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'Going back to work doesn't make you more of a woman'

Emily Morrissey, stay-at-home married mother of three

Emily Morrissey is married to David and lives in Kilbride near Brittas Bay, Wicklow. She has three children – Anna (5), Joseph (3) and Daniel (2).

She has been a stay-at-home mum since her daughter was born and had planned to return to work, but was made redundant. She is now delighted that she is able to be there for her children.

"I have been a stay-at-home mum since Anna was born in 2008. I thought I might return to work when my baby was a year old but the company I worked for made our whole department redundant so I became a stay-at-home mum.

"And I am really glad to be here with them. I think, primarily, because I have been able to be there for every stage of their development. I have enjoyed being part of toddler groups and have benefited from the support I have received from other mums in the same stage of life.

"I have found that having the flexibility to spend more time with other family members has been a huge benefit and this has enabled my children to form close bonds with their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins during these early years. Also my brother and sister-in-law started a family at the same time so the cousins are growing up together.

"However, in saying all this, the mundane routine of early motherhood with three little ones does get you down at times. I have little time for myself in the day. Even having a shower in the morning is a struggle and the challenge of breastfeeding a baby with a one-year-old and a three-year-old climbing all over you can be enough to drive you demented. There are times where I would love to drop them all off at a creche, put on a suit and make-up and go to work.

"I also feel there is a pressure that I should go back to work. There is much more recognition for working mothers than stay-at-home mums. One of the first questions I am asked when I meet someone new is when am I going back to work.

"This assumption undermines my role in the home and suggests that working outside the home makes you more of a woman and a greater success. But I think my children have benefited from having me at home. They are so sensitive to change in their early years and mine have the security and protection that I could not guarantee if they were looked after outside the home.

"I also think the main benefit of being at home is the ability to establish a happy, secure family environment. My husband works long hours and I imagine if I was working outside the home our family dynamic would be much more tense. The fact that the children are happy and fed and ready for bed when Daddy gets home means that they get to spend quality time with him. I think where possible mothers should be the primary carers of their children."

Arlene harris