Young mothers forced to abandon their careers due to Ireland’s childcare crisis are experiencing a “loss of identity” and struggling financially as the cost of living soars.
The lack of available crèche places has left some parents unable to work, while others have chosen not to return because their salaries would not cover extortionate crèche fees on top of rent, mortgage repayments, utility bills and living expenses.
“Women have to choose between family and career. I feel like 11 years of studying and climbing the ladder is now down the drain,” said Michelle Morphew, who quit her job because childcare costs for her twins exceeded her monthly salary.
Ms Morphew (31) lives and works in Trim, Co Meath before as deputy head of a daycare center. Her twins are two years old and most daycare centers in the area do not accept children under the age of two.
She wasn’t eligible for much financial support under the National Childcare Scheme, so quitting her job made more sense.
“I couldn’t have afforded the commute, not to mention the fact that I would basically be working for free. The price I was quoted also came with a staff discount so it would be even worse for those not in the industry.”
As someone who has worked in childcare, she believes that
Three factors contribute to high costs, including rent for daycare buildings, insurance, and administration.
“There’s also an element of greed in some crib owners,” she said.
“The government’s attempts to address the problem so far have been pathetic. There needs to be a cap on the amount crèches can charge, and a limit on how much and how often fees can increase.
“I probably won’t be able to go back to work until the kids are in school, and even then I’ll probably have to find somewhere to work during the semester, maybe as a Montessori teacher, but that’s never going to be profitable for me.” go back to a daycare full-time.
“Many of my colleagues are in the same boat. No wonder we have a major staffing crisis in the industry.”
Victoria Mulholland (35), originally from Banbridge, Co Down, is in a similar position. she has moved recently to West Cork to be closer to her husband’s family and was unaware of the dire childcare situation in the Republic.
The nearest daycare center is 35 minutes away in Clonakilty and she has not been able to find a suitable childminder.
She previously worked as a health and safety manager in construction but now fears she will not be able to return to work once her maternity leave is up. Her son is two and a half months and her daughter is eight months.
“I feel like I’m experiencing a loss of identity and I don’t know who I am anymore,” she said.
“I have always been independent and worked very hard to get into construction. It is a field in which very few women work.
“I also feel like people of older generations don’t understand people in this situation and don’t have much understanding of people. It’s so hard to live on a salary and the cost of living here – it’s impossible. We’ve sold our house up north and we’re renting out down here, but there aren’t any houses available.
“I would definitely not have moved if I had known the situation. I didn’t realize how big the problem would be.”
She has applied for other jobs to get a feel for work-life balance, but thinks it’s “pointless” because she can’t currently commit to working full-time without childcare.
“You shouldn’t have to choose between family and work. I love my kids, but I also love what I do,” she said.
‘When we lived in Banbridge I had a childminder who was excellent and could work the hours that suited my job but I couldn’t find them here.
“I would also like to be able to leave my children with someone who I know is first aid trained and has all the relevant insurance and documentation, but in some cases people are just doing this for extra income. ”
Emily Hackett from Limerick City also did childcare but found it to be just as expensive as a crèche.
The mother of three previously worked in a call center and decided not to return as childcare costs would not have been covered.
“Childcare would cost me 300 euros a week and I would only earn 480 euros gross,” she said.
Even if she could afford it, there are waiting lists of up to two years for crèches around the city. Her family lives more than two hours away and both of her parents died when she was 16, while her husband is an only child and his mother also died so there is no immediate family to help her.
“Me and my husband had a conversation about whether it’s harder for women or men and honestly I think men in his situation have it harder because there’s a lot of pressure to provide for the family financially. That means a lot of stress and strain for the families.”
Her husband is a member of the Defense Forces, where poor pay has been a problem for years. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he worked overtime as the army was deployed to testing centers and his pay situation improved, but this resulted in other support payments being taken away.
“It was classified as extra income so we lost entitlement to the Working Family Payment as it was just over the limit. That weighs heavily on us. The only good thing is that we didn’t have to spend that much due to the lockdown.
“There will be no family holidays this year. The kids don’t understand and we don’t want to tell them why because we don’t want them to worry.
“I would like to go back to work, but for many parents it is not financially worthwhile given the childcare costs.”
A spokesman for the Children’s Department said it would “continue to monitor” capacity in crèches given the recent lifting of restrictions while the government made a commitment to introducing affordable childcare.
“The recommendations of an expert group to develop a new funding model for early childhood education and childcare were adopted by the government in December. This marks a new path in government funding for the sector and is a significant step towards ensuring high quality, affordable
performing, sustainable and accessible services.
“The new funding model also recommends a new approach to fee management. This starts with providers needing to keep fees at or below September 2021 levels in order to access a new funding program in 2022.”
However, with childcare fees already among the highest in Europe, parents are likely to continue to struggle.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/high-childcare-costs-are-forcing-too-many-young-women-to-choose-family-or-career-41463995.html High childcare costs are forcing too many young women to choose between family and work