herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Why we mums work outside home even though it costs us

WITHDRAWN or not; published and then relinquished; a work in progress. You can describe the ESRI's Costs of Working In Ireland any way you want.

But working mothers don't need an official document to tell them that, financially at least, it doesn't make a lot of sense for most of us to work outside the home.

The ESRI report merely officially confirms what mammies across the country already knew.

When you drop your kids off to a minder or creche, you don't just pay emotionally; financially, it's hara-kiri.

Take out the abacus and do the math.

Full-time creche care averages up to €1,000 per child per month in the capital; double that if you have two (obviously).

So in order to have them minded, you're looking at having to earn anywhere up to €24,000 a year.

And you'll have to get that in cash, while taking into consideration the tax you'll pay and the draconian universal social charge. In reality, you're looking at earning about €30,000 a year or more.

And that's before you take into consideration crippling petrol prices, suiting and booting yourself for the office and the cost of lunches.

You're talking about earning above the average industrial wage and saddled with a heap of working mother guilt and exhausted from the work/life juggle, all the time knowing that, whatever way you slice this cake, you are in effect outsourcing your parenting.

Only to be left with pennies at the end of the month.

So why do we do it? Well, most of the women who work outside the home whom I know regard the baby and toddler years as like being back at college again.

You accept that you will work hard and be completely broke for a few years, with an eye to the future. That when they're in school and your childcare costs are gone, you're back to earning a proper full-time wage.

It's like graduating to your job and earning this big pot of money for the first time. You haven't been overlooked for a promotion because you weren't there for the past five years and you're up to speed on developments in your field.

And there's the emotional fulfilment of earning a wage.

In the same way that men will say that sometimes, even though it doesn't make financial sense for them to go out to work either, they do it, to set an example.

To teach their kids that working and earning and saving and playing your part are good life skills to have.

That social welfare is to protect the most vulnerable and not the easy option.

Creches, by the way, are not cash cows. If you break down the per-hour cost of minding your most precious achievement in life, you'll be surprised at how cheap they are.

But I do wish ministers would realise that going out to work as a mother means you essentially have an extra business expense.

And aren't those meant to be tax-deductible?

In most progressive countries in Europe, you get a tax break on the crippling cost of childcare.

Can we please at least begin to have a national discussion on this?

Otherwise working mothers will be left holding the baby, when really it's a high-powered meeting we want to hold.

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