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Sexism works both Ways

On the back of some quite negative publicity I have read about men and childminding during the Corona Crisis, I realised that sexism works both ways. And I felt the need to show a different side of the story. It is obviously going to be a very personal point of view from within our family. Nevertheless I don‘t think that my husband John is an edge case. If we still do live in a world where men are misogynistic and can‘t or don‘t want to look after their children, I am even more lucky to have found the one and only super husband & daddy.

„Feminists shouting sexism all over“

I don‘t mind “Men-are-from-Mars-and-Women-from-Venus Jokes“. Men and women are different by nature. They have different strengths and skill sets, often complementing each other. Generalising and joking about their flaws can be humorous. Especially when both sides are aware that it involves stereotyping and exaggerations.

A friend of mine sent me a video the other day about what would happen if women went on strike. It was hilarious! Men were holding crying babies, unable to work out what to do with them. Business men in suits panicking over having to pick up their little ones from kindergarten for the first time. Men at home clueless how to look after domestic stuff. It clearly was exaggerated and sarcastic which I don‘t have a problem with as such.

But jokes like that don‘t seem to work the other way around. Feminists would be shouting „sexism“ from all over. Why is it that we find it very funny when men are put down or made fun of when it comes to child rearing? But jokingly criticizing women‘s driving or mechanical skills  – which is obviously as clichéd – is sexism?

Men against Women

What I have noticed – even more during the Corona Crisis  – is that often it is men against women. As if it was a competition that has to be won by either side. What happened to being partners? Making use of what we both bring to the table and work as a team? Rather than just finger pointing and jumping all over each other’s flaws.

I am not saying that we never have these – let‘s call them gender-based – arguments at home. Who is more tired? How many hours did I look after the kids on the weekend and how many hours did he etc.? Who deserves a break more?  We do argue about these things, because it can be tough at times. Looking after two small children 24/7 in your own four walls while working from home is a challenge that grew exorbitantly during the pandemic.

However once our tempers have cooled down after above mentioned confrontations, we remind ourselves that we don‘t gain anything from winning in a marriage. (Well, except for half an hour extra sleep maybe at the cost of not talking to each other for a while.) We made agreements that we tend to stick to. And if we can‘t for one reason or another we try to compromise and re-adjust. Above all, we know that we are on each other‘s side and not in some strange pseudo-battle between male and female.

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Lazy Housewife vs. Career-oriented Husband

One of our biggest standing agreements is how we split the roles at home. My main task is to look after the children and the domestic chores in the house. John is the sole bread winner. We both have a big responsibility. But for some reason I find neither is perceived as such.

An example for the negative media coverage during the Corona Crisis that I mentioned at the start stated that women are the losers of the pandemic. They have to stay at home and look after the children whilst the men can continue their jobs as before. No one even considers the increased financial pressure now resting on the husband‘s shoulders whilst the mother gets to spend more time with the children. It might not have been the mother’s choice, but not necessarily the father’s either.

It doesn’t help that the image of a house wife and stay-at-home mom is still not the best in modern society. People argue that women make themselves dependent on their husbands and are denied self-fulfilment. They talk about “giving up” something, but never about gaining at the same time. Everybody knows – at least in theory – that it definitely is a full-time job to look after young children. And an important one on top of that. So why is it that women still feel the need to justify themselves for being home carers?

The Grass is always greener on the other Side

It looks like neither men nor women get what they are looking for. Of course I enjoy withdrawing to our home office to work on the computer while John is minding the kids. John on the contrary can‘t wait to get out at night time and roll around on the floor with the kids.

Does that mean we envy the other person all the time? Is that why there is a constant, merciless battle between men and women? Neither a full-time job in the office nor minding the kids at home is always a pleasure. But John and I chose our roles for a reason. The more we enjoy switching occasionally for a break. However we are far from questioning our whole system.

Jobs with a Meaning

After a hard day – rather than arguing who got the better end of the stick – we try to show each other appreciation for what we have achieved. John in his job and I in mine. I also disagree with the assumption that having a paid job is generally more fulfilling. Whilst our children show me appreciation almost every day, John might be looking for it in vain in the office, despite his hard work.

When it comes to the questions whose job as such is more important, I am also the clear winner. The purpose of my work, i.e. our children, add by far more meaning to my life than John’s tasks at the office to his. At the same time we are well aware that we couldn’t afford our life style without John’s long hours and his good salary.

A Healthy Co-Dependency

There is no doubt about it that it needs us as a team to make it all function. Rather than striving for personal happiness and self-fulfillment, we believe that owning up to our responsibilities and contributing our part is the key to a content (family) life on the long run. With this comes happiness and fulfillment.

Apart from that, there is no reward system or competition going on for the harder worker. If one slacks off, the other one has to bear the additional load, or things will start slipping. We are not ashamed of admitting that we are depending on each other. Our marriage and family would not work if we were two separate individuals fighting to realise our own personal goals.

Trouble Shooting in the Crisis

The Corona crisis has required a lot of re-adjustment. Even though our traditional roles made it easier for us to adapt quicker to childminding and working from home, we weren‘t prepared to master it all by ourselves, entirely without the support of family and friends.

Hence we do have our moments when when we are sick and tired of it all and annoyed by each other‘s company. We had an argument recently which we didn‘t sort out before we went to bed. However we both agreed the next day that we didn‘t like that and won‘t be doing it again going forward. (Well, we will argue for sure, but won‘t drag it out until the next day.)

There really is no point. We know that we are generally on the same page and agree on the ‘big stuff‘. Otherwise we wouldn‘t have got married in the first place. When we argue it is about day-to-day things in combination with being tired or overwhelmed. At the end of the day we know that our marriage is the base camp where we both re-charge our batteries.




Good or Bad Parent? You decide!

Family Rules with Kids in Lockdown

To entertain your kids at home you don’t have to be a professional arts & crafts teacher, drill instructor or party clown, but a bit of everything. In my previous articles I already gave a little insight of  how we deal with self-isolation and about our life as home office family. This one is going to be about the master task of them all: How to keep your kids busy at home all day long. Of course it helps that my husband John has been working from home full time and that I am a stay-at-home mom for over 3 years now. So we are well used to being ‘locked in the house’ together 24/7. I have put together 5 simple family rules that have proven to be successful for us well before self-isolation and lockdown.

Business as Usual

I am either the best mother in the world or the worst. Maybe it has to do with the way our kids are, or the family rules we raise them by. Or a bit of both. Possibly the trouble is still ahead of us when our kids reach school age. Who knows. But my life as full-time mammy of a 3-year old and an 8 1/2-months old is pretty relaxed most of the time. (A line that the majority of temporary, involuntary stay-at-home moms probably want to kill me for.)

Not even the Covid19 restrictions are going to change that. Our kids are barely affected by them. Despite the fact they are not able to see their grandparents and friends, they don’t really suffer under the situation. Therefore we don’t see the need to overcompensate with special activities or new toys. In our house it’s business as usual with our good old family rules.

