Barbara Daly with her two children, Callum and Beth Johnson.

Sourcing childcare to return to work 'impossible' - Mayo mum

THE lack of childcare options for parents looking to return to work has been highlighted by a Mayo mother.

Barbara Daly, from Louisburgh, is a mum of two. When she decided to return to work she found getting a job was easy. Finding someone to mind her children, Callum and Beth, proved impossible.

Below, Barbara, who writes the monthly Mummy Mania column for The Connaught Telegraph, tells her story, which many readers will identify with.

My childcare problem

I have two small children and I would like to return to work part-time. I am happy to work either from home or outside the home. I believe it would be good for me but also for my family. A break from each other would be healthy and Mam not always being available would be a valuable lesson learned for the smaller members of the family. Then there are the financial reasons, no less important.

Of course, I feel the usual guilt of a mother leaving her children to go to work. I have struggled with the idea, and it has taken me a while to justify it to myself. Part of my allowing myself to do this is ensuring that they will be happy wherever they are while I am at work.

So, what is stopping me? One thing only - available and affordable childcare.

It is proving almost impossible to find in the rural community in which I live. Those that have family nearby tend to use them for childcare or as vital back-up when needed. Those of us who are not from the area and are without support are left with few options.

There is a pre-school, primary school and even a secondary school in the town but there is no creche and few childminders remain, post-pandemic.

If you are lucky enough to find childcare but have no network of family support, it can still be hard to manage. My partner often works six or seven days a week in his own business, so a childminder needs to be flexible and dependable to allow us both to work.

Work is not a problem - there is lots available in my field, and I can even manage to find work that allows me a flexible schedule, but none of this matters without childcare.

When I decided to return to work, I started by applying for jobs, thinking that finding childcare would not be the problem. I soon discovered that the work could be found but I could not accept a position as I could not find childcare.

It is a frustrating situation to be in and I know I am not alone. There is a whole cohort of parents out there with valuable skills and education who could contribute to the workforce. However, they cannot even get started because childcare is either unavailable or, especially if you have more than one child, unaffordable.

I realise that this is a huge issue nationwide. I have listened to the stories on the radio. One woman described how she was advised to secure a creche place as soon as she confirmed her pregnancy; another couple told how childcare was costing them €20,000 per year.

I don’t understand why the provision of childcare in this country is such a low priority, especially when so many industries at present are struggling to find staff. I wonder if it is a throwback to the belief that when you become a parent one of you (most likely the mother) should be happy to stay at home and mind your own children, that that is your job and should be enough for you?

If you are going to try to return to work, then you must figure that out on your own. Because it is not straightforward to source childcare, it becomes a hassle, and you begin to wonder if it is worth it.

I suspect many homes where both parents work (or where a single parent goes out to work) experience a lot of stress around childcare.

I am delighted and so thankful to have been able to become a mother at a mature age and I have had lots of time at home with my children but now I feel it would benefit all of us for me to return to work. There are plenty of valid reasons why mothers (or fathers) might want to return to work, and they should be given the chance to do so and with ease.