I first became a member of MAHM in 1998 and was elected Chair fourteen years later at the 2012 AGM in London.
We have four children and the youngest is now 14 years old. We’ve spent time as a family living in the Netherlands and France, but our home for the last 12 years is in Wiltshire.
I originally studied French and Spanish, with Economics, graduating in 1985. Soon afterwards I moved to London to work in Market Research – mainly international business to business. During that time I spent some years volunteering for Age Concern and it was then that I first became interested in the inter-generational bonds of family life.
Just a few weeks after our first son was born we moved to France and a few years later we spent four years near Maastricht where our fourth child was born. During this time I studied Family Life and Social Policy through the Open University. When we moved back to the UK in 2002 I started volunteering for a family support charity helping parents in their homes and providing transport, later becaming a Trustee. I then decided to return to research for a short while, working on a national research study on ‘Work-Life balance and Childcare’ before switching to home-based work. After a neighbour asked me to help out with childcare I completed training to be a registered childminder, and was awarded ‘Outstanding’ at my first Ofsted inspection. I completed post-graduate Early Years training in 2013, achieving Early Years Professional Status. I recently registered on the voluntary register with Ofsted as a home childcarer. I also offer support to families locally having trained with Mother’s Union and Open College Network to facilitate parenting groups. I sit on my local Children’s Centre Advisory Board and work closely with the Save Childhood Movement and the ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ campaign as part of the development team. I am MAHM representative on the Maternal Mental Health Alliance group and Early Childhood Forum (ECF).
Locally in Wiltshire I am part of a team that set up a new grant-supported charity Family Counselling Trust Wiltshire. Experienced therapists and counsellors offer support to young people in my area, where there are emotional, behaviourial and other mental health concerns. I am also part of a local policy group called ‘Our Children: Our Future’ with local stakeholders.
My particular interests include the importance of Care, Social Equality, and Housing for families. Policies that tacklePoverty and Disadvantage need to properly take into account the significance of care responsibilities at home, instead of seeking to replace family-based care with registered daycare. I strongly believe that time spent caring for children and family is the greatest investment of all and I’m interested in a ‘family-life-cycle- approach’ recognising that we all need to give or receive care at some point in our lives.
Between 2012 and 2016 I was very proud to act as MAHM Chair working with a diverse group of people with a range of life experiences, who’ve come together because of a shared belief in the importance of home, family life, childhood wellbeing and family relationships. Although policymakers would have us believe that some arrangements in work and care are more ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’ than others, experience shows us there’s no such thing as a perfect family model. What works for some families will not work for others. All families deserve a level playing field in policy and to be treated with fairness, respect and care when they’ve taken on the extra responsibility of raising children. It’s a responsibility which takes enormous reserves of energy, commitment, resourcefulness and time, not to mention the costs involved in catering for the needs of dependant family members.
I’d like to extend my personal thanks to all who have supported this organisation over the years and who’ve devoted so many hours to campaigning on a voluntary basis. As far as I am aware there is no other group prepared to stand up for what mothers do when they’re caring for family members. Other groups, often government funded, do a fantastic job representing fatherhood (fathers in work and fathers caring for children) and there are many organisations campaigning for the working parent and childcare requirements for when they/we are back in work. However there’s precious little focus on Motherhood Matters and we’ve noticed that even family charities forget to talk about motherhood and care – in fact the word ‘mother’ is often consipicuous by its absence from their literature. We know that motherhood and the role of care do not wholly define women’s lives, but neither should women feel invisible and ignored when looking after dependents. The years spent caring for others – when children are young or at other times in life – is an immensely important contribution and all too often taken for granted by policymakers.
Marie was Chair of MAHM between 2012 and 2016.
Please consider joining MAHM and help us campaign for a better deal for families and children. Thank you.