Saturday, February 4, 2012

Home Alone

It's with a certain element of shock that I realize that I've been an SAHM for almost 8 years now. The decision to be an SAHM was not a 'lifestyle choice', I liked my job and honestly believed that with job sharing, I had the best of both worlds.

No, that decision was made for me, precipitated by our son's ASD diagnosis all those years ago.

It turned out to be the best decision I ever made and the results of my new 'job' were evident for all to see today as I packed my boy off to sit his Assessment Tests with all the other boys who will be attending his mainstream secondary school in September.

I can now reflect on how pivotal me being at home has been for my son and for our family. And over the last few years I've also had pause to reflect on how we collectively view the role of the stay-at-home-parent.

Sometimes we make the lifestyle choice to stay at home for our children. Sometimes the decision is made for us by the special care needs of our families, or by financial neccessities. And sometimes it's economic events that force the decision upon  us.

Being at home to raise your children is a tough task, albeit with some amusing and exciting benefits! It can seem thankless and under-estimated at times. Yet it's only when something happens the 'homemaker' that their true worth is realised, it seems.

I've often joked to myself saying that anything could happen when I'm home alone! Axe-wielding murderers posing as innocent strangers calling to door or falling over the dog/cat for example. Talking to oneself can be an SAHM occupational hazard you see! As can doing silly things like almost electrocuting yourself on a broken extension lead, nearly falling down the stairs having tripped over the Hoover or even breaking your little toe!

I had one incident at the beginning of my 8 year hiatus when I was so unwell that Mr Jazzy had to take a last minute day off work to mind WiiBoy. Last December  I again became suddenly unwell one day with what turned out to be a stress induced panic attack and he had to drop everything to come home to take over.  It's at times like this that the job of the stay at home parent is prioritised with the utmost urgency.

It's  not all hard work though and over the years I have come to the conclusion that it is utterly important for the SAHM (or dad) to have interests outside the home, to preserve our sanity and mental acuity, don't you know! You will find that a lot of us will become more involved in the community and in the school our child attends. Some may do class reader, PTA, fund raising etc. Some of us choreograph pantomimes, become a Faith Friend for Confirmation and doss online become very involved in Social Media! Either way some valuable contributions to our communities are made by this group in our society that should never be dismissed or under estimated.

I have also given a lot of thought about how our successive Governments view the role of stay-at-home-parent in our society and it doesn't paint a pretty picture. There now follows a little history lesson from the addled brain of this stay-at-home-mum...

  • In my mothers and grand-mother's generation the dad brought home the bacon, so to speak. If mothers worked at all it was usually as cleaners or dress-makers. Any woman working in the Civil Service had to give up their job upon marriage. That was so up until the late 70's/early 80's until it was changed.
  • In 1980 The Murphys fought a constitutional Tax case (mentioned here) and successfully changed how married people were treated for Income Tax purposes. This case resulted in rate bands being doubled for married people with transferability of unused portions allowed between spouses. It also, I felt, put a value on the status of the SAHM....although the benefits were in the husband's pay packet. I pondered at that time how the fact that staying home to mind our children was now a viable option, that there may be more jobs to go around for those unemployed? Naive perhaps?
  • However, aggregation was then itself thought to be unfair as it prioritised marriage as a family form and ignored co-habiting couples. It was also felt that women were incentivised to' seek economic independance' and a report was furnished  which, it seems to me, couldn't fully come to a conclusion. Mr Charlie Mc Creevey went ahead anyway and introduced Individualisation in Dec 1999 for the Budget 2000.
  • I have always had a problem with Individualisation and felt that it penalised one-income families with children. It seems I'm not the only one, see here...I wonder what Joan Burton would say now? We were coming into boom time then, jobs were plentiful and there was an  economic influx to fill them. How  better to force a section of society (mostly women) back into the work force than to introduce Individualisation? There was a pathetic attempt to placate the home makers by immediately introducing (wasn't supposed to be introduced until later) the Home Carer's Tax Credit. This put a net €770 in the pockets of us Home Carers. We were worth a lousy €14.80 per week. 
  • Despite salary increases and Income Tax decreases over the next 10 years this tax credit remained the only one untouched for many years. It increased slightly only once in that time.

 Now we find ourselves one more in a huge economic abyss. We have high unemployment again so some parents have been forced into being stay at home parents. How does our Government respond? They pander to the Troika and look at Social Welfare payments and see who they can cut back, is what they do. They've recently set their sights on Lone Parents, planning to stop payments once the child reaches 7 years of age. Obviously a child of that age is considered fully reared so the parent can go back to work.