Often the Problem is Me

When days turn out to be more challenging than others it is quite often because of me. Of course the little ones have their phases, throw the odd temper tantrum or can be demanding and needy at times. However most of the time they are their usual self and act appropriately for their age. When I am more irritable, get snappy or impatient quicker, it is me who is having a bad day.

So ‘rule zero’ of our family rules is to “clean your own side of the street first” as they say and check your own mood. Am I putting my grumpiness on them or do I give off a vibe that makes the kids acting up? It doesn’t always help to change the situation, but it makes it easier for me to not let it out on my children.

What to do with your Kids at Home?

I am not going to jump on the ‘creative waggon’ and give advice about what you can handcraft or invent with your children. (Others are much better at that – check out SENSEable Tots Website or Instagram.) I rather want to write about how little kids need to entertain themselves and how I make life easy for myself as stay-at-home mom. So here are our (genius?) rules of (lazy?) parenting:

Family Rule # 1: Don’t make the Kids the Centre of your Life

Our kids mean everything to me. I am their main caretaker and I couldn’t picture spending my day-to-day life without them. Sounds pretty much as if they were the centre of my life and everything evolves around them, right?

In a way it does. However we (that is my husband and myself) do believe that it is important to show them that there are boundaries and they are not the centre of the universe all the time. They are only little now, but it is our responsibility to prepare them for life in society later. Our family is their small society and we need to teach them how to behave socially for their own sake. It would be unfair if our family rules completely differed from the ones they have to stick to in society later on, wouldn’t it?

Therefore we think it is okay to say „Hang on for a minute, Mammy and Daddy are talking“. Or „Dinner will be ready in a couple of minutes, we’ll wait until everybody is at the table“. Even a simple “No you can’t have/do that right now” is ok. Our 3-year old is able to understand that. Once we overcame the initial protest and moaning about it, it paid off. In return we give them many moments when they are the centre of attention.

Family Rule # 2: Stick to the Rules

We think that kids need a routine and above all rules. It helps them and gives them something to rely on when things around them change. Like during a pandemic for example. Family rules are easily set up. Sticking to them and enforcing them as a parent is the difficult bit.

Nobody likes to see their child crying over something. On the contrary, it actually makes me nervous seeing them frustrated. But for us that is not always a reason to give in. If they were about to do something dangerous we wouldn’t give in either and let them touch the hot cooker. So why not do the same with non-hazardous things?

There are many positive ways to enforce rules, without any pressure or shouting (well, most of the time). We always try to explain things child-appropriately or tell them why it is important to obey a certain rule. Rarely we say no without any further explanation.

The best way to enforce family rules still is to be a good example and stick to your own rules. This way we have taught our eldest that tidying up is part of the process and has to be done every night. Daddy does it with the tools after working in the garden. Hence we do it with the toys inside. Some nights there is still some arguing going on about it, but together we always get it done. Be it in a playful way, as a competition or by convincing them (we try to avoid blackmail :-)!). There are exceptions to the rule, but not very often.

Family Rule # 3: Integrate them into your daily Schedule (and not the other way around)

Chicken or egg – I don’t know which came first. Is it our children’s character or is it the way we raise them? Probably a bit of both. Anyway, somehow we managed to match-up our boy’s body clock with mine. Already as a baby he stayed in his bed after waking up in the morning and played quietly by himself. This way I have always had a chance of a lie-in. I am a night owl and like to take it easy in the morning. So it perfectly suits me that our firstborn turned out the same, which definitely contributes to making my life as a full-time mammy easier.

When we have chores to do, the kids help. Small kids love helping. Even when it meant more work for me at the beginning, it was well worth putting the extra time and patience in. Sometimes putting up one load of laundry took me forever because my little ‘helper’ wanted to do it himself. He took it down again or put it back in the washing machine. Over time he developed into a real helper though. He is now fetching the laundry basket for me, loads the machine and switches it on and off (all under supervision of course).

It was the exact opposite with outdoor chores. He never liked messy play in the garden and wasn’t very keen on being outside at all. It was John who put a lot of time and effort in to making him roll around in the grass and getting his hands dirty. Now they both do garden work together on a regular basis and love it.

This way stuff around the house gets done and the kids are busy and enjoy themselves. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement and a gentle nudge in the bottom.

Family Rule # 4: Give them the real Stuff

This family rule is pretty much a logical consequence of the previous one. Children usually want to copy what their parents do. But do they need a toy in miniature for everything? I don’t think so.

Our 3-year old loves playing ‘kitchen’. Instead of buying him a toy one, we let him use the real kitchen stuff. So he just gets some pots and wooden spoons from the presses and makes ‘dinner’. With socks over his hands alias oven gloves he takes out the ‘hot dishes’ from underneath the dinner table which serves as oven.

One day we built him a little kitchen in the garden using old boxes, sticks and stones. He was busy all afternoon cooking with water and leaves in empty plastic containers. When he was finished we just returned everything and saved us yet another toy that sooner or later gets abandoned in the corner.

Principle # 5: Let them be bored

Sometimes the kids don’t need anything at all to play with. Whilst the family rules says so, they are never really bored. Not in our house anyway.

Our toddler is great at inventing his own games or a little fantasy world where we all play a part. One day he is running through the house pretending to catch wild animals. The next moment he is an ambulance driver copying the sirene or a cowboy shouting yeehaaa and throwing his imaginary hat. If he wasn’t constantly talking to himself, I wouldn’t even know what game he was on.

Obviously I am always around, but most of the time it is enough for him when I dip in and out of the play. Often he is in his rooms for ages playing by himself and I just need to quietly check on him once in a while. Slowly but surely he is involving his little sister too, ‘reading’ to her and looking after her like he used to do it with his cuddly toys.

That is when I get time to write my blog articles! Great, isn’t it? Well, until clean-up time. The kids usually turn the house into a mess, occupying each room sooner or later throughout the day. But that’s fine. We just refer to Family #2 in the evening and tidy up together in no time :-).

Good or Bad Parent?

To come back to the opening question: Am I a bad parent because I don’t constantly play with my children or come up with new creative ideas to keep them occupied? Because I let them be ‘bored’ rather than switching on the TV for them? Or am I a good parent because I try to interfere as little as possible and let them do their own thing within our set boundaries and family rules? You decide!

P.S.:

After my husband proofread this article he said that I should probably add that it took me a while to be this ‘relaxed mom’ I am talking about and that quite often I still worry a bit too much even though things are running smoothly. That comes with the job as a mammy, I guess. They are our family rules after all, so a lot of them reflect my husband’s chilled manner to deal with things rather than mine. Therefore we agreed on adding © John Payne ;-).




Welcome to the Home Office

..of the Payne Family

We are in the very lucky position that my husband, our 2 kids and myself are always at home together. Well, some might argue that this is exactly the problem with the self-isolation. However we are coping, because we are used to it. I am not saying that it is always easy. But for us it still is the most suitable way of living. Here is how is our experience as a Home Office family.

Home Office Pro

My husband John is working for an international company with clients and business partners all over the world. He has to adapt his working hours to different time zones. Sometimes he is starting around noon and not finishing until midnight. Or the other way around. Needing to be flexible makes home office the only viable option. For the past 3 years working from home has proven to be the perfect solution for all of us.

