Today in the Irish Times the wonderful Anthea McTeirnan talks about family life.
Not for us a stay-at-home mother prone to outbreaks of baking and bathos and a thrusting, briefcase-carrying, disciplinarian dad. We were going to do things differently. And we did. Sort of.
In 1995, just as our second son reached 18 months, a job came up in the sports department at The Irish Times. I was a freelance journalist, and this was a full-time, permanent, pensionable job, previously occupied only by men. I got it.
So we decided to swap roles. I was to be the main wage earner, Kevin was to go part-time and do the bulk of the childcare.
While choosing to have a stay at home Dad is still seen as strange, it’s not to me as my Dad became the stay at home parent when I was about 10, and my Mam was the one who went out to work, he did everything the 5 of us needed, all the school runs, volunteered in the school, parents association. One of my early memories of having my hair done was his big strong gentle hands trying to get my mane into a pony tail and swearing when the bobbin snapped.
He did a great job with the 5 of us, both my parents did. His mother brought him up with the belief hands had no gender and he surprised more then a few people when he’d change my terrycloth nappy himself as a baby rather then hand me off to my mother. There was no such thing as ‘women’s work’ growing up, there was just the things which needed doing in the house as part of being a family, which means caring and sharing it all.
In Ireland we have not statutory paternity leave or shared parenting leave after the birth of adoption of a child. It is something which I know we need. We need a better division of child care and labour in the home rather then the default thinking being it is automatically ‘women’s work’, and that starts with sharing the work load from the beginning.
It will also mean when an employer is looking at two candidates for a job who are in their late 20s to late 30s, a man is just as likely to need time off when having children as a woman might.