Working mothers: the children’s verdict

Working parents may fret about finding the right kind of childcare but what do their grown-up offspring remember now of those years when mum and dad weren’t around?

Fri, Jun 14, 2013, 14:44

Nathan O’Reilly (21), a media studies student at Dublin Institute of Technology, grew up in Glenageary, Co Dublin, the youngest of four boys. His father is a social worker, his mother a probation officer and he was minded by his granny who lives next door.

“A lot of my friends would have had mothers at home but, as it happens, a lot of my friends didn’t have siblings. I had three older brothers, so I would be collected from school by Jenny, my granny, at the same time as my brothers and this arrangement didn’t feel strange to me because I was in a crowd.

“I had a good childhood. I would spend some time with my granny in the afternoon. Then my parents were very active at home, so we did a lot of activities, especially at the weekend. So I didn’t feel as if I wasn’t getting to know my parents or anything . . .

“Undoubtedly, I have a closer relationship with my granny as a result of her minding me and living next door . . . she’s a huge part of my life. My parents were very big factors but she was very big too.

Sarah Brandon (19), a health and performance science student at UCD, first lived in Letterkenny, Co Donegal and then Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Her mother is an orthodontist and her father also works in the practice. Sarah was looked after by grandparents, then in a childminder’s house and then she and her brother, now aged 13, had minders in their own home.

“I lived in Donegal until the age of five when my mother was studying and Dad was working. My gran and granddad came up from Dublin to live with us and looked after me during the day.

“When we moved to Dun Laoghaire, at first it was still gran and granddad after school, then I went to a minder’s house — she had a few kids at the same time.

“After that we had a series of minders into the house. Some of the minders I didn’t like but they got nicer and nicer as they went along. The most recent one I really, really liked and now she has my retired horse in her field in Co Mayo.

“We always had dinner with Mum and Dad because they would be home by six. It was a time to catch up on the day together.

“I was pony-mad and at the weekends Mum would bring me up to stables but neither of my parents rides. I got my first pony when I was 11.

“I don’t think I minded too much that my mum was not there during the day — only when I was sick or something. But it was good to see her out working and it has definitely encouraged me to see the importance of making a good career.”

Ben Anderson (19), a Leaving Certificate student who hopes to study engineering, grew up in Bray, Co Wicklow, the eldest of two children. His father is a businessman and his mother, a geneticist, who initially worked part-time so she could collect him after school when he was in junior infants. Then they had a series of au pairs.

“The au pairs were absolutely lovely, and there was never a communication problem. Our first was Rosa, she was a Spanish girl and really nice. She is still in contact with us. Then there was an Italian one and another from Germany, who was very nice too but a bit serious.

“I got on very well with all of them. They collected me from school and they cooked lunch for me, but I was able to cook lunch from a very young age as well. At that age I was much more independent than my friends — we’re all much the same now.

“When I went to secondary school, I was getting the Dart there and back. It was an advantage as a teenager not having my parents around — particularly in the summer, you don’t have them nagging you to do stuff all the time; you can just sit around.

“I was always very proud of my mother working. I would have liked her to be at home a bit more but I never really wished it.”

“A lot of people whose mums stayed at home — it is not like they don’t respect their mums but they feel they are such a huge part of their mums’ lives, which is obviously true of every child, but even more so with a stay-at-home mum.”

Conal Carolan (19), studying commerce at University College Galway, grew up in Knocknacarra in Galway, the youngest of three children. His father worked in Dublin as an operations manager during the week and his mother is an accountant. He went to full- time crèche/Montessori, then after-school care to age 10.

At the nursery “there was no TV; we used to play soccer and go on the monkey bars. Then a few of us started going back to a mother who had a child in our school.

“It was good, we got picked up from school by different parents and we were with our friends. My Mum would pick me up about 6pm . . . I might theoretically have been on my own but I never was really.

“Maybe my Mum had a plan and she didn’t let me in on it.

“Both my parents working was normal for me and I never really thought about it. I remember Friday nights when Dad came home from Dublin – our dinner would always be a bit later . . .

“I am sure my sister and brother missed Dad during the week more than I did because he went to work in Dublin before I was born and I didn’t know anything different.”