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 (email@example.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.”