I have five children and am very lucky to have had full time employment for most of the time I have been rearing them. But not one day of that was possible without the support of those I trusted to look after my kids.
My eldest was looked after in Glen Parent’s creche and then Whiterock Children’s Centre. My eldest son spent his first few years in Falls Women’s Centre. My other three had their aunt Marian and their granny Rose.
Absolutely nothing I have managed to do professionally was possible without the unending support and love that was given to my children and me.
My middle son is now 17 and about to sit his AS exams. He towers over me and his dad and is a great guy. When he was a baby he wouldn’t eat solid food. I can remember phoning his dad and excitedly saying – “he ate three spoonfuls of rice krispies today”. I was always worried about him. Marian took him when he was six months old. By the time he was a year old he was eating full dinners and was a little gorb. No one else could have done that. And I was able to go to work in full confidence that Marian would look after him like he was her own. When my second daughter came along my two parents were terminally ill. I went back to work when she was six weeks old and Marian took her too. She took them as I made the trips down south to be with my parents over the course of the following two years as their illnesses progressed. She gave them continuity, love and security during that really hard time. When my youngest was born she too went to Marian from six weeks old. Marian, saw their first steps, heard their first words and brought them for their first haircuts. She would pretend that I saw them all for the first time and I love her for that, but I know it was her.
Sadly, Marian was to lose the love of her life, John, far too early to cancer, and my youngest was then looked after by my incredible mother in law Rose. Have I mentioned before I have the world’s best mother in law? Constantly supportive and without one ounce of judgement. She has seen immense suffering in her lifetime, and only uses it to teach love, compassion and generosity. Incredible lessons for my kids.
I know every working mother relies on another for support, whether it is the wonderful professional creches in our community or family members, or like me, a mix of both. Fathers rely on them too but in a different way because of the roles we play in society. But to call it childcare is insufficient. We need women to contribute in formal employment spaces and to achieve that we need nurturing, caring support for growing babies and children. And that interlinks. Public policy must recognise that comprehensively.