Self-Isolation doesn’t change our Routine

As long as John has been working from home I have been a stay-at-home mom. Neither of our two kids go into childcare. All together we make a great team. The Corona crisis might shake things up a bit, but it doesn’t have a huge impact on our domestic routine.

What a Way to start the Day

When the kids wake up in the morning the four of us are having a bit of family time together. John and I are sipping our coffees while our almost 3-year old is munching his muesli. Meanwhile our daughter is practicing crawling before she is joining the rest of us in bed for cuddles. We prefer that over a formal sit-down breakfast. No hasty getting ready in the morning or rushing anywhere. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Home Office for Future

One reason we get to do that is because John saves about 3 hours commute every day by working from his home office in Wicklow. Not everybody has the privilege to work from home. But when the Corona crisis is over there will be more Home Office workers for sure.

It can be hard to never see any co-workers, but there are a lot of upsides from a family perspective. Instead of being stuck in rush hour traffic day in day out John gets to see the kids a lot and has had a great bond with them right from the start. Despite me being the main child carer during the day, we both rank equally as parents from our kids’ perspective.

Family Rules for Working from Home

Instead of stating the more or less obvious Home Office pros and cons I put together some simple family rules that make working from home run smoothly for us.

  1. Do not enter!

The home office is off limits for playing. Especially when John is  working obviously. As soon as he closes the door, he turns from the jokey cuddly family daddy into a tough business man. Not for us, but for everyone else who is dealing with him in there (ouch!)

Of course this is hard to explain to a toddler. And some days it is harder to follow this rule than others. John knows that I am doing my best, but am not able to keep the noise down all the time. On the other hand, I am aware that especially during important phone calls I have to put all the effort in to keep the kids quiet. With the increase in people working from home during the Corona crisis we have encountered an even higher level of understanding from John’s business partners and clients though.

  1. Beware of the Cuddle Zone!

The same way the door functions as ‘teleporting machine’ in Rule #1 when John enters the office, it works the other way around when he comes out. So the minute John sticks his nose out the door, he is likely to be ‘attacked’ by the little cuddle monsters. In our house every door creeks differently. So no silently sneaking in or out of the office. Nevertheless John crosses lines quite frequently during the day to the delight of the kids which leads us to Rule #3.

  1. Work Schedule before Family Routine.

This might sound negative. But what it basically means is that we drop everything whenever John has an unexpected break or a cancelled meeting. The kids are delighted when he throws in an extra round of rough play even if it is just for 5 minutes. Especially now with the great weather we all take the opportunity to hang out together in the garden for a bit before everybody resumes what they were doing beforehand.

  1. Leave the Work behind.

A big downside of working from home is that the workplace is just around the corner at all times. So why not quickly nip into the Home Office to answer an email. Or even worse, do it at the dinner table. Therefore this rule is very important to me. I would rather miss out on a family dinner to make sure John gets to finish his work and doesn’t look at his phone or computer for the rest of the day.

  1. Everybody needs a break.

John doesn’t take regular breaks throughout the day. If he was commuting he would at least have the chance to wind down a bit which doesn’t normally happen after a day in the Home Office. For a long time Rule #2 caused him to jump into his daddy job straight away. That is why we invented downtime for John after work unless hell is breaking loose.

If hell is breaking loose, even during the day, I ask John for help provided his work permits it. Occasionally he has to rock the baby during a phone conference or our toddler gets to wear the big ‘Mickey-Mouse’ headset to say hello to the CEO (Editor’s note: the ‘person’ on the screen in the picture is not the CEO!).

  1. Last but not least, Exceptions to the Rule.

Whilst above rules have proven themselves to be working for us, there are certainly days when not everything is going according to plan.

On such days the office might turn into a playground with the office chair as a merry-go-round. Or our toddler storms in mid-meeting asking John for a face to be painted on his plaster*. Quietly playing in the hallway turns into a full-on soccer match. And instead of a peaceful break for John at the end of the day we all settle for some episodes of Peppa Pig together and cuddles on the couch. (*When I ask our son what daddy does for work he says that he has a phone, a computer and pens.)

‘Love in Times of Corona’

I can definitely say that our 3-years home office experience is a huge advantage for successfully dealing with this exceptional situation during the self-isolation. Whilst we also feel an impact of the lockdown, especially on our mental health, we don’t see it as a challenge on our family life. On the contrary, it brings us even closer together. Hopefully people who are Home Office Beginners will see the upsides to it and manage to cope in a similar positive way.

I cannot help it but say it once more how grateful I am for the way of life we chose, meaning me being a stay-at-home mam and John the sole breadwinner. It might not be (possible) for everyone, but for us it is the perfect solution which gives us another advantage with the current situation too.

Instead of juggling Home Schooling and Home Office (which I consider to be extremely difficult) or disappointment because kids can’t go to crèche, nothing has changed for us and everybody is happy at home.

How I keep the children happy at home without big effort or too much screen time, I share in my next blog post. Stay safe until then and make the most of working from home.




The Couple that’s thriving during Self-Isolation

Once upon a time there was a couple that against all predictions of higher divorce rates and increased domestic violence was thriving during self-isolation. They were not exactly what you would call anti-social. Not loners, but people who had a dear group of friends. Before Corona they liked to spend time in Irish nature or the odd night out.

Chalk and Cheese

Who is that couple that doesn’t seem to need any more than each other? Spouses so different from each other that they never would have been a match on any online dating platform. Two (former) emigrants whose chances of meeting were so slim, as they had only moved to Ireland after having lived thousands of miles apart on different continents. A devout Irish Catholic who had just returned to Ireland after living in America for over 20 years. And a German expat who had left everything behind  in her home country to make her dream come true.

Perfect Misfits Match

A couple that is celebrating their 6th anniversary this summer. Two individuals who found a connection through their weird and often dark sense of humour. Different characters who share the same, conservative belief system. Parents who can hardly grasp sometimes that they have given life to such wonderful children. A stay-at-home mom and a Home Office Breadwinner. They are a family that continues living their life through the Corona crisis without having to change much of their routine. Almost everything they need is within their own four walls.

How we prepared for something we didn’t know was coming

With the Corona crisis and the advised self-isolation many people are asking themselves how to manage everything from home. Working. Entertaining the children. Living on what is there. Whilst there are a good few sites popping up online that give creative advice, most of it is not new to us.

Whereas the Corona crisis itself has us worried, the self-isolation didn’t hit us too hard. Without knowing we have been preparing for what is now the day-to-day life for most people. Working from home. Entertaining the children. Reducing the shopping to a minimum. We basically continue living our life that has always been our routine before the Corona Virus came along. Well, apart from not seeing our family and friends.

Meet the Masters of Self-Isolation

In my little series of upcoming blog posts I would like to share our experience with working from home full time. I will let you know how we keep our children busy (almost) without screen time and only little effort. Last but not least I am going to give you an insight on what I call “experimental” cooking, which means adapting recipes according to what’s in the house. Let’s start with How to work successfully from Home with a few simple rules for our kids and ourselves. Coming soon!

