A woman’s work

“DON’T stress out. Our kids are just fine when their mothers work late,” was the opening of an article by Jessica Valenti in Wednesday’s Guardian in which she asserts that young mothers should be relaxed about having to work long, late hours because it does no lasting harm to their children.

This is one of those issues that seems at first to be a gender issue but is really a class issue. Children will not suffer while their mothers are at work — if they are being well cared for and if it does not mean them being left alone worrying and wondering when their mother will get home. And in our society childcare like that is impossibly expensive for all but the highest earners.

But for working class mothers it is another matter. The official childcare that is available is expensive and will rarely continue into “unsocial hours”. Nursery employees have homes and families to go to as well. Any mother who is repeatedly late in picking up their child will not be popular and will probably be told their custom is no longer wanted.

Informal childcare arrangements usually involve grandparents or neighbours or unregistered childminders. They also will not be very happy if the mother repeatedly turns up late. Some couples have arrangements where one minds the children while the other works and vice versa. When one parent is late home, the other will have to be late starting their work shift or the children will have to be left alone.

And women are now under pressure to get back to work as soon as possible after having a child. Single parents can face benefit sanctions if they do not accept any possible job, regardless of hours. This is why on late night public transport many family groups of women and children of all ages are seen on their way home, with their late night shopping. This particularly affects those children who have to attend school the next day and follow what the teachers are teaching, although they are very deprived of sleep. The mothers know this but have no choice.

This is setting up children to be losers and drop outs. Those who fall behind because they are too tired to keep up soon get bored, restless and demoralised.

But the question that has to be asked is who actually benefits from mothers — or fathers — having to work long late unsocial hours? It is the bosses, every time.

There are few types of work that have to be done late in the day: hospital work, caring, emergency services and those who maintain essential utility supplies. There is no sane reason why any kind of office work cannot be done in normal office hours. Why is it acceptable for the greed and avarice of the bosses to disrupt the normal life patterns of mothers, fathers and children? Why do we tolerate this?

Jessica Valenti is trying to reassure mothers who are under pressure to work unsocial hours that it will do no harm to their children. But what harm does it do to the women themselves? It sends then home exhausted, stressed and still with childcare responsibilities.

It never occurs to our rotten greedy capitalist system that workers, men and women, should be entitled to rest, leisure and to be able to enjoy the company of their children — during daylight hours. There is no doubt that children of stressed parents who do not get enough rest and leisure will be affected.

This is yet another example of the way the one per cent has brainwashed the rest of us into adapting ourselves and our lives to their needs at the expense of our own.

In socialist societies like the DPR Korea there is an eight hour day and that’s it. No overtime. Go home and relax with the family. Go out and enjoy the new recreation and leisure parks together. Have fun. Or have workers in Britain started to forget what fun is?