How inappropriate is it that Julia Gillard’s latest foreshadowed tax cut targeting disadvantaged teenage parents who refuse to attend school or training and punishing them by taking away their benefit, hit the headlines in the week prior to Mother’s Day?
From my perspective, apart from the fact that this particular social group is often targeted due to an antiquated morality that still punishes young women who fall pregnant out of wedlock (and this is not the issue being discussed here), this proposed budget cut hits even harder at the notion of motherhood itself.
In effect, it virtually penalises a young mum for staying home during the critical infant/toddler years when the quality of the mother-child bond shapes the physical, mental and emotional health of her offspring for the duration of her child’s life. There has been a plethora of research that unequivocally validates that a close and constant interaction between mother and child (not a child-care employee) is enormously beneficial during the critical formative (nurture) years of the in-arms and early toddlerhood phase of a child’s life.
This announcement sends a very clear message to young mums: that it is NOT OK to simply nurture and support your baby during these critically important formative years, but that you need to justify your existence, by undergoing skills training or education from the time the baby is six months old. It also requires that the child attend early learning classes such as childcare or preschool care.
In both cases it promotes separation between mother and child at an age when connection and bonding is forging major positive brain changes and growth in both mother and child that support the evolution of the next generation.
Recent research is informing us that babies lucky enough to have at-home quality mothering for the early formative years, grow into more rounded, balanced adults with less likelihood that they will go off the rails and develop serious social and mental illnesses It also demonstrates that these children have less health problems and become successfully independent from their parents at an earlier age. All-round healthier children grow into functional adults whose drain on the health resources of a country are minimized.
It has also been shown in a variety of research projects that a woman’s mental and emotional health matures dramatically during pregnancy and the early mothering experience, due to the massive brain changes that result from the inflow of hormones, cleverly programmed by nature to ensure that the baby survives. Furthermore, when a woman’s experience of mothering is happy and she produces a contented, well-developed rounded child, she will actively seek to pursue a better life for herself and her youngster, because it is also programmed into her innate biology to ensure her child is well resourced and supported. This research demonstrates that young mothers with a positive parenting experience under their belt will step into the responsibility of a job much more readily than a similar aged teen from the same disadvantaged background, who has not yet had a baby. This maturation process is an easily observable phenomenon in new mothers of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, and is not restricted to disadvantaged teen mothers.
However, with timely support and intervention, particularly throughout the pregnancy, during infancy and early toddlerhood, younger mums from disadvantaged backgrounds given every assistance to bond deeply with their babies and to share their experience with other young mums will blossom and mature naturally. Forcing separation between a mother and her child at too early an age will prevent this natural process from flowing smoothly and easily.
I am not suggesting that these young women do not need help, but it seems to me, that a far better way of helping them would be to instigate a plan that supports the youngsters in their parenting from within the home environment, so that the parenting experience is successful, both for them and their offspring. They will then be better able to pass the normal milestones of parenting and be ready, in concert with the child’s readiness to reach out to the world beyond the mum, to move into training and education in preparation for entering the workforce.