Finola Reilly, 43: ‘I tried internet dating for a while. The solid men all lived about two hours away’

Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

 

Finola Reilly lives in Newport, Co Mayo

I grew up in Castlebar. It didn’t feel like it was a very lively place to grow up; there was a flat kind of energy. On Sundays there was nothing open except the church. Town was dead, but Mass was heaving.

Castlebar wasn’t a place you expected to have an interesting career in when you grew up. Hearing the older people talk, it was considered lucky to have a job; choice didn’t come into it. I wanted a career. I felt I was an outsider as a creative person.

My grandfather had set up a dance hall in a barn in Glenisland in the 1950s, and he ran the lights from electricity made by wind turbines. My father, Dermot, had a travelling shop. He went into rural communities all over Mayo.

My mum, Mary, had been a music teacher, and she gave all that up when she had us. She didn’t have to, but it was sort of expected that she would give up work to raise children.

In the 1970s it felt to me like men and women were put into boxes. There was an expectation that women would have the caring role and that men would be the breadwinners. Now it’s changed, and men and women are working a lot more together.

I went to a single-sex school, and that was both positive and negative. Because of my father’s business I had good social skills, but I felt spending my education with one sex adversely affected me when I went to work in a male-dominated world.

In the end I did architecture; I thought it best combined the creative and practical. I wasn’t an A student, but I worked hard for my Leaving, and I got the points.

I really enjoyed Dublin. I stopped going to Mass as soon as I went to Dublin to college. I don’t feel like an atheist, but I’m still working on what I believe.

I was in Dublin for 13 years in total. I ended up coming back to Mayo when I was 32. One of the reasons was that I couldn’t afford to buy a house in Dublin. I had been evicted a few times from the places I was renting, because the owner had decided to sell the building. It was very unsettling but all part of the culture of the Celtic Tiger.

Wanting to buy my own place was definitely part of the reason I left Dublin and bought this house in Newport. I didn’t ever think I’d move home, but the place had changed by then, during the boom years; it was more multicultural, and the lifestyle was good.

The socialising years were beginning to quieten. All my old friends here had moved on, so I had to build up a new circle of friends. I tried internet dating for a while. I met some really solid men, but they all lived about two hours away. I found it was people my own age who were small-minded about internet dating, whereas my parents were fine with it.

I didn’t meet my husband, Mark, online, but I have friends who did meet their partners online. I lost my job in 2010, and by then I had been down to a three-day week. I was terrified. I ended up volunteering with the Westport Arts Festival, and that’s where I met Mark, who was doing the same thing. We got married in 2012, in a very low-key ceremony, with just four people. We had Noah last year.

I had a miscarriage before Noah. I was sort of lost. You feel a sense of failure and shame after a miscarriage. Other people I knew who had had miscarriages didn’t talk about it, and I don’t understand why. It is a huge loss, and support can ease the pain.

I think it is so important to talk about miscarriage, but it’s hard to talk about something that is not discussed. I think people want leadership on it. A lot of the issues about gender and women are based around the workplace, but our private lives aren’t on the public agenda yet.

The miscarriage turned me from being an architect and career-driven person to someone who wanted to have children in my life in some way or other. I felt that my career had come full circle.

Since I had Noah I haven’t done any work connected with architecture. Mark has periods of unemployment, too, so we can look after him together. I play piano, violin and guitar, and I’m now teaching music at home. I can see this fitting around family life. I’m going to focus on music and education now. At the moment, at 43, I feel like I’m living for the moment.

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