The news that producers of Peppa Pig have introduced a lesbian couple is not nearly as interesting as the ultra traditional family set up these, well, pigs have adopted. Right on producers might have thought that they were going to cause the nation’s parents to splutter and mummy Twitter to melt down but instead they got a few lines on the BBC website.
For readers of a certain age not completely familiar with Peppa Pig, this cartoon features the eponymous Peppa and her family – “mummy pig and daddy pig” (gasp!) going on a series of innocent adventures in a short twenty minute or so story. Peppa is big business with a theme park and endless toys and merchandise designed to part parents from their hard earned cash. This week, a new episode was released tellingly called “families” to introduce a new pig family into a mix. The shocking plot twist is not that this family is headed up by two mummies but that one of these mummies is a stay at home mum.
As they say “visibility matters” and so we have been introduced to the most traditional of family forms that policy makers and equally trendy political advisors in Westminster have been trying to abolish for decades through pernicious tax regimes and childcare subsidies all designed to force mothers of tots back into the workplace as quickly as possible. Peppa Pig producers have broken down barriers with the introduction of a stay at home mum.
The truth is mums, especially mums with small children, actually want to work a lot less and spend a lot more time at home. Two thirds of mums with pre-school children tell pollsters they would rather be at home than at work, with about 2 million disgruntled mums in the work place.
Childcare subsidies and the tax system does nothing to support this lifestyle choice. It’s no coincidence that one half of this porky lesbian twosome is a high earning doctor, most likely a GP raking in a bumper salary to support her wife at home. Researchers at the Policy Exchange think tank recently found that single earner families with an income of £70,000 will be hit for £6,000 more in tax than the same family where both parents earn £35,000 each, the single earner family would have to earn an additional £10,000 to have the same disposable income as the dual-earner family. Only families with one big earner can afford the tax bills levied on single earner couple households. Someone has to bring home the bacon to make it worthwhile. Even bungs to parents for childcare are only available to mums who pay someone else to look after their children. The state has no interest in parents looking after their own children when they could be out at work.
If Peppa Pig writers wanted to really shock, they would introduce a married couple. It’s a lifestyle choice going quickly out of fashion, marriage rates are at their lowest ever levels and if the trend line continued, marriage would all but disappear by 2060.
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After all it’s important we represent different family types and a married couple is an increasingly daring choice of family set up. Perhaps they could be introduced as two pigs who felt it was important to commit to each other before the arrival of piglets. That would truly challenge the status quo and stick it to the establishment.
It’s just possible that toddlers want to watch some funny pigs telling a not very complex story to entertain them for a few minutes. In their quest to have real life middle class mums clutching their pearls, these TV makers have inadvertently hit upon the most discriminated family type of all with by introducing a stay at home mum. How many other families are pushed about by the finger wagging tax system, hectoring them about their lifestyle choices?
A promised shake up of our tax system to allow couples to share unused tax will likely infuriate trendy political types in Westminster but will help millions of women to choose the family set up they want, including our latest Pig coupling. Three cheers for Peppa Pig and the arrival of the stay at home mum.
Frank Young is editorial director at the Civitas think tank
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