Monday, February 02, 2009

help me here please...

I'm struggling to understand the slant of this widely-reported research from The Children's Society.

It's partly the headline ...

Working women 'damaging children'


To be honest, my first reaction was that working women were hitting their kids out of stress but then I read on and thought 'oh not again' ...

Women's increasing economic independence from their male partners is contributing to family break-up which is in turn damaging children, according to a wide-ranging survey into British childhood.


I was puzzled to be honest. Why should women being independent be a bad thing? And then I realised, ah, it's because they have a way out of their marriages. As it goes on to explain ...

"The second change is the rise in family break-up. Women's new economic independence contributes to this rise: it has made women much less dependant on their male partners as has the advent of the welfare state.


But what I can't understand is not the fact that family break-up damages children but why it should be the fault - once again - of the woman. Take these statements one step further and are they REALLY saying that women should be forced to stay in marriages they're obviously not happy with by making them completely dependent on their husbands?

That we're so light-headed that we will flit around where we want just because we can.

Hey new marriage, new hair shampoo... because we're worth it.

Of course not. Or I think not, but trouble is, I can't really see any other way to read this report. After all, as the headline says - it's the WORKING WOMEN who are damaging the children.

What I'm wondering is how much research has been done on just why they are all leaving their husbands as soon as they can, but also how those WORKING MEN also contribute to the damage on the children. This isn't an idle question - I'd really like to know.

Not least because it seems to me that most men I know - and maybe I'm just lucky - feel they have a part to play in bringing up their kids too. However, reports like this seem to ignore that.

Surely we can't go on and on and on demeaning men as parents, or, indeed, husbands?

And as well as anger, I'm feeling relieved my kids are older now and I no longer have to feel those absolute and heartbreaking pangs of guilt I used to have when I read similar headlines on the way to work. Do we really want women out of the workplace and living back on Revolutionary Road?

9 comments:

Kathryn said...

I've worked on and off with all four of my children. I've never really had a job I enjoyed but now, if for example, someone said to me that I couldn't write anymore because of my children, then I wouldn't be able to function either as a person or as a parent. Quite apart from the arguments about necessity and choice, I can't believe that this article completely ignores the male role; perhaps they think that it stops at the obvious bit. Now I'm cross.

bob said...

The slant, as I heard it on a BBC News headline this morning, was that 'selfish adults are damaging childhood.' So it's not just women, it's EVERYONE. We're all ruining everything for the youngins.

http://tinyurl.com/dnf6wb

But not to worry, we're all going to perish in today's blizzard. So it's all sorted.

Douglas Bruton said...

I'd like to think that the title meant the fact of working women rather than being directed at the actual women...

And, thanks for directing some attention to the male role. Can we get all huffy about being continually overlooked in this equation?

And I think it is ever simplistic to find a single cause for something as complex as this. Whatever is affecting our young uns cannot be boiled down to a single causal factor, surely.

And today I talked to a class of children about depression - causes and remedies... and only one could say he had faced any depression and that for two weeks after the death of his grandmother... the rest of the children in the class were happy and could distinguish between incidences of sadness (say at the death of a pet, or the break up of a romance) and depression... and none of them were depressed in the slightest... and I live in dark and dismal scotland - at least it is dark and dismal at this not-yet-turning point of the year. So what exactly is the damage that is being done? And is the damage not more to do with the wider problems of society and the media driven circus that is so powerful.

And as for working women, we now live in a society where the single parent family is economically disadvantaged against the two parent working family. Indeed I can't see how families with only one income can easily get through the life that we want children growing up to have... There's no going back, so what is there to be gained by laying this blame (spuriously) at the feet of one group of society. It's not blame we should be thinking of apportioning here, but our energies should be directed at finding solutions.

D

Sarah Salway said...

Yes, Bob, when I heard it later it was adults, rather than just working women. But it was this piece I took issue with.
And of course we should be looking at solutions, but by blaming one section - as this piece seems to - then it's in danger of making everyone else feel as if they're doing ok, rather than looking at what's important.
Kathryn, I've always believed that I functioned much better when I was working but I was lucky enough to be flexible to be around more than other parents, I can see that. Even when it meant catching up in the middle of the night!
Douglas, I'm rather heartened by what you say - a clear understanding that it's OK to be sad at times. Think we're in danger of losing that sometimes.

meandmybigmouth said...

What hasn't been as widely reported is that The Children's Society is closely allied to the Church of England. Not suggesting that is a terrible thing but hardly surprising that they advocate stable marriages etc as part of the ideal set up.

60 Going On 16 said...

In the early stages of my career as a press officer, thirty years ago, it was generally acknowledged that one of the easiest ways to grab headlines was to publish the results of a survey, irrespective of the subject matter or of how many people were surveyed. Cherry pick the results, stick them in a news release and hey presto, national coverage. Looks like nothing has changed. I remember one charity publishing a survey of just ten people and achieving blanket coverage because no reporters bothered to ask a seemingly obvious question. What's that old adage about never letting the facts stand in the way of a good story?

For most of my adult life, I have been a lone parent and a working parent. My daughter is now an adult, has two degrees and is happily married. She is a wise, kind, compassionate and funny woman. Could someone please tell me where I went wrong? Or should I set up a survey to find out?

Sarah Salway said...

I didn't know that, Scott, but it makes sense. I'm going to investigate a bit more. And yes, 60 going on 16, it's too easy to create focuses (foci?) - but I just objected that it was the 'working women' at fault that was taken for granted.

Sarah Salway said...

I'm going to get hold of a copy of the report today, as well as finding out more about the Govt's Children's Plan. Watch this space!

Sheenagh Pugh said...

As a historian friend of mine points out, poor women have ALWAYS worked outside the home - in the 19th century factory girls used to dope the kids with laudanum before going off to do an 8-hour day. Kids didn't see much of mum or dad during the war either. It was only around the 50s that this idyll of woman-at-home-in-pinny existed and even then it was probably confined to certain classes.