P.S.

Don’t assume we stay sane through this whole self-isolation thing. On the contrary! We do crazy stuff all the time, like playing our own version of hopscotch on our newly laid garden path (without the kids!). Or rolling down the grassy slope in our garden. We have always been doing it, but now self-isolation gives us an excuse.

P.P.S.

There are also days when the best advice isn’t good enough and the self-isolation gets to us no matter how well we are used to it. These are days when we just have to get on with it and try whatever works, ignoring all the rules and routine.




How we survive – My Birthing Story

There are certain things that cannot be described in words. One of them is childbirth. I have read somewhere that the pain during childbirth is the second worst pain after burning. People have also told me that the birth of their children has been the most touching moment in their lives. When I see a woman giving birth I ask myself – how on earth does mankind survive? A simple answer would be – nobody knows what to expect on their first child. But how do you end up being a mother of one+ like myself and so many other women on the planet? So here is my birthing story.

The Miracle begins

I had a fantastic first pregnancy. It didn’t take us long to conceive. It was absolutely planned and perfect timing. Right after our wedding and honeymoon. Apart from a little queasiness at the beginning I didn’t have any of the typical pregnancy symptoms. The public maternity service in Ireland was brilliant and I felt well looked after in the Dublin Coombe Hospital. We didn’t find out if we were having a boy or a girl and were looking forward to our very special surprise.

The Elephant in the Room

So all in all I felt amazing. That was mostly physical though. Mentally it was a bit of a challenge for me getting used to that big change that was about to happen. Whilst looking forward to being a mammy and embracing every moment of the pregnancy, fear kept creeping in. There were lots of different fears and worries. The big one that kept me awake at night and obviously the first one I had to face was giving birth. There are a lot of things in your life that you can avoid out of fear. Delivering your baby is not one of them.

Miracle behind a Wall

No matter how much information I gathered or how many people I asked, no one was able to tell me what giving birth would be like for me. It was a two-faced fear. On the one hand I was excitingly waiting for the big day that was the due date. On the other hand I wanted to push it as far away as possible. Sometimes I almost felt like being in a state of panic. I had that beautiful little miracle inside me that I couldn’t wait to meet. But the moment when this was eventually going to happen felt so unreachable. Or at least the pain and suffering that I would have to go through to get there felt like a heavy burden on my consciousness.

No Way back

When labour eventually started I became once more aware that there was no turning back. Well, not there was ever an option or even the wish to turn back anyway. In theory I knew everything. How to breathe, at what stage happens what and what I could use for pain relief. I thought at the time that I was approaching birth with an open mind and was flexible with my birthing plan. My husband on the other hand knew right from the start that I had made up my mind how I wanted things to happen and that I wasn’t a bit flexible.

Procrastination stops here

The date for my induction was already set. I really didn’t want to be induced and so I was determined to get baby out beforehand. When labour started the evening before, I surprisingly felt calm. I was already overdue by 10 days and I knew procrastination was no longer an option if I wanted a natural birth. It was like coming to terms with something that had eaten away at me for so long. Now it was time to stand up and fight it. Or in my case – focus on what was lying ahead and that I had been preparing for for 9 months.

The Monster showing its Face

When the first mild contractions started, I got an idea of the pain I was dealing with. Finally, the invisible monster had started showing its face (no, not the baby yet!). I remember feeling quite confident that I could handle an even stronger level of that type of pain. What I didn’t know and only learned in the hospital was that the real monster hadn’t even come out yet (again, not talking about the baby!).

Imagination vs. Reality

I have to admit that I was overwhelmed when the real pain kicked in. I couldn’t really focus on anything that I had learned in the numerous antenatal classes. Or at least I couldn’t do so consciously. Looking back I am amazed how most of the things somehow happened naturally. So I must have done something right. Well, the result, our beautiful baby boy, who was born after only 5 hours of active labour and without major pain relief is the best proof.

A “Vicious“ Cycle

And here comes what I consider the first big paradox. Battered and tired from giving birth, still remembering what the pain felt like (no, you don’t forget!), I knew I was going to do it again. Something I rationally couldn’t explain at all. I had gone through the worst pain I had ever experienced and was glowing with happiness. Still I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Even if someone had offered to hand me the baby just like that. For some reason it had to happen the way it did. It just felt right.

And I was going to do it again. About 18 months after our son was born, I became pregnant again. Another absolutely wanted and deliberately made decision. And again, there was the fear of giving birth. I actually think that the fear was even bigger the second time around knowing what was coming.

Entering the Ring as a Pro

Giving birth the second time I was what you would call a pro. More preparation classes under my belt and thanks to them with my breathing techniques perfected. The big change compared to the first time was that I was still conscious when entering the delivery suite and not in some sort of pain delirium. I didn’t get carried away by the pain like the last time and did well breathing the contractions away. My husband and I were even joking about having a third baby when I started active labour. Maybe it was the laughing gas after all…

Be careful what you ask for

It is a myths though that childbirth becomes easier on the second one. Maybe quicker, but not easier. Not for me anyway. In other words the pain was as horrendous as I remembered it from the first time. I was convinced that I would pass out if my body couldn’t handle it. Only to find out that it didn’t do me that favour. I was amazed of what I was capable of and what strength lay dormant inside me. So was my husband when he said I could squeeze his hand as tightly as I wanted. He told me afterwards that he thought I had broken it.

A Flicker of Regret

He didn’t wait till afterwards however, to ask me if I could still imagine, in that very moment of tremendous pain, to go for another baby. He must have felt quite safe with me crippled with pain and the midwife focussing on monitoring the little reason of my suffering. At that stage I was close to a breakdown from exhaustion and not even sure if I wanted to keep going with this one. So the answer was no. What had I been thinking to do that to myself?

Nature is smart

Very shortly after the lowest moment of my birthing experience, our second little miracle was born. I couldn’t quite believe that I had made progress so fast and unexpectedly. It might sound strange, but the second our daughter was out and safe I knew it had been worth it. I was still shaken up by the physical impact of the delivery, but a cocktail of endorphins came just in time to offset that. It is hard to describe without sounding corny, but the emotions that overcame me holding her were just so incredibly amazing. Instinctively I had that sense of wanting to protect her. And my husband’s rather sarcastic question that I had answered with no only an hour before, already I changed my mind on. Yes, I would do it again. I guess this is exactly how mankind survives.

The biggest Paradox of them all

This was about 4 months ago. The other week our little baby turned around by herself for the first time. Whilst enjoying seeing her grow, I find it hard how time flies. Sometimes I would just like to stop the clock and keep her from growing. With each developmental step she is gaining more independence. Even at that early stage I can see how this is literally moving her further and further away from me. Hopefully into leading a self-contained life one day. This to me is the biggest paradox of them all. As a mother I want my children to grow and become independent. On the other hand I  would love to keep them around forever.




