It’s time for a revolution in childcare

Forget paternity leave – let’s have free childcare facilities for all.

Ella Whelan

Theresa May is making sure her last few weeks in power count for something. Though the policy is yet to be announced, the word on the Westminster grapevine is that one of her ‘legacy policies’ will include measures to offer fathers 12 weeks of paid paternity leave, in a bid to close the gender pay gap.

No, May has not outed herself as a radical feminist: the idea of improving paternity leave has been around for a long time. The 12-week suggestion comes from a recent Women and Equalities Committee report, which described the measure as a ‘use it or lose it’ incentive to push men into looking after their kids more. It is also an incredibly safe policy platform: one thing that unites radical feminists and insufferable men’s rights activists is the call for dads to be more involved in their children’s lives.

The policy has been met with concern from small-business owners, who argue that paternity leave is unaffordable for them. Higher up the capitalist chain, firms with high-earning male staff are grumbling, too, because they would have to shell out 90 per cent of dad’s salary for the first four weeks of his paternity leave (it would fall dramatically to the statutory pay rate of £148.68 for the remaining eight weeks).

Some have suggested that men earning over £100,000 should be ineligible for paternity leave. But, as former Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker pointed out, this ‘short-sighted’ suggestion misses a key point – high-earning men are often the least likely male workers to take paternity leave, and isn’t this policy about encouraging as many men as possible to take that leave? If the goal is to close the gender pay gap – which is most prevalent among high-earners like CEOs – what would be the point of excluding high earners from the policy?

The rest of us who can only dream of being able to earn more than £30,000 aren’t too bothered about narrowing the pay gap for high earners. But May’s proposal does open up an interesting question about childcare in general. While more generous provisions for parental leave are always welcome, will giving new dads a few more weeks off really benefit women?

The answer is no. Sure, women are no longer shackled to the kitchen sink, but it is still mothers who are expected to take the afternoon off when their four-year-old gets sick. It is mothers who remember to put the doctor’s appointments on the calendar, notice when shoes are becoming too tight, attend the daytime assemblies and the nighttime parents’ evenings. Women are no longer institutionally restricted to playing a gendered role in society. But when it comes to kids, our informal position is still clear: we do the lion’s share of maintaining home life.

In order to give women the freedom to choose whether or not to take on this main role in the raising of children, we should drastically rethink our approach to childcare. They say it takes a village to raise a child – perhaps it’s time we made this hackneyed expression a reality. Rather than fiddling about with pennies for different kinds of parental leave, why not socialise childcare in the same way we do with healthcare? Why not revive the old-school radical demand for state-provided, good-quality childcare free at the point of access? If we agree that the health of the populace is a national project, why shouldn’t the raising of the next generation be one too?

There have been some interesting experiments in childcare in recent years, including the merging of nursing homes and nurseries, which has been an enriching experience for intergenerational relationships. Socialising childcare would throw up all kinds of interesting questions, forcing us to have some much-needed debate about the kind of values we want to instil in the next generation. It would also be a genuine step towards giving women free choice when it comes to job opportunities, by eliminating the toss-up between affording childcare and working. Full-time mums could drop off their kids for an hour while they take language lessons. Part-time cashiers would no longer feel guilty returning late to the pissed-off childminder because a customer sucked up their time.

If there is one thing to learn from today’s chaotic political landscape, it is that half-measures and technocratic tinkering will no longer wash with an electorate that wants real change. What better time to try out some radical ideas? We could start with a serious overhaul of how our society looks after kids.

Ella Whelan is a spiked columnist and the author of What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Claire D

2nd July 2019 at 10:44 am

Gender Roles Theory is just that, a theory, not an ultimate truth.
Human beings are either men or women over 99% of the time. It was biology which largely dictated the behaviour of women up until the 20th century when technological advances in the area of domestic appliances and sanitary wear ( all invented by men ) increasingly freed women to compete in the job market. Also, since the 1960s women have been able to modify their femininity by the use of medical contraceptives, effectively altering their hormonal systems to make themselves temporarily ( at least ) infertile, and therefore available as reliable employees.

