Monday 18 December 2017

Why even supermums feel guilty for working . . .

Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

The RTÉ star isn't the only working mum to feel conflicted, writes Deirdre Reynolds

With eight healthy, happy kids and a glittering television career, Miriam O'Callaghan has long been held up as the poster girl for working mums in Ireland.

But recently the Prime Time presenter revealed how she was left feeling more 'super glum' than super mum after missing her 10-year-old son Conor's piano recital.

Glam mam Miriam (51) tweeted: "Rushed from Prime Time to see my 10 yr old son play piano solo in school concert but had to come back before his turn came #sad&guiltymother".

As one of RTÉ's top earners, the former solicitor is famous for her unflappable interviewing style -- memorably grilling Martin McGuinness on his IRA past during the presidential election debate last year.

Behind the scenes, however, it's not the first time Miriam has admitted to battling with 'working mum guilt'.

"There isn't a day where I don't sneak out the front door because little children will always cry when you're going to work," she has said.

"If I'm picking up the kids, I'll feel guilty I'm not in work.

"If I'm in work, I feel guilty that I'm not at the school gates.

"I think in society you get people pitying working mothers versus people who work from inside the home -- and we should never let anyone do that.

"We're all working hard and it's choices you make, and my choice is primarily because I love my job."

Author Marisa Mackle says she knows exactly what Miriam is going through after she missed her toddler's first steps.

"I can completely relate to the guilt bit," says single mum Marisa, who has a three-year-old-son, Gary.

"I used to think that working from home would be fantastic because I could be a stay-at-home mum at the same time.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that -- and now I have an au pair and Gary goes to creche too.

"My worst memory is the au pair knocking on my office door to tell me Gary took his first step," she says.

"I think that was a real low point.

"I feel terrible about it sometimes, but I need to work, or how would we survive?"

And around 57pc of Irish women feel the same way -- with over half saying that they would prefer to be a stay-at-home mum if money weren't an issue, according to a survey by the Maternity and Infant Awards.

In reality, though, 42.5pc currently pay for childcare.

'As a lot of my work is freelance, I knew I would have to return to work soon after my daughter Brooke (1) was born," says Sunshine 106.8 presenter Andrea Hayes. "In the early days, though, the thought of leaving my baby with someone else literally made my stomach hurt.

"I never thought that I would be a working mum. I always assumed that once I had kids, I would stay at home like my own mother did.

"[But] I work because I enjoy it -- and feel that the adult interaction and critical thinking actually make me a more well-rounded mother."

Experts agree that when it comes to spending time with your kids, it's quality, not quantity, that counts.

"I don't think parenting is a numbers game," says child psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley. "The important thing is that children get opportunities to have fun with their parents.

"If a mother gets home from work and spends 45 minutes haring around the living room dressed up as a belly dancer, or making drums out of yogurt pots, before a quick dinner and bed, that could easily be enough."

It's a philosophy that celebrity chef and mum-of-two Catherine Fulvio lives by.

"Organised impulsiveness is my trick to overcoming working mum guilt," says Catherine, who runs Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Wicklow. "I draw up a list of all the fun places we should visit as a family and then work my way through it when the opportunity arises."

In fact, working mums spend almost as much playtime with their little ones each day as stay-at-home mums -- 150 minutes compared to 171 minutes, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"As working mums, sometimes it can feel like we're damned if we do and damned if we don't," says psychotherapist Caitriona Brady of Sandyford Wellness Centre. "But guilt is an entirely useless emotion."

Model mum Sarah McGovern reckons that there's no such thing as a 'model mum'.

"The minute you have a baby, you have this constant guilt," says Sarah, who has a 10-month-old son Jude.

"First it's: 'Do I breastfeed?' -- and the guilt if it doesn't work out. Then it's when you leave them for five minutes and they start crying.

"I've come to accept it -- but I still battle with the guilt every day.

"The beauty of my job is that I can put Jude in the car seat and bring him with me.

"He's even done some 'mum and baby' modelling jobs with me -- and usually has a gang of PR girls and make-up artists cooing over him!"

"Miriam O'Callaghan is such a role model," she adds. "I don't know how she does it and still looks so glamorous."

However, as her tweet shows, chat queen Miriam insists she's far from Wonder Woman.

"If I've been asked once, I've been asked a million times to write a book for working mothers," she says. "But I wouldn't do it because I hate women who preach to other women.

"I don't have any idea about what the right way to be a working mother is; I just do it instinctively. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong."

Irish Independent

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