Last week, I wrote about the list of topics that can cause debate when raised in company. COVID-19 was amongst them. Ironically, by writing this I became a victim of this consternation: “Amii, stop talking about COVID, we are sick of it.”
That is a request I am happy to acquiesce to with an editorial COVID-19 ban. However, I am not quite willing to jump off my soapbox in relation to the list.
A topic that features in many guises on this list is parenting. From the moment a woman finds out she is pregnant, people will share their (sometimes appreciated, sometimes unwanted) opinions. Everything from labour pain relief to breast feeding to weaning to schools. I would add all these topics to the list of “best not comment” unless directly asked for an opinion.
These are all decisions that an expectant mother and her partner need to make
Often, although completely unintentional, it can come across as “judgey”. Other consternation items include maternity leave, maternity pay and how much or how little time a woman and her family may choose to take as maternity leave.
Whether to return to work part time, full time or not at all. These are all decisions that an expectant mother and her partner need to make. These are all personal decisions and not simple ones.
It is really good news for working women that Minister McEntee will take six months of paid maternity leave and her role will be well covered
This was in my head when I first listened to the Irish Mirror Glass Ceiling podcast Minister for Justice Helen McEntee recorded with their political correspondent Ciara Phelan.
And again when I read Margaret Hawkins’s interview with the two midwives (note: discussions around the merits of private, public or midwifery-led care go straight onto the list). It is really good news for working women that Minister McEntee will take six months of paid maternity leave and her role will be well covered. All three facets: time, cover and payment are important. Also important; she has instigated change in Irish politics that will have a ripple effect.
Time: taking the six months shows other women that you should not feel the need to shorten the time with your baby for fear of the impact on your career.
Cover: a caretaker being put in place demonstrates your employer values your role and the work you do.
Change: The Government is reviewing maternity leave for politicians through the Citizens Assembly which could require (overdue) constitutional change.
Paid: In the podcast Minister McEntee admits that when she was elected to the Dáil at 26, maternity was not on her radar. Many young women sign contracts without even asking about maternity benefit.
When I explained that my employer (at that time) did not pay maternity benefit, she nearly choked
I know I did. Never thought of it once at 24. The inequity only became clear to me when, pregnant with my first child, a nurse friend told me, she was jealous of the time I had ahead, how wonderful it was to be off work... Paid. When I explained that my employer (at that time) did not pay maternity benefit, she nearly choked, denouncing their actions as “illegal”. But there was nothing illegal about it and I would leave work and go on the State maternity benefit.
When it comes to women making inroads in terms of equality, no woman really wants to have to be the first. Effectively, that means other women have suffered inequality before her. I am sorry I did not use my voice and shout a little louder to look for equity on that issue. If I had, I could have been the first and others would have benefited. Perhaps when the Citizens’ Assembly looks at this issue, it will think of all working women, public and private sector.