Sexism and Childcare; Time for a Massive Rethink?



Pat Doran was born and brought up in Dundee and moved to Edinburgh for college and then worked in the university for five years. She had her first daughter in Edinburgh twenty years ago with Martin. They have moved around the UK and now live in Perthshire with one daughter still at home and one at university. She is employed as a Community Link Worker working with children and families in Perth and Kinross.  This is her first time blogging.



First blog ever! So I’ve chatted with a few young women – first year university students and S3 girls - in my work as a mother and as a community worker. I ask them the question, “What would happen to you if you got pregnant and had a baby now at your age?”

After some discussion, they agree they would likely suspend their studies, leave school or university - they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of accommodation and childcare. They would probably stay with or move back home with their parents if that was an option. They felt they would be unlikely to secure any work which would cover the cost of childcare. They would probably not be able to attend any further education or university courses then or even when their child attended school because of the cost of transport, accommodation and again, childcare.

I then ask the question of what would happen to the father of their child. They ponder whether or not the father would stick around. Whether he does or doesn’t, he would likely complete his studies at school or university, go on to get a job. They believe the young fathers would have no barriers to learning or work.

Mothers fare so differently from fathers. I’m not one for statistics – most can be manipulated and changed. I instead, focus on the stories. The real stories from real people.

I’ve heard about all the free childcare we get – so many hours every week for our 3 year olds which we didn’t get before. And now we’re allowing our nursery children to stay full days and for school dinners. For the sake of argument, let’s say a three year old gets a full-time nursery place. That would be from 9-3pm, so six hours per day, five days per week equalling 30 hours free child care.  Sounds amazing.

However, like the majority of workers, I’m not in a job that allows me to start at 9.30am and finish at 2.30pm in time to drop off or collect my wee one. Even when I worked part time, I had to find someone else to drop off and collect my child.

Even although I believed myself to be a feminist, we quickly fell into the routine that my husband earned more than me, so I had to look after the house, the kids, get a job around the kids, take time out from work when the kids were ill, organise and pay for the childcare out of my wages – there was one childminder in the village at the time and she was full up. I also had to drop the kids before work and pick them up after.

One time I was on a residential with work and I didn’t organise childcare for the following day. My husband freaked out and took the day off work. He simply couldn’t cope with the stress of asking around the village for people to take the kids before and after school. This was my daily routine – giving and receiving childcare favours. It was at this point that I realised how easy it was for him to go to work – get up, get shower, eat, drive to work. And how stressful it was for me. Every day. 

And it simply doesn’t have to be this difficult.

Why not have the 30 hours of high quality, council run childcare at times that suit parents and their work? Why not have childcare starting at 7.30am and finishing at 6pm? Parents could be allowed 30 hours free childcare per week within those hours. They don’t have to run around friends, family and neighbours begging for them to have the kids before or after school and nursery because, guess what – it’s provided!

Why not have this extended to every child at primary being entitled to 2½ hours free childcare every day to allow the parents to drop them at breakfast clubs and collect them from after school provision?

Why not pass a law that requires every single public building to have a crèche that provides childcare for employees? Every school, hospital, council office, parliament building, leisure centre. That way parents can go and have lunch and breaks with their child rather than spend all day away from them.

The cost of this? Who knows?

A children’s care home costs around £3,000 a week and some foster parents are paid £450 to £800 a week per child, but mothers can only get below-the-poverty-line welfare benefits, and kinship carers get paltry allowances or nothing at all.

Would it cost more than the new Forth Road Bridge? Would it cost more than the money spent on various waterfront or inner-city developments, dualing of the A9, Edinburgh trams/Edinburgh no trams/Edinburgh trams farce? It almost certainly wouldn’t cost as much as the money to be spent on the new HS2 rail route from Birmingham to London (estimated at £80 billion) or the Hinkley Nuclear Power Station which can’t even be costed because it’s so ridiculously expensive. Would it cost as much as any war we’ve ever been involved in? And don’t get me started on the cost of Trident…

Questions I am considering:

Would it be worth the cost?

Would the introduction of 30 hours per week of free, good quality, council run childcare between 7.30am and 6pm allow our more vulnerable children from struggling families the chance to play and be safe, healthy, active, included, nurtured, achieving, responsible and respected?

Would the introduction of 30 hours per week of free, good quality, council run childcare benefit over half the population – mums and dads, children, grandparents, carers?

Would the introduction of 30 hours per week of free, good quality, council run childcare for 1-5 year olds and 2½ hours per day for 5-12 year olds enable thousands of women to get a job that pays better because it doesn’t have to revolve around the kids?

Would the introduction of free, good quality, council run childcare allow our young mums the support they need to continue with their education and apply for jobs just like the young dads?

Is the provision of childcare so poor at the moment a deliberate, global, political move to keep women down – so utterly pre-occupied are we with organising/juggling or financing childcare or coping with our guilt and the fallout from upset children because we work too many hours to afford the childcare, and so on?

Do I want this same situation for my daughters, my nieces - and my future grandchildren?

Is it time to completely rethink the childcare provision in this country and in our global community?

Is it time for women to make a stand against the law makers, to say the childcare provision in inherently sexist and discriminates against women and indeed single parent families?

Is it time for a strike?

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