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Our work is about love, empathy and family time. We focus on the sort of 'care' that is given and received within families and particularly (but not exclusively) the unconditional love and care given by mothers. When mothers, fathers, grandparents and other family members are able to support each other, it's the very best start we can give our children. Family life offers the loving base and sense of belonging that all children need from infancy through to negotiating the challenges of young adulthood. Sadly, successive governments have failed to consider the needs of families and many parents are 'time poor', as well as struggling financially.
Our campaigning group MAHM was launched back in 1991 in the face of relentless social and economic pressure on mothers to return to paid work outside the home when their children are still very young. It is run by volunteers throughout the UK. We also get messages of support from people who want to see more value placed on the importance of relationships and family life in our society. We work hard to build links with other like-minded organisations and individuals.
The situation for a parent at home has worsened considerably in recent times ( 2013), with lots of obstacles in the way of caring for family.
There are considerable social pressures to return to paid work. When ante-natal friends start drifting back to paid work, especially when they have extended family nearby to help out, being at home can be a lonely place if you don't have enouragement from family and wider community. It doesn't help when parents who both work outside the home are referred to as 'modern families', as if having one parent at home means you must be 'old fashioned'! In fact caring for your child is as modern and progressive a choice as any other and children's needs have not changed.
There are financial obstacles to providing what's often referred to as 'informal care' (as opposed to formal paid care contracted out to others). For example there's no recognition of the costs involved and that a mother gives up all or most of her income when she looks after her children for a period of time. In reality there is no such thing as 'cost-free' childcare (in the wider sense of the word) for any family, so it's puzzling that the govt proposes to recognise only the costs of registered daycare such as nurseries or childminders. In recent months the govt has proposed generous tax-free childcare allowances for households where all adults are in paid work - and they want this to be available on very high joint incomes up to £300,000: meanwhile other working families coping on far lower incomes or just one salary are sidelined in policy. Furthermore many parents on a fifth of that amount have lost child benefit (whilst some dual-income parents on comparatively higher incomes retain eligibility for child benefit). Few people realise that one-earner parents with care responsibilities at home already pay far higher tax than their dual-earner colleagues on same overall income, so it makes little sense to penalise them further in withdrawing child benefit and by targeting tax-free childcare allowances only when all adults have a paid job. No wonder both parents are often forced to work longer hours with little choice other than to outsource childcare to someone else.
We are also very concerned about the conditions placed on households who'll depend on support from Universal Credit. Will family responsibilities at home be factored in? How much pressure will there be on second earners to return to work? Preliminary research seems to indicate that the second adult will be encouraged to sign up for interviews even when he/she has significant care responsibilities at home.
The world might move on, but children's needs do not change.
MAHM is not just about the 'early years' - we believe it's important for someone to be there for the children in the middle and teenage years as family circumstances and pressures change. The availability of decently-paid part-time work during the school years (particularly secondary school) is key to achieving balance for some parents with care responsibilities. However much will depend on individual family circumstances, number of children, extended family support and other commitments. It is not always practical or desirable for the second adult to engage in paid work and this must be respected.
We're now seeing an unprecedented level of interest in our work. It has become clear to an increasing number of parents and commentators that single-wage families are being treated unfairly (whether it's mum or dad at home taking care of the children). The message from government is for both parents to 'go back to paid work' and for young children to go to nursery, often full time. There appears to be very little understanding in policy circles of a child's need for family time and the loving one-to-one care that babies need. We also question whether older children should be spending long hours in so-called 'wrap around' care - often longer than an adult's working day - when they often just want to chill out at home or meet their friends.
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To JOIN US look up this section: http://www.mothersathomematter.co.uk/join-us
We rely on membership subscriptions (£10 per year) and donations. You can join through Paypal or by sending a cheque payable to Mothers At Home Matter to PO Box 43690, London SE22 9WN. Ours is a non-profit-making organisation and we have no paid staff.
Our FACEBOOK 'page' MOTHERS AT HOME MATTER TOO is linked from this website. Connect with us to share ideas about how we can challenge family policy and start to build a more family friendly society - one where home life and invisible 'care' work is valued.
WRITE TO YOUR MP - it makes all the difference. Look this page up to contact him/her: www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
Contribute to the MAHM Blog by writing to
. We're interested in articles from parents as well as from experts in their field - Economists, Child Psychologists and anyone who has a personal or academic interest in this debate.
Our campaigning aims
a) To highlight a child's developmental need for sensitive, loving and consistent family-based care - and parents' wishes for more family time.
Separating a baby from its mother too soon can be detrimental to their joint health and wellbeing. Later on a child's mother or father is ideally placed to provide the reliable care that a child thrives on in the crucial early years. Throughout childhood It's important for society to value the time that parents - often the mother- invests in taking good care of children, including older children. This is reflected in personal, social, emotional and cognitive benefits for children.
