Mothers and work

The Times - 16 Jan 2018

Sir, The key finding of a major study, that mothers with very young children report greater levels of unhappiness if they work full-time (News, Jan 15), should serve to reshape the political debate on equalising children’s life chances. Maternal mental health and the attachment between a mother and her young child are two of the strongest drivers in determining life chances. If parents are being ground down by the twin demands of full-time work and parenting, resulting in the attachment between them and their young child becoming strained, the child’s life chances suffer; this attachment is crucial for the child’s proper physical and psychological development.

Our system of benefits for families with children should be reshaped, by offering to frontload payments that parents would be free to draw down in the child’s first years of life, to reflect the fact that it is often better for children and their parents to spend the first years together, building the foundations that will enable the child to flourish. Parents making such a drawdown would draw smaller benefits when the child was older, when both parents could be working. Such a reform would be a long overdue step, allowing public expenditure to match people’s needs rather than forcing them to draw payments over a set number of years.

Frank Field, MP
House of Commons