Tales of a Domestic Worker: What control do I have?
2018-05-15 13:49:37 -
By Mariaam Bhatti
  Taking part in Building Better Futures – entrepreneurship training for migrant women facilitated by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland in collaboration with the DCU Ryan Academy – has enabled me to meet over 20 wonderful entrepreneurs whose calibre I could not have imagined existed in the migrant population, let alone among women migrants in Ireland. It is really humbling to be part of and to witness.
  We all have business ideas, profit or non-profit, that we are preparing to pitch as we get closer to completing our course. The whole experience has brought out the fire in me about the childcare sector and its issues, in particular the cost for parