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Home | 2016 | July

Devaluing the family

Posted by Thersites on UTC 2016-07-10 11:14. Updated on UTC 2016-10-04

The strongest social bond is surely that between parents and their children.

Of course this does not mean there cannot be great bonds between friends and lovers, nor that the parent-child bond is equally strong in all families, nor that childcare is of a universally high standard. If you don't want to hold this truth to be self-evident, there is plenty of evidence that it is in its generality valid, because parents who raise children do so at great cost to themselves.

There is the financial cost: a recent estimate came up with a figure of around £230,000 for raising a child to the age of 21. About £63,000 alone is spent between between the ages of one and four, meaning that a family in their twenties who have three children at two-year intervals will have these costs overlapping for eight years.

Of course, such figures vary as much as the couples they are supposed to represent, but when you also take into account loss of income and career impacts, parents with children can justifiably look upon their childless friends with economic envy: their friends can afford holidays, weekends away, new clothes and a nice car. Perhaps no one told them when they decided to start a family that over the next 25 years or so that family would cost them the best part of £700,000. They will find out for themselves soon enough.

There is a social cost: childless people don't have to arrange their lives around schooling, don't have to spend their weekends dragging themselves around petting zoos, water slides and junior league football matches when they would rather be stretched out on the sofa with a glass of chilled white port reading the new complete edition of the works of George Orwell; they don't have to sit quiet and compliant while idiot teachers point out their parenting defects, don't have to spend years driving the little darlings everywhere and hours waiting in casualty departments while their skateboarding injuries get patched; they don't need to attempt to enforce bans on tattoos, drugs, smoking and alcohol to no effect whatever; they don't receive on a daily basis weaponized doses of every bacterium known to man; they will never experience the joy of little Heidi coming home and announcing that she is with child, although unsure of the identity of the father; they will never experience the challenge of arranging a family holiday, the delight of driving a people carrier that smells of sick; never experience the sartorial delights of an old baggy pullover; best of all, they will never experience those worried evening hours when your once little ones are now underway in the company of questionable friends on bikes, cars or motorbikes.

As a parent of three boys I can still remember the trauma of visiting a childless couple, who not only had an extremely expensive Hi-Fi system but who kept it on the floor! Our small cassette player – yes, it was that long ago – was on a shelf five feet above ground, and even that height eventually turned out to be insufficient. Or the social shame when another couple remarked with rictus smiles that their leather sofas had never been used as gymnastic apparatus before, but it was great to see children enjoying themselves.

Despite all this – the relative poverty and social deprivation during twenty years of young life – most parents would probably say it was all worth it, even though they may still have a 32 year-old in the house, occupying what could be a bedroom for granny, regularly emptying the contents of the fridge and taking up the entire sofa playing video games until two o'clock in the morning.

The majority of parents spend the best years – the young years – of their lives in sacrifice for their kids. If that isn't a stake in the future then I don't know what is.

Where stood their villa by the murmuring fir
When 'they would for their children's good conspire.'

And that sacrifice never seems to stop, even when children have grown up and finally flown the nest. For example, there are good arguments for having a high level of tax on inherited wealth: money does not then coagulate down the generations of a few already rich people but flows back into the economic cycle. Each generation must create its own wealth and make its own way.

But make such a proposal before people you took to be your friends and the air fills with the whoosh of flaming spears from those who believe that it is their greatest right to be able to pass their wealth onto their kids. There seems to be no pleasanter deathbed feeling than having left something behind for your offspring.

Of course, the childless know about all these family things, they do not feel them, certainly not in the way parents do. The cannot possibly do so: it takes twenty years of economic and social deprivation and sacrifice to develop that feeling.

In an interview on 8 July 2016 Andrea Leadsom said:

But genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She [Theresa May] possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.

Stoked by some inflammatory headline writing there were howls of Twitter rage from the childless, the LGBT crowd in particular, who saw themselves demeaned by this elevation of motherhood.

Theresa May chose not to have children. If they didn't come naturally she could have adopted – there are plenty of children available – and would have missed only the birth experience of parenting, which seems to me, as a man, to be something well worth missing. But she and hubby continued with high joint incomes and stellar careers instead. She has missed out on all the many delights of parenting, some of which we described above.

What Andrea Leadsom said was quite correct. Her husband is a house husband. Although there may be part-time income from him, he has done without what would probably be a substantial salary to help raise their children. In all terms, economic and social, the Leadsom children have been a cost and a disruption, although eminently worthwhile ones, for their parents.

For centuries, families have been regarded as the backbone of the nation and the greatest social good. Now, in order to protect the feelings of homosexuals, metrosexuals and the childless by choice we have to devalue this great good to be just another form of relationship within a broad spectrum.

