|Hewitt doesn't get it.
The author of the letter is, coincidentally, the Latin Mass Society Representative for part of Clifton Diocese.
I was interested to read the article ‘Invisible Workforce’, 27 April. As Jo Roughton says, the role of the stay-at-home mother is not properly acknowledged either by society or by the State.
Working mothers contribute to GDP and pay tax, factors which are easy to measure. The contribution made by stay-at-home mothers is not measurable in the same way, and perhaps for this reason, politicians and commentators tend to regard them as unproductive or even, in the words of Patricia Hewitt, ‘a real problem’. The good news for anyone concerned with family life, is that recent discoveries in the science of children’s brain development are making such bleakly utilitarian attitudes increasingly hard to maintain.
The wide body of research cited by Margot Sunderland inThe Science of Parenting, for instance, demonstrates that the majority of neurological pathways determining emotional and cognitive intelligence are laid down in the first three years of a child’s life. Science confirms the common-sense view that the optimum environment for this process is a stable home, with parents who love and respond to the baby as a unique individual. Where this is lacking, children can experience high levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, which inhibits the development of these crucial pathways. Tests have repeatedly shown that babies placed in daycare for long periods of time suffer a heightened state of stress, even when they look outwardly calm. They have learned that crying does not achieve the desired result – the return of their mother – so they withdraw, earning a reputation as a ‘good’ child. In over 75% of cases, Cortisol levels drop to normal as soon as the mother re-appears.
Often, a combination of economic policies and cultural attitudes inhibit a woman’s choice to be a stay-at-home mother. Since early exposure to high levels of stress is directly correlated to depression and aggressive behaviour in later life, this is an issue which, in one way or another, affects us all.
Caroline Shaw (Mrs)