Outsourcing motherhood

One of the most memorable aspects of yesterday’s Budget was George Osborne’s decision to give a tax-break for nursery fees, enabling both parents to go out to work.  The way the decision has been framed has caused outrage because of the inequality in its implementation; but of much more concern is the message it conveys to our nation and the values it underpins.

One aspect is the message it sends to mothers who see motherhood as a privilege and a duty, and choose to stay at home with their young children.  For these (and we understand that there are many who would love to do so but financial pressure or circumstances prevent them) there is no tax break.  Instead, society is encouraged to see them as feckless for not going to work, and scorn them for their lack of career.  Motherhood is fundamentally demeaned.

Earlier this week a government briefing document, claiming that mothers who stayed at home did not need as much financial support as those who work, was published on the Treasury’s website.  The document was later removed, since it fuelled claims that the new childcare scheme is discriminating against the traditional family.  It does!  The traditional family of two heterosexual parents and their children is under severe attack, and our government is doing nothing to protect it, despite Cameron’s claim to want ‘family values’ when he was first elected.

Secondly, parents are being actively encouraged to give away the most formative years of their children’s lives to the state.  It has been intimated that the new scheme will encourage some people not to take their full maternity allowance on lower pay and instead return to work sooner.  Children may be happy in a nursery for the vast majority of their infant life, but what are the long-term effects, and what values are they imbibing?

As the state becomes more and more prescriptive about what children at a very young age should and will be taught, parents get less and less say.  They are abdicating their responsibility to an unscrupulous elite who are determined to control the minds of the up and coming generation.  Yet God made it very clear to his people that the primary influence on our children should be the parents.  He certainly intended the parents to be fully engaged in their children’s upbringing:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

Thirdly, even with a tax break, nursery fees are expensive.  Many parents are caught in the trap that they can’t afford to work less and give more time to their growing family because nursery fees are so high.   For families with multiple children, the problem is exacerbated.  Ministers have said they hoped the new scheme would encourage low and middle income earners to work full-time rather than part-time.

Perhaps there is an unwritten message to limit family size accordingly.  Yet again, God is clear that children are a blessing from the Lord:

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth (Psalm 127:3-4)

The Government are packaging the new measures as a reward for hard work.  But can ‘outsourcing’ mothering possibly be the best way to create a healthy society?  No!  It’s all about market forces, parents’ needs and getting mothers back to work.

There are unchanging emotional needs of under-threes (and much older children too) in our ever-changing society.  In the first three years of life, a baby’s developing brain doubles in size.  Every experience and expression of unconditional love and affection impacts their security, their identity and their self-worth in later years.

Yet Elizabeth Truss’s recent policy document ‘More Great Childcare’ proposes to reduce staff-to-child ratios in nurseries and at child minders, which means that staff will have less time to engage with each child.  However good a job nursery nurses and child minders do, at best they ensure children are cared for, which does not equate with loving and caring for each child in the on-going and consistent way a good parent does.

Today key adviser, Professor Cathy Nutbrown, who reviewed childcare and qualifications for the Government, has reported that the plans to increase the number of children nursery staff can look after in England ‘make no sense at all’.  She remarked that the current proposals would ‘shake the foundations’ of quality nursery provisions.  She said:

Too few adults with too many little children; too few moments in the day for a toddler to have uninterrupted time with their key person, and too few early years practitioners to talk and work with parents.  Here is the rub, there is nothing relaxing about the proposal to ‘relax’ ratios.  It will lead to stress – for children, for parents and for early years practitioners, whatever their title or qualification.

Parents may convince themselves that working all hours is the means of giving themselves and their children a ‘good’ lifestyle, but it’s no substitute for giving children their love, time and attention, and the life-skills and values they want their children to observe and imbibe.  Parents who prioritise these foundational values provide a stable environment where children will develop the most secure and loving relationships.

The message from the Government is that you should feel guilty if you stay at home to bond with your children and raise your family.  Successive governments have brainwashed women into believing that being a stay-at-home mum is somehow letting the side down.  Thank God this is the opposite of the way he views parenthood and the family!

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