Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Those childcare tax breaks for families where both parents work

Every mum has the right to choose whether they stay-at-home and look after their children or go back to work and entrust someone else to care for their little ones.
There is a problem however, and that is what is motivating that 'choice'. Too often it is far less about what the heart is saying and far more about what the bank balance is reporting that pushes mums either back into the workplace or leaves them trapped at home.
And that is the crucial element – this works both ways. The Government has this idea, as they have proven this week yet again, that women want to be out working and the only thing making this difficult is the cost of childcare. Yes, for some women this is indeed a genuine problem, but for every one of those women, there are those who are working and struggling to pay for childcare but who actually, if they are honest, would much rather stay at home looking after their children full-time if money allowed, and plenty of families where the mum is staying at home but where they have had to make some tough financial sacrifices to make this a viable option.
I don't know whether MPs really are completely oblivious to the fact that when it comes to mothers we do not all fall into a generic, 'we want it all' category'. Or they are in such a muddle with how to sort out the financial difficulties of so many families, they are just hoping it will magically be fixed with a strategy which is very much in alignment with what 'popular opinion' tells us women should be doing with their lives.
What I do know is this policy is only going to provide financial help to half the families out there, lift the spirits and well being of even less, and increase the already massive resentment there is between working and stay-at-home mums ten fold.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Beth Warren and that contentious frozen sperm

The case of widow Beth Warren and her deceased husband's frozen sperm makes me feel uncomfortable if I'm honest.
Beth has just won a court case which will enable her husband's sperm to be kept longer than the original date of 2015. However, an appeal has already been launched against this decision.
Tackling this matter for a moment, I don't see why, if you are going to keep the sperm on ice, why it is not kept indefinitely. The husband agreed to all this before he died and Beth is still going through the grieving process of her husband's death, so it just makes sense it is kept until she is ready.
So that's that. But as soon as I start to think further than this initial, and very reasonable point, I start to get a little worried.
On a purely romantic level, of course I can see why Beth wants to keep her husband's sperm and use it to have his baby. They obviously always intended to have children and Beth, as it stands right now, does not want to have children with anyone else. I can completely understand why she feels this way as I don't subscribe to the idea that she will find another man to have children with. If her husband was the love of her life, it is wrong for people to presume she could build a life with someone else, and a life which would go beyond the point it went with her husband, as in having a family.
My worry is the child on one hand and the well-being of Beth on the other. What on earth do you say to that child when it comes to explaining how they came to be and where their daddy is? It is all well and good saying how wanted and loved you were/would have been by daddy but that child is going to have to be told they were born out of such an extraordinary situation. And children tend not to like extraordinary. They want to be normal and like their friends.
Then to Beth – as a mum myself I cannot begin to imagine how you would get through becoming pregnant, being pregnant, giving birth and looking after a baby without your partner by your side. Of course lots of women become single parents, but to have that added grief that this is your dead husband's baby and imagining how much he would have wanted to be there and how you would have been together with the baby would be heartbreaking for me. That baby would be a constant reminder of what you had lost and I can only hope if Beth does proceed with this, that the baby is a constant reminder in the best possible, bitter sweet kind of way.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Kirstie Allsopp and that breastfeeding blog

I'm a huge fan of Kirstie Allsopp as any regular reader of my blog will know. The only thing she lacks is a fringe – something which all my other favourite 'celebrity type 'people seem to have.
However, this didn't stop me being offended/annoyed/irritated by a link to a blog post Kirstie put up on Twitter this week about breastfeeding.
Now this is where me and Kirstie would never see eye to eye should we ever meet out on the street admiring the original features of a Victorian fa├žade or perusing a craft stall, preferably of the knitting variety. Kirstie has a bit of a bee in her bonnet about mothers being forced to do everything 'au natural' when it comes to child birth – as in no drugs, no caesarean and no formula feeding. It is evident Kirstie has been made to feel very bad about having to have her child/children by caesarean and not successfully breastfeeding them – which is not fair obviously.
The problem with such people (Kirstie included) is, they tend to go so far the other way to justify their own behaviours that in turn they actually start to put down and berate those mothers who gave birth naturally and went onto breastfeed, which is nonsensical if you ask me. Yes those types can be a little smug that they have achieved both those things (cue own smug look) but at the end of the day (when all is said and done) that is surely what every mother should be aiming for. It is no good trying to put the best and most natural path down in order to make yourself feel better.
That is why I am annoyed that Kirstie saw fit to flag up a blog post which said the benefits of breastfeeding had been exaggerated. It compared sets of siblings where one child had been bottle fed and the other breastfed and found no real differences between the two children.
Now I could go on about the advantages of breastfeeding for pages of type, and I have done in the past, and argue that of course there were still major advantages and this study was flawed blah blah, but the thing is, as far as I am concerned even if it was found that there was no greater benefit to mother or baby in breastfeeding over bottle feeding, there is still a major sticking point which swings the dial way back into breastfeeding's arena - and that is, it the most natural thing in the world to do.
Women are pregnant for nine months, they give birth and the baby is put to the breast to feed. Why on earth do people think us women have breasts – hate to break it to you but it's not for Page Three. We are no different to the cows in the field I'm afraid ladies. They are there to be used to feed our babies and there needs to be far greater help to enable all new mothers to do this and in turn reduce some of the bitterness and jealousy amongst the mums who were unable to.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

TVs in bedrooms make children fat...

