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'I'm a better mum because I work'

Betty D'Arcy is married to Stephen Ryan and they have two children, Amelie (5) and Dylan (4). Betty and Stephen are both civil servants, and she works full-time at the Department of Foreign Affairs. Amelie is in junior infants and goes to daycare after school, while Dylan is in creche and will start school in September.

"I was in my late 30s becoming a mother. I was delighted when my children were born, but I have a demanding job and am very committed to my career so I never considered being a full-time mum. I stayed at home for almost a year after the births of both children, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I knew that it wasn't fulfilling enough for me. I'm fairly quiet, and I felt I had more to talk about when I was out working and of course interacting with people.

"Deciding on a creche was very easy as there is a Kids Inc one right beside my workplace, and I was delighted to get my children into it. It was so close that if anything was wrong, I could go over immediately, which I found reassuring, and I can also pop in to bring the children out for lunch sometimes. I found it hard handing Amelie over in the beginning, but once I saw how happy she was there, I felt better.

"Dylan is still in creche and he loves it, and there are days when he is having so much fun he nearly doesn't want to come home. He'll be well able for starting school in September, and I'm sad that our time with the creche will be over because we had really positive experiences with it. Amelie is shy like me, but the children have acquired independence and confidence and are great at interacting with other children. I found starting school scary myself, but Amelie adapted immediately and I think creche prepared her well for school. It was important to me to send the children to good schools so they will have better opportunities in life.

"Stephen drops her to school and Dylan to the creche, and I collect them. There is lots of chatter as we drive home, and then it's really busy until they go to bed, between Amelie's homework, baths, dinner and getting ready for the next day.

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"We make the most of the time we have together and they're very happy children. Because the weekdays are so busy, the weekends are special and we spend them together as a family. Stephen and I don't really have a social life any more, because the weekends are focused on Amelie and Dylan and doing fun activities for them.

"I don't feel torn, but sometimes I feel a pang when I see other mothers collecting their children from school. I admire mothers who stay at home, but it's not for me as I don't like routine and just don't have that mentality. Juggling it all is hard though, and sometimes I wonder how long I'll be able to last doing it all. I have a very intense job and when I go home, it's full on too. Stephen is a brilliant dad, and I wouldn't be able to do it all if it wasn't for him.

"The creche is easier in a lot of ways, because with school you have to juggle days off and holidays. So Stephen and I will have to work that out between us for the summer. I definitely feel that I'm a better mother because I work, as it's important for me to feel personally fulfilled. Overall, my children are very happy and I'm happy, so I think I have the best of both worlds." > Andrea Smith


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