MAHM is concerned that despite a better understanding of the developing brain and the importance of loving interaction and communication, there's an increasing number of 'baby-rooms' in nurseries and this is fast becoming accepted as the 'norm' - but is it? We applaud the work of dedicated staff in childcare settings but many countries make different arrangments so infants don't have to start group care in nursery so early in their lives. The length of a typical day is also a matter of growing concern and childcare from 8am until 6pm is clearly designed to accommodate parents' working lives and commuting time, rather than a child's needs.
b) To challenge family unfriendly socio-economic systems which makes it increasingly difficult to devote any time to 'being there' for the children. The current UK Taxation System and the introduction of Universal Credit all fail to adequately factor in family care responsibilities. Withdrawal of Child Benefit, which mainly affects mothers, has hit families hard, whilst others on far higher incomes retain their CB entitlement.
We campaign vigorously for changes in the tax system, which currently discriminates against hard-working couples with one adult at home caring for dependents' needs. Not many people realise that a one-wage couple, with either mum or dad at home, pay substantially more tax than a two-earner family despite being on the same household income. A full transferable tax allowance (rather than partial) - or income splitting (our preference) - would signal a more family friendly taxation system recognising that modern families should be treated as households, not as individuals, with parents operating as a team, sharing work and care between them. When parents lose one income (or most of one income) due to family care responsibilities they need equal treatment through fairer taxation in the same way as two-income parents call for tax breaks to help with childcare they outsource to others. Providing care at home is never cost free...a level playing field for all children and their families means recognising and valuing the time invested by a parent ( in the same way as others call for an allowance towards their nursery bills!). Although the govt talks about 'choice' , in reality there is very little choice for most couples, and this is partly due to outdated taxation policies and what might be referred to as 'SATCH' - the 'Single Earner Tax Charge'. Contrary to what some commentators say, a transferable tax allowance is not a 'perk' - it is merely a way of correcting the current imbalance and tackling the couple penalty.
We are currently looking into the impact of plans to introduce Universal Credit. If you would like to share your concerns about how UC is likely to affect your family finances please write to us at
The conditions placed on households before they can claim - or retain benefit - seem to neglect acknowledgement of family care responsibilities at home, particularly when a child is over 1 years old, and this is deeply troubling.
We challenge the removal of universal child benefit from some mothers in middle-income families, whilst other families on far higher household incomes retain eligibility for child benefit! You can lose it on £50k-£60k but retain it at joint incomes of £98k! People mistakingly assume that only wealthy mothers will lose out but this couldn't be further from the truth! It cannot be right that a mother who has given up her entire salary to 'be there' for her children, or the second earner (usually the mother) who works in a low paid part-time school-hours job, has lost entitlement to child benefit. To date there has been no satisfactory explanation from policy makers who refuse to engage in this debate. Child Benefit will now be clawed back through taxation ( a 'tax charge') which means that many families in the UK face a marginal tax rate higher than millionaires and higher than other OECD countries. In 2014 many families will feel the impact of these changes for the first time.
Tax allowances and subsidies for childcare:
Household debt and high housing costs make it difficult for many families to meet their bills and maintain a decent standard of living, and this includes hard-working taxpaying families, whether managing on one income or two. We challenge the misguided analysis that the 'key' lies in more paid work for every parent and for yet more subsidies for commercial childcare. Most families have 'care responsibilities' at home and it's essential for groups like ours to keep campaigning for 'fairer family taxation' as they already have in most other countries. The UK is unique in not recognising family responsibilities in the taxation system. In France there is a system of 'shares' so that couple parents and single parents are treated fairly when raising children.
c) For all mothers' voices to be represented fairly in policy because at the moment there is no mechanism for hearing the views of invisible mothers during the years spent at home. In this way we hope to enhance the status and self-esteem of mothers who have a strong 'preference to care' and who take time out of the workplace. The same applies to home-dads.
MAHM believes that a mother working in her own home makes a vital contribution to the welfare of society. This should be recognised and respected. We need politicians to understand our concerns and priorities - it's not a stage that lasts forever, but it's arguably the most important stage of all. We challenge a system which, despite decades of feminism and equal rights, continually downgrades the work of mothers (or home-dads - basically anyone who looks after dependents ) during the caring years.
Who are our members?
Membership is open to mothers, fathers, grandparents, working parents and anyone who supports our aims, regardless of working status, age or marital status. You don't have to have children of your own to join. We are a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, education and political leanings. Many of us are mothers who, against all the social and financial odds, are at home with our families because this is where we feel we're needed at this particular point in time. Some mothers work from home or have moved on to part-time employment, but continue to support us - and some are back in full time paid work responding to changing family circumstances. We also get messages of support from other groups - eg health visitors, researchers, parenting workers, teachers, childminding mothers, as well as politicians and journalists.
Please support our campaign. Join Us!
What mothers do may not be paid work, but it's a very real contribution and matters a lot.
Images courtesy of doodlemum.com