19th Oct 2022
The last few weeks have been a lot. I’ve had two sick babies (conjunctivitis followed swiftly by tummy bugs), and a very busy month at work. There have been late nights working, and early morning wakings. I am a working mum, this is nothing new.
Always when writing about the experience of motherhood, dichotomies arise. But being a working mother seems to emphasise all those opposing parts. This month I’ve sent 1 million emails and changed 1 millon nappies. I’ve interviewed beautiful vulnerable people about infertility; I’ve rocked crying babies to sleep in my arms. I’ve stepped on stage; I’ve wiped countless runny bums. I’ve picked best dressed from a crowd of 800; I’ve made breakfasts and dinners and lunches and digger Lego towers. I’ve had my face painted, my nails extended and my hair curled. I’ve caught sick with my bare hands. I’ve administered eye drops, antihistamine, Calpol and Nurofen suppositories (very carefully with those extended nails!). I’ve edited, commissioned, written; been photographed, published and podcasted. I have been many things, to many people.
I am exhausted. I am energised. Some days I am running on adrenaline and coffee alone.
The truth? I want space from my children, but I long to be with them. I am frustrated, I am happier than I have ever been. I want my children to grow up so it might get easier, I want them to stay babies forever. I want an extra hour for emails at the end of the working day, I want to pick them up an hour earlier from creche. I want sleep – actually that one is just fact.
Some days I can’t believe I am still functioning, as I pick sick out of my sleep-deprived hair and run to an interview.
But I am a mother, a mother working outside the home. This is what we do. And despite the chaos, there are more days than not recently, that I marvel at how capable I have become. Sometimes I feel like an American baseball player (stay with me here) with balls flying at me from some kind of machine, and somehow, SOMEHOW, I am managing to whack each one back in fast succession.
Let me tell you why a mother is the perfect employee. We are adept at negotiations; masters at keeping our cool under pressure; we have huge empathy; we won’t waste any time (because we have none to waste), and we are motivated to achieve. We are able to muti-task under pressure, we can source anything you need at the drop of a hat, we can manage complicated multi-person schedules, problem solve and solution anything you throw at us, and we probably have first-hand first aid experience too.
This month two friends came to me, one because her place of work refuses to be flexible, and it may mean her having to leave her job. The other came to me in tears because despite being a two income household, they are struggling to pay exorbitant creche bills. These women – brilliant, ambitious, hard-working women – just want to work and provide for their families but are being denied the opportunity.
Despite the recent budget announcements, we are still not doing enough to support working parents. According to a recent study by confused.com analysing OECD data, the Republic of Ireland has the worst public family policy, scoring just 1.05/10. We were the second-worst when it came to spending on both education (2.3%), early education, and care (0.3%).
On the flip side, Norway (it’s always Norway isn’t it?) spends 4.8% of its GDP on education, second only to Israel, with other benefits including free healthcare and access to public schools and higher education.
Things are changing, yes. The one thing we can always rely on in this world is constant and ever present change. But it’s important to remember that this is not, by any means, enough. More is needed.
So let me tell you reading this now, that you are not alone. You are not imagining it. You are not being supported in the way that you deserve.