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Spring 2014

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These are the Government proposals and policies that Mothers at Home Matter are lobbying to change. The Government seems obsessed with getting babies and children out of the way so their mothers can focus on the much more important job, in the Government’s eyes, of working. Mothers at home are simply seen as inactive economic units. Mothers at Home Matter doesn’t just campaign to make it financially and culturally easier for families to be able to choose to have a mother or father at home full time, we also seek to encourage our members, by affirming the vital role that mothers, in particular, play in the lives of their children. We don’t believe that mothers are optional extras in their children’s lives, easily replaced by childcare workers. We believe that mothers have an enormous impact on their children’s happiness, and the more time mothers can spend with their children, the better.

wo year olds attending school.” “School days from 8am to 6pm.” “Families with a parent at home full time paying signigicantly more tax than families with both parents working.” “Professional childcare seen as an ‘essential service.’”

Welcome to the Mothers at Home Matter Newsletter
Letter from the Editor

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used to think I was a nice person until I became a parent’. I love that quote from a friend of a friend on the topic of how cross our muchloved children often make us.

However, I have been much encouraged by research showing that my occasional descent into shouting is actually not a bad thing for my children. I was sent a research document by Paula Cohen on how far varying forms of early childcare may link to deviant behaviour in later life. One of the prison officers she interviewed, commenting on the fact that many offenders lack the ability to empathise with others, praises the realities of home life compared to ‘the unrealistic world of the nursery where adults never lose their temper and a door never slams’. Phew! By demonstrating the fact that I have been totally wound up, I am actually allowing my children to observe the effects of their behaviour on another human. For mothers (and fathers) at home full time, much as we love being with our children (most of the time), it is always encouraging to be reminded of the value of our role, so I hope you enjoy the articles summarising the latest research on the value of motherhood presented by our AGM speakers. In addition, the article on mothers vs nurseries points to the fact that a nursery-care can never replace mother-care, and that babies and toddlers need as

much mothercare as possible. I’m afraid the explanation of the financial penalty on single income families does not make for encouraging reading, but I hope that you will take some comfort from our explanation of what Mothers at Home Matter is doing to lobby for families to be able to choose to have a parent at home for more hours in the week rather than fewer. Above all, I hope that this newsletter confirms the value to you of being a member of Mothers at Home Matter and affirms you in the invaluable role you play in giving your children the best future possible. In addition, welcome to the parents working hard outside the home to ensure their children have a parent at home. I hope this newsletter affirms you as well in the value of the life you are providing for your family.
Claire Paye, Editor

The newsletter of Mothers at Home Matter, PO Box 43690, London SE22 9WN

From the Chair

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e were delighted to welcome AnneClaire de Liederkerke from Make Mothers Matter Europe to our AGM. I’d like to mention What About the Children? (WATCh?) for highlighting the emotional needs of under threes. Our thanks also to CARE who publish thought-provoking reports on how families fare in the UK tax system and the Save Childhood Movement for exploring ways of tackling the current erosion of childhood. Also, Home Renaissance Foundations’s work to highlight the importance of ‘home’. Regular contact with experts in their field enables us to keep our finger on the pulse in social research, taxation systems or child development. It would otherwise be impossible to keep up with the never-ending stream of policy initiatives, particularly as childcare is a key focus across the political divide and considered a vote-winner by all parties, but surveys consistently show families want more family time, not less. Parents would also vote for fairer family taxation and other solutions to the rising cost of living and housing. Sadly, for most policymakers ‘early years’ equates to school-readiness through extending registered childcare, female participation in employment and pushing the ‘engine of growth’. It’s never about valuing the family life children need to thrive and be happy. It’s disheartening. However, the benefits of working with other groups means we can occasionally find respite and step into a world where people speak a child-focussed language: the importance of love and care, balance, family- time, attachment, good relationships and wellsupported communities. Recognising that, for healthy development, children need a ‘playful and natural childhood’ and growth without measurement. It’s about building shared memories that strengthen bonds. Many individuals have come forward with offers of support or time. This is in no small measure thanks to MIPPR who’ve helped get our ideas into the public domain, enabling us to reach out

This has been a year of establishing closer links with other movements.

to individuals - mainly mothers, but also fathers, grandparents or anyone spends time prioritising ‘care’. As long as care responsibilities and unpaid work remains under-valued, invisible and ignored in policy, then our work is far from done. Special appreciation for our AGM speakers Dr Aric Sigman and Sally Goddard Blythe . I’d also like to thank the volunteer committee for their dedication and for all the hours they put in. And of course our members, for bringing a rich and diverse range of perspectives and experiences to the campaign, because motherhood is universal. Marie Peacock

MAHM AGM - Talks from the AGM October 2013
that the mother and baby share the same environment eg baby feeds directly from the mother, not just expressed milk. Breastmilk adapts to any other food the child may receive, so it reduces naturally during weaning, which is not the same for formula milk. Eye contact with the mother is essential for babies and mothers getting to know each other. Babies communicate initially through movement: it’s a baby’s first language. It’s important to spend time together to learn the baby’s language and so help the baby to communicate. Professor Colwyn Trevarthen demonstrated that the baby has to have time to process what is said to it or else it will give up and not try to communicate back. Babies learn language through their mother even from before birth. The female body is shaped like a cello, a sounding board of vocal vibrations before birth. Babies pick up on vowels, which are the musical part of language. Babies will imitate the phrasing and musicality of their parents’ voices. Fathers bring out a different range of skills. Rough and tumble exercises affect the neurological circuitry involved in emotional regulation and impulse control. Fathers introduce children to different attitudes to risk taking. At nursery children under two experience elevated levels of cortisol. Their cognitive skills may be better but their emotional development is worse. This levels out after the age of three, when children are able to communicate verbally and can verbalise their emotions. Younger than that, they can only demonstrate their emotions through behaviour. Behaviour is language. The importance of one to one interaction outweighs the value of being in a group. At nine months a child becomes securely attached to its primary care giver. Mothers should spend at least the first two years and up to three at home with their children. Sally also commented on the importance of physical development in terms of accessing learning. Maturation is the product of physical development.

First love, first moves
Sally Goddard Blythe’s professional expertise lies in children’s neuro-motor development and how physical development in the early years supports cognitive functioning and behaviour.

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he child’s first love is its mother. It has an unquestioning love for its parents, which has an effect on a child’s emotional development and ability to regulate its own emotions. We’re the only mammal that deliberately separates its young before it is able to fend for itself. The first nine months of a baby’s life should be seen as the second half of gestation. Humans are born at a very immature stage. The mother is the baby’s auxiliary cortex. She serves as an external regulator of the neurochemistry of the infant’s maturing brain. As the baby’s brain develops, neurons migrate to target addresses in the brain. However, if the baby suffers trauma, such as separation from the mother, these neurons could go to the wrong address, affecting development of the baby’s brain. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone which helps us to share our emotions, is increased in social situations such as mealtimes and sharing of activities and time together. Breastfeeding is nature’s own pharmacy. It contains antibodies which are tailor-made for the baby and its immediate environment, provided

We learn to move as a baby. We then move to learn eg using building blocks, abacuses. Postural control provides gravitational security and the basis for eye movements. Our dreams are internalised movement. Children need to be physically ready when they start school. The right postural development at the appropriate time is vital. Children need to have a stable sitting point to maintain their attention and concentration. Sally is seeing more children with Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex. There are physical tests which Sally carries out to assess school readiness. A three and a half to four year old should be able to stand on one leg for eight seconds. A five year old should be able to carry out finger and thumb opposition in just one hand at a time. A four year old should be able to cross the midline ie pass an object from one side of their body to the other side, not just in the middle. There is a change in our child rearing practices which is causing postural problems. We need to let children have ample time for free movement, play and exploration. There needs to be parental availability and social engagement for the first two years. Conversations with parents include listening and reflecting. Screen time doesn’t count in developmental terms, because it’s not a spontaneous reaction. Children need their parents to tell them stories, read to them and sing songs and nursery rhymes. Sally’s suggestions are: 1 Value the role of motherhood and parenting. 2. The biological needs of the child should lead the debate about childcare, taxation and education. 3. Greater flexibility for women to be at home for at least two years. 4. The importance of training for teachers and teenagers. 5. The improved education of the general public of what children need in the early years to develop.

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generated many media columns on the topic of ‘motherism’.
he uniqueness of mothers Following the publication of a biology paper entitled ‘Mother Superior’, which suggested that a mother might be better for her own children than an institution, Aric was subjected to a degree of attack. He discovered that it is very controversial to suggest that a mother is special and that the debate is always hijacked to focus on the costs of daycare. However, society should be able to prove that they can replace what mothers are doing. We as a society have moved on, but children’s needs will not ‘move on’. Although it appears self-evident to say that there are some benefits to the biological mother raising her children, he found that he always had to offer evidence for this. Just as the government sees mothers and fathers as interchangeable economic units, they also confuse sexual equality with sexual equivalence. However, mothers and fathers perform different roles with their children. Babies need time We accept that we need to spend time with our partners to build our relationship - and they are fully grown adults. But we don’t accept that spending time together is even more important with babies. The age of the baby and the hours spent in care do matter. We need to differentiate between the needs of a one month old, a one year old and a three year old. Mothers help children manage stress What is ‘maternal care’? Half an hour in the evening isn’t sufficient. ‘Quality time’ can’t make up for ‘quantity time’. ‘Doses’ of mother matter. A study has been done into the correlation between the amount of maternal care received between the ages of 3 and 5 and the size of the part of the brain called the hippocampus at age 7-13. Maternal support observed in early childhood was strongly predictive of hippocampal volume, which is related to the release of stress hormones. There is a clear link between nurturing and the size of the hippocampus. Luby et al 2012 In other words, children who have spent less time with their mothers will be less able to manage stress. This has

So mothers at home aren’t special?

Dr Aric Sigman delivered a very entertaining talk in which he outlined several ways in which mothers are unique and can not be replaced by anyone else. This talk

potentially profound public health implications. Separation from mothers can change a person’s ability to cope with the world One study of whole genome DNA methylation in institutionalised children vs children raised by their biological parents showed that 89% of the 914 sites showed an increased methylation in children from the institutionalised group, including in a number of crucial genes, such as social behaviour, anxiety, depression, pain perception and sleep. In other words, at the extreme end, children who are totally separated from their parents show changes in their DNA make up, affecting their experience of social groups, emotions, pain and ability to sleep. Mothers are unique in affecting their child’s oxytocin levels Oxytocin increases willingness to share one’s emotions socially. It is a bonding hormone and increases the depth of communication. Oxytocin improves the mind reading ability in humans. Neuropsycopharmocology 2013 concluded ‘parental oxytocin and early caregiving jointly shape children’s oxytocin response and social reciprocity.’ Mother’s oxytocin levels predicted child’s oxytocin levels. Early paternal care made no difference. It’s affected by breastfeeding, brain activation to own infant’s cry and the level of maternal sensitivity. The mother’s voice helps her foetus’s brain develop The medical journal Acta Paediatrica reports on the relationship inutero. Language experienced in utero affects vowel perception after birth. Brain changes happen in the womb as a result of listening to the mother’s voice in the womb. Babies are always a part of their mothers Mothers love the smell of new borns. It makes mothers feel good because it activates the neurological reward circuit, which is the same as that which is activated by drugs. It has recently been discovered that fetal cells actually become embedded in the mother’s brain and cells from the mother are embedded in her baby.

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MAHM - A Snapshot of What We Do
The row over the Government’s latest whim to put two year olds into school provides a snapshot of what Mothers at Home Matter are up to and what we are up against. We write letters
Comments from Mothers at Home Matter are in italics. Published in ‘The Telegraph’ 6th Feb 2014 ‘Schools will be encouraged to take children as young as two to help solve the country’s child care crisis. The reason schools are to take two year olds is primarily to solve our ‘child care crisis’. Mothers at Home Matter believes that our children are facing a crisis, not because their parents are unable to afford child care, but because they are unable to afford to stay at home. Liz Truss, the education minister, is writing to every council in England to suggest that school nurseries should extend their opening hours to allow parents to leave toddlers during the working day. The aim of this is, therefore, to separate toddlers from their parents for as long as possible. The Government is also introducing legislation to reduce red tape and make it easier for schools to open their doors to two-year-olds. In other words, the Government has no objective other than to corral the two year olds into school, whatever it takes. Ministers believe that opening up the system will help provide tens of thousands more child care places, which are urgently needed in many areas. The reason child care places are needed is because mothers have to work to afford the house prices, which are being stoked by this Government’s policies, and because families with one income face a disproportionate tax burden. It will also enable mothers to go back into part-time work and help prevent children from disadvantaged backgrounds from slipping behind.’ This is the real reason. They want mothers in work to pay for our pensions deficit. Note that the focus is almost always on raising children from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds. So, all two year olds are to be separated from their mothers, whom they happen to love deeply

“families with one income face a disproportionate tax burden”
its nursery provision to consider whether to admit children as young as two. But critics of the plan are concerned at the growing “schoolification” of the early years and warn that the enormous institutions of all-through schools may not be the best environment for very young children. Sue Palmer, a literacy specialist and author of the book Toxic Childhood, says: “The difference between a two- or three-year-old and an 18-year- old is so enormous that the idea of trying to make some sort of seamless transition is bizarre. “It is a totally different business caring for small children and teaching people who are about to go to university so why should it have to go on in the same environment. “There seems to be a strange idea taking hold that small children should not be allowed to be small children any more. The younger the child, the more it needs to be a very personal environment. “The countries that do the best in the world [in educational comparisons] are the ones that spend a lot of time creating a kindergarten environment between the ages of three and seven. For some reason in this country, we have decided that a regimental approach is the answer.” Wendy Ellyatt, the founding director of the Save Childhood Movement, voiced strong concerns. “Many schools are likely to struggle with providing suitably child-centred environments and the danger is that the needs of the youngest children will be compromised to serve those of the larger system,” Ellyatt said. “I know how frightened my own daughter was when she started primary school at four and went from being in a nursery playground with 30 children to a school playground where there were 400.” Dr Richard House, a senior lecturer in early childhood at the University of Winchester, and the founder of Early Childhood Action said the proposals could be “catastrophic” for young children. “I am implacably against this proposal until there is a fundamental sea-change in governmental and cultural attitudes to early childhood experience in this country,” he said. “If anything, things are moving in precisely the wrong direction, with early childhood becoming increasingly colonised by a toxic and deeply harmful ‘school-readiness’ agenda, which is increasingly driving all early years policy-making. However, back at King Solomon Academy, Ms Willms is adamant that the school she founded in 2007 is providing the best preparation for its youngest children. “Our schools are in areas of high deprivation. Although our parents want to do the right thing, they face severe challenges and many of our pupils have not had the richness of home experiences that other children have had. “Many start school well behind where children are expected to be at that age. That gap needs to be closed fast and that is what we do.”’ them more than they already do? Where mothers are only working to pay the bills, the Government should level the playing field in terms of removing tax penalties on single income families. Why fund mothers to go out to work to pay someone else to look after their children when they would rather look after them themselves. The high cost of childcare is not what is stopping mothers from working. In a recent survey, among parents who have not used childcare in the past year, the main reason given (71%) was that they would rather look after their children themselves. The cost of childcare was only cited by 13% of parents.

Published in ‘The Independent’ 19th Dec 2013 A policy to keep families apart ‘Once again the Government wishes families to spend as little time together as possible. Liz Truss, the minister for education and childcare, announced her desire for schools to open 8am-6pm for the convenience of both working parents. The modern living arrangements that she speaks of do not take into account the never-changing requirement of children for consistent loving care during their early years. Nor does it consider the desire for some families to work less or for one parent not to work at all for a short time while their children are young. Mrs Truss expects children to have a longer working day than their parents, and as little opportunity for interaction with them as possible. Children are expected to cope with a reduced chance of chatting about their day’s joys and achievements or for parents to notice and nip in the bud a worry the child is developing. The childcare required has not only a financial cost but also a social cost to the next generation. Reform taxation to reflect dependants, and let people make their own choices regarding work, home life and childcare with their own money. Family life is too precious to meddle with in this way.’ Imogen Thompson, Stockport (a Mothers at Home Matter committee member)

and depend on, in order to benefit the minority who have been unable, for whatever reason, to provide their children with consistent, one on one, loving care, and whose children are therefore less able to function cognitively and emotionally. Wouldn’t it make more sense to support all mothers to provide their babies with what they most need, rather than just removing the babies and toddlers? Surely being disadvantaged is being in a family where a mother has been unable to choose to spend as much time as she instinctively feels is right with her baby because she has to work?

We speak up for mothers at home

We connect with experts in the childcare field
The Chair of Mothers at Home Matter, Marie Peacock, is in close contact with all the experts quoted in this article and is a member, on our behalf, of the Early Childhood Action group. Sue Palmer spoke at one of our AGMs, and her book on 21st Century Girls was reviewed in the last MAHM newsletter. The Independent, 6th Feb 2014 All-through Schools: From here to university (an extract) ‘In November, Baroness Morgan of Huyton, the chair of Ofsted, praised the work of all-through schools and sparked controversy by calling for more children to be enrolled in school-based nurseries, saying that radical action was needed to close the achievement gap between rich and poor children by the time they start school. Ark Schools is interested in how the idea could benefit its students, and next month will launch a review of

We represent mothers at home in the media
Costs of Childcare The fact that childcare costs more than some people’s mortgages has made the news headlines recently. In media interviews Mothers at Home Matter has made the points that: You can’t have cheap childcare. It will always be expensive to try to replace a mother. The Government is already ploughing £4.5bn into the Childcare and Early Years Intervention sector. Where mothers want to work for their own career prospects and enjoyment, why should the Government subsidise

Hi, I have just heard of your organisation. I love it! Thank you so much. My husband and I decided before we were married that I would stay at home for as long as the children (8,6,4) needed me. It’s not something that we would negotiate, and we are very creative about keeping our expenses to a minimum. Lots of people express bewilderment that I am not making use of a University degree but personally I find parenting an enormous challenge intellectually, and it’s great that I can help my husband with his work and keep the household running smoothly. No one seems to value domestic life any more.... or at least, think it’s worth devoting themselves to it. And people do indeed confuse “busy” with “important”. Our kids are orderly, happy, and fun! (and we don’t have a tv). Not meaning to sound self-righteous, I’m just very happy with this life, and I wonder if people are reaching for all the wrong things in our society. Lyndsey Simpson MAHM comment Thank you for the encouragement. We do believe that mothers at home perform an extremely valuable role. We campaign so that more families can choose to have a mother, or a father, at home full time if they wish. Motherhood is constantly underrated these days, and it’s encouraging to be reminded of the value of a mother at home.

We argue against the misconceptions and preconceptions presented by the Government
The beginning of this article about
schools taking 2 year olds reveals a great deal about this Government’s priorities for our children.

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An unjust tax system

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It can be uncomfortable and controversial to make the point that children benefit from having a parent at home full time. What is undisputed is that the Government discriminates against single income families and pours billions into ‘encouraging’ mothers out to work to very little obvious financial gain to the Treasury. This page illustrates how unfair the current system is.

disproportionately, as we don’t currently benefit from the tax free allowance).

he British tax system penalises single income families and makes no allowance for caring responsibilities. The loss of Child Benefit, actually called the ‘High Income Tax Charge’, has focused the minds of many families with one earner on the injustices in the tax system. A couple earning £40,000 plus £20,000 do not count as being on a ‘High Income’ and so will keep their Child Benefit, as well as being eligible for £1,200 of childcare tax breaks and £20,000 of tax free income. However, a family where one person earns £60,000 does qualify as being on a ‘High Income’ and so will lose their Child Benefit as well as only qualifying for £10,000 of tax free income and not gaining any tax breaks. This obviously discriminates against families with one parent at home. Mothers at Home Matter is campaigning for a transferable tax allowance and/or, ideally, income

splitting. Either measure would make a real difference to the incomes of families with a parent at home full time, or even where one partner is working part time to look after children and isn’t using their full tax free allowance. It would give families a real choice whether to have a parent at home full time or not.

Saving the Government money

This would reduce tax paid even further. Someone earning £60,000 would count as two individuals earning £30,000 each, thus enjoying £20,000 of tax free allowance and not having to pay any 40% tax.

Income splitting

Transferable tax allowance

This would allow the non-earning partner to transfer his/her tax free allowance of £10,000 to his/her partner. In practice, this would mean that the main earner would not start to pay tax until he or she had earned £20,000, instead of £10,000, a saving of £2000 a year. The main earner would not start to pay tax at 40% until he/she had earned £51,866, instead of the current £41,866. (The Government has increased the tax free allowance to £10,000 but reduced the level at which 40% tax is applied by £145 to £41866 from 42,011, which will affect single income families

The Government effectively pays for nurseries to exist and then pays parents to send their children there. The Government currently spends about 4.5bn on what they call early intervention and childcare. This includes £2bn on early education for three and four year olds (Pre School), leaving £2.5bn for childcare and early intervention, presumably nurseries. Ignoring any debatable suggestions that babies like nothing more than to be separated from their mothers and looked after by nursery workers, the real reason the Government pours this money in is because they think that working mothers will be a net contributor to the Treasury, partly through the reduction in Universal Credit payable when mothers bring in an extra wage, and partly through the tax contributions of the mother. In order to gain this income, the

Government funds nurseries, both directly through funding per child, and indirectly, through Universal Credit. They then pay parents to take up nursery places through childcare tax credits. However, the maths does not add up. The vast majority of families have a mother and/ or father working part time to enable them to spend at least some time with their much loved and valued children. Many part time parents will not earn significantly more than the tax free threshold of £10,000. Do they contribute more in tax than the £4.5bn spent by the Government on childcare? And is the cost of funding working mothers worth the emotional and possibly developmental cost of separating babies from their mothers?

True choice

Total Household income £30,000 £50,000 £60,000

£4,112 £9,822

Annual household tax due when one parent works

£2,224 £6,224 £8,224

Annual household tax due when two parents work (equal earners)

£1,888 (54% more) £3,598 (58% more) £5,598 (68% more)

Extra tax paid annually in a one earner family

£36.31 £69.19

Extra tax paid in a one earner family per week

The Government’s language is constantly about ‘choice’. However, their own statistics showed that 35% of working mothers want to be at home full time, and 57% want to work fewer hours to be with their children more. The Government has not introduced any measures to enable families to choose to have a parent at home full time. If the Government was committed to choice, they would establish a level playing field in the tax system and in their rhetoric. The tax credits available for babies in nursery would be available to all families, for them to choose whether they really do want to maintain two careers and fit childcare around these, which some families do, or whether they would actually prefer to use the money to subsidise lost wages and spend more time with their children. Transferable tax allowances or income splitting would hand money back to families to decide how to bring up their children themselves.

