A senior Conservative MP has said mothers who choose to stay at home are being ‘belittled’ by the government’s focus on getting parents back into work, saying women’s “natural nurturing role” should be valued.
The former environment secretary George Eustice said the government has placed too much emphasis on encouraging women to get back into their jobs rather than advocating staying at home with their children, according to the Guardian.
Mr Eustice said the phrase ‘stay-at-home mother’ is now “almost used as a derogatory term”.
“We should respect the choice that women make,” he said, saying that women should be encouraged to stay at home to foster the innate bond they have with their children.
“Many women do want to spend those first few years with their child,” he said. “It’s a short period in life where they can perform that natural nurturing role. We shouldn’t belittle it; we should value it.”
He added: “I think [motherhood and fatherhood] are different and we should be honest about that.
“Fathers of course have a very strong paternal desire to spend time with their children, but you can’t get away from the way we are biologically wired and the maternal instinct is a strong one.
“It is generally the case that mothers in particular will want – if they can – to spend that time with their young children.”
His comments came under fire for being “out of date” and for not addressing the issues that mean women find themselves not able to make the choices they would like to.
“George Eustice’s comments are completely out of date and insulting to modern families, in which fathers aspire to be central to their children’s lives,” said Adrienne Burgess, chief executive at the Fatherhood Institute.
“Research has shown that ‘paternal instinct’ is no less powerful than ‘maternal’ when fathers’ caretaking is acknowledged and supported.”
Dr Anna Machin, a leading evolutionary anthropologist and author, added: “Men want to stay at home with their kids just as much as mothers, and they are just as ‘good’ at it. It is society, culture and – in particular – a lack of support from government which prevents them.”
Mr Eustice has accused Mr Hunt on pushing economic growth in the UK ahead of the protection of family units, calling the “relentless pursuit of GDP” a “somewhat artificial” measure of growth.
He is among Tory MPs who are urging the chancellor to alter the tax system so that stay at home parents can transfer more of their tax allowance to their working partners.