Governments have come to depend on women worker’s taxes and ruthlessly, cynically use Feminist and Equality arguments to encourage more and more women away from home and family into the workplace.
The whole ‘ shackled to the sink ‘ scenario is feminist propaganda. Many, many women would happily remain at home when their children are small, or longer, if they could afford it.

Most mothers get very anxious when they have to work and their children are sick. State sponsored childcare is not the answer. Sick children need to be nursed and cared for by someone who LOVES them.

Let’s have some humanity please.

Gerard Barry

1st July 2019 at 4:52 pm

I wish the state would stop trying to reengineer society by interfering in family life. Why is everyone in such a rush to abandon traditional gender roles? Do we think that our ancestors were all stupid for doing things more conventionally?

Marvin Jones

1st July 2019 at 3:07 pm

Hardly a word about the trials and tribulations of the employer. They are expected to pick up the bill
for everyone’s obsession to breed. People get free money as child benefits, so if you lot want offspring, make damn sure you can afford it.

Per Svendsen

1st July 2019 at 2:33 pm

Theresa May is like most EU politicans a Lucyferian. EU is not a democrasy, it`s an elitist organisation, who dreams about building their own army, to stand up agines USA, China and Russia. This is the `30`s again, and Germanys rising. Tre years prison for burning the blue towel with yellow pentagrams. We, the nationalists who want to keep our states souvereign are demoitased all over Europe, its far worse than in US, but thenk you, Mr President (Trump) You bring back our hope for the future. But I will feel safer if US build that NATO base in Poland, not to protect us from Russian agresion, but the EU, the Luceferians who build the tower of Babael as their Parlament.

Hana Jinks

3rd July 2019 at 12:17 am

The blue towel with yellow pentagrams…lol

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30th June 2019 at 5:37 am

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Mark Williams

30th June 2019 at 1:59 am

Of course the real reason why feminists want “revolution in childcare” is because the State would be handed more of a role in raising children. Once the State is involved, feminists can move to influence what is taught at State-run and private childcare institutions. It’s another attempt to attack the institute of the family, which in the past was a bulwark against feminist ideology.

It’s the same story with LGBT issues being taught in schools. Here in Melbourne, Australia, Safe Schools — funded by the Victorian government — teaches children that gender is “non-binary” and other such unscientific feminist nonsense. Likewise, under the Victorian government’s “Respectful Relationships” programme, more man-hating drivel is taught to young boys.

Make no mistake: This has nothing to do with involving men more in children’s lives. It has nothing to do with the propagandist nonsense that is the “gender pay gap”. It’s an attempt by the far left — to which all feminists must now subscribe or be cast out — to influence the education of our children.

And it must be stopped.

In Negative

30th June 2019 at 3:55 pm

“Of course the real reason why feminists want “revolution in childcare” is because the State would be handed more of a role in raising children.”

Man, I’m so happy that someone out there knows the ‘real reason’ for something. That’s SUCH a relief!

But seriously, I’m kinda bored at this idea that people are the product of inculcation. You are a bit like the feminist who says “Women are this way and that because ‘the patriarchy'”, only for you it’s “x is this way or that because the state and the feminist agenda”. I use ‘X’ here because I have no idea who it is you think has been moulded by ‘the state’ and the trans-agenda. Probably those who advocate and perpetuate the feminist and trans-agenda?

And how are they different to those who in the past advocated and perpetuated the agenda of the family, which served as a bulwark for protecting us against such weird and deterritorialising things? Why has the illusion of the family lost so much ground to the illusions of gender-fluidity and fluid identity?

It isn’t a matter of teaching. The idea these things are taught seems to me to be ludicrous. These things are felt far more deeply than anything that can be merely taught – my own anti-christ, blasphemy postures in school came out of the fact I was inculcated with good ole C of E religion. Kids respond to information, like adults, in all kinds of interesting and creative ways.

That the state teaches what it teaches – be it God, the virtues of the family or the values of the PC – is a reflection of what we are now socialy. Our new reason precedes that which is taught. Pedagogic content without a complimentary seduction is beyond ineffectual. Ones truth is much deeper than what can be taught.

Claire D

2nd July 2019 at 5:20 pm

I’m not sure you can reasonably compare ‘ the family ‘ with gender fluidity. The family is not an illusion either in the present day or historically, or archaeologically, or anthropologically. There is a mass of evidence for it’s existence over thousands of years in all countries worldwide.
By contrast there is very little evidence of gender fluidity on anything like the same scale, what there is appears at times of social disintegration in over-crowded cities, eg, Rome just before the fall of the Roman Empire and Berlin in the decade leading up to WW II.

Stephen Wilde

29th June 2019 at 8:20 pm

The cause of this problem was the decision to take the second earner’s income into account in deciding the maximum mortgage that could be taken on a home.
As soon as that happened house prices rocketed due to increased affordability and no longer could one earner (whether male or female) support a family.
Beware of unintended consequences.

James Hillier

28th June 2019 at 7:24 pm

“The 12-week suggestion comes from a recent Women and Equalities Committee report, which described the measure as a ‘use it or lose it’ incentive to push men into looking after their kids more.”

I find it difficult to remain civil about this. The Women and Equalities Committee, which really should just drop the “and equalities” part of its title, only ever considers men either as an obstacle or a facilitator of women’s rights. Men and boys never merit consideration in their own right. The WEC’s record on issues facing men and boys is shameful.

And why is the state assuming that it has the right and the duty to take on the roles goad and scold? Give couples the right to decide themselves how they divide their time off to care for infants.

Alexander Allan

28th June 2019 at 2:36 pm

Not surprising that the radical feminist Ella Whelan’s solution is to abandon her child/children to the state as a surrogate mummy so she can go and play at being daddy. This would require more taxes, a lot more taxes.

The revolutionary idea would be to stop state benefits that pander to feminists, reducing taxes and women in the workforce so that take home wages increase for men so that they can support their family without the mother of their children having to abandon the children to the fate of the state, which we know is seeks to indoctrinate the young with extremist ideology. In conjunction promote motherhood as a priceless endeavour to be applauded and not scorned as some mythical enslavement to the kitchen sink.

James Hillier

29th June 2019 at 11:33 am

The state should promote parenthood as a necessity to any community which seeks to thrive or even persist. But why should the state promote a politicised, and frankly slightly folkish, concept of motherhood? The state should, through laws, create a level playing field. Then let people do as they please, as long as they are not infringing on the rights of others. If some women want to say at home, fine. If some men do, fine. If some couples both want to work and put their kids in care, also fine. None of anyone else’s business, regardless of aggregate outcomes.

gershwin gentile

28th June 2019 at 1:41 pm

I’ve got a mind blowing revolutionary idea: Look after the kids you choose to bring into the world. Don’t dump them on strangers for most of the day then act surprised your kids don’t relate to you as much as the Teletubbies.

In Negative

28th June 2019 at 7:55 pm

A fascinating piece of work, the Teletubbies:

Gender-neutralised, sexless dysphorics stand on the surface of a technicolour alien planet, purged, as if by some sterilising cataclysm, of all society and environmental textures. From this standpoint, these defeatured aliens, observe like patronising scientists through embedded TV screens, the world of human habit and social practise from which they are so absolutely disconnected.

And all this beneath the grinning face of the sun-god – the benevolent mirror of the spectating baby itself, who in some way persides in narcissism over these aliens that serve it and present the world to it

So this is my Friday night, how’s yours going?

James Hillier

29th June 2019 at 11:34 am

I think you might be taking the Teletubbies a bit too seriously.

Hana Jinks

28th June 2019 at 9:30 am

What’s an “insufferable men’s right’s activist”? I’ve never heard of them. Are they anything like feminists?

Hana Jinks

28th June 2019 at 9:23 am

I’m a little confused. Are you saying that we should all go to work so as some of us can become glorified babysitter’s? Because it’s just that it’s a fairy slippery slope in that in some countries, these women are starting to get pretty Bolshie about being recognised. I guess it’s no worse than writing silly little stories, but if you’re dreaming of making not-even average wage, then wouldn’t your family be better off if you were a stay-at-home mum anyway?

christopher barnard

28th June 2019 at 8:55 am

The way to revolutionise childcare is to expect one parent to stay at home to look after the children.

That is how it was for most families until the recent past.

All alternatives are never going to be adequate because the majority of us cannot earn enough at work to be able to afford to pay others a decent wage to look after their small children – especially as we move towards becoming a low wage economy.

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