and want the best for their children, and both partners are extremely hard working, both in the home and out of it. Ironically, the current tax system is establishing a divide between families which can just about afford to pay a mortgage and support a family based on one income and those who can’t afford the penalisation they would face in the tax system if they didn’t both work. For those at the Universal Credit income threshold, it is almost impossible for one earner to increase their family’s income, as every extra pound earned costs 73p in lost benefits, National Insurance and extra taxes, so they only actually take home an extra 27p. However, if both partners work, they enjoy two tax free incomes of £10,000, so they can increase their income much more easily.

sick children or attend school functions. Many of us are actively involved in the community, running PTAs, helping with Home Start etc. We don’t draw tax credits from the Treasury for childcare. We even look after our working friends’ children informally. We currently contribute over and above our fair share of tax. We are surely a family model to be encouraged, not penalised. We are not calling for the £4.5bn currently spent on childcare to be shared equally amongst all families. We are simply campaigning for there to be a level playing field by removing the discrimination in the tax system against single income families. This would give families real choice.

AGM Finance Report

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I would like to thank our Honorary Auditor, Derek Holley who has once again audited the accounts.

Disadvantaged Families

£13,822

£107.65

Aspirational Families?

At Mothers at Home Matter we believe that there are many advantages for children in having a parent, and, in our opinion, particularly a mother, at home full time. The Government is removing this option from poorer families, and is therefore adding to the disadvantages these children face, in the name of helping them out of poverty by enabling their mothers to work.

£60,000 + 2 kids

£15,574

With Child Benefit tax charge factored in £8,224

£7,350 (89%more)

£141.34

In rhetoric terms, the Government should stop using the words ‘hard working’ or ‘aspirational’ to refer only to families where both parents work. Many families have a mother or father at home full time because they are aspirational

Stay at home parents: a good value family model

The softer side of the argument is that mothers or fathers at home full time can be a real benefit to society. We enable our partners to work productively as they don’t need to take time off to look after

n the year to 31 August 2013, our income from subscriptions was £7187, compared to £3878 last year, an increase of 85%, due to over 300 new members joining following the House of Commons event in March and subsequent publicity. Donations of £1770 were slightly less than last year (£1839), so overall total income has increased by 57%. Two newsletters were published this year. Website maintenance cost £467. Printing new leaflets cost £159. The AGM in November 2012 gave a small profit of £90 compared with a net cost of £77 in 2011. The premises cost £150, catering was £173 and books cost £59, giving total costs of £382, which were offset by ticket sales of £472. The cost of the event at the House of Commons was £1128 for catering, invitations, travel costs from Finland for Jonas and other miscellaneous items. The bank balance was £9949 at the end of August 2012 compared with £9838 last year. Thank you for your support – your subscriptions and donations mean that we can continue to raise the profile of mothers at home and highlight the needs of children. Pat Dudley

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An Inconvenient Truth
This article is based on research I conducted before appearing on BBC Breakfast tv as a spokesperson for Mothers at Home Matter, debating research indicating that children at nursery are more aggressive than children who are looked after at home by their mothers.

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re babies and children better off in nursery than at home? The Government, and some mothers, seem to think so. Are there any negative outcomes for babies or children who are in nursery? This is one of the key issues which Mothers at Home Matter has to debate because if it makes no difference whether mothers or nursery workers look after babies, then it is simply a matter of convenience whether babies go to nursery or not. It is also one of the most uncomfortable topics to raise. No mother wants to feel she isn’t doing the very best for her baby and I really don’t want to be the one to suggest that. Also, to be frank, I am uncomfortable making the point that my children benefitted from being at home with me, because their behaviour isn’t always obviously angelic, or, at least, better than their nursery-educated peers. With the caveat that very many nursery workers are dedicated and caring individuals who are doing their absolute best for the children in their care, I offer you a number of factors which highlight the potential dangers of nursery care.

they want and need? The nursery debate is almost always couched in terms of what mothers want (which is actually, often, to stay at home with their children as much as possible). But babies and children want and need to have unconditional, loving, responsive care from their mothers or fathers. The onus shouldn’t be on mothers to prove that we are special to our children, the onus should be on the Government to prove that separating an infant from its mother doesn’t do long term damage. It may not, but there are several studies indicating that it does. The Government is failing to put the needs of infants first.

Mothers vs day care

There are two factors. The first is that as much time as possible with the mother is essential for the healthy emotional and mental development of babies. The second is that time spent in day care is not only time spent away from the mother, but also is time spent in a stressful environment for the child.

Negative behaviour outcomes

Nurseries are no substitute for parental care
Mothers do not go out to work in order to pay for their children to go to nursery. It is not like private school. Babies and children go to nursery because their mothers have to work so someone else has to look after them. If we start from this premise, it is obvious that nurseries are almost never the first choice for a couple wanting the best for their children.

Taking the second factor first, the stressful environment of nurseries: the most thorough - wide scale and longitudinal – research from the US with longer term follow up shows negative behaviour outcomes for children who attend day care. This can be explained through the discovery that children in day care have higher levels of cortisol compared to children cared for at home, particularly in the under threes. When the vital relationship between a mother and a baby is disrupted, it causes stress in the baby brain. A consistent, loving parental relationship makes networks form in the developing brain which enable a child to handle stress in later life, achieve emotional self-control, and so relate sensitively to other people. These networks in the brain also influence emotional and physical health, such as obesity, in adulthood.

animals, it’s shown to damage the pre-frontal cortex. In children, damage to the pre-frontal cortex is associated with impaired control of emotions and can be harmful to ‘executive functions’ including control of inhibition, sustained attention, working memory and cognitive flexibility. Worryingly, high levels of cortisol are related to anxiety in adolescent girls and the release of testosterone in boys, leading to externalising behaviour and aggression. This has been borne out by increased reports of aggression in children. As a lay person, I think it is quite obvious that where a generation of babies and children have spent their days in the constantly stimulating environment of a nursery, surrounded by other babies and children, they are going to be used to operating at a more constant level of hyperactivity than babies and children in their own home, taking the day at their own pace, or at least at their mother’s pace.

