I had an excellent day at work the other day. As I drove home, destroying the planet, I listened to this catchy song on the stereo. As far as I was aware, all three of my children were healthy and cheerful (I’m the ghost in the machine). We had a babysitter booked for that evening (I’m the sunset in the east). All was right in the world (I’m the trojan horse in Troy). This, I thought to myself, ecstatically, is having it all (tum, tum, tum, tum te tum, tum). Is it though, enough to make up for the other 364 days of the year (I’m the half-truth in the lie)?
And, I know, I’m one of the lucky ones. I enjoy my job. My colleagues are lovely, my boss is a pleasure to work with and the work is interesting. But in the mornings, Michael is particularly clingy and he clutches on to my clothing howling desperately when I leave (mercifully, Daniel is very phlegmatic). Even to go to the kitchen. My mother used to say, when the Princess was small “she was fine until you came in” and it’s the same with Michael. He’s fine and then he sees me and he starts to cry. It will pass I suppose.
But it’s hard. I hate to sound like Breda O’Brien, but I do think that the Irish government is wrong to try to force single mothers and every other type of mother out to work. It’s hard when you are going out to an interesting, reasonably well paid job; it must be bordering on the impossible, if you are going out to some horrible minimum wage job. Especially, if you have no partner with whom to share the childcare. And, let’s face it, what generally works best with childcare is part-time and, mostly, part-time jobs are neither the most interesting ones nor the ones with the best prospect of promotion. My cynical colleague says “worse, come the economic downturn, they’ll all be told to go home to tend their children, two part-time women is one full-time man”. I’m not sure I entirely share this view but I do believe that this whole dilemma will continue until everyone in society acknowledges that children have two parents, both of whom have responsibilities, and that to accommodate this, it is as normal for men to work part-time as for women. I guess I’ll be waiting a while, then.