When the morning rush has passed and all the commuters have scurried into their offices with a fresh coffee in their claws, those who stay long enough might notice the corners of the café filling with women. Sitting in the midst of a fortress of prams, they will breathe and comfort and then make plans and submit petitions.
Every town in Ireland, if not every parish, has a group of these women. Their numbers continue to grow, and membership in their private Facebook groups is steadily increasing. All of these women began by becoming mothers. But many of them became activists they never asked for.
Being the mother of a child with a disability in Ireland most often entails becoming a solicitor. The waiting lists for Children Disability Network Teams (CNDTS) across the country are absolutely outrageous. Young children who need speech and language therapy or physical therapy go three, four and even five years without the life-changing interventions — to which they are legally entitled. The impact of this type of waiting on a child’s quality of life is powerful. After waiting four years, some disabled children are likely to lose the opportunity to walk or speak forever.
The state is currently forcing parents to sit and watch their children limp for no good reason. It’s easy to understand how every mother in this situation is driven to do whatever she can to stand up and agitate for her child’s rights, rather than being tormented by the helplessness that comes with being in the being exposed in the first row to their child’s regression.
So someone has to take it upon themselves to harass the politicians and hunt down the HSE. Someone has to find a way to bend the household budget to the pressures of a private ASD assessment and all the costly therapies that can result. Someone has to have the time and patience to call all the psychologists until you can find time for an appointment, research the speech therapists, and work part-time as a medical mom – learning everything she can from the internet.
But many of these women are already caring for small children with additional needs full-time and are employed full-time themselves. That would be enough for anyone without the desperate calls and emails to a seemingly cold and faceless healthcare and political system also consuming so much of their finite time and energy. Inevitably, something has to give way. And it seems that without exception it will be the mother’s career.
The way we talk about how women are being pushed out of the workforce in this country can often be boring, superficial and narrow-minded. I have a hard time caring about whether the immensely well-paid CEO of a private company is a man or a woman, and I don’t really see why anyone else should be forced to. Conversations about how women are being pushed out of work are disproportionately and inexplicably focused on the most prestigious and best-paid positions, the spots in the job market that so few ordinary women could ever achieve.
What I’d rather talk about is how regular jobs and industries are losing so many skilled and brilliant workers to a nursing crisis caused directly by the failure of those in power. From the mothers of children awaiting stagnant and near-inpatient disability care, to the daughters of aging parents left in painful isolation, the fact that this country so often abandons those in need has created a pushing women out of the labor market.
Her local support group for autism mothers, the women who source and trade sensory equipment to save their families’ money, are all full of women who were at the peak of their careers when they sacrificed them. These were women who rightly had their own aspirations and ambitions and personalities outside of their revered roles as mothers and caregivers. But when it came to choosing between her career and fighting for her child, it really wasn’t a choice at all.
I understand why it’s more politically pleasing to talk about the threat to women’s role in the workforce as a frightening and invisible patriarchal force, a force that no one can control but that everyone enthusiastically agrees is bad. But what would actually be more useful for women, while unhelpful for the governing parties keen to hold international Women’s Day panels, would be to acknowledge the policy choices that pull mothers out of work.
The brilliant and busy women in the corner of your local coffee shop—who rally and fundraise like it’s nobody’s business—may look like superwomen, but they’re just people. It’s not fair to expect them to do everything. Because as long as the state does not take care of children with additional needs, it creates additional work for mothers.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/for-as-long-as-the-state-is-failing-to-look-after-children-with-additional-needs-they-are-forcing-their-mothers-to-quit-the-workforce-41918446.html As long as the state does not take care of children with additional needs, they force their mothers to stop working