Stay-at-home mums deserve credit — but not €80 a month

If having children, and raising them and minding them, is such a cruel burden, why do people bother at all?

Ever since last week’s budget made a small, perhaps flawed, but certainly long overdue step towards helping parents with crippling childcare bills, all we’ve heard is whingeing and bellyaching and naked begrudgery from stay-at-home parents. The thrust of their argument is that, on top of getting a decent child benefit each week, they should also be paid to mind their own children. Talk about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Whatever happened to the notion of parenthood as a joy and a privilege, and being able to stay at home when your children are small as a blessing beyond price? Not any longer, apparently. That price is €80 a month, starting in September 2017. That’s the sum of the “universal”, non-means-tested childcare subsidy and no amount of quality time with their own children, it appears, will compensate stay-at-home parents for its loss.

Of all the cynical, contrived rows to emerge from a budget proposal, this one takes the Liga biscuit. It betrays a meanness of spirit and a pitiful lack of empathy with people whose circumstances you demonstrably do not envy. If it were just the high cost of childcare that was preventing these women — and stay-at-home parents are mostly women — from going out to work, then they’d be welcoming this provision with open arms. So that’s clearly not why they’re choosing to look after their offspring themselves.

Of all the cynical, contrived rows to emerge from a budget proposal, this one takes the Liga biscuit

Presumably, they’re doing so because they believe it’s best for their children, for their families, and for themselves. Therefore, they must also believe the woman next door, whose economic circumstances oblige her to go out to work, is faring worse on all these fronts. And still they want to deny her the few euros that might make her sacrifices a little more bearable.

Because this is not about Peter being robbed to pay Paul; this is about Peter, sitting at home with his kids and a nice cup of tea in the afternoon, ringing Liveline to complain that Paul, out at work and not listening to the radio, is being paid at all.

This new measure will be worth up to €8,000 a year to families with a net income of €22,700 whose children are in 40 hours a week of childcare. Consider how tough things must be for people like that — working flat out, scarcely seeing their kids, and paying the equivalent of a second mortgage on childcare while trying to get by on €475 a week. I suspect many parents would gladly forgo this €80 “windfall” for the chance to be at home with their children, but haven’t a prayer of affording that luxury.

Do we value parenthood so cheaply that we honestly believe there are mothers who’ll jump at the chance to bundle their infants into creches at 7.30am for the sake of an extra €80? Because one of the main criticisms of the new scheme is that it will “incentivise” women to dump their children in childcare and go out to work. All that’s been stopping them up to now was not the reward of being with their children, it was €80. What a high opinion of the country’s mothers these critics hold.

And just imagine the outraged keening if the “incentive” had gone the other way, and the government had announced measures to encourage women to stay at home with their children on the basis it was better for everyone. Imagine the uproar if they’d cited article 42.1 of the constitution, pledging “mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties within the home”, childcare being chief among them?

So we all believe women should have the same workplace opportunities as men — until they get an €80 subsidy to help pay for the childcare which facilitates that equality. Then they turn into negligent, money-mad harridans, whose grubby toil can’t compare with the selfless and tragically unrewarded heroism of the stay-at-home mum.

More a lesson in bare-faced cheek

Claiming to be concerned for the plight of new recruits is the “hit me with the child in me arms” gambit of choice for the public service unions.

When the Luas drivers played it during their dispute, Transdev pointed out this solidarity with newbies was somewhat belied by the practice of dumping them with the graveyard shifts.

Now the ASTI teachers union is citing it as its excuse to strike next month, but the real objective seems to be extra money for “substitution and supervision” duties.

Supervision, a teacher explained on radio last week, is basically making sure that nobody runs in the corridors. Substitution is sitting in a classroom watching students do their homework while their teacher is away at a football match.

Babysitting activities, basically, far beneath the pay grade of highly qualified H Dips. Surely it’d be possible to find any number of retired folk who’d take on these humble duties for an equally humble fee?

Stairway to heaven, and then back again

A Kildare woman, who told a court she’d reached the age of 64 without ever laying eyes on an escalator, last week lost her case for injuries suffered after she fell on one in Dublin airport. “It just went on and on,” said Elizabeth Lavin. “It was very steep and shaky, and there was no end to it.”

Lavin was readily familiar with the phenomenon of lifts, though, and had claimed the Dublin Airport Authority didn’t have enough signs for them. She’d originally won €40,000 in compensation, but now faces a €500,000 legal bill after the Court of Appeal overturned the award. The judges noted she’d fallen when she let go of the handrail to adjust her luggage and CCTV showed she had braved the strange new-fangled staircase without a moment’s hesitation.

Surgical strikes

You are twice as likely to die on the operating table, according to new research, if your surgeon is about to go on holiday. The UK cardiologist who conducted the research prefers to see it as a glass-half-full (or half-patients-saved) thesis, as the corollary is that you are twice as likely to survive if your doctor has just returned from a break.

Samer Nashef suggests that surgeons tend to be slightly out of practice and therefore more meticulous when they return from a break. Or else they might just be thinking about the golf course, the cocktails, the beach and the sunshine on the day before they go. Perhaps a little hair salon-style small talk (“going anywhere nice?”) might be advisable when your consultant makes his final pre-op bedside visit.