I just watched the Suffragette film and was re-inspired by the extreme measures women took, risking and even giving their lives for equality. And yet a hundred years later, inequality is so deeply ingrained that we women still collude in holding it in place.
The other morning I was challenged by a woman over the price of our Sleep workshop (£30). She said
“I believe if you truly wanted to help families, you wouldn’t be charging…especially as much as you are…disgusting!”
This set me reflecting on this issue as I have many times. There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you provide services for women and families, particularly around birth, breastfeeding and parenting, you should do it as a voluntary service. I have heard Doulas discussing others who ‘overcharge’ in a somewhat scathing tone. In a breastfeeding group on Facebook when I shared a breastfeeding workshop I was offering, it was met with snarky comments about how women could access breastfeeding groups for free.
I vehemently oppose this attitude as it completely devalues the great necessity of this invaluable work. In actual fact, this field should be prized more highly than anything. We are contributing towards societal well being, towards reduced rates of crime, mental health, illness. We are literally buying PEACE and sustainability.
When we devalue services for women, we devalue a mother’s work and elevate patriarchy. And as Midwives, Doulas, Breastfeeding Counsellors, Antenatal Teachers, Parenting Instructors, generally WE are women. Why do we settle for being paid less in a society where monetary value reflects worth? Are feminine skills of empathy and body wisdom less important than more masculine skills and roles? We are not doing anyone a favour, including the women we serve, by contributing to gender inequality.
Yes I would love if women’s services were funded generously like they are in Scandinavia and the cost wouldn’t fall onto families themselves. And yet, given that it’s not the case and we don’t question any other expense families are expected to pay for, why should this be any different? You don’t hear about plumbers offering lower fees for families, or second hand car dealers doing a new baby concession. It’s just a given that folks need to fork out for these things.
Women fought for decades to overthrow oppression and there is still work to be done. I say put a premium rate on your services, so that it reflects the immense value of bringing forth and raising new life. Demand that society treasures the precious work that mothers do. Without mothers we’d all be like the poor monkey pictured above.
So while I do voluntary breastfeeding support, offer concessions and take on Doula UK bursary clients when I have capacity, my usual rate is reasonable, not steep (and probably not even equivalent to the income of someone with comparable qualifications and experience in another field), but a rate that feels fair and honours the importance of receiving the support I offer. I hope to see more birthworkers doing the same. Love to hear your thoughts on this.