Charging up to 50k sounds about right for a stay-at-home harried parent

Being a stay-at-home parent is no cake walk and it’s simply not fair that it goes unrewarded, says Colette Sheridan
Charging up to 50k sounds about right for a stay-at-home harried parent

PRECIOUS ROLE: Royal London insurance company calculated a fair wage for a homemaker would be around €49,000.

THEY say a woman’s work is never done. But that has to change if we are to have true equality in our society.

A woman’s work should also be a man’s work – cooking, cleaning, ferrying children to activities, grocery shopping, tending to sick children off school, vacuuming dusty corners of walls while avoiding killing spiders - and all the other chores that ensure family life can run relatively smoothly.

But of course, as every mother knows, their antennae have to be tuned to potential disasters such as a child ingesting a kitchen cleaning product, necessitating a visit to A&E. It’s a minefield.

And if women’s work in the home was rewarded monetarily, the country would be screwed.

Just who would vote against the forthcoming referendum to remove the reference in the constitution that a woman’s place is in the home?

Are there still some diehards who think Éamon de Valera got it right when it came to women?

In the 1937 constitution, there is recognition that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”, and that the State will therefore “endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.

Don’t you just hate the notion of mothers’ ‘duties’, with the implied idea that all that dirty work in the house is compulsory for them?

This is not to diminish the work that mothers do and, one would hope, a growing band of stay-at-home dads now that real man can eat quiche and change nappies.

I don’t know any stay-at-home dads, but they must be out there, making de Valera uncomfortable (and irrelevant) in his grave.

The reality is that in order to service a mortgage these days, it takes two people to bring home the bacon. Staying-at-home is something of a luxury.

When I was a kid, we had the traditional set-up of mother-at-home and father out working. It was the same in every household in our park.

There was great security (not always appreciated at the time) in coming home from school to one’s mother, who might be baking or doing other housework.

Life was uncomplicated. There wasn’t the same amount of ‘juggling’ that mothers talk about so much now. Juggling is the punishment for women trying to have a career while rearing a family. It plays havoc with the nerves.

Even though your child’s nursery supervisor or school has both parents’ phone numbers in case of an emergency, the default position is to contact the mother should a child get sick or have an accident. Men will rarely be called out of an important meeting to make a frantic dash to tend to a child.

If a parent was to be paid for staying at home, what do you think they should get? According to a survey by iReach in 2021, most Irish people expect the salary to be around €28,000. But that is a gross undervaluation.

Royal London insurance company compared the financial value perceived by the survey respondents (€28,000 on average) with their own calculations drawn from pay-scale data on the monetary value of the homemaker. The figure came in at around €49,000. (That would definitely compensate for cleaning toilets and snotty noses every bloody day of the week, on top of all the other chores.) It sounds about right, taking into account the myriad jobs needing to be carried out in the home and the skills required, such as driving and catering.

Being a stay-at-home parent is no cake walk. And it’s simply not fair that it goes unrewarded. Which is why the Citizens Assembly chairperson, Catherine Day, says people want the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and the wider community. (Women often take on the care of their ageing parents on top of trying to run their own household.)

The Citizens Assembly recommends a number of improvements such as improved child care, getting rid of gender stereotypes, boosting female leadership in the workplace and in sports organisations.

Catherine Day says that putting something in the Constitution that clearly refers to gender equality and non-discrimination would “signal that’s the kind of Ireland that we want to live in”.

What is pathetic is the measly two weeks’ paid paternity leave in this country. How are men going to step up to the mark when the message implied is that they’re not taken seriously in their role as parents?

Two weeks of paid leave is tokenistic. Your average man would only be mastering the sterilising of babies’ bottles during that brief period of being at home.

If mothers were to go on strike, think of the crazy chaos that would ensue.

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