Monday, February 02, 2009

Back to the kitchen, bitches!

[I am not the Devil's Kitchen.]

This morning, having returned from my aborted trek to work through the barren waste that is Britain under four inches of precipitation, I switched on BBC Breakfast just in time to hear some (male) official-looking interviewee claiming that Britain's children are the unhappiest in the developed world, and this is partly due to mothers who go out to work.

Just in time to save me from choking on my indignation, the female host of the program interjected, 'But the survey still shows that more than three-quarters of British children say they are happy, doesn't it?'

Cue relieved sigh.

Then, via Tim Worstall, I came across this melodramatic headline in the Telegraph: Female empowerment has caused family break-up, Church-backed report warns:
'Female empowerment has contributed to the break-up of the traditional family, leaving a generation of children emotionally damaged, according to a controversial report on the state of British childhood.'

Oh, has it indeed? Let's just see how, then, shall we? The article begins:
The study, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, criticises the parents of young children for spending long hours at work and relying on childminders.

It describes an increase in the number of mothers going back to work when their babies are less than a year old as a "massive" social change and cites the fact that women are now less dependent on their husbands as a cause of family break-up.

Pass over the fact that any study backed by the Ass-Hat is suspect for that very reason (the luxuriantly-be-eyebrowed hoon), and direct your attention instead to the suggestion that women's attempt to escape from the slavery of their biological construction damages children. But, cannily, so far our intrepid reporter has not said anything objectionable; women going back to work after birthing is indeed a massive social change (or at least it was when it became commonplace about 35 years ago) and, indeed, women are now less dependent on their husbands (either because they have suddenly become humans with full personal agency, or because so many of them lack husbands that surviving without one became a necessary skill). How, though, is this a cause of family break-up?
"Compared with a century ago, two changes stand out: first, most women now work outside the home and have careers, as well as being mothers.

"Seventy per cent of mothers of nine-to-12-month-old babies now do some paid work, this compares with only 25 per cent 25 years ago - a massive change in the way of life.

"Meantime, the children are cared for by someone other than their parents.

The comparison, then, is being made with conditions extant in roughly 1909 - an era when, indeed, women mostly remained in the home. However, if one is going to compare women's lifestyle choices now to those prevalent in 1909, must not one also, for the sake of thoroughness if nothing else, compare the happiness-status of the children, too? I wonder how many of the shorties working twelve hours a day down the mines were free of 'emotional damage.'

There is also the fact that (a) economic conditions, even before this recession began, have more or less necessitated a two-income household for most families, and (b) women's entry into the workforce in the middle of the twentieth century was also a necessity, at least for those countries whose economies were trashed by the Second World War.

And whilst doing their duty for king and country, women discovered that they liked working; staying at home all day looking after brats who can't walk or talk is pretty goddamned dull.

They also dared to realise that having an income of their own liberated them from the virtual serfdom under which they had lived in their marriages. For some, whose husbands were abusive/philandering/financially incontinent, the shiny new possibility of leaving without facing starvation or returning to their fathers in disgrace must have appeared as an oasis in the desert.

Life is, therefore, better for children and better for women. Superseding that is going to require some pretty damning evidence. Do we get some?

The article goes on:
"As a result of increased break-up, a third of 16-year-olds in Britain now live apart from their biological father."

Oh really? A third of 16-year-olds living apart from their biological fathers is not due to the fact that their biological fathers are feckless twits? That their mothers are intellectual dullards (how difficult is it to lay hands on a condom in a nation where all contraception is free?) who have no business spawning in the first place? That custody laws in this country are heavily biased in favour of the mother?

Are these not more serious fucking problems than the fact that Mum is out working while the brat is in school so that she can ensure there's enough money at home to keep him nourished, clothed, and entertained?

And then, bizarrely:
[The report] will draw on a Unicef study published in 2007 which showed that children in Scandinavian countries appeared happier than their British counterparts despite similar levels of family separation.

So... in other places, family breakdown does not cause childhood misery. Anybody know how Scandinavian countries compare to Britain in features like paternal absenteeism, teen pregnancy, and nakedly partial custody laws? Some statistics would be nice, but I'm prepared to bet a red dime that Scandinavian countries have less of all three.

Finally, as per journalistic convention, we get a bit of opposition at the end of the piece:
Sue Palmer, the educationalist and author of the book Toxic Childhood, said...

..."Women moved to the workplace on men's terms," women's work that had traditionally been done in the home had never been valued because it was free.

"That is how everybody forgot that rearing children is a time consuming and important project.

"The point that we have got to take for the future isn't that we take women back to the kitchen sink but that we must value what they brought to the social mix in the past."

How relieved women around Britain must feel to have such an incisive mind working so assiduously on their behalf!

