A Mother’s Work: little understood

By March 21, 2016 General No Comments

A new mother appointed as Partner at top accounting firm

On Wednesday June 24, 2015, the Australian Financial Review reported that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of women being promoted to partner at the big four accounting firms in Australia (‘Motherhood no bar to promotion at KPMG’, June 24). The new women partners included some on maternity leave or working part-time post-maternity leave.
At KPMG, the female partner figure is 37 per cent, up from 24 per cent last year. Gary Wingrove, KPMG chief executive said that appointing women, even when on maternity leave or flexible work arrangements to partner level, ‘is a market-leading outcome’.
One of the new partners is Courtney West who was due to commence as partner on July 1 and to give birth to her first baby at the end of July. She said she was never concerned that having a baby would interfere with her ambitions to make partner at the firm.
“Having a baby and becoming a KPMG partner were both things I wanted for my life and I always felt supported to do both”, she said. She plans to return to work after six months maternity leave but will have access to flexible return-to-work arrangements if she needs them.

Motherhood no bar to promotion KPMG JPEG

So KPMG is flexible about Courtney’s return to work arrangements. But can Courtney be sure her baby will be just as flexible?

Articles such as this report in AFR place a huge amount of pressure on mothers to return to work soon after the birth of a baby.
But there is concerning evidence that this is not in the interests of the baby, nor of the mother. For a start, it is based on the belief that childcare is just as good as mothercare for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. But no person on the planet is as well-equipped to foster the brain and emotional development of a baby as the baby’s own biological mother.

Australian mothers do not think that childcare is the best care for babies and toddlers

Research by Mariah Evans and Jonathan Kelley found that ‘Seventy one per cent of Australian mothers think that mothers should not work when their children are of pre-school age and only two per cent think that they should work full-time.’ That is, most Australian mothers do not agree with the assumptions of KPMG that a baby’s mother can be easily replaced.
US parents have similar views to those of Australian parents. Ninety-three per cent of US mothers say a mother’s contribution to the care of her children is so unique that ‘no one else can replace it’.
Eighty-one per cent of US parents say young children are more likely to get ‘the one-on-one affection and attention they need from a stay-at-home parent than from ‘well-trained, caring people’ in childcare.

Essential Mother understands why top firms want to employ mothers

Essential Mother understands why KPMG and other top accounting firms (and banks, law firms, businesses etc) value the work of mothers and want to employ mothers. Most women who are not working in the paid labour force, or not working full-time, are mothers. It seems mothers are an available source of workers. But babies, too, want, and need, their mothers. For example, the high-profile U.S. Public Agenda organisation researched children’s advocates and parents, asking, ‘Which is the best child care arrangement during a child’s earliest years?’ Parents of children up to age five and children’s advocates agreed that one parent at home is by far the best arrangement (70 and 71 per cent agreement).

But, can babies outbid top four accounting firms?

But, do babies have the capacity to outbid top four accounting firms for the time and attention of their mothers? Who speaks for babies and their need of their mothers?
The psychoanalyst Trevarthen’s work illustrates that the baby’s brain is not just influenced by its interactions with the mother. The baby’s brain growth ‘requires brain to brain interaction and occurs in a context of an intimate, positive, affective relationship’. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Emde, (Honorary President of the World Association for Infant Mental Health) asserts that, ‘it is the emotional availability of the caregiver in intimacy which seems to be the most central growth-promoting feature of the early rearing experience’.
Is it right for a baby to have an ‘intimate, positive, affectionate relationship’ with temporary and transient carers? Can anyone, other than the biological mother, assure the infant of a permanent and continuous ‘intimate, positive, affectionate relationship’?

Where is the voice for mothers in media and policy?

Why does no media house support a voice that speaks for the 98 per cent of Australian mothers who think that mothers of children up to age five should not work full-time and the 71 per cent of Australian mothers who think that mothers should not work when their children are of pre-school age?

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