Letter: Mothers at work: BBC hits back

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is not surprising that there has been such a fuss about Monday's Panorama, as it dealt with tricky issues provocatively. I appeared on the "Missing Mum" programme and if my experience of being interviewed was anything to go by I have a lot of sympathy for Professor O'Brien, criticised by Polly Toynbee on Tuesday. Never have I felt under so much pressure to say what the interviewer wanted me to say. Never too, have I felt so apprehensive about watching myself on a programme in case I had been "stitched up". After all, nearly two hours of taping can be cut to say nearly anything.

I am concerned about the effects of the programme. Clearly Sarah Powell has touched the ever-raw nerve of maternal guilt but has her programme done more than sensationalise this in true tabloid fashion? Not really.

We still do not know, for example, how serious a problem long hours worked by both parents are for families. For, as I tried to tell Sarah Powell, having a full-time job does not automatically equate to being a long-hours workaholic career woman. These are still rare; many full-time working mothers and, increasingly, some full-time working fathers are keenly appreciative of their family responsibilities and manage their time very tightly.

The one good thing the Panorama programme does is raise the issues of the effect on families of increased working. Before we can say anything definitive however we need to look at the evidence much more thoroughly than Panorama did. We need, of course, to be open-minded and willing to have our prejudices challenged. Was Panorama, and are some of its critics, ready for this?



Family Policy Studies Centre

London NW1