'You have weeks when it's fine and weeks when it's draining'
Thirty-somethings Emma Farrelly and her husband Keith juggle a packed schedule to meet the demands of their full-time jobs and four children.
A financial adviser with Irish Life, Emma (38) leaves the family home in Rathfarnham, Dublin, at around 8.30am every morning with three of the children. She drops Isabella (10) and six-year-old twins Jamie and Ryan to school before heading off for the day.
Keith (39), a self-employed company director, drops the couple's eldest daughter, Ana (14) to school. Ana comes home herself while the younger children go to an after-school club until 6pm from which they're picked up by one of their parents.
Emma is usually home between 5.30pm and 6.30pm, Keith by 6pm and between them they get the dinner and oversee the homework.
Emma has a housekeeper who comes in once a fortnight, and she gets the ironing done by a service, but is currently planning to increase the level of paid help in the house.
"We find it very heavy going -you can have weeks when it's fine and other weeks when it's really draining and exhausting.
"Keith is very good. He does a hell of a lot, too," she says, adding that the older children are help out.
"We have the keep the wheels turning," she quips.
Does she ever feel guilty about the frenetic pace of life?
"I think the children would prefer me to be at home, especially the smaller ones," she says, adding that in the pre-school days, she and Keith availed of "every child-minding facility - creches, child-minders, au-pairs," while at one stage their granny also minded them.
Both sets of grandparents live nearby, and are a huge support.
"They are fantastic to us - if a child is sick or I need something, we only have to ask."
Emma's own mum was a housewife, whose job was to rear her three children, while Emma's father worked two jobs.
Emma admits that she'd have loved to stay home with her own children in the years before they started school. However, the demands of a big mortgage and a large family meant she kept going - but staying in the workforce has had its compensations. She gets enormous satisfaction from her career. "I'm very happy in my job. Also I think life'd be a lot worse if we had financial troubles and were at each other's throats!"
When the children were younger, she regularly took much of the summer off under a parental leave scheme so as to be with the children during the school holidays. She still plans her annual leave around the school calendar.
"I'm glad that I've been able to maintain my career - it means that at the age of 38 or 39 I have a good job and I see myself as being successful. It can be tough to keep it all going at times, but we're very happy."