Are you productive?

I’m sitting outside, writing this for the first time this ‘summer’ and feeling productive. Except that politically, I’m not being productive as what I write in this blog won’t earn me money…so it doesn’t really count as being productive.

I listened to Radio 4 interviewing one of the new members of government talking about how they are going to create lots of new childcare places so that mothers can get back to work sooner – and of course, thereby be productive, because, after all, parenting doesn’t earn money so it’s not really productive is it?

How many of you have had the experience of people somehow feeling sorry for you or looking down on you if you are a full time carer?  Even us part-timers are sometimes seen as ‘uncommitted’ and so don’t get promoted or recognised as full timers do.  We’re an inconvenience.

I also got my pension statement, I whilst recognising that I’m lucky that I’ve got a pension, I also notice that I get less as although I have worked every year of my adult life, I have ‘only’ worked for money part time since the kids have been born and so I don’t get the full whack I would have done had I dropped the kids in full time child care and headed back to work.

My mum stayed at home for as long as she could to bring up us 2 kids, as a single parent, and then because she’d been out of the workplace for so long it took years of cleaning, clothes making, and shop till work before she reached the dizzy heights of the help desk and reception (both part time jobs with unsociable hours). So of course, she got very little pension, which probably serves her right; she should have gone back to work.

Except she couldn’t because when we were kids, women didn’t, there just wasn’t child care. And bizarrely mum thought that her role as parent was just about the most important role she could hope to do and wanted to do that full time for as long as she could. But she wasn’t being productive ie making money and paying taxes.

But she was: making jam, tatting rugs, teaching us to read before we went to school, talking to us, taking us places, going for walks with us, helping us with our home work, listening to our day when we got home from school, getting to know our friends and having them round to play, keeping us warm, fed, clothed and loved.

She saved the economy for having to pay for child care, for health care (as she would look after us at home when we were sick and she never took days off work sick as she wasn’t working). We turned out OK so she saved the money social services bills, police bills, mental health bills, criminal justice bills.  But she wasn’t being productive.

It makes me so mad that so much of the rhetoric at the election was about economics and productivity without considering social capital.  It didn’t even occur the the Radio 4 minister that some parents might not want to go back to work, they, like my mum, see parenting as a full time vocation, at least until school starts and event then, part time so they can be there to take their kids to school and pick them up after school.

Maybe there is even an argument that it might be better for the economy if parents didn’t have to go back to work for longer.  Good enough parents would be able to cook healthy food and save money to the health service in obesity treatments.  They could help children learn basic literacy and numeracy thereby saving money in education.  they would be home to check that their teenage kids are not roaming the streets or bunking off school so saving on community policing and education welfare.

Parents who are home more, also have time to build community links.  We meet at the school gate, we share lifts, child care, cake sales, school events and support each other.  We know each others kids and trust each other to have them round to play. We know when someone is poorly or needs a break and we pick up the slack.  We look out for each others kids as well as out own.  How can you put a price on that kind of social capital?

I consider myself to have one full time role and a number of other freelance or part time roles.  The full time roll is 24/7 if need be, it comes without pay, without pension, without social recognition – what kind of a world are we living in?

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