‘As a stay-at-home mother, I don’t feel valued by society’

Working in the home contributes asmuch as that of a ‘working woman’

When I was younger I always imagined I would have both a job and kids, and be busy but happy. The idea of balancing it all appealed to me.

But when I had a child I started to have sleepless nights at the thought of somebody else spending their days with my beautiful boy.

I still felt the obvious thing was to go back to work, especially as a teacher. Mothers go back to work. But as the urge to stay at home got stronger, I knew I had to find a way even when the sums didn’t add up.

So as a BA-ed, postgrad-ed member of society I said “no” to what I felt was expected of me: parting with my children, layers of routine and pressure to have it all. In doing so I said yes to an unexpected and empowering journey.


Once my new-found maternity-leave friends returned to their posts I was solo. It was unexpectedly lonely and scary.

I eventually carved out a set-up of social gatherings, friendships and community belonging.

It's not just about the kids, I've cultivated new interests for myself. Becoming involved in my local La Leche League group has been a great support to me. Founding an outdoor playgroup, Free-Range Kids, with two other mothers continues to be an exciting adventure. I've blogged about it and made valuable connections.

Nobody can give my children better care than I. Nobody else is going to breastfeed my children or care more about what they eat than I. Nobody can converse with them as I can.

I love being the one that reads their moods, senses their needs, balances their pull for independence with their need for security.

Sometimes people ask about the independence, socialisation and education of children who are cared for solely by their mother. But my 3½-year-old son is a social, quietly confident, energetic and able child.

Sharing us with his little sister who arrived in January has been so far a non-issue for him. I have found that there is no need for him to be in a formal care or learning setting to learn, he learns as he goes and I’m proud to say is thriving.

I have no stress in terms of figuring out what is best for my children. I have little or no parental guilt.

The phrases that are bandied about are sometimes hard to swallow.

“When are you going back to work?”

“Still a lady of leisure then?”, and “Isn’t it fine for you? I wish I had that luxury!”

I don’t feel valued by society as a mother who doesn’t work outside the home.

I’ve often felt, rightly or wrongly, that my choice is viewed as anti-feminist or anti-woman.

This is backed up to some degree by the findings of this week's Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI survey which indicates that 43 per cent of women feel Irish society values women who work outside the home over those who have jobs inside the home (see accompanying chart).

I feel, however, that I’m confident and educated enough to decide what real feminism means to me and to be who I want to be and do what I want to do.

The contribution of women to society within the workforce is extremely important for a just and fair society.

There are mothers in my life who are passionate about their jobs and their roles in public life. Their choice needs to be supported by the whole of society if that is a choice they want to make.

Just as my choice should be supported because what I am doing is equally valuable. I have found this choice is a taboo in Irish life.

It's hard for me to write honestly as I can already foresee reactions – too often the media pitting women against each other in this debate.

Tax system
The choices we make as women are reflected by government policy in our tax system.

As a “home carer” I am entitled to transfer my credits to my spouse to a maximum value of €810 whereas a PAYE worker is entitled to transfer €1,650 should they wish to.

This effectively tells me that my contribution to society is worth half the value of another.

Families need real support, not an often-unattainable “choice” between relying heavily on outsourced childcare and paying the accompanying fees or the alternative of effectively opting out.