Is it really mother’s day?
This weekend it is mother’s day. I confess that I have always found it strange that we are ruled by a calendar which tells us that a certain day is THE day to think about someone or something. There are often associated gifts and cards that we are encouraged to buy and today I saw large numbers of expensive flowers and boxes of chocolates aimed at those who have mothers.
But shouldn’t we be thinking about mothers and carers all year round and trying to make sure that they receive the respect and opportunities that others take for granted. I say this because the research of Young Women’s Trust and the conversations I have with young women tell me that young women are suffering discrimination and disadvantage of a scale that most people, if they stopped and thought about it, would find profoundly shocking.
The survey we conducted last year at Young Women’s Trust showed that 27% of young mothers, had used a food bank in order to feed their children and themselves. I am not talking about teenagers but about mothers up to 24 years of age. Nearly half of these young mums also say they regularly skipped meals in order to provide for their children.
The lives that so many young women are forced to live is of course bad for their own mental and physical health and for their children. With no money to spend, even on transport, over a quarter of young mums leave the house only once a week or less. This level of isolation and the loneliness it creates is something many only think about in relation to older people.
These are clearly not young women who are having a cushy time – enjoying being at home and actively avoiding work. They want to work but they know the income they would be able to get would not begin to cover the cost of childcare which is expensive and inflexible. They know too that it is legal to be paid less than the National Living Wage which only applies to those 25 and over.
And if they are in work they are those most likely to experience discrimination. For example, even though it is illegal, 39% of young women say they have been questioned at a job interview about how being a mum will affect their work. They are discriminated against at recruitment and for promotion.
So, even if you like mother’s day, please don’t only think about your own mother or the plight of so many young mums on this one day of the year but make a commitment to thinking about what you can do to ensure that there is improved support, better pay, flexible working and less discrimination so that no parent every has to resort to using a food bank or skipping meals to make ends meet.