between the needs of a 6 month old, an eighteen month old and a three year old. The studies that suggest that nursery provides the best start in life are all studies that consider children older than three and most often consider four to five year olds. The EPPE study is one of the best known. Fifteen hours a week early years education based on play does support children’s cognitive development, but the findings of this research should not be transposed to effects of long hours in group day care for babies and under threes who need consistent, one to one and responsive loving care. The majority of research which is informing policy for 0 to three year olds is research looking at the over threes. The age difference is significant because at around three, children are able to verbalise their emotions, before that they have to act out their feelings. For children, behaviour is language.

the best possible chance of a “good childhood” and a fulfilling, happy life, they need [their mother’s] constant, consistent, one-on-one personal care during the first two years at least.’ It’s logical and self-evident, but these days we have to prove it.

Recommendations

Hippocampal volume

On the dispassionate, scientific side, a study has been done into the correlation between the amount of maternal care received between the ages of three and five and the brain size age 7-13. Maternal support observed in early childhood was strongly predictive of hippocampal volume, which is related to the release of stress hormones. There is a clear link between nurturing and the size of the hippocampus. (Luby et al 2002.) This has potentially profound public health implications.

Oxytocin

Mother love

Cognitive benefits vs emotional disturbance

The problems of high cortisol

The needs of children

At its core, formal day care substitutes care by a parent who loves the child with care by someone who doesn’t. What about babies and children? What do

There are a number of studies that show that long hours in day care are not good for the developing brain (Vermeer et al 2006). The problem with high cortisol, or ‘stress’ is that it predicts brain changes in children. (Carrion et al 2007) In

A paper from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development by Professor Jay Belsky has found that the more time children spent in centre based care from 3-54 months of age, the more cognitively and linguistically advanced they were AND the more they manifested aggressive and disobedient behaviour. These effects were less pronounced in home-based care settings. And, in fact, many of these early linguistic benefits even out as the children grow older, whereas the emotional disturbance remains. So, care outside the home does seem to be the issue.

Returning to the importance of mothers, you only have to look at the way a baby or child interacts with their mother (or father) and the way a baby or child relates to a nursery worker, to see that mothers are the centre and focus of a baby’s life. Babies need their mothers and they need them in large doses. ‘Quality’ time can not replace quantity time. For a baby, the currency of love is time. Or, speaking more personally, much as I appreciate friends’ children, words cannot describe the passion I feel for my children. No one else can feel that same passion, and certainly not a nursery employee.

Mothers and children bring out the hormone oxytocin in each other. Oxytocin increases willingness to share one’s emotions socially and increases the depth of communication. Oxytocin improves the mind reading ability in humans, which makes a significant difference in building relationships. Neuropsycopharmocology 2013 concluded ‘parental oxytocin and early caregiving jointly shape children’s oxytocin response and social reciprocity.

Conclusions

Attachment

Differing needs for different ages
It is very important to distinguish

We know that attachment is vital for babies. They have to be well attached to a secure figure whom they know loves them unconditionally. This attachment is developed through proximity and eye contact and usually kicks in at about nine months, which is often the time at which maternity leave ends and babies are removed from their mothers to spend their days in the company of well-meaning but transient strangers and other needy babies. Attachment is crucial for many aspects of future psychological health. Sue Palmer has written, in 21st Century Girls, that for girls to have

We can never do a control experiment with children. We can’t know how they may have turned out in different circumstances. Today’s children are subject to numerous factors such as the damage that screen time inflicts on them and a consumer society which replaces the gift of time spent with parents with monetary gifts given in love. We can’t necessarily single out one factor as overriding. Many parents move heaven and earth to limit the amount of time a child spends in formalised care by working fewer hours, using grandparents or child minders and so on. A baby doesn’t necessarily writhe with uncontrollable cortisol the second it enters a nursery and if time in nursery is minimised, the damage will be limited. However, the studies emerging on nurseries are worrying for the future outcomes of our children.

Instead of pretending that babies love nothing more than to spend their days in the company of well-meaning strangers as their mothers skip happily off to spend their days doing something much more fulfilling than looking after the little people who make their hearts skip a beat with joy, this Government should be brave enough to take a serious look at the long-term consequences of our country’s ever increasing dependence on institutionalised care for under threes. The least they could do is allow families to choose how best to bring up their children, weighing the economic necessity of both parents working against their children’s visceral desire and innate need to be with their mother or father as much as possible. The way they could do this is to: • Stop discriminating against single income families in the tax system. Families on one income lose the second earner’s tax free allowance and have recently lost the family allowance that was renamed child benefit. It is not a benefit, it is an allowance against tax paid for earners supporting a family. • Stop fuelling the unrealistic costs of the housing market through measures such as the Help to Buy scheme and the failure to build enough homes. • Redistribute the £4.5bn being spent on the childcare and early years education sector to families and allow them to decide whether to pay for childcare and continue working or sacrifice an income to raise their children themselves. • Change the language which suggests that families where both parents are paid to work and children are brought up outside the home are ‘hard working’ and ‘aspirational’ and so, by implication, suggest that families who have sacrificed an income to raise their children themselves are not ‘aspirational’ or ‘hard working’. They want the best for their children. They are aspirational. • Stop denying any studies which point to possible drawbacks to babies and children being separated from their mother or father and brought up in the day care sector. Be brave enough to publish findings which may not feed into their agenda of getting all mothers working, regardless of the impact on their children and themselves. by Claire Paye