A Family Trip to Belfast causing ‘Troubles’

As we enter Belfast I notice parts of the peace wall beside the motorway leading into the city centre. It is a massive concrete barrier with an iron fence along the top. I feel intimidated just driving by, well aware of its literally troubling history. If you didn’t know any better you could easily take it for the fencing of an industrial estate.

It is hard to believe that this eight metre high construct still separates the unionist and nationalist quarters with its gates being locked in the evening time. On one side lies Shankill Road, the Protestant Quarter, whereas Falls Road is dominated by the Catholic community.

Belfast – Two Worlds

It is around noon when we drive through buzzing downtown Belfast. The streets are decorated with Christmas lights and signs wishing everybody a Happy Christmas. People are hustling through the streets looking for the last Christmas presents. I am surprised everybody is so done up. I wonder whether they are on their way to a Christmas Party or „leftovers“ from the night before which would be even more surprising considering their pristine looks. There is a good vibe coming of the crowd. The atmosphere is festive with decorations and seasonal ornaments everywhere you look. A young street band is playing rather non-Christmassy rock songs, but is generously rewarded by onlookers swaying to the beat in the crisp air. Nothing suggests that the Northern Irish capital had been the centre of the Troubles until the late 90’s when the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

Not quite there yet

We are circling the City Hall in search of a parking space. To me it is the most impressive building in Belfast. It is probably the most popular photo on Christmas cards too. With its lights at night time the Baroque Revival façade looks like a palace. That is the bit I am looking forward to the most: The Christmas Market on the town hall square amidst the perfect Christmas setting. I have already caught a glimpse of the colourful stalls as we were passing by.

On the very top of a packed car park we eventually find a space just big enough for our car. Almost as time-consuming as finding that spot is getting out of the car with a toddler and a baby. Whilst „team boys“ is up and running within minutes thanks to my husband, I am still dealing with an uber-full nappy on the baby front. I end up doing a complete outfit change with missy rolling around and getting pee all over the passenger seat. Luckily I am well prepared today and didn’t forget half the content of the baby bag like the last time.

The Disappointment of the Day

When „team girls“ is finally also ready, the boys already come back from a short look-around in search of a toilet. There they have made a rather disappointing discovery. The reason we came to Belfast, the lovely Christmas Market, had closed the day before. It is 23rd December and they are just about to take down the stalls with other upset visitors being left outside the gates. When planning our trip it didn’t occur to us in the slightest that the Christmas Market might finish up a day before Christmas Eve.

Plan B: Child-friendly Sightseeing

Anyway, the weather is nice so we take a stroll down to the Waterfront. Water is always the go-to place with our kids. On the way we pass the Albert Clock and the Big Fish. I am a terrible tour guide, but remember most of the sites from my work with Irish tour operators. In my head I classified these two as quite child-friendly. But neither the tilted clock tower nor the oversized stone fish gets much attention from our 2-year old. If it was for him he would be throwing stones into the water all day long. What impresses him though is a guy in a blow-up Santa Claus suit flying by on his skateboard smoking pot. Well, he leaves us all open-mouthed albeit for different reasons.

We aim for St. George’s Market. At least it has food. After water the second thing that our hungry caterpillar is usually fond of. But guess what, even the popular Victorian indoor market is closed. Apparently people from Belfast are not big into markets this time of the year.

Moving on

Back in the shopping district we start looking for a family-friendly restaurant. For us that means above all spaciousness. No point in being cramped into a fancy gourmet place with a buggy and an agile toddler. Our choice falls onto the Bullitt Hotel off Victoria Street. Even though we have to wait ages for our food (not so family-friendly from this point of view), our eldest is absolutely amazing. I am always so proud when he plays with his toys instead of staring at some sort of screen like some of his peers.

Only Problems and no Solution

After we eventually had our dinner and are ready to leave I feel a strange warmth on my knee while dressing the little one. Instantly a million thoughts rush through my head. The nappy is leaking. We have to change her out of the wet clothes. She is already wearing her spare outfit. It is too cold to only wrap her in a blanket and bring her outside. The other outfit might have dried by now but I left it on the dashboard in the car…Whilst I am coming up with lots of problems and no solutions, my husband John already jumps up to run out and buy her a new outfit. Of course I had thought about that too, but discarded it straight away. I have an obsession with washing clothes before putting them on. Due to the lack of alternatives it was the only sensible thing to do though.

Super Daddy to the Rescue

For about 20 minutes with a soaking baby in my arms and a luckily still calm toddler I am impatiently waiting for John’s return. I am glad he went out to get a change of clothes. I couldn’t have handled the time pressure and would have probably rushed into different places to find the perfect outfit at the best available price. Super daddy on the other hand confidently walked into a baby store, picked out a onesie in the right size that coincidentally colour-matched her cardigan and even was on sale.

Relieved I start stripping her down as I see John walking into the door. Rummaging around in the bag for the nappies it strikes me like a lightning bold. I left them in the car too. Super daddy has to ‘fly’ out again and get nappies. He charms his way to the top of the supermarket queue and again is back in no time.

The Journey is the Destination

When we finally leave the restaurant it is dark outside. Fortunately we didn’t have an agenda for our day in Belfast apart from the closed Christmas market. So we are not too upset about it. All I wanted was to enjoy the Christmassy atmosphere. We get to do that now. The whole city is shining bright with Christmas decorations as we walk around the busy Victoria Square.

I have a little flashback remembering the last times I had been to Belfast. The first time was with a good friend of mine. We were both students, staying in a hostel and keen on discovering all the political sites such as the murals, graveyards and infamous areas of the troubles on a black cab tour. The next couple of times I had been to Belfast on business. On behalf of a German tour operator that I occasionally still work for I got to visit Titanic Belfast after it had just opened. I had dined in the City Hall, stayed at fancy hotels and went on pub crawls including the iconic Crown Liquor Saloon. I had even been to St. George’s Market attending a trade show there about 3 years ago. Hence I have pretty much seen the touristy side of Belfast.

Today it isn’t about visiting places or ticking boxes. It doesn’t matter if we are in Belfast, Dublin or any other city. Today all that matters is having a good time with the family. The plan was to have no plans and just go with the flow. In this regard it has been a successful day even though it was different than expected.

An Imperfect Happy End

On the way home we get lost when leaving the motorway in search of a service station. It wouldn’t be a day trip with the Paynes without getting lost. Mostly during the attempt of locating a place to eat. Me breastfeeding the little one in the passenger seat, big brother slightly grumpy in the back seat (rightly so!) and my husband beside me figuring out the GPS we strand on a dark country road. However we make up for the detour shortly afterwards as we pull into the service station where we had already stopped in the morning. It has a spacious soft-play area where our 2-year old gets another go despite already wearing his PJs. If it was for him we could have skipped Belfast altogether and just stayed here all day. His laughter when going down the slide fills the meanwhile empty food hall. The ending of a perfect family day!

