Mums Matter in Bath
Last week I attended a Martini Mum Meets event in Bath. The idea was to get a group of Mums talking about issues which matter to Mums in Bath with the local MP Don Foster and the prospective MP Steve Bradley. Also round the table were, Lisa (@bathmums) who founded and runs Bath Mums, Secil (@secilfuller) a local Mum and marketing manager for Design Bull and, obviously, Serra (@martini_mum).
In the run up to the 2015 election, Mums are key. Since the 1997 election, when it is said that women won Tony Blair the election, politicians have realised the importance of engaging with women voters, especially those ‘floating voters’ who leave making the decision about who will receive their vote until the last minute. As noted by Bernadette C. Hayes and Ian McAllister in European Journal of Marketing 2001, “As a group, women [are] significantly more likely to delay their voting decision than men”. So in short, we Mums and what we think really do matter in politics.
Meeting with us, getting faces known and finding out which issues are going to impact positively on women and the female vote is an important strategy for the politicians. I don’t think, however, that this meeting was only a cynical step on the political campaign trail. Both Don and Steve gave the impression that they really were interested in communicating with Mums (and the few Dads who also joined us) about things that matter to parents and even if they want to know what we think so that they can create policies which will engage the female voters, if they carry these policies through it is a win-win situation.
It was interesting to hear the issues raised: buggy-friendly streets in Bath; mixed traffic and pedestrianisation; seagulls (yes, they are a massive issue in Bath. Don Foster says he has a constituent ask about them everyday!); affordable housing; parks and open spaces; and childcare.
Childcare was a long discussion. More flexible parental leave, allowing Dad’s to be at home, is on the way, but until that comes in we cannot comment on whether or not it will improve things for Mums. There may be 15 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds, but it is only term time and not even the most flexible employer is keen on you having all the school holidays off work, paid or not. Also once school starts, childcare seems to cause more problems. Many of the Mums said that they thought once their little ones started school their childcare issues would be over, but in reality school is often less helpful in terms of childcare than nursery. Nursery hours are usually longer and more flexible than school. If you work on the other side of town to your little one’s school then the trek can mean that you have to finish work just after lunch, having not started until 10am and then there’s the 6 week summer holiday again. None of these things make life easy for working Mums.
Anyway, hopefully the discussions we had may help to ease some of the issues raised and start the ball rolling with policies to alleviate difficulties for mothers in Bath.
If you live in Bath, what would you have told Don and Steve about life in Bath as a Mum? If you don’t, what would you tell your own local MP about the pros and cons of being a mother where you live?