Personally I don't think this is an attack on Lone Parents. I believe if married mums received a social welfare payment we would be similarly targeted. No, this is an attack on women and children. And now they are considering linking (i.e reducing) Carer's Allowance, Disability Allowance and lone Parents in with job-seekers allowance. As the fact that there are no jobs for them to be forced into completely bypasses this Government,  we have therefore no hope of showing them that being a Carer IS a job. So is minding our children ourselves, if we so choose.

I feel that governmental decisions are not made with families best interests at heart. History shows that any decisions are made for economic reasons only and how they impinge on families and their choices for child rearing are of no relevance. Reading the two reports I link to in this piece does nothing to convince me otherwise. Everything is considered insofar as it gets women into the workforce and costs the state less...just look at the figures they have for disbanding the double rate bands and how they viewed it in terms of revenue gain! That must have been what Charlie Mc Creevey saw back in 1999 too.

This may now be a good time for us to consider how we view and value all of our contributions to our society. Let's not value one over the other and let's use this present economic decline to bolster our involvement in Community and to put some value on that too.

xx



Note: Image credit: clipartof.com

11 comments:

  1. Hi Jazzy, this was a fascinating post for me to read. Interesting times for you all over there!!
    A quick fact from me regarding the country I live in.... 50 million people in South Africa, 4 (four) million tax payers!!
    I would move to Ireland but I can't bear the cold! :)

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  2. When it comes to stay at home parents and the care of children, I think the Government assumes that we (usually mothers) will just do it, whether or not we are paid, because we love our kids, and history tells them that they would usually be right. When have mothers ever marched on the Dail demanding better terms and conditions? Even the child benefit march that I helped to publicise was not well supported. It seems the loss of confidence suffered by many SAHMs spills over into them not valuing themselves or what they do, And much of the time society conspires to help them to think that and it's convenient because then their unpaid work can just be ignored.

    As you know I became an unwilling SAHM when the 'perfect job' ended and now I throw myself into endless projects because I still miss the workplace after 3 years. But I'm not willing to become a wage slave and work all the hours if it means abandoning all the plans I have to help my kids to reach their potential and not become a drain on the state.

    Oops I think I should've written a blog post on this! Hopefully your post will start lots of discussions xx

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  3. @Di: Interesting is one way of looking at it! Wow....50mil people relying on tax take from 4 mil? Jeez. I wouldn't rush to move here, people moving out as can't afford to live here!

    @Blue Sky: thanks for valuable insights. Totally agree with everything you say. I KNEW you'd get what what I'm saying here :-)

    Thanks for your comments ...and for those who commented and shared on twitter and facebook :-)

    xx Jazzy

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  4. Child support here in Israel goes up the more children you hsve. I only get 169 shekels a month for the one child (about 30 pounds) but those with six or more children get something akin to the minimum wage. There is a big incentive for ultra=orthodox women with few qualifications to have six children as soon as possible inorder to be able to stay at home.

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  5. @Midlife Singlemum: That's an interesting outlook, thanks! Here in holy Catholic Ireland, where the church bans contraception, the state also pays more for the more children you have. At least they did, until they cut that back too! I'm not sure if was ever akin to the minimum wage. I've never thought of it like that. Interesting....very interesting. Thank you ;-)

    xx Jazzy

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  6. I had every intent of going back to work after my son was born. But then there were so many things that needed to be done that it wasn't financially possible for us to hire out. The best thing for us was for me to stay home. Looking back, it was a hard decision but I'm happy with it now.
    Funny thing is, my sister thinks I sit around and watch TV and eat chocolates all day. Yeah, I don't have to tell you, she doesn't have any kids!

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  7. It is overwhelming sometimes to think of the mind shift that is necessary to really see change. I feel like so many people are ready for a change but then it just doesn't happen.

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  8. Very interesting post. I'm a sahm but I do run a business from home and also write books when Amy's at school. I had to give up a part time job I had when Amy was going through her diagnosis assessments because of all the appointments I had to attend.

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  9. @Lizbeth: yeah.....lots of people think that. Sooo not true!! Glad teh decision worked out for you too :-)

    @Kristy: Yes, we all just keep putting up with it.

    @Crystal Jigsaw: That's the ideal I think...finding something that you can do from home and fit around the family schedule. Even better when it's a talent you have and can ultimately be paid for! Now, if only someone woukd pay me to doss...I mean work online ;-)

    Thanks for your comments :-)

    xx Jazzy

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  10. Great post Jazzy. Im like Lizbeth and had to give up for all sorts of reasons. This was the best thing to do for my family but what I didn't expect was the negativity towards me as a SAHM. People just dont see that caring is work which is a real shame. Deb

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  11. @Deb at aspie in the family: Thanks Deb. No, they don't. I found a similar attitude towards me when I job-shared.

    Thanks for your comment :-)

    xx Jazzy

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