Turning home into a workplace
Ian Martin with three of his four children - Isabel (3), Sarah (5) and Alex (7) - playing in their home in Crumlin. Lack of building work meant he became the main child minder as his wife had a full-time steady job. photograph: david sleator
Working around their children's needs has become the blueprint for a new working life for many parents
The phrase “balancing act” is often used to describe family life, but the debate always focuses on the two opposing ends of those scales – those who stay at home and those who get paid for work. But what about those who do both?
As recession bites, some parents are finding a middle ground by leaving the office and work environment, either through redundancy, reduced hours or lifestyle choice, to stay at home with their children, and work around their childcare needs. This third way requires a whole new level of balancing.
Some women say the issue is not that they face a glass ceiling in the workplace because of their sex, but that they are hitting a nappy wall because of their choice to have children. Unmanageable pulls on their time, childcare costs and endless guilt about not pleasing any of the people any of the time are forcing them to find another way.
Meanwhile, men are also realising they have been missing out, and changing roles and recession have meant more men are staying home to look after the children, and working on the side.
Ian Martin is a father of three with a fourth baby on the way. Lack of building work meant he became the main child minder as his wife had a full-time steady job.
“It was difficult to accept at first. I felt I lost my identity and felt I wasn’t in control anymore. The kids were in control. But gradually it got easier. But it’s hard getting the balance. I have to work when my wife is home which means we haven’t had a family day in a long time.”
But on reflection, the benefits have outweighed the challenges. “I never would have dreamed I would be staying at home looking after my children. But I’m really glad we’re doing this – that one of us is able to stay at home with our kids and we muddle through as parents.”
Ireland has the highest childcare costs in Europe (alongside Switzerland) consuming up to 30 per cent of an average income for small children. According to the ESRI, people with young children are more likely to work from home than those with no children, and between 2003 and 2009 there was a substantial increase in the numbers of people working from home, from 8 per cent to 12 per cent.
The recession has meant that many businesses are seeing the advantage of having some employees work from home, reducing office costs and allowing greater flexibility.