Who does what? Balancing working lives with laundry, ironing and school pick-ups


Hargaden, who is 41, and Killeen, who is 42, have three children, aged nine, seven and five. They live in Shankill, in Co Dublin

“From the get-go we’d always been really clear it’s got to be as equal as it possibly can,” says Hargaden. She is an account director with the research firm Millward Brown. Her husband is an IT operations manager at Informatica, a US multinational.

Both jobs are “really full on, with big hours”, so the couple need a routine. “Typically if one person is doing bath time and getting [the children] ready for bed, the other is making lunches, setting out uniforms and getting bags ready for the next day.”

Killeen handles the morning jobs and drop-offs, so that she can be at her desk by 7.30am. “I work through a lot of lunches to make sure I’m able to do the pick-up at 6pm, so it’s fairly intense.

“With us there are definitely some things that I do more of, but it balances out. Looking at friends and colleagues, I still feel that women pick up more of the childcare. He’d have no clue about who’s got ballet or drama, so there’s a lot you are mopping up by virtue of just knowing their schedule a bit better.

“Dealing with the school, sorting after-school activities, I do all of that, but maybe that’s just because I’m organised. He would tend to do the garden, the bins and anything to do with the car, so you feel it levels out. And he does all the laundry. That’s relentless.”

Mags and Ger Kirwan, who are both 48, run Goatsbridge Trout Farm, in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny. They have four children, who range in age from seven to 13

“Ger’s mother used to cook dinner for us until we had our own kids,” says Mags. “For the first six months Ger also got his mother to do the clothes washing for him.”

The couple worked in the family agribusiness, but after they had children Mags focused on their domestic life for several years while Ger managed the business. “I had four children within six years. Ger was the one out farming, I suppose, but I made all the decisions in terms of what we ate, how the house was organised and so on.

“When the last child was born Ger encouraged me to go back and upskill. So I did, and now he is at home a lot more than I am. He will get the kids up and dressed and empty the dishwasher and do the cooking if need be. The one thing he has never done is the ironing.

“You don’t think about what percentage you do. It’s split about 50/50.”

“My mother was a domestic-science teacher,” says Ger, “so I was well able to cook, and we would have all shared the housework growing up.”

After Ger and Mags got married, Ger says, there was never a set plan for how he and his wife would divide the housework. “We were both equally active and busy in terms of the business when we didn’t have kids. A lot of it fell into place over the years.”

While Mags is now the face of the company, and is heavily involved in the marketing side of the business, Ger picks up the slack at home. “I am around a lot during the day, and that is a good, stable influence for the kids to have. I get the dinner ready, and it works fine. The ironing, though, is still not my thing.”

Senator Mary Moran, a former secondary-school teacher, and her husband, Damian, who owns a garage in Dundalk, Co Louth, are both 52. They have five children, aged from 14 to 22

“Some of the children had health issues,” says Mary. “My eldest daughter was born very prematurely. I was up at night and looked after her a lot. Damian was self-employed, trying to build a business, so in those days I carried the can.”

When the couple’s youngest son was born with a mild intellectual disability, things changed. “I think it changed the whole idea of how the family worked. If I was up in hospital Damian needed to be there with the rest of them.

“When I was asked to run in the general election, two years ago, I’d say the roles changed. Before, I was always the one at home first; now it’s him. He’s as supportive of me now as I was of him. It’s come full circle.”

“At the start, yes, Mary did everything,” says Damian. “She was more used to the kids and looking after babies.”

When their youngest was born, their lives altered. “It had to be both of us sharing the duties at home. I was putting on washes, making dinners and cleaning the house, stuff that was almost alien to me.”

Does he wish he’d done more sooner? “It wasn’t asked of me. There was no demand for it sooner. But definitely [after Cillian was born], we had to split it between us more.

“There were things I did well and things Mary did well. I’d do the house-painting, the bins. Nurturing the kids would be her biggest strength.”

Now she is in the Seanad, Mary still has a hand in at home. “She would still do more than I do at home,” says Damian. “She’d say 60/40, but I’d say she’s probably doing more.

“I wouldn’t be where I am only for her. She’s really the head of the family.”