 

 

 

 




Why Parents of Toddlers lose all their Friends

Parents of a toddler are really hard to hang out with. Especially for people who don’t have kids. They run off in the middle of a conversation chasing after their little one. They don’t look at you when you talk to them because they always have to keep at least one eye on their demanding offspring who could be destroying the place before the other person finishes their sentence. Parents also seem to forget about social norms when their priority is to prevent injuries and serious damage of foreign property inflicted by their kids. Hence it becomes acceptable to them to greedily stuff food into their mouths with their hands – for both themselves and their toddler. They don’t think twice before changing a stinky nappy in the room where their “childless” friends are still eating. They might not even have bothered putting on a clean top before going out. Firstly, since it won’t stay clean for long. Secondly, there most likely wasn’t anything clean left since the laundry has been piling up for the last couple of days. The bottom line is, parents can appear quite rude to people who are not used to having small children around.

Night(mare) at the Museum

We recently visited the National Museum of Natural History in Dublin with our newborn and our 2.5-year old. As if this hadn’t been challenging enough we arranged to meet a friend with his 3-year old twins. In fairness they all behaved very well – for toddlers. My husband was following our little one’s instructions of “Look Papa, look”, excitingly pointing into different directions. And by following I mean he was pulled along by the toddler leash on his backpack that we had put on him to keep him close. Our friend was trying to explain some strange looking animals to his amazed kids by reading the explanations on the display cabinet and fumbling in his backpack for some snacks and drinks at the same time. Multitasking at its best. Of course the most interesting animals – well, in the eyes of our kids – were on the top floor which was currently closed for renovations. This was nicely explained to us by an elderly museum guard. He seemed to be happy that someone had asked a question at all and gave us half the history of the place. One of the twins innocently interrupted by whispering “Daddy I need to pee.” That suited us well in this particular situation. Maybe rather inappropriate when your best friend (without kids) is pouring his heart out.

Like a chaotic American Comedy

While everyone was putting back on their bits and pieces in the foyer afterwards, I tried to take myself out of the situation. Looking down on us as if I wasn’t part of our noisy little group. But that girl that I used to be about 5 years ago doing the odd sightseeing on my own. It was like watching one of these American comedies that are too annoying to keep watching till the end. Our little one was knackered and too tired to keep walking, but still protested when we put him into the buggy. Once this was done, his shortly interrupted asking for food continued. While our friend ran out to extend his parking ticket we had to keep the twins busy, quiet and most importantly with us until he got back. We were actually thinking he might not come back at all or at least not for a while to have some peaceful moments in the car. When the level of noise started to get out of control my husband suggested a silent screaming competition. Strange, but brilliant concept. Everybody was happy with us just mouthing the screams, including the slighlty grim looking man at reception.

Kinder Surprise

Surprisingly our friend returned after only a couple of minutes and we all decided to go for lunch. An experience that most parents probably dread. I stopped going for lunch with our boy shortly after he started to walk. There was just no upside to having food in a public place other than not having to cook myself. However the downsides were outweighing that by far. First I have to keep him busy until the food arrives. As you can imagine this involves walking around a lot. The kids’ food normally arrives before mine so I can help him eating. Great, but who is going to explore the place with him when I get my dinner? Anyway, that was in the past. Lately it can actually be quite relaxed to go to a restaurant with the family. Can be, no guarantee given! Sometimes you enter a place with the calmest child in the world. Before you even get the menu you end up with demon baby at – or even on or under – the table. It is literally like a kinder surprise when you bring your ‘kinder’ (German for children) out to eat. You never know what comes out from underneath that sweet cover.

Country Folk in the City

We were lucky that day and enjoyed the meal in a civilised manner. Shout-out to Lauren from Foley’s Bar who besides providing a great service, had a good sense of humour and a soft spot for kids. We could even have a grown-up conversation. Well, the way parents have conversations. Meaning not looking at each other when talking, taking at least three attempts before finishing a story and waving sticky fingers in the air to emphasise a point. By the end of the dinner our little live wires were completely worn out and we decided to have a quick gander through the city (with everybody in their buggies). Who knows how long we hadn’t been in Dublin. Grafton Street had meanwhile been re-branded as Grafton Quarter. And our son got excited about the LUAS, repeatedly asking what that was. I pointed out the newly refurbished Bewleys Café to my husband which had already been re-opened in November 2017.

I wouldn’t change it for the World

Trips like that have become rare for us. With all the effort it takes to leave the house at a decent hour of the day, we value days like this even more. That morning we had just dropped everything and left the chaos behind to spontaneously spend a day in the city. Walking through the newly appointed Grafton Quarter at dusk, watching all the dressed up ladies in short skirts rushing through the cold, I remembered for a split second what it was like when I used to go out on a Saturday night. It seemed so far away, almost as if it had happened in a different life. I can honestly say that I didn’t envy these people heading out to some fancy bar or club. I couldn’t have been happier than I was in that precise moment. Sipping away on my hot chocolate with my 2-months old daughter snuggled into my coat. My husband beside me pushing the buggy with our sleeping toddler walking through Pre-Christmas Dublin.

“Party-Me” is definitely gone. Some friendships might have changed or even dissolved because of that. On the other hand I have met so many nice people through my kids who are in the same boat and who I can share my turbulent life as Stay-at-Home Mom with. Thanks again to the twin daddy who spontaneously spent the day with us in Dublin and to his lovely partner. And to all my dear mammy friends who make life so much easier for me.




How to become the Employee of the Month as a Stay-at-Home-Mom

Numerous times I have been awarded Employee of the Month. It usually is a small ceremony. Few words, big emotions. Sometimes even tears. The last time I dressed up for the occassion but unfortunately someone spilled on my top. No big deal, it happens.

For the last two and a half years a young man has been managing the procedure. In September a sweet little lady joined the commitee. Together they monitor me all day long and you never know what’s going on in their heads. Sometimes I expect adoration and get shouted at. Other times for no reason at all I receive supportive smiles. They are harsh critics and they don’t make a secret out of it. Their expectations are high and occasionally I struggle to meet them. I often have doubts that I am doing my job properly. The more surprised I am when I receive approval for my efforts.

The Challenge

The job itself is popular. Many people want to do it sooner or later. On the other hand you hear a lot of negative things about it. The job description sounds pretty straight forward at first. You’ll find out soon enough though that you have to be flexible, able to improvise and multitask. Funny enough these are all skills that I didn’t think I had . What I like about it is that I can work from home most of the time. That also means unfortunately that it is not 9 am to 5 pm.

When I took up the challenge in May 2017, I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I thought I was well prepared, but in hind sight there was still a lot to worry about. I left my secure office job to jump into something completely new, which I didn’t know if I wanted for the long term. Now I am glad that I had the courage to do it. I couldn’t think of anything else that I would rather do. Of course there are days when I am fed up with it all, but I had these in my old job too. So I definitely made the right decsion.

More than a Job

By now I am quite passionate about my work and that really helps. Once you got into it, it is hard to go back to a job behind a desk. A very important part of my day-to-day tasks are the people I am dealing with. Different characters and sometimes even multiple personalities in one. This makes it prone to conflicts and it is on me to keep it all under control. This is something I really had to learn. I have always liked a structured and tidy working environment. And this isn’t one. You are basically trying to keep the chaos to a minimum most of the time.