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A Meeting & a Dad’s Perspective
MAHM meets with the NCT
In January 2014 I was pleased to meet with the Chief Executive of the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) The NCT promotes itself as ‘the UK’s largest charity for parents’ and has a substantial membership throughout the country. It provides information and support on pregnancy, birth and parenting via a telephone helpline, local meetings, publications and information on their website. We discussed the important responsibility that parenting organisations have of showing the full variety of childcare choices available to parents in a balanced, unbiased manner, including mothers and fathers looking after their own children at home. By listing only ‘official’ paid-for options for childcare and not including such equally valid information about caring for children at home, an informed choice cannot be made when planning for the care of a new baby. In addition, a parent who already has the desire to stay at home with their child but cannot find this entry validated on a list of childcare options can often find their confidence in this decision wavering and self-doubt can creep in. The good news is that the NCT has agreed to update the relevant information on their website to include stay at home parents. Hopefully, this will be completed shortly and we look forward to keeping in touch with the NCT in the future. Imogen Thompson

considering our options regarding giving up work to look after our children and so we made the decision that I would give up work based on the simple fact that my wife was earning more than me. Looking after my 2 daughters is the most demanding, difficult, non-stop job I have ever done and also the most enjoyable and rewarding by far! At first it took time to get a routine going but

A Dad’s perspective
When my first child, Eimear was born in 2008 both my wife and I were working and using a childminder. With the birth of our second girl, Siofra in 2010, I just happened to come across a book called the Sixty Minute Father by Bob Parsons, this book really resonated with me and one quote I took out of it was ‘no one every said on their deathbed, I wish I had spent more time at work’. My wife and I had already been

once a routine is established it makes things run a lot smoother. I take care of all aspects of being a house husband from doing all the cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing as well as all the DIY. The decision to look after my children at home wasn’t just a monetary one. We felt the children could learn more at home and have more freedom of expression and not be governed as much by health and safety but instead to learn by their mistakes. I think this has worked. I made a point from the start to try and do as many courses and classes as I could cram into any free time that I had. The purpose was to use these as an aid to helping me be a better father to my girls and possibly pick up skills that I could use to retrain for a career in childcare when my children are both at school. Therefore I am now halfway towards my NVQ level 3 in Childcare and I have done several cookery courses, Basic Food Hygiene

“Raising children in today’s world can be daunting”

Certificate, Speech Therapy the list is massive! I have to say that every course that I went on, mostly through Surestart I was the only male. Now this was a bit daunting at first it was probably equally so for the women. I would not have known anyone being new to the area which did not help. There was quite a bit of whispering and such and the lady taking the course whilst doing her best in most cases to make me feel comfortable but I was often singled out and left out of conversations. I knew the other women were sharing stories, ideas and tips about raising their children and I would have loved to have been sharing in that invaluable talent pool but unfortunately I was excluded. It seems to me and I am sure, most people, that raising children in today’s world can be daunting and the support networks of old are often not in place ie family support structures, as is the case in my own situation and therefore I feel that organisations like Surestart are invaluable in a lot of ways in helping out. Although I was exluded from the mum’s conversations I did pick up a lot of invaluable information from the courses which helped me a great deal and I learnt a lot of useful tools which have helped me enormously to date. Perhaps in future it might be a good idea to try and structure courses slightly better in order to facilitate dads especially as the government offer shared praternity leave amongst parents. Although the uptake amongst the dads out there has been sitting at 0.6% in the UK nationally I think that these figures will increase in the future. I think dads offer a unique view of parenting and an invaluable knowledge base which needs to be tapped into. In my own situation I can see this. I find it amazing that as the breadwinner it is my wife that is doing the roles that I would have done whilst I was working ie coming home and playing with the children whilst I prepare dinner and on the other hand her day to day parenting skills when she is not working are not quite as, lets just say ‘up to speed’ as it is now me performing those on a daily basis. Jim Leonard

Letters

Thank you very much to everyone who has taken the time to write to us. We’ve published a range of letters here. We welcome any letters to info@mothersathomematter. co.uk or P.O. Box 43690 London SE22 9WN
Hi, I’ve been a member of the organisation for around seven years now. As you welcome opinions from members I thought I’d email. Obviously, the newsletter is an important tool for recruiting new members to our organisation. But time and again I find myself uncomfortable with the photographs of white, middleclass women and children, which dominate throughout. They are not representative of the multi-ethnic society we enjoy in the UK. We are (as far as I am aware) for ALL parents who are at home full-time with their children, or those who would like to be, but can’t be, because of their domestic situation. Lots of males are now at home looking after their children, and couples come in different combinations, not just male and female. Indeed you don’t have to be part of a couple at all to be a full-time parent, and actually there is an argument to say that single-parent families are in more need of our support, as they often find it particularly hard, if not impossible, to be at home with their children full-time because of financial constraints. It would be great if our newsletter reflected these issues more clearly. I hope you find my comments helpful. Best wishes, Julie Knowles Comment from MAHM Thank you to Julie for taking the time to write. Of course, Mothers at Home Matter represents all families who would like the choice to have a parent at home with their children as much as possible. We have recently been interviewed on Colourful Radio, based at the Oval in South London, and would welcome more members from ethnic minority groups.