Fuck me if she doesn't miss the point by a country mile: female empowerment is not a significant cause of 'emotional damage' in children (as this article shows, almost against its own will), but even if it were, women do not exist to make children happy. Women are human beings too; to fault them for the deterioration of British youthful contentment is to subordinate them, fully-grown individuals with personal agency, to children.

23 comments:

Boy on a bike said...

It's funny to think that when I was a wee bunny 40 years ago, we didn't have childcare centres in our country town. But that didn't stop all the women in our family from working. The mums simply shunted the kids off to their parents, who lived locally - or in our case, in a granny flat attached to our house. Whichever way you look at it, we were all brought up by "childminders" other than our mothers.

If you step back another generation, the women didn't "work" - because they were living on isolated farms in the middle of the bush, and transport was limited to a horse, and then a Model A ford. It was a bit frickin' hard for grandma to drive to a part time job at the local (non-existant) supermarket.

The women of course worked their arses off on the farms, along with the kids (set to milking cows at dawn by age 5, plowing with teams of horses whilst still at primary school, chopping down trees and shooting things as soon as they could wield an axe or gun).

Ass-hat forgets that, not that long ago, our societies were largely agrarian and rural, and everybody worked - but not many worked in a formal sense where they got a payslip each week, which is why they don't show up in the old statistics.

If Ass-hat had ever bothered to listen to some old people, instead of listening to his own farts, he might know a bit more about how the world works.

Old Holborn said...

Bollocks to this

I have SIX children.

I've seen suited and booted mothers dropping little Chlamidya off at the nursery in her pyjamas, in a brand new BMW, at 7am, to return at 8pm, to pick Chlamidya up again (in her pyjamas) after a quick visit to the Gym to deal with the orange peel on her arse.

Dad is working 16 hours a day to pay for the BMW and the Plasma. And the golf course fees.

Cunts

Femme de Resistance said...

Some fruitless poking around The Children's Society website looking for referenced studies, research data, etc. to support their conclusions/recommendations has made me distinctly unimpressed by this study.

I've blogged about it here: http://www.newsgeeks.co.uk/?p=83

Don't lose any sleep over it. It doesn't look like they've actually drawn any new conclusions/collected useful experimental data.

Henry Crun said...

Never mind, once Jonathan Porrit gets his own way, there will only be two miserable little bastards per family.

Gareth said...

I predict a concerted push by a number of fake charities and righteous quangos to encourage/bribe/shame mothers to stay home longer and longer.

It is not for the sake of the children.(Who on the whole do fine and are happy.) Nor is it for the sake of the mothers.(Who clearly want to work.) It is to reduce unemployment.

Get women out of the workplace without adding them to the unemployment statistics and that means more jobs for men, which in turn reduces unemployment. They could also rope in the economy as a suitable excuse - homes should be cheap enough for the man of the house to afford...

It may already be taking hold with longer and longer statutory maternity leave. They have made it potentially very expensive to employ women while trying to pay women enough welfare and benefits to be content to stay at home. That odious Porrit man's latest exultations about women not having more than two children will gradually become all women should have two children and stay chained to the kitchen sink, for the good of the nation of course. Better and fairer each woman have two than have fat, lazy, idle beasts popping out a dozen and living the life of Riley at our expense while feeding their urchins on crisps and fags.

To be honest that's all a bit too much tin foil hattery for my liking. They are more likely just incompetent and unable to see the consequences of their actions.(They're certainly unable to accept responsibility for them...)

Shaun said...

Arrg this shit makes me really angry. And, as Bruce Banner says, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

There seem to be a large number of Friedmanite free-market capitalists who are abhorrant social conservatives - people who think that everyone should work but that ultimately the lower-waged parent should stay at home. That would, statistically, be the woman. Which, to me, is a bit Taliban and flies in the face of Thatcherite market reforms, feminist employment equality and egalitarianism or meritocracy per se. Like, erm, the Taliban.

When I ask how couples outside of the upper echelons of the middle class (where people earn £70k+ p/a each) could afford to move to living on a single income without suffering a serious drop in living standards, I get no answer. When I suggest that this while stifle the poorest among us, condemning them and their children to council estate living (a fate I only escaped because *both* my parents worked to get us out of there) indefinitely, All in the name of what? Hypotetical social cohesion or bog stand, hoary old social conservative where we go back to a mythologised 1950 where mother stays home to look after the kids, bake and clean house? Fuck that. I dunno about the rest of you but even in my most depraved, drug addled state I'd not want a woman that boring or a society dreary enough to mandate that way of living!

the a&e charge nurse said...

Julymorning - you don't need to be John Bowlby to appreciate that female empowerment and the needs of children can be mutually exclusive concepts in some circumstances.

Good parenting involves self sacrifice I'm afraid - in an ideal world each parent should aim for an equal division of labour (if their situation permits).

Single parents have got a much harder job, of course.

Nowadays, I am no longer surprised at the extent of self deception that exists in many homes.

I wish I was paid to work for a charidee said...

I bet if you told a bunch of fake charidee twunts in scandinavia that their pseudo jobs depended on proving that things were worse there, than in the UK, they'd manage it.

Who'd ever expect a bunch of 'experts' whose jobs depended on there being a child care problem to come up with a report saying that there was a child care problem?

It's like expecting the Goracle to write a report confirming global warming - what the fuck else do you expect?

Their livelihoods depend on there being a problem with kids / animals / AGW etc, their lack of ethics means that they have no problem spouting whatever shite they need to justify their fake charity income.

Are you really surprised that if you ask a chav kid, who thinks that it's a human rights issue that he doesn't have the latest 200 quid trainers, "are you completely happy?" he'll say "no"?

Time for the chavs, their kids and the zanulabia charidee-mongs tried the real world for a change. Let's start by stringing up the arch cunt toynbee (too far gone to bring back to reality).

Bishop Brennan said...

Lord Lard-Arse (Layard to his friends) was apparently behind this report, according to the BBC...

That says it all for me - this is a man who has been wrong about everything in his whole life. So he has to go on about 'happiness' to justify his continuing attachment to socialist bollocks.

Anyway, there's nothing new here - Oliver James has written populist stuff about children and attachment theory. Whilst I think there is some truth in concerns about children who have crap child care - and his suggestion that the Scandinavian, particularly Danish, system leads to a more pliant population is particularly worrying, given the direction of our wonderful Government - the economic reality for many families is that they need two incomes.

More pertinent is your point about teen pregnancy. But the answer there is not paying welfare to children who have children (and, indeed, to any parent under 25). As Hayek warned, the more that the welfare state expands, the more that it will need to expand to meet its growing obligations, until our freedoms are destroyed and the state takes all.

Sadly, too many people seem to believe Rawlsian crap a la Layard, rather than reading 'The Road to Serfdom'. Cunts.

Zenobia said...

Gareth - in my opinion you have hit the nail on the head. I commented in a similar vein on Thunder Dragon's blog at http://thethunderdragon.co.uk/2009/01/is-the-credit-crunch-to-kill-feminism.html#comments - unfortunately he didn't believe me - I think the words "bollocks" was used!

But historically this kind of argument has always been used to remove women from the workforce - oh for very good reasons of course. In 1918 it was to give jobs to our returning soldiers and who could argue with that?? Again in 1945 the same argument was used - and once again anyone who objected was obviously unfeeling and unpatriotic.

In latter days, when times got tough - it was the lower part jobs that went first and of course most of these were held by women. This time it is even worse and I truly believe that this is going to get worse for women. More and more people will be coming out in public putting the case for women to get out of the workplace and back into the kitchen. If we don't learn from history we are bound to repeat it.

Laban said...

"even if it were, women do not exist to make children happy" - DK

I think that's what the authors of the report called the "individualistic ethos which now prevails". Why have children if you're not prepared to make sacrifices for them ? I know couples, both highly paid, who drop the seven-month old baby at the creche at 8 am and pick him up at 7pm. That's what I call child abuse.

"Just wait till you've got one of your own !"

(Mind, their 'solutions' are crap. No problem in the world that can't apparently be solved by attending classes and having a social worker visit.)

Anonymous said...

I despise parents who offload their (very young and pre-school) children off to child minders and nurseries.

What is the point of having them if you can't enjoy them and love them when they are small. They don't deserve them.

And don't give me this bollocks about women and careers and not being able to afford them, it's a cop out. As posted before, five years is not a long time to work part time or shifts if you have to for income (when your partner can take his turn to look after them if he works during the day).

Young children need their MOTHERS full stop. There are no excuses. No wonder the family has fallen apart in the last twenty years.

Devil's Kitchen said...

""even if it were, women do not exist to make children happy" - DK"

Not me, Laban, not me...

DK

Anonymous said...

"When I ask how couples outside of the upper echelons of the middle class (where people earn £70k+ p/a each) could afford to move to living on a single income without suffering a serious drop in living standards, I get no answer."

Hint: what do you think would happen to the cost of living if the majority of family incomes dropped 40%?

One of the main effects of women going out to work full-time has been to push up the cost of living, most obviously through the increase in house prices caused by couples now taking out a mortgage funded with two incomes rather than one. Now we've reached the point where both _have_ to work in order to pay for a house that their parents could have bought on a single income, leaving their kids to go feral; somehow I don't see that as a win.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

I hate Richard Layard so much.

Femme de Resistance said...

There was a short period in the 1950s where women were in the home caring for children.

For the rest of history, working-class women have worked alongside men. Where they haven't, they've been involved in time-consuming, physically demanding household tasks like carrying water or using a mangle. The verb 'to mangle' comes from this machine.

It's only since the invention of labour-saving devices that the idea caring for kids is a full-time occupation has become fashionable. My mother's mother had five children and worked as a cleaner and seamstress. This was in the 1930s. Oddly enough, she didn't spend her time bonding with my mother. My mum had to entertain herself while my grandmother toiled.

The idea that a mother must spend all her time with children is so alien to history that it's bound to produce dysfunctional children. I guess it's arisen because, as women have become more educated, the birth rate has fallen. People are now obsessed with the value of children whereas, when people had ten, they were deemed replaceable. They thought it didn't matter if a few were mentally damaged or dead because you could always breed more.

Deadbeat Dad said...

Why have children if you're not prepared to make sacrifices for them ? I know couples, both highly paid, who drop the seven-month old baby at the creche at 8 am and pick him up at 7pm. That's what I call child abuse.

Quite. But this is an issue for parents to negotiate between themselves. Generally speaking, I'm sure young children would far rather spend time with their parents (or intimate family) than in nursery.

I was a self-employed homeworker with the freedom to organise my work pretty much as I chose, but I still had to argue against a court-appointed social worker that my two-year-old daughter was better off spending time with me than being consigned to nursery 9-5 by her mother four days a week (I had her on Thursdays already). The buffoon from CAFCASS argued that the nursery was 'the one stable constant in this young child's life'. When I cross-examined him, he admitted that he had never even communicated with the nursery (still less actually visited it); didn't know that my daughter had switched nurseries a few months earlier; and didn't know how many different 'carers' my daughter had had in this environment (answer: quite a few). Now that's what I call child abuse...

berenike said...

"the slavery of their biological construction"

Have you ever thought of getting counselling to help you accept yourself as you are?

Love,

A Woman Who Doesn't Think Being Female Is Biological Enslavement

the a&e charge nurse said...

Very well put, Deadbeat Dad - young children ALWAYS prefer to be with one, or ideally both parents, rather than being placed into alternative child-care settings (especially, as you suggest, the institutional variety)

Anyone who thinks otherwise is either deluding themselves, or has entered into a state of denial - although for some meaningful choice is virtually zero due to economic pressures (i.e. low income families).

Having said that, it is completely beyond me why any mother would prefer to 'empower' complete strangers (or themselves) rather than attend to the obvious needs of a young child - the same goes for any man with similar self, or gender obsessions, of course.

berenike said...

Re my comment - I am assuming you're female. If you're a man - piss off. Biologically enslaved yourself.

Budgie said...

Pinch me, I'm in the weird position of agreeing with A and E charge nurse.

But Femme de Resistance clearly doesn't know what she is talking about. Does she really think that a stay at home mother is looking after her children _all_ the time, rather than doing the myriad other tasks that are necessary, even with modern conveniences? Either she has her own children and is in denial about farming them out, or she has never cared for her own children.

What is "alien to history" (whatever that means) is the concept of commuting to a distant work. For most of recorded history most women (and men) have worked in or very close to their house. In those circumstances looking after their own children (or getting the live in grandparents, if alive, to do so) is not a problem.

Budgie said...

One of the oddest aspects of feminism is the licence to have sex at the drop of a .. well I was going to say 'hat' but I can see that might be misconstrued.

What feminists can't seem to see is that the sex-with-no-consequences ethos that permeates modern society encourages the very irresponsibility of young men that they decry. Is it any wonder there is an increase in male fecklessness when young men can get sex at no cost?

The concept of 'freelove' _appeared_ to work in the 1960s, I suspect, because it occurred in the social context of the baby boomer generation whose childhood was in the straitlaced 1950s. But now I look around at young men and women and see mutual incomprehension, distrust and misery.

Philipa said...

Hm some good comments I agree with, eg. Budgie, above. Doesn't make it right though and why is it always single MOTHERS that get the blame and not the assholes that left them holding the baby?

As for the original post I would have thought that having a baby would have made one desirous of looking after it, or why have it?

Having said that I too cannot remember my mother, in the golden age of parenting, spending more time than she absolutely had to with me. She worked. Her mother worked. Her mother worked. My great grandmother was a farmers wife, do you think they got up before dawn through insomnia? My other grandmother made chain! My father came home from school and sat on the step waiting for his mother to come home from work. So did I when I forgot my key. When was this golden age of parenting? A myth. We were happy because we were left alone to roam wherever we wanted without being run over by traffic or molested or carted off to some childrens home 'for our own good'. When we weren't happy we got a good hiding and told to be grateful.

I had to laugh when I heard that the report had identified the premature sexualisation of children as a cause for concern and concluded more sex education was needed.