Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on why mothers (and fathers) who want to be stay-at-home parents should be allowed to do so without judgement.
I recently wrote about how working mothers should not feel guilty. The same is true for stay-at-home mums, who also face judgement from various factions of society. Returning to work after having a baby is an incredibly personal decision, but so is the decision to leave work and become a full-time mother. In fact, it can be more difficult to make the decision to quit work, leave the financial security and your regular pay cheque for the unknown, especially in this era of “Lean In”.
For those of you that have not read Sheryl Sandberg’s best-seller Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, the book encourages women to be assertive and to fight for leading, instead of following roles in the workplace. It is worth a read. It has some very interesting points. But it is not for everyone.
Some people want to climb the corporate ladder, and but others do not and their wants should be respected too. I recently was speaking to a successful woman who told me she was tired of “leaning in” and she wanted to “lean out”, but she felt under pressure to remain in the rat race. There has been much focus recently on gender equality in the workplace, talk of smashing the glass ceiling, and more women climbing to the top. That is great, for women who want to climb to the top.
But, like some men, some women do not want to, for whatever reason – whether they do not want the extra pressure and responsibility in work, or they are happy with their current role and salary, or they want to take time off to raise their children in a full-time role. Despite the world we live in often equating success with a career, many women wish they could be stay-at-home mothers.
Last year, an Irish survey of 400 mothers of young children and 400 grandmothers, who are themselves mothers to adult daughters with children, found that nearly two out of three of mothers (63 per cent) said they would prefer to stay at home to raise their children if they had the option and were in a financial position to do so. The survey, conducted by Amárach Research on behalf of Sudocrem, found that while half of all mothers are happy with their work-life balance, some 42 per cent believe it could be better.
We are in a weird situation in Ireland. Childcare costs are crippling but often families cannot afford to not have two parents working, even if one parent wants to stay at home. Surely it is time we looked at this system. We can do better for families in this country.
Article 41.2 of Ireland’s Constitution provides for a woman’s right to “her life within the home… without which the common good cannot be achieved”. It is likely that Ireland will vote to remove that clause in an upcoming referendum. But that does not mean that you will not be allowed to be a stay-at-home mother. Make the decision that is best for you and your family, and forget what society is telling you.