'I felt I was missing out by not being with Mark full-time'
Valerie O'Donovan, from Shankill, mother of Mark (13)
Valerie O'Donovan applied to job-share as soon as she returned to work after having her son Mark. She believed working week on/week off in her public service job would give her the best of both worlds – and for a while, it worked well.
"I felt guilty leaving Mark, but I knew by job-sharing I'd have nine days off on a regular basis, when I included the two weekends," says Valerie. "I really liked going to work. That was my 'me' time, my time to be an adult."
But as Mark approached pre-school age, Valerie felt the pull of home getting stronger. "I felt I was missing out on a lot by not being with him full-time," she says.
Giving up her job was a big decision. Although her husband worked full-time, the family would be taking a financial hit and that had to be considered. "That was one of my bigger worries," she says. "We decided we would have to give up certain things, but we would still manage.
"I was worried about adjusting, but I didn't miss work for one second. I was too busy. With a small child, your day is gone before you know it. I did miss adult company over time, but you just build new friendships."
Valerie re-invented herself. She had danced for many years and volunteered to choreograph shows at Mark's school. She also got involved with the iPhones for Autism campaign (www.iPhones4Autism.ie)which encourages people to donate their old iPhones to help children with autism.
Although she was apprehensive about giving up her job, she says has absolutely no regrets.
"It's so nice to be able to pick Mark up after school and see the smile on his face when he sees you coming," she says. "For me, being at home has offered security and routine to my child. He has really blossomed."