My shiny Award

Looks like I am one of those people myself who has a lot of negative things to say about this mysterious job. So I should mention at that stage that the reward I am getting makes all the stress and overtime worthwhile. And I pressume it is also time to tell you what this ‘Employee-of-the-Month thing’ is all about if you haven’t already guessed.

Instead of a gold-plated plaque to hang on the wall I receive colourful scribbles on paper. I get handcrafted cards with Thank-you-stamps and random animal stickers on it. Muddy little fingers bring me in daisys from the garden. I get cuddles and hugs, accompanied by heartwarming smiles and loud laughter. After a long day I am served ‘homemade’, imaginary meals. When I lie exhausted on the couch someone leans his tiny head against my shoulder without saying a word. With sparkling innocent eyes looking at me I get told “Mammy I love you“. Then I know that I have the best job in the world and that for two little people I will always be the Employee of the Months. No shiny award needed.

 

 




How child-friendly is Ireland?

(This article is neither referring nor in any way related to the abortion debate. Please check out my blog post Life is Life on that topic.)

When I moved to Ireland about 4 1/2 years ago this question wasn’t relevant to me. Now it is. Though it can no longer affect my decisions, as my little one runs around my feet as I write this. However I am still interested in the topic. In the following article I share my personal experience throughout and after my first pregnancy in Ireland. Starting with the medical care up to child-minding options. Hopefully my evaluation can be of use to those considering having children here. As well as for people with kids thinking about emigrating to Ireland. I am also interested to hear how others feel about parenthood in Ireland.

Medical Care during Pregnancy

The first thing that came to my mind when we were about to have a baby were child-minding costs. When I did a bit of research on that I was shocked. I knew straight away that having a child and pursuing my career at the same time were close to impossible. However I was only at the beginning of my pregnancy at that stage. All that mattered to me then was proper medical care.

I never had any worries about Ireland in regard to medical care. I also didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t familiar with the health care for mothers-to-be in my home country Germany either. Coincidentally a friend of mine in Germany was pregnant at the same time. Not only could we exchange our joys and fears, but also compare the quite different health systems.

Shared Maternity Care

Compared to Germany where your GP (gynaecologist) would look after you throughout the whole pregnancy, the maternity care in Ireland is divided between the GP and a maternity clinic of your choice. This has the upside that come D-day (delivery day), you are already familiar with the place where you are going to have your baby. Instead of just getting a show-around, you are in touch with the medial staff in the hospital and know where everything is. No harm in getting a hang of the “labyrinthal” floor plan well before the big day.

Well prepared, theoretically

At the time of my pregnancy I didn’t have private health insurance. I could still avail of several public healthcare courses in preparation of birth and parenthood. Apart from the classic Antenatal Class (including a funny nappy challenge for the daddies-to-be), I took part in a physiotherapy course to hear all about the physical joys of childbirth. I felt like an expert myself afterwards. Well, in theory at least.

I was an absolute newbie when it came to small babies. I had never changed a nappy in my life nor minded kids when I was younger. My husband used to mind his nephews and had a clear advantage over me. Anyway, we both attended as many courses as we could. Why not take the opportunity when given.

I am not going to go into much more detail here. But I would like to point out how pleasantly surprised I was about the variety of classes provided by the hospital. From baby safety to alternative birth methods there was not a thing that wasn’t covered in the programmes.

The Midwife is Part of the Deal

The midwife owns a huge part of the prenatal care in Ireland. I didn’t have to find one myself (like in Germany) nor did I have to pay extra for her service. During the check-ups in the hospital everything discussed was neatly recorded and there was always enough time for questions to be answered. So even if it wasn’t the same midwife every time, I always felt well looked after. I can’t really say much about the midwife that was on duty the night I had our son. I am sure she was great, but my mind was kind of focussed on something else I am afraid.

Why reinvent the Wheel…

As soon as I was discharged from hospital, the regional health nurse was informed. She came to the house a couple of days later to check that the baby and I were doing well. She was very supportive. Easing our worries and helping us with questions. In addition to the home visits and being available over the phone, she held a weekly clinic. I proudly told my parents about this great institution they invented in Ireland. My mam smiled and said that they used to have exactly the same service in the GDR and she gladly availed of it as well when I was born. Unfortunately it is not available as standard in Germany anymore. I think this is something which should be reconsidered.

Support when needed

When I heard about a breastfeeding support group for the first time, I thought the name was a bit inappropriate. Support group to me sounded like something you need when you are in trouble. I couldn’t possibly think how these two could go together. I know now. Though I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have any difficulties at all with breastfeeding.

I was also lucky that people made it easy for me and even in public I never felt uncomfortable breastfeeding or looked at in a strange way. One time I had to feed in a mall and one of the shop owners brought me a glass of water. I still tell people about this thoughtful and kind gesture.

First Child, what now

I was convinced I wasn’t the type for “mammy friendships”. And for sure I wasn’t going to have coffees after going for a walk in a convoy of baby buggies. Sure as hell I was never ever going to exchange recipes for sugar free baby muffins. I was wrong. I am now part of a nice and small group of mammies and their cute little babies. And yes, we do talk about healthy cooking and all the other stuff I thought I never would be interested in. As a stay-at-home parent our weekly meetings have become an important part of my life. And the same way it was recommended to me, I am going to pass it on to other mothers-to-be: Get out and build yourself a “mammy-network”.

Clap Hands till Grumpy is gone…

I am not a morning person. I like to start my day slowly and above all quietly. Why on earth do all musical playgroups start before 10 in the morning? I should probably mention that our little one is not exactly a morning person either. We don’t know if it is genetic or just rubbed off. Anyway, when I open the blinds before 8 a.m. all I get is a dissatisfied grunt. With the cuddly toy on his face to shield it from the incoming light, he rolls over in disbelief wondering what made me come in so early. He should know by now though that Thursday is playgroup time and we all have to make sacrifices to attend. At the latest when my mammy-friend and her always smiling daughter are waiting for us at the gate, we both overcome our morning grumpiness and are ready to clap along.

Let me entertain you

There are a good few playgroups and activities for kids of several age groups in our area. They are all focussed on community, meeting new people (and the kids each other of course) as well as exchange of information (such as healthy cooking recipes). The organisers – some of them volunteers – are very enthusiastic and welcoming. I cannot speak for all of Ireland, but for what I know there is no shortage of mother and toddler activities. Not all of them are for free. Some of them can be rather expensive. In our neighbourhood it is the Church Parish and the town library that host activities for small or no money. Social media is probably the easiest way to find out what’s on in which area. Alternatively, word of mouth (or should I say mothers) has never failed.

Horrendous Childcare Costs

Childcare is probably the most delicate topic when it comes to my initial question “How child-friendly is Ireland?” Only recently I read an article in The Irish Times titled “High childcare costs keeping women out of workplace.” Indeed it is not worthwhile going back to work when the costs for full-time crèche are approximately €1000 per month. When I enquired about childcare when I was still pregnant the lowest offer I got was €950 a month. It came with a significant wait list. The most expensive one was €1650. Another 2 or 3 crèches were somewhere in between.

