We woke one morning last week to the news that new Personal Insolvency Guidelines would mean people would be asked to cut out Sky Sports packages, stick to one foreign holiday per year, take the kids out of private school and get rid of that expensive second car.
It was an interesting topic for the various breakfast radio shows, and I’m sure couples all over the country chatted about it as did my husband and I, on our way to work.
We mused that we didn’t have Sky Sports anyway (phew), one holiday would indeed be plenty, and our smallies are a long, long way from secondary school, fee-paying or not. Surely there will be a lotto win or at least an inheritance from a long-lost relative between now and then.
That was it, subject discussed and closed in our house – interesting but not earth-shattering stuff.
Then we were told that the guidelines would also include an expectation that where working parents’ incomes don’t sufficiently cover the cost of childcare, one parent should give up working. WT..expletive?
There’s no doubt that in a high proportion of households where there are children, it is the mother who is likely to earn less (more and more this isn’t necessarily the case, but let’s go with the typical scenario).
So after decades of progress for equal rights for men and women, we have this regressive, anti-women recommendation coming at us, as blasé as if it’s still a television sports package that we’re talking about.
Some mothers work because they have no choice financially – a mortgage to pay for a boom-time house. Some mothers work because they love to work, they truly enjoy their jobs and would not feel fulfilled without working outside the home.
Many, many others work for a little bit of both – a true financial need, but also because they enjoy their work, and let’s be honest, many mums like to have a little bit of “grown up time”, away from lego and play doh for a few hours, a chance to do work that doesn’t include clearing tables and washing dishes.
There are no doubt some families for whom the mother’s income doesn’t cover the cost of childcare, though the combined income does.
We don’t say to mothers whose income doesn’t cover the full cost of the mortgage that she should give up her part of the house – the mortgage is paid by the combined incomes of both parents, just like childcare is.
There are many mothers whose income covers childcare, with a very small amount left over – they are working (usually part-time) for self-fulfilment, for their “sanity” is the term most often used.
And many of these mothers do this because they know they will want to work more hours when their children are older and in school – leaving a job now often makes it very difficult to get back into the workforce. So a part-time role on a salary that just about covers childcare is the perfect solution for many, when the children are small.
Whatever her reasons, every woman, every mother has a right to work, and it’s a very retrograde step if for any reason we are moving away from that belief.