek though - episode 2.

Plenty of us have to do things early morning. I have had to arrange childcare when I leave at 4.30am for a flight abroad. Life is tough if you want to do well but well worth it and msot of us make huge efforts to see our children and that enthusiasm for life, high pay and a lovely life makes up for the hard work at work you adore as long as you find the right balance for your own family, which no one can dictate to you. The Marx programme tonight makes the point that we are not really workers and bosses any more when the bosses often work along for themselves from a computer and the workers contract in their labour and have such a stake in capitalism. The issue of whether state intervention- Finnish style very cheap state child care coupled with 65% taxes - is the best or expensive free market UK chidlcare with still relatively lower taxes and more opportunities to do well is best. I know into which camp I fall.

Obviously if it became necessary to provide free childcare to get workers then it would be provided in free markets and indeed has been.

avenueone Tue 02-Oct-12 22:21:42

Very interesting stuff.
I actually like taking my son to school and don't see it as in any way not as good as going to work (at that time - I do work full time) and not dull (well ok it is dull sometimes lol) and when I have to work away and I miss it, I also enjoy working away but can also find that dull at times too.
The original post was not really about the childcare options that is a whole other subject, it is was about it being discussed as part of `women's issues' and not as a parental issue and I wasn't keen on how only if more child care support is given to `women' will they be able to succeed - def. not the case in my case.

SpeverendRooner Wed 03-Oct-12 00:00:34

A slight corollary to Blackcurrants' point about women "being there when things need doing" is that the end result (with longer maternity leave than blackcurrants) is a mother who is practised in childcare compared to a father working out of the home and only seeing children on evenings and weekends. Even if all else is equal, she ends up genuinely better at childcare than the father - because practice makes perfect.

I remember that DW seemed to "get" our son so much better than me during her maternity leave that I felt all thumbs. I can see how it could be easy to "let her get on with it" and proceed down the path of learned helplessness. I ended up being a SAHD, and it all evened out (I doubt DW would have stood for apathy on my part, anyway).

Flexible parental leave would be a good thing, in my opinion.

OneMoreChap Wed 03-Oct-12 10:06:48

What would help a huge amount is transferable tax allowances. SAHP transfer allowance to the other; significant increase in household income.

The other thing that helps is better examples; more men caring for their kids, more male carers in playgroups. 20+ years ago, I got some very odd looks taking DS to toddler group.

sleepyhead Wed 03-Oct-12 11:26:11

Well it would help people with a SAHP enormously. A lot of us are muddling along on a mixture of hours for both parents and it wouldn't help at all.

There would be an interesting calculation to be made about whether it would be "worth" the SAHP going back to work if there were a transferable tax allowance. Given that the cost of childcare already keeps many parents out of the workplace, sticking a few grand of "lost" tax transfer cash on top of that might keep people at home who didn't want to be there.

Depends what your aims are. If you start from the basis that a SAHP is the ideal then it's a no-brainer, shame for the losers who can't afford for one parent to SAH and already have childcare costs to find, but there you go, life isn't fair.

If you start from the basis that making it feel harder for someone to enter the workplace after a period of SAH (if they want to) isn't maybe sensible in the long term then it's not such a clear cut winner.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now