My parenthood journey began in 2019 when my daughter Caoimhe was born. My husband and I are both Irish with little family support in Australia. (We do have amazing, supportive friends which has been a blessing!)
When Caoimhe was born my husband only got two weeks of parental leave and it went by so fast! In the blink of an eye he’d returned to work and I was still recovering from birth with a two-week-old and very little support. Looking back, it was very difficult but I had no option other than to manage somehow.
I returned to work when Caoimhe was six months old and this is where I really began to struggle. The return was both a financial decision and a personal one. I needed the social interaction, the mental challenge and to keep updated with knowledge and skills. As I’d worked so hard to advance my career (I am an accountant), it was very important to me to maintain my position. I enjoy working, so a mix of motherhood and work was always my plan.
The first few weeks back at work were okay, but then the daycare sickness arrived… and my goodness what stress came with it! I got constant phone calls to collect Caoimhe as she was unwell, and I had to drop everything at work and go. Typically, she was then out of daycare for a few days meaning I had the difficult juggle of work plus a sick child plus daycare costs for a service I wasn’t even using. My husband tried to take time off work when he could, however the burden and expectation of caring for an unwell child was 100% on me, the mother. It appeared to be more acceptable for me to take time off work than my husband.
Given there is so much publicity around women getting back into the workforce after having children I assumed there would be good support available! The biggest eye opener for me was that the mother is still seen as the primary carer even when both parents are working. Since becoming a mother so much has changed for me and not much has changed for my husband.
Society still sees it as the mother’s responsibility to take a career break, reduce work hours, step back in their career, start work early/late, drop off/collect children, take sick days to care for children while also keeping up with all work responsibilities and managing the household.
I challenge more fathers/secondary carers to step up and share responsibility for their kids and household commitments while raising their family alongside the mother/primary carer!
For this to happen more financial government support is required so both parents can equally contribute to work and home life. This would include:
- A better or free childcare subsidy.
- Regular child support (in Ireland a similar payment assists with costs such as clothing, food, essential needs for children).
- Super payment on parental leave so parents are not financially punished in their retirement years for having had a family.
I am due to have my second child in July this year. I know that to support a toddler, a newborn and a wife still recovering from birth, two weeks of parental leave for my husband is just not enough. In addition, I need support to successfully return to work.
It's great hearing the government and employers say they support women returning to work but we need to see actual support and not just words!
If you would like to share your story please email Maddy at [email protected]