Annmarie Boles, 37: ‘Stay-at-home parents are completely ignored’

Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Annmarie Boles lives in Castleknock, Dublin

I’m from Templegogue originally. I have one older brother, David. When I was six we moved to the US, to New York state, where my dad had got a job. We went in January, and I can still remember standing at the airport in a little denim shirt, and I was frozen, and surrounded by snow.

We were there for four years. I loved it. We came home every summer for a couple of weeks and at Christmas. Mam was determined we’d stay Irish.

It was a big adjustment coming home. We lived in Meath then. Ireland felt like a very dark place. I had to go to Irish grinds every evening for six months, to catch up. I felt there was such a big focus on Irish, English and maths, whereas at school in the US we had a library, an art room and a gym.

I took a year out between school and college. I lived at home and worked in Quinnsworth in Navan, packing bags.

I met my husband, Shane, that year. We both started college the following year. I did marketing. We went out for a couple of years, drifted apart for a year and then, when he graduated, he was offered a job in London, and I said I’ll come with you. I was working for a PR agency at the time.

We were there together 18 months. My husband wanted to stay on, but I wanted to come home. I’m a homebird. We got married when we came back to Dublin. I was 25.

We bought our first house in 2002, when we got married: a three-bed terrace in Laurel Lodge for £160,000. It was very calm and easy, and there were no bidding wars.

I had my first son, Charlie, at 28. At the time I was conscious that a lot of my friends were single and that I was moving into a different zone and might be losing some contact with them. I was working as a PA at the time, and the public-health nurse kept saying to me, ‘When are you going back to work?’ The assumption from everyone is that I would go back. I got caught up in it.

My first day back at work, I think I was in sort of shock. They called me from the creche after an hour to say he wouldn’t settle. Every time I picked him up he was in a different person’s arms.

After two weeks I decided this wasn’t for him or for me. I wasn’t on a huge salary. After transport and childcare costs it just didn’t feel worth my while, when the emotional benefit of me staying at home was worth so much more. I’m very lucky we had that financial choice. Our second son, Peter, was born in 2009.

We sort of outgrew our first house, although we could have stayed there. It had gone up a lot in value. We bought this four-bedroomed house in 2007, only a 10-minute walk from our old house. It’s our house for life.

If we’d held off six months we’d have got it for less. The price of the houses nearly halved after we bought it, but we did manage to get a tracker mortgage, which makes a huge difference.

I’m the chef, the driver, the cleaner, the administrator of the household bills. It’s important that I’m there for the children when they come home from school, like my mother was. I made the choice to take on this role.

Shane is gone eight to 10 hours a day. I certainly wouldn’t expect him to come home and start hoovering and cooking the dinner. The financial responsibility for the family is a big one for him.

At the weekends there is time for us to do things as a family, because we don’t have to go out and do the grocery shopping. The weekends are family time, and Shane cooks at the weekend.

We opened a joint bank account. We have one current account, and we both have access to it. We’re very much in agreement that it’s our money. I don’t feel like it’s my husband’s money.

I have just done a course in life coaching. Life coaching is very practical, and I’m very practical. This is an exciting time in my life. I can look at what do I want to do next.

I think stay-at-home parents are completely ignored and under-represented. I think there is a sense that, when you say you’re a stay-at-home parent, people start looking off into the distance, saying, “So, that’s all you do?” I have got “So, you’re a lady of leisure” a few times from people. There is a sense that society thinks you’re not that interesting.

We are forgotten about. Our contribution, while not financial, is equally important to our communities. For instance, I’m the chairperson of the parents’ association at the school.

There is almost a sense of embarrassment in saying you stay at home, because what’s constantly in the media is the struggle of working parents and childcare costs.

We’ve made the choice to be at home, and we’re lucky to be at home, and not everyone who is working wants to be working, but does that mean we can’t be heard too?

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