Last week, I was ill with an infection. Nothing serious that some strong antibiotics didn’t cure, but ill all the same. Of course, my son was also teething badly. And so there were nights when I was in a sweaty dream, where I could hear my baby crying in my sleep but it was my husband who was up four, five times a night tending to him. Does this make me a bad mother, or my husband an exceptional father? I think it was simply how we coped as parents at that moment in time.

How families operate and the division of labour in the home is something that has changed considerably in the last two or three decades. Go to any rural school at 3pm on a weekday and it’s no longer just women at the school gate. Fathers are there, many of which are farmers who have the flexibility to do the school run while their wives are at work. In some cases, men are doing the homework and making the dinner because that is what works for their family.

Today in 2023, the structure and division of labour in many households is, and should be, fluid, adaptable and suited to that family’s day-to-day life.

Today in 2023, the structure and division of labour in many households is, and should be, fluid, adaptable and suited to that family’s day-to-day life.

So it was welcome news last week that the Government finally announced a date for a referendum to amend parts of the Constitution dealing with the family, care and a ‘women’s role within the home’.

While many families have moved with the times, our Constitution is stuck in the dark ages. Article 41.2 states that: “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, a woman gives the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.” Furthermore, “the State shall therefore endeavour to assure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.

This part of the constitution goes back to 1937 and not only is it outdated, irrelevant and insulting to women now, it was also vehemently objected to back in 1930s with women groups pleading with the then Taoiseach Éamon de Valera to amend it.

These women were forward thinking and progressive anticipating that these words would have long-term effects, which they did. The marriage bar which was not lifted until 1973 is one example, and many readers will remember a time when, once a woman was up the aisle, she was forced to leave her well-paying and respected job as a teacher, nurse or perhaps, a clerk. Many are still experiencing the impact of this in their pensions today.

The constitution also references marriage being the institution “on which the family is founded”. However, we now live in a society where last year, one in four babies were born out of wedlock. Despite the absence of a ring, these parents will proudly announce their child is indeed born into a loving family unit.

Another area that will be up for debate is the term around carer, in recognition of the fact that it is not only mothers who are carers, but fathers, siblings, children. Interestingly, what carers need most is not moral support in our constitution but practical and financial support in daily life. Taking place on 8 March 2024, the referendum will coincide with International Women’s Day.

Before that, we have Christmas to look forward to and we have our Christmas taste test where the Irish Country Living team and the Irish Farmers Journal team sampled ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mince pies to determine our favourite. It was a tough job, but we assure you it was a total altruistic act.

We were doing it for you, our reader – we promise.