Dear MAHM Just wanted to share something that has happened to me today, as a member I thought I would share. I am currently a stay at home mum through circumstances beyond my control and absolutely no support. I am at home with my 2 year old and have a 4 year old in school. I have gone on a course through my local children centre where they have given my son a crèche place which has been invaluable to me as I have so enjoyed the course and my son has loved the crèche. No one knows my situation and I have worked from when I was 16 right up until I had my first son nearly 5 years ago. A fellow lady on the course just said to my face without knowing me or my situation that I don’t deserve the free 15 hours nursery funding for my son as I don’t work, I don’t need it and people that don’t work go shopping!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WOW!!! This is what people think because of the bad portrayal of stay at home mums and the media surrounding the childcare issues currently. I have also had a comment recently that my children are disadvantaged!!! I am so fed up of this, no one knows us or what we have been through but we get slated. I get so lonely and feel so isolated at times at home because the government cuts have closed a lot of facilities around here for children and the children centre is also going through major changes. Also you need money to do a lot of things and with one income that is not always possible. My children are nowhere near disadvantaged, we provide a stable and secure home and they know who picks them up from school and drops them off, my children know I am here for them. We all deserve a break at times and this is what a nursery place would give me, a school nursery place more to the point and not a private nursery. Being home is exhausting and I have been ill many times due to the constant demands of motherhood and life. I do not judge anyone else’s situation as I know it’s a tough world, but why do people think it’s ok to talk to me like that!! I am sorry to rant on but this is why I joined you as a member as we need to tackle this together. Anonymous

MAHM comment: This is the sort of letter which encourages us to keep going with Mothers at Home Matter. One of our roles is to provide a voice in the media for mothers such as this one. We also run a Facebook group to allow members to share their experiences with each other: Mothers at Home Matter Too.

Children in a toxic world

It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that young people’s lives and mental health are being substantially compromised because of the demands of modern life (“Mental health risk to children trapped in ‘toxic climate’ of dieting, pornography and school stress”, 20 January). Sue Palmer and I composed two open press letters on this issue back in 2006 and 2007, signed by several hundred expert authorities from across the globe. But still, after all our campaigning, articles and books – still, hardly anything has changed. This is an appalling indictment of the toxic world that we adults are creating for our children. Effort must be focused upon those areas where we can make a difference. Most notably, if the will is there, governments have the ability to rein back the noxious “audit and accountability culture” that has engulfed our schools since the 1990s, in which we are examining and testing our children to death – and in some tragic cases, quite literally. Parents also need to view themselves as the proactive creators of modern culture, and not its hapless victims, especially in relation to the rampant technologisation of human communication, which should have absolutely no place in early and middle childhood. The Save Childhood movement and its “Too Much Too Soon” campaign are just two examples of emerging cultural initiatives which are challenging these trends, and which all concerned citizens can throw their weight behind, if we’re really serious about genuine grassroots change on this vital question. Dr Richard House Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, University of Winchester

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Marie Peacock 07722 504874 info@mothersathomematter.co.uk Anne Fennell 07957 232504 annefennellmahm@virginmedia.com Pat Dudley 01737 832598 info@mothersathomematter.co.uk Lynne Burnham 01737 768705 secretary@mothersathomematter.co.uk

Mothers At Home Matter COMMITTEE
Chair Vice Chair

Treasurer

Secretary

Membership Secretary
Sine Pickles 0208 2990156 Claire Paye 07972 727544

Newsletter Editor
media-claire@mothersathomematter.co.uk

Media Enquiries
media-lynne@mothersathomematter.co.uk

Lynne Burnham 07753 803915 Claire Paye 07972 727544

“Thank you for being a member of Mothers at Home Matter.” Please remember to increase your Standing Order to £12.50 for a single membership, or £15 for a joint membership with your partner. We are all volunteers on the committee and your membership helps pay for the following: Advocacy: We lobby the Government directly and through the media to recognise the importance of mothers being able to raise their children themselves. We campaign to stop the discrimination in the tax system against single income families and we point out the unfairness of pouring billions into families where both parents work. Profile: The media come to MAHM as first port of call for any topics affecting mothers at home. Our committee members are frequently invited to participate in media forums such as Radio 4’s Bringing up Britain, Newsnight and other high profile media outlets. Meetings: We feed into as many diverse organisations and campaigns as possible on behalf of mothers at home and children. Our recent meetings have included the Save Childhood Movement, the NCT, Project 28-40, All Parliamentary Groups, and Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company. Website: Our website draws together many articles covering issues affecting families. We also run two Facebook pages: Mothers at Home Matter Too, which is a page and Mothers at Home Matter, which is a group. Newsletter: We currently produce two in depth newsletters a year. We realise that many people prefer to read newsletters online. We will therefore, after this newsletter, be producing the newsletter in electronic format and emailing it to our members as well as posting it on our website. This will make it easier for you to forward to your MP, or anyone else you think may be interested or encouraged. If you would still like to receive a paper copy, we would be happy to post one to you. Please opt in to the printed newsletter by emailing info@mothersathomematter.co.uk or writing to PO Box 43690, London, SE22 9WN. As mothers at home full time ourselves, we recognise that finances are often tight, but we really appreciate the moral and financial support of members to enable us to continue campaigning on your behalf and being a voice for mothers at home.

Being a Mothers at Home Matter Member

media-claire@mothersathomematter.co.uk

Subscription Renewal
If you’ve already organised payment of this year’s membership subscription or have joined in the last 6 months please ignore the enclosed renewal form. Please don’t forget to increase your Standing Order at your bank to £12.50 for single members or £15 for couple membership. If you have changed your address or email, please let us know. If you would like to set up a Standing Order please complete the slip at the bottom of the Renewal form and send the form together with your cheque payable to Mothers at Home Matter to our PO Box. Alternatively you can pay online using Paypal. For any additional information, including our bank account details so you can set up a standing order yourself, please contact info@ mothersathomematter.co.uk

Laura Perrins 07708 664974 Anne Fennell 07957 232504 Imogen Thompson 07913 464323 Sarah Douglas-Pennant, Esther Peacock, Alexandra McVicar-Payling, Heather Ticheli, Alison Richards

Other Committee Members

Design Editor
Poppy Pickles

Kathy Gyngell Fiona Castle, Lady Griffiths of Fforestfach, Oliver James, Patricia Morgan
www.mothersathomematter.co.uk P.O. Box 43690, London SE22 9WN

Patrons

“Mothers at Home Matter members and committee represent a very wide range of political and social views. However, we all recognise the need to protect and celebrate the value of motherhood. Mothers at Home Matter is not affiliated to any political organisation. We welcome all who support mothers.”

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