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The meaning of the F-word: Demanding quality childcare

Jenni Murray, presenter, BBC <em>Woman’s Hour</em>

I blithely believed that, once I entered middle age and my sons were up and off, I'd need no longer concern myself with the nightmare of caring for children while trying to hold down a demanding job. I was wrong. The Daycare Trust points to the rocketing cost of nannies, nurseries and childminders – prices are rising well above inflation – which provides some explanation for why so many of my contemporaries are being drafted in to look after their grandchildren.

It's not a good solution, as most of us – women in our early sixties – have no plans to retire and spend our days changing nappies and pushing prams in the park. Frankly, few of us can afford to, given the pitiful pension provision with which we've been landed.

So, again, I find that the personal drives my political priority for campaigning. It was in 1972 that the women's liberation movement included 24-hour, free, quality childcare in its seven demands. Let's be pragmatic: maybe 24 hours is a little excessive. Most important, let's emphasise that this is a demand made not just by mothers, but by parents, because the care of children is not solely a woman's job.

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This article first appeared in the 12 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The weaker sex