14/08/2014 16:49 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Speak For Yourself, Liz Truss, Says This Stay-At-Home Mother

Speak for yourself, Liz Truss, says this stay-at-home mother

Oh no. Liz Truss is at it again with unsolicited advice for families.

Not content with deriding the work of the country's nursery teachers by rubbishing their efforts - apparently our nurseries are full of unruly toddlers running around with no sense of purpose, now she's going after another sitting duck - stay-at-home mums.

According to the education minister, a worrisome 50 per cent of stay-at-home mums say they want to go out to work but are prevented from doing so by the cost of childcare. (Of course the Government's plan to introduce tax breaks for working mothers just so happens to be the perfect solution to that trifling problem).


To my mind what's much more worrying is this new generation of unruly self-appointed family experts who persist in dressing up their personal parenting preferences as good policy and citing half-truths as if they were statistical analysis.


Let's break this down, shall we? Liz Truss says 50 per cent of stay-at-home mums want to go out to work but can't afford the childcare. Leaving aside for a moment the rather critical question of where that statistic came from, that must surely mean that 50 per cent of stay at home mums don't want to go out to work.

In other words the figures appear evenly split between mums who'd like a job but find the costs of childcare prohibitive, and those who are presumably at home through choice. So why hone in on those who say they want to work when they're not even a majority?

Furthermore I can't be the first person to wonder if the 'prohibitive costs of childcare' line is sometimes a get-out-of-jail card for mums who might not exactly be relishing every moment of being at home with their babies, but who know they can't just click their fingers and land themselves back in a well-paid, flexible, stimulating career.

As my friend Cathy pointed out, there are surely likely to be more mums whose return to work is hastened and indeed driven by financial pressures than there are mothers who stay home involuntarily for the same reasons.


I wish the Government would acknowledge that the cost of childcare is only the tip of the iceberg that currently looms over women wanting to return to the workplace.


The gender pay gap - recent figures show that female law graduates can expect to receive starting salaries of £8,000 less than their male counterparts - coupled with sexual discrimination against women and the inflexibility of the average modern workplace means that mothers face a myriad of overwhelming challenges before they set so much as a single foot back in the office after giving birth.

Liz Truss would do well to give some thought to how, in her role as education minister, she might help equip today's children to eradicate these issues by the time they're the ones hiring and firing. Because who cares how quickly we rush back to work after having babies if the working world those children will eventually inhabit will still be plagued by the same archaic injustices?

I'm not saying that by staying at home with my lads I instilled in them values around equality that they might not have otherwise had, but I do believe I showed them that they are of greater importance to me than the validation that I glean from my work, and any of the nice things that it enables us to buy.

That's undeniably the best investment I've ever made and one I'm never likely to regret, even though there were days where I thought the boredom and domestic drudgery might kill me outright.

Even if the Government provided every family in the land with its very own Mary Poppins to take care of the kids - heavily subsidised of course, and perhaps bearing something more nutritional than sugar to help the medicine go down - returning to work once you've had children is still a darn sight more problematic for the average woman than Liz Truss seems to recognise.

I'm not sure where the education minister is getting her facts from - presumably she's visited nursery schools the length and breadth of the country to qualify that comment about unruly toddlers - but I chose to be a stay-at-home mum until both my sons reached school-age.

Admittedly they were both granted places at the nursery units of our local primary school so I was effectively granted free childcare for both of them once they turned three years old, but had that not been the case I would have continued to care for them full-time until they went to school.

I certainly didn't consider myself 'stuck' at home with the kids out of necessity purely because I couldn't afford alternative childcare. Together, my husband and I made a conscientious decision that I would be the primary carer for our children during their early years.

And frankly if Ms Truss thinks she can rewrite facts like those by implying that women like me only stay at home because of financial constraints which would be magically alleviated by tax breaks for working couples, then she should really consider spending a little more time inside the educational establishments for which she has been deemed responsible.

A lesson in basic economics might be a good place to start.

What do you think?