Nuala Grant

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - BA in so­cial stud­ies, mum of four

Aso­cial worker on a child pro­tec­tion team in Dublin for 14 years, Nuala, a mother of four, be­gan a ca­reer break when her youngest child was a year old. She says be­ing a pub­lic sec­tor worker made the de­ci­sion more straight­for­ward, in that she could re­turn to her job and main­tain her pen­sion.

“My work was emo­tion­ally charged. I was work­ing with the most vul­ner­a­ble kids in so­ci­ety. I’d get home from work and sit in the car try­ing to gather my­self to go in­side and I could see them all at the win­dow, shout­ing ‘Mammy! Mammy!’ I’d go into the house and they all come at you — and then the pres­sure is on. It’s a lot about na­ture. The core is... the mother is the feeder. It’s as ba­sic as that.

“That was one of the rea­sons I gave up work — I couldn’t make that tran­si­tion into fam­ily life; I couldn’t switch off from work. That stress is on ev­ery woman.

“There must be a ma­tu­rity in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the par­ents to en­able cou­ples to make this de­ci­sion. It re­quires you to com­mu­ni­cate with each other in the midst of the chaos.

“Be­ing able to have the chil­dren at home af­ter school is very im­por­tant to me. There is a lot of safety in your home and chil­dren re­spond to that. It’s the feel­ing you get from home. In the push to get women into the work­force, the Gov­ern­ment are for­get­ting about the lit­tle peo­ple at home. And what about the men? Men carry the stress a lot, too. There should be flex­i­ble work­ing ar­range­ments more avail­able to all. I would choose to work part time if I could. Maybe most of us would.

“I couldn’t af­ford to stay at home and still can’t. But I’m will­ing to do that. It wasn’t a choice for me. The scales were only tip­ping one way.

“Some­times you need to step out­side of your­selves to get some per­spec­tive. I spoke to a par­ent­ing ex­pert. She said to me, ‘you need to get out of that sit­u­a­tion: you are drown­ing’. Some­one said to me, you’ll never re­gret spend­ing time at home with the kids. But you might re­gret the flip­side.

“I loved my job. It has to be a pas­sion. I had a big fear of step­ping out and not be­ing able to step back in again. When I was work­ing, I trained in Play Ther­apy as some­thing ex­tra I could give the kids, but I started to re­alise the chil­dren I was work­ing with had gone far be­yond what Play Ther­apy could of­fer.

“So I started to think where could I re­ally fill a need. A while af­ter I be­gan the ca­reer break, I started up North Dublin Play Ther­apy (playther­a­pynorth­dublin@gmail.com), do­ing hours that fit around my fam­ily. I deal with chil­dren who aren’t in care, chil­dren strug­gling with lit­tle things, the day-to-day things. I’m happy. I’m not al­ways work­ing in cri­sis mode now.”

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