Letter: Mother and child

Sir: I was overjoyed to read Natasha Walter's column (15 March). A successful feminist, she has the imagination and empathy to understand that not all mothers wish to work outside the home while their children are small.

As a mother who works sporadically, to fit in with my children's needs, I have felt for some time that this Government regards me as a skiver. What really hurts is the assumption that I am of no worth to society unless I am picking up a pay packet.

Being a penurious writer doesn't entitle me to any tax breaks, but thank God for a hard-working partner, and Oxfam's second-hand children's clothes. But women like me who can afford (just) to do what we feel is right for our children should support those unfortunate mothers who are dependent on state benefit. It's hard to avoid thinking that they are being coerced into work, and their children forced into childcare of sometimes dubious quality. Children have a deep and often passionate bond with their mothers, and it is a highly individual thing as to when and how that bond lessens. I foresee some tragedies if the pace is forced.

Have any of New Labour's top women brought up their own children, without the aid of a nanny? Maybe if they had, they would appreciate how important it is to allow mothers a genuinely free choice as to when to return to work. And maybe it would also quash the convenient fiction that mothering is a hobby to be indulged in after work hours, rather than a proper job.