Kirstie Allsop recently issued a plea for mothers to put motherhood first. Some lauded her for this, others attacked her. I would not attack her, but while lauding the sentiment I think there is a vital point having been missed here, which results in one of the most damaging messages third millennium society has seen.
Why mothers? Why not parents? How often do we hear the cry and worry about disaffected boys not having a positive male role model? How many times do we hear reference to feckless fathers? How often do we hear of the plight of women juggling so many things when returning to work? How many times do we hear of mums who are at home with the children looking for some sort of recognition for the role they have been blessed to be able to undertake?
If we talk about ‘mothers’ rather than ‘parents’ the message will be heard that childcare can be left to women. Is it any different than sending out that message that page three is acceptable? We know it’s not and manoeuvres are afoot to correct this. Look at the sit-coms of the 70s that allowed women to be portrayed as bimbos, or were racist, or homophobic, we’ve moved on from this.
What we have not moved away from is the generally held view that childcare is a woman’s role, and often we see it referred to as a woman’s problem. For a single woman, who has a child without a man around, it is, and it’s right and proper that we should afford them all the help we can. But for those children who have two names on the birth certificate, and both those people are alive, it should not be “her job”.
Organisations such as Mumsnet are, I feel, guilty of exacerbating the problem, why just mums? I am sure they would say ‘dads can get involved too’ but what if it was called Dadsnet with the caveat that mums can contribute?
Children need their parents. There are many families where mum is the main or sole breadwinner, there are many families where dad will be the one at home for whatever reason, but all the help, support and value is afforded to the mums. Well those hard working primary breadwinner mums need our recognition too. But so do the dads. Fatherhood need to be raised to the same level, society needs to recognise dads have a place of equal value. Then perhaps absentee fathers will get the message.