Career vs. Full-time Parenting

To us it became clear very quickly that I would put my career on hold whilst minding the baby. Apart from personal reasons it was financially and logistically absolutely not viable for me to go back to work. I think I am not an exception among women with a low or medium income. In order to drop off my child at the crèche and pick him up on time I would have needed to work less than full-time. The monthly ticket for the commute would come out of my already reduced salary. To be able to spend the little time left with my son, we might have hired a cleaner for the house – extra costs again. At the end of the month I would have worked for the childcare costs and some pocket money at the cost of being away from my son for over 40 hours a week. To us this was a quite simple equation.

Demand for Cheaper Alternatives

However, some people might not want to give up their careers or simply need the extra money, no matter how little it may be. And obviously they want to know their child is in safe hands while they are working. I have heard quite a lot of grandparents or other family members taking over the role of a full-time carer for the child. Also au pairs and private childminders are a more reasonable alternative compared to a crèche. Nevertheless, it seems to become more and more obvious that women drop out of the workforce due to the above mentioned reasons.

It’s getting (slightly) better

With older children, the financial outlook regarding childcare is slightly more positive. From 3 years of age children are entitled to a state-funded preschool place with the ECCE programme. However it doesn’t help the mother to re-integrate into work life since it only covers mornings from 9 am – 12. Whilst primary education starting at 4 or 5 years of age is free, there are costs that parents have to face during that time. The average cost for a primary school kid in 2018 is €830 per year (Source: Zurich.ie). For a child in secondary school an average annual cost of €1,495 has to be covered by the parents (Source: Zurich.ie).

Childcare or Caring for your Child?

I think we can all agree that the maternity support in Ireland is pretty decent. So Ireland ticks the box regarding child-friendliness in that regard. It looks slightly different when it comes to costs for childcare. Does that mean affordable childcare would make Ireland more child-friendly? I disagree. Me staying at home with our little one only has upsides for both of us. We get to spend precious time together. I am there for his first big milestones. I can teach him things the way I want to. I can comfort him when he is upset. I think this is the best for our son. The first 3 years of his life, that are financially not worthwhile for me going back to work, are also the most significant in our child’s development. To be there for him 100% during that time is pretty child-friendly, isn’t it?




Life is Life

To listen to the heartbeat of your unborn baby for the first time is a very special moment. I am grateful I was able to experience that myself last year. It’s like a little miracle growing inside you for nine months. In my case in fact it was nine and a half.

But what if it is an unwanted pregnancy and you find yourself in a rather unfortunate situation? Be it financially or with the wrong or none partner by your side or just at the wrong time. Do you get the right to have an abortion in this case? And if so, up to which week should this be allowed? And also, is it the woman’s right alone to make this decision?

Questions that people in Ireland are publicly debating at the moment. Pro Choice supporters demand to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution that currently protects the life of the unborn child. To keep it and therefore have abortion to remain illegal is what the Pro Life Movement is fighting for.

Does Demand determine Supply?

Thousands of Irish women travel to Great Britain per year to have an abortion. In the UK it is legal to abort a baby up to the 24th week and about 1 in 5 pregnancies end in an abortion (Source: loveboth.ie). In 2016 3,265 abortions of women with an Irish address were recorded in British hospitals (Source: ifpa.ie). However the actual number is likely to be higher since “patients” don’t always give the right contact details or might go to another country to have an abortion done. It is estimated that about 5,000 women per year with residence in Ireland are looking to end their pregnancies (Source: ifpa.ie). What the actual reasons are is hard to determine. In most cases they are summarised under the so called “Ground C” which is basically an abortion for “social reasons” (Source: AbortionReview.org).

The Pro Choice side argues that these women shouldn’t be forced to travel all the way to the neighbouring island to be able to have an abortion. Furthermore they insist that they should have the right to their own body and hence should be allowed to terminate an unwanted pregnancy legally in Ireland. Should we therefore legalise abortion because ca. 12 women per day are currently looking for one?

You are not alone

If it was the women’s bodies only that were concerned, I would agreed. Since this is clearly not the case I have to disagree. In the 3rd week of pregnancy the heart of the baby starts beating. This is usually about a week before you would even find out you are pregnant. That means that whenever you decide to have an abortion there is already a little human being growing inside you and it starts looking like one in week 12 at the latest. So how do women get the right to end the life of a human being solely because they don’t want him or her? Apart from that, who or what determines until when an abortion is legitimate?

When a mother kills her newborn out of despair it is considered murder and no one is going to argue about the legal situation. If she was going to do it at 24 weeks whilst the baby is still in her womb – and could already survive outside her womb – it is legal and called abortion? That doesn’t make any sense to me. What is the difference between a desperate woman before giving birth and a woman in the same difficult situation afterwards? Would it not be much more sensible instead to provide support in crisis pregnancies in order to prevent either of these 2 extreme cases?

Eeny meeny miney moe…

This leaves me with discussing the abortion limit, i.e. up to when it is considered legitimate to end a pregnancy. Even if the deadline was set much earlier than the currently 24 weeks in the UK, it stays questionable what condition is used as reference to define that limit. In Germany women can have an abortion up to the 14th week under certain circumstances (after a consultation with a doctor or a qualified agency). However even at that stage the baby’s brain is already working and sending impulses to coordinate the little one’s first facial expressions and hand movements. The heart is busily pumping blood through baby’s veins for almost 3 months at that point. The argument of a lack of consciousness is irrelevant, too. Otherwise one could argue that a newborn or premature baby doesn’t really know what’s going on around him/her either and we don’t consider it an option to legally get rid of them, do we?

In the end it all comes down to the question if we consider an unborn child, regardless of his or her age and stage of development, a human being or not. If we answer this question with yes, we cannot support abortion by all means.

I owe my Child

Since May this year I am a mother myself and all the way through pregnancy I have lived by the principle that I owe my child. No, I don’t get the right to have a cigarette or a drink whenever I feel like it while I’m pregnant. To live on sugary stuff and junk food is bad enough when I do it to my own body, but it is a no-go when I have a little fella inside me eating away on a direct supply.
Was it easy on top of all these things that come with the big bump, such as losing my mobility and giving up my favourite tummy sleeping position? No it wasn’t. Did I sometimes fail and didn’t do everything 100% according to the books? For sure. But I owe my child to always try my best even though it might be hard at times.

In the three months since our little sunshine was born this “mantra” has still helped me to get through the day. Because no matter how sweet his smile is and how much joy he brings us, there are these sleepless nights that everybody is talking about and I do reach my limits once in a while. And then I remind myself that he is not a commodity determined to make us happy. With the decision to have a child we have taken on a huge commitment and we owe him to always stick to it. We owe him to be there for him together, we owe him to protect and nurture him, we owe him to put his needs before ours as long as he is depending on us.
He doesn’t owe us anything, we owe him everything.

Children are not our possession. All decision we make on their behalf until they are able to make their own should be in their best interest. Therefore the most important one has to be the decision “pro life”.