In exactly two months time I will be back at work full time. For the first time in over 3 years.The last time I worked full time, Syria was at peace, Wills and Kate had yet to tie the knot and Superquinn was alive and kicking. I suspect that Mini will take the daily changes her stride-as long as there are people to give her love and attention, she won’t be too bothered that her mum isn’t around 24/7. It’ll be a whole other ball game with her sister, however. Mini Mini is a real mammy’s girl, a Velcro baby. She’s in for a rude awakening when her one true love (the boobs, not me-though I feel I come a close second!) disappear from her life forever and the person they’re attached to is gone for a sizable chunk of the day.
As for me, I’m dreading it. The office banter and adult interaction will be welcomed with open arms but the thoughts of spending so much time away from my girls is gut wrenching. Mercifully my commute to work is a ridiculously small one-five minutes drive and I’m there so I’ll have the option to come home and see them at lunchtime.
Office Mum has written extensively and very eloquently about the subject of flexibility in the workplace. I see from her articles a correlation between me and many other Irish parents who do not possess a flexible working week. Seven times over the past 3 years I have asked for a 3 or a 4 day week, anything but a 5 day one. Each time this request has been denied. It used to be the case where you could divide up the 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave you were entitled to over a period of a year or so. Now my employer is offering that 18 weeks as a block-no division permitted. no exceptions-not even for parents of children with special needs. Mini has so many appointments-physio,occupational therapy,speech and language,regular assessments, blood tests and check ups-often two or three in the one week. So I took Carer’s Leave for 22 months sandwiched between two maternity leaves. I’m not sure how we will schedule these appointments once I’m back at work.The Frenchman works evenings so it will more than likely fall to him to keep all these appointments going in the mornings. It’s a lot to ask of one person. Even a four day working week would have allowed me to schedule the appointments on the one day. It would have been a bitch of a day, but it would be a lot easier.
I’m not the first mother to complain about lack of flexibility on the part of my employer and I see where they are coming from. They no doubt feel they have been more than generous with their 18 paid weeks of maternity leave and in this country they definitely have. I have friends who have had to rely solely on the weekly government maternity benefit-previously at €262, cut to just €230 in the last Budget.My employer want me back full time as there are targets to maintain, call levels to keep steady and the all important customers to placate. The fact of the matter is that they could have had me back over two years ago if they had allowed me to go back on a three day week. Surely I would have been more beneficial to them being there three days out of five than none at all? One wonders.
I know I chose to have kids but a little flexibility could go a long way.It’s interesting that the state still fails to recognise its most precious commodity-its children. Childcare rates are at a premium and are more costly than a mortgage for some families. If the government could somehow subsidise employers or provide incentives so they could offer their workers more flexibility,it would alleviate so much stress in Irish homes. I know it’s never going to happen,especially not in the private sector but I’d love for some thinking outside the box to come from our politicians. Happier workers means more productive workers which can only be a good thing for the economy.
And before anyone gives out about favourable actions for people who have chosen to have kids, why shouldn’t there be help provided by the state?We need to have children in order to keep any economy going. Children are future adults who will become future workers,paying taxes to keep the country going.
The bottom line is that I am a better human being since becoming a parent.I am more patient,more understanding,a better multi tasker and am no longer fazed by what I now know to be the little things. When your child is hooked up to tubes in the NICU and you are anxiously waiting for the cardiologist to assuage fears that she may have a hole in her heart,you get a bit of bloody perspective. What employer wouldn’t gratefully accept these traits in exchange for the loss of just a few hours work per week?A damn lucky one that’s who!And sadly one that seems to be rare enough in this country.