Who could underestimate the value of mothers? Well, the European Union, for a start. It told finance minister George Osborn last week that too many British mothers are choosing to stay at home and more must be done to get them out into work. According to EU figures, British women are twice as likely as those in the rest of Europe to choose not to work in order to care for their children or elderly relatives.
The government should provide more funding for child care places, the EU Finance report said. Not a mention of more funding for care of older people. Perhaps because they know they’d be beating a dead horse as austerity cuts are already suspected to have caused thousands of unexpected early deaths among the elderly. [i] Has the EU calculated how much money mothers are saving the government when they care for their elderly relatives? And what happens when an older person has no-one to care for them?
Around 2.5 million older people are living in isolation, suffering the feelings of loneliness that are known to increase the risk of dementia, and 900,000 are facing ‘catastrophe’, according to Age UK, because they can’t obtain funding for care.
Many mothers are already under so much pressure they’re known as the ‘sandwich generation’, squeezed between care for their children and care for their elderly; mostly with very little help from social care. It isn’t easy caring for grandma as well as your husband and children – not to mention yourself as well! It’s often sacrificial. One of our new little books has been written by a doctor who gave up work to look after her mother in law. Her working title hinted at the tension – ‘Why Grandma gets to eat jam first.’
But the EU doesn’t acknowledge the value of mothers. It isn’t interested in their wellbeing, or their children’s or elderly relatives’. It’s only their tax revenues that matter.
It’s an example of the thinking behind the greed and globalisation that is trampling the values this country has held for years. Knowingly and intentionally it is throwing older people on to the scrapheap.
We should be supporting our mothers as they care for their children and honour their old folk. Not putting even more pressure on them.