Stay at home parents, it seems, have joined the ranks of immigrants and the poor on benefits. What they all have in common, of course, is that they have come under the attack of the coalition’s rhetoric that divides people along all sorts of lines. The tactic is ingenious, though not new. As long as the public are kept entertained by spurring them to point fingers at each other, it ensures that they don’t collectively start pointing fingers at the ones responsible for putting them in this mess in the first place.
The coalition drive to get Britain working shows little consideration or sympathy for those who choose to be stay at home parents, notably in cases where one parent works whilst the other stays at home. Whilst working families are to receive childcare vouchers worth £1,200 a year, households where only one of the two parents works are discriminatorily excluded. The issue is confounded by remarks made by the Tory spokesperson a short while back who pointed out that the purpose of such a policy was to help “those who want to work hard and to get on”. For stay at home parents this is condescension at its Tory best – your value is measured by your employment status; who cares that you’re raising and guiding the country’s next generation?
Whilst in time past, women who stayed at home were hailed as the cornerstones of an upright and well-functioning society; they have now become the subject of criticism and scorn. The commonly held assumption is that they are simply too lazy to work and are often pitied as the subordinate dependants of their men folk. Sadly, this dismissal of stay at home mums is increasingly becoming an issue in the Muslim community.
The advances in the attainment of education at university level amongst Muslim women is certainly cause for happiness, but has this also resulted in greater expectations of female career ambitions? After all, why would a woman who has graduated from university have such little ambition and choose rearing children over a career?
Just as women are being told that they are more independent than ever, they are also being dictated to by government and wider society on how to conduct their own affairs. This is not to say that women should not or cannot combine motherhood with work, but perhaps women should be left to make a choice that works for them and their family unit. It is stating the obvious to say that a strong, stable and loving family is the best foundation for children. Playing politics with that very foundation may come back to bite us all. Whilst we may have some very difficult choices to make concerning work and parenting, in most cases something will have to give. Are we willing for that sacrifice to be the future emotional, spiritual and educational wellbeing of our children?