Working women’s lives: then and now

Passionate about work and about parenting

Thu, Jun 13, 2013, 09:50

Michelle McBride

Michelle McBride joined Butlers Chocolate 16 years ago as a graduate and is now the company’s retail director. Married with two children aged five and three, she now works four days a week.

“Working four days a week has made me much more disciplined and much more efficient,” she says. Her husband also works and McBride says she realises how lucky they are to have a childminder who comes to their home.

“I’m very passionate about what I do. It’s part of me. I love my children, I love being with them and I’d love more time with them. But at the same time Aisling is nearly five and has started school, so even if I was at home, she would be gone until 1.30pm. Seán starts school next year.”

McBride is part of a taskforce looking at the dearth of women in senior retail roles. “There is a lot of talk about glass ceilings but we do have to also acknowledge that a lot of women choose to opt out of their careers because they start families and that is perfectly fine and valid.”

Division of labour
In the home, she believes the division of labour around all childcare and household tasks isn’t equal, nor can it be.

“I work, but I am a mother too and I think that’s part of my job. A mother runs the home. She did it 40 years ago when she was told to give up her job and stay at home and she still does it today.”

She says her husband contributes just as much to the family in other areas. “I don’t even think it’s efficient to try to share all responsibilities equally. It’s like anything, you can’t have two bosses . . . you can’t do everything by committee.”

Nan Hurley
Nan Hurley began work in the co-operative creamery in the village of Athea, Co Limerick in 1939. She was 20.

There were creameries in almost every village in Ireland then. Processing local milk into butter for export, they provided rural employment with profits shared among farmers. Nan trained at domestic economy school.

“At the Munster Institute, I could have gone on to be a domestic economy teacher but that cost money and there were 11 of us in the family and there wasn’t that much money hanging around.”

She specialised in butter making instead and worked for a year in Dublin after training. “I was in the laboratory at Lucan Dairies. We were all day testing milk, testing cream. We were right beside the Phoenix Park and we would go in there at lunchtime. It was lovely up there, I loved it.” But when a butter maker job came up in her home village, she applied.

“I remember Dad coming home from the village saying, ‘you got it’. Of course they were all thrilled.” She was paid £2 a week for a seven-day week.

Great fun
She was the only female employee at that creamery to which 319 mostly male farmers would bring their milk every morning. “They were all locals, we all knew one another and we had great fun.”

She left the workplace in 1953 when she married. “Everyone had to give up work when they married that time. You just didn’t question things.”

But with housework more labour intensive then and most mothers nursing their babies for six months or more, she says it would have been difficult to continue working outside the home.

“Sure you couldn’t have a job when you were married. You had to keep a house and keep a husband and expect children.”

Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.