and down the income scale, and she’s anticipated loopholes, too: incentives to ensure fathers actually take up the leave they are allocated, for example.
Asher says she’s “tired of the loud and dreary chorus” that insists such models are unaffordable. I sympathise, and while there will be readers who question her figures, it shouldn’t be assumed she’s just asking for public subsidy.
“Public policy influences private behaviour”, she writes, but that’s only half of her argument: parents have to look to themselves. Life with young children is hectic and full of powerful emotional tugs; it’s all too easy to “go native”.
If roles are not to revert after that first year, though, fathers will have to endure the humdrum tasks, mothers forsake primacy in their children’s lives; territory has to be permanently ceded.
Asher wants a revolution, and her conviction is invigorating, but it also leads to an occasional overstatement of claims. I am persuaded, however, that dividing the care in the first year would help us all make strides. From understanding each other’s perspectives to normalising shared parenting, and the priority of life beyond work, there is a great deal to be said for Asher’s model; it deserves to be discussed and debated widely.
Her prose style is that of a campaigning journalist, but some of the same ground is covered across chapters, as in academic texts, perhaps to allow busy policymakers to go straight to the legislative proposals but still get the reasoning behind them.
The key chapters are a dense combination of doughty proposals and analysis, but Asher’s choice of contributors leavens the mix. Michael Gove’s description of the witching hour before kids’ bedtime is very entertaining, and Asher’s own turn of phrase is often sharply witty. So skim if you must, to avoid being late at the school gates, but you may miss some gems. This book should be read by parents and policymakers alike. It’s got me examining my own hardened attitudes, for a start: I may have been there, done that, and bought the Mummy Martyr T-shirt, but why should anyone else? – Guardian News & Media 2011