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'Au pair means I feel less guilty'

Louise Crowe and her husband Declan live in Skerries with their three sons – Charlie (8), Jack (6) and Christopher (2). She works full time and, although she enjoys her job, Louise would love to be able to afford to stay at home with her children.

"I have a full-time job in the public sector. Although I like my job, I hate leaving my boys and would love to be able to stay at home. I can afford to reduce my salary by half but, unfortunately, my employers will not reduce my hours. And because I work in the public sector and, therefore, have a permanent, pensionable job, moving to the private sector on reduced hours is not a risk we are prepared to take.

"Over the years, my childcare needs have changed. My first and second boys were minded in a family home with other children. It was exactly what I wanted for them.

"I would not have them cared for in a creche. It was never an option because it just seemed like a very artificial environment to me. I preferred the idea of the boys being with a family as it just seemed more normal. I also felt that they were more likely to get more one-to-one time with one primary caregiver.

"When my eldest child started going to school we decided that we wanted the boys cared for in their own home, so we built a studio apartment in our back garden to accommodate an au pair.


"We are on our third au pair, and we have had an amazing experience with all three. I feel less guilty about leaving the boys because I know they are happy in their own home. But I don't think there is anything you can say to a mother who leaves her children – and doesn't want to – that would make them feel better.

"As working mums, we tell ourselves that our children will be fine without us, that it is better to be financially secure; that most homes have both parents going out to work. But no matter what we tell ourselves, we know that the best option is to be at home. I know mothers who would have no interest in being at home full time and like going out to work. I wish I either felt like that or could afford to stay at home." > Arlene harris