Children who have televisions in their bedrooms gain more weight than children who don't. This is what an American study has found.
Oh this statement made me laugh – for two reasons. Firstly, taking it as it stands, there is no mention that the television is on in the bedroom, so is it the very presence of the television set in the room which makes these children fatter? Similarly, does watching television in the bedroom cause children to gain more weight than watching television in any other room in the house? Is there something about television rays (yes those) interacting with mattress fibres which causes children’s' weight to soar?
Of course I jest. However, I would like to make a serious point about all this as this is very much an area of irritation for me. It is not having the television in the bedroom which is the main problem. I think an older child is going to want a television eventually because it is an inevitable part of growing up that they start to want their own space. Children have always been withdrawing to their own bedrooms even before televisions became commonplace.
The problem comes when the television becomes one of a whole wheelbarrow load of kit that children as young as infant and junior school age need on them at all times – the games consoles, the smart phones, the tablets - to keep them entertained. All of these things are making a whole generation completely insular, withdrawn and antisocial, unable to interact with anyone else in anything but typed LOLs and BFFs.
To illustrate, I saw some youths (youths!) at a bus stop recently. There were two of them on their phones. One was texting or tweeting or some such lark, whilst the other was busy gabbling away down the phone arranging for another friend to come and meet them. What tickled me was the thought that third friend would probably turn up and get out their phone and text or call yet another friend to come meet them and so on and so on. And I wondered to myself when the texting and calling would end and they would actually all start interacting with each other in person. I know – what a LOL.

Monday, 3 March 2014

'Act posh' to get ahead

A social mobility advisor (yes, one of those!) has declared working class children should be helped to 'act posh' in order to succeed in life.
He believes if working class children learnt how to act like their more socially superior peers, more doors would be opened to them in terms of university entry and career success.
There is a fundamental problem with this. Surely it is far better to help children – no matter what their background – to become comfortable with who they are in order to succeed, not to adopt the behaviour and mannerisms of a type of person completely alien to them.
The very idea of a young adult going to a university or job interview for example and putting on a faux upper class accent is just ludicrous and, most likely, completely transparent.
Also, the idea that being 'posh' is somehow better than not being posh is a terribly prejudiced way of looking at things, especially in today's society.
Rather than saying children should be adapting to be like the upper classes, more effort should be put into levelling the playing field for all children, whatever their background, at universities and in the work place.

The prejudice is very much there. I would say to our social mobility advisor mate, that no matter how good your posh accent is, if your university application says you are from a state school, or your bank balance is unable to pay out the now extortionate fees for university, chances are 'you ain't getting in anyway'.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Does warning about sexual abuse unnecessarily take away a child's innocence?

If I had my way I would never talk to my children about sexual abuse. I would like to think that as long as I kept my eyes and ears open and secretly vetted all those they were spending time with, I could protect them myself without them ever having to know what it was I was protecting them from.
Cue many people calling me a naive and remiss parent. I can see why you would say that but at the same time I question if it is justified.
I am extremely lucky. I have never been personally affected by this subject, even in terms of knowing anyone who has been abused. The closest I got was a man offering to take me home in his car after I got lost getting off the school bus when we moved house.
I would like to think similarly my own children will never be touched by this subject, first or even second hand. I know you cannot guarantee this but you can as a parent be very careful who your children are associating with and – this is the controversial bit – have a good idea whether the people they are with are capable of such behaviour or not (because I know some parents would argue that they had no idea).
So the question is, is it worth broaching the subject and shattering a child's innocence on the off chance it could happen?
I don't fully know the answer but I know what my heart tells me.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Dads want to stay at home too

A survey has found it is not just women who would rather stay-at-home with the children than go back to work. Many men also favour that kind of lifestyle – or certainly those who filled in that particular questionnaire said so.
Is this because they think it is much easier to stay at home than go out to work each day I wonder? It is certainly an affront to all those years of men thumping their chests, wielding clubs and dragging home hairy mammoths for tea. But no – I think that would be going down the wrong path with this one.
The fact is, many mums would cry out at disgust at the thought of their partners staying at home with the children instead of them on the very basis they would believe they could not do as good a job.
I think that is unjust. There is no reason a father couldn't do as good a job as the mother – a different job I would imagine, but just as good. There are many hands-on dads who are very good at looking after their children and have no problems with changing nappies and rocking their babies back to sleep in the middle of the night.
What I wonder is would men who stay at home with the children become more like stay at mums after a while? I'd better explain. The thing is, when dads – who work – look after their children for the day, they are able to completely switch off from everything else and just concentrate on playing with the children. They have nothing to prove in those hours alone with the children. They know their work is waiting for them the next day. They don't have to prove their worth as a man in that time. It can be just them and the children.
For women it is far more complex even with full-time mothers. For mums it is always a matter of juggling so many different things – looking after the children day in, day out, as well as doing things for themselves to prove they are actually still people in their own right (it can't be just me can it?).

If men were doing it full time (and of course some already do) would it become far more of a juggling act for them when their determination to prove their existence and further their own interests kicked on. Or are men so different to women this would never happen? I'm not sure I know the answer...