The punchline for most of the media reports of Leadsom's remarks was delivered by Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan, a May supporter, who tweeted: 'I'm gay and in a civil partnership. No children, but 10 nieces and nephews. Do I not have a stake in the future of the country? Vile.'

He is completely wrong. He has just a stake in himself. Nieces and nephews are not his stake, they are their own parents' stakes. Nor is it 'vile' to suggest that parents who subject themselves to so much economic and social loss compared with the childless do have a greater investment in the future. Just knowing a few children is not the same as raising them.

The irony of that great trougher Alan Duncan, twice removed from office because of dodgy financial dealings and expense irregularities, a failed and demoted minister, claiming a stake in the country is delectable. We should also point out, referring to our previous post concerning the seizure of the Conservative party by Central Office, that he was one of the prime movers in that invidious piece of political chicanery. It was he who coined the phrase 'Tory Taliban' and quite explicitly praised the manipulation of candidate selection that was taking place at that time: 'Thank heavens for the new intake of MPs.'

Vile. Which is the way that the Conservative grassroots – the trodden underfoot – will see it, as simply the whimpering of homosexual and metrosexual snowflakes who, wallowing in self-obsessed hurt, have no idea – no idea at all – of the gilded and selfish lives they lead compared with the daily tribulations of those heroes who are raising the next generation.

Update 12.07.2016

Norman Tebbit in The Telegraph: Theresa May will drive Tory members into the arms of Ukip.

Of course she [Andrea Leadsom] never claimed that being a mother gave her an edge over the childless Mrs May. She merely expressed her natural pride in her family.

I suspect that much of the hatred she has suffered arises from her opposition to gay marriage as much as her Euroscepticism.

All is not lost. They do things better at Wimbledon. Andy Murray’s victory has not been set aside after he attributed his strength to fatherhood. Generously his childless opponent made no complaint.

Update 13.07.2016

Ross Clark, The Spectator Coffee House, 12 July 2016: A traditional family life is now a political handicap:

‘I’m a gay woman with strong northern working-class roots,’ Angela Eagle told Robert Peston on Sunday. ‘I think I’m the right person for this job at this time.’ In case we didn’t get the point she followed it up this morning by boasting: ‘I’m a northern working-class girl who understands modern life.’

How outrageous that Jeremy Corbyn’s challenger should bring her class, her geographical birthplace and her sexuality into the leadership debate, suggesting that they would make her a more suitable leader than Corbyn. Or maybe it isn’t outrageous that someone should draw on their personal experiences while campaigning for office. I certainly haven’t come across anyone else making the point I have just made, and neither did I hear anyone protesting when Stephen Crabb talked about his council house upbringing while launching his leadership bid, nor when Sadiq Khan went on ad nauseam during the London mayoral election about his father being a bus driver.

In which case why was it such a scandal when Andrea Leadsom suggested that being a mother gave her valuable experience for being Prime Minister? If being northern and working class makes you better able to understand a section of the population then surely being a parent helps you understand the demands on millions of other parents. Moreover, having to juggle the needs of work and childcare and still follow a successful career surely shows the world that you have valuable skills in time-management.

There is a good reason for the inconsistency. Leadsom was savaged for her motherhood remarks because the metropolitan liberal establishment was determined to get its own back after suffering a crushing defeat in the EU referendum. It targeted Leadsom because it has a hate for anything it regards as the promotion of traditional family life. It operates in a kind of reverse of Clause 28 – it will praise alternative lifestyles to the point that even Tory MPs are feted as heroes if they come out, but it will not tolerate anything which seems even slightly to celebrate a traditional family life of two married heterosexual parents bringing up their own children.

I am sure that being childless will not detract from Theresa May’s ability to do the job of Prime Minister. I am equally sure that being a northern, working-class lesbian won’t help Angela Eagle be a good Labour leader, if she succeeds in getting the job (though she does have some good qualities as a parliamentarian). But it speaks volumes as to who wields the real power in Britain when a prime ministerial candidate is crushed for boasting about being a mother.

Update 04.10.2016

Alan Duncan: no further comment needed:

When Sir Alan Duncan comes out as a Remainer, he drafts a statement he thinks we should use.

It says: 'In a major blow to the campaign to leave the EU, senior Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan has today announced we should remain a member. As one of the few undeclared MPs, he is seen as an experienced and reasonable figure of influence.

'Known as a longstanding but thoughtful Eurosceptic, his declaration will be seen to have a pivotal bearing on the many voters who are still undecided.

'To have won over such a senior and experienced political figure will be seen as a significant coup both for the Prime Minister and the campaign to remain, all the more so as Alan Duncan is seen as independent-minded and someone who cannot be pushed around.'

We tell him: 'Maybe it needs a little rewriting.'