March of the Mummies
By Bibiana Mas
Last Saturday there were marches in 11 cities across the UK calling on the government - and directly challenging the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak - on childcare reform: The March Of The Mummies.
The UK is one of the most expensive countries in the world when it comes to childcare costs and the second most expensive in the OECD. No wonder the organisation Pregnant Then Screwed started this campaign which peaked last Saturday, with thousands of families calling on the government for more support. To quote the organisation, ‘mothers are forced out of the labour market by an economy that does not recognise the value of the unpaid care they provide. There are specific mechanisms that underpin our economy - childcare, parental leave policies and working patterns - that reinforce gendered stereotypes about who performs care and lead to a gender pay gap and low participation by mothers in the labour market.’
In my case I was relatively lucky. I have 3 daughters, but I could afford to live for a while - although juggling to make ends meet - on one salary. I say lucky, because there are many families who can’t afford taking this kamikaze step: either there is only the mother's salary, or the salaries are so low that without one of the two incomes one can't even pay the bills.
I said a kamikaze step, yes. Well, let me explain. For even those of us who have the choice of taking a step back to look after our children we also end up losing out. We withdraw into the cave to bring up the future of this country at the cost of being invisible in the working market. Despite having qualifications. Or work experience. Or a long list of other skills.
What we are asking for is support from the government, so that we can have the option to take our children to nursery without having to give up more than one salary. We want to be able to have the option to choose to progress in our careers without paying such an expensive toll. We ask to be able to have the option to be a stay-at-home parent without being penalised or made invisible. We demand more flexibility at work so that we can give the best of ourselves to our children and to our careers.
At the end of the day, employers lose out too: they miss out on the talents of thousands of mothers, like you and me, because we cannot afford to pay for childcare.
But hey, we are not going to keep quiet.
Like thousands of women.
Thousands of mothers.
Thousands of families that are not afraid to speak up.
Thank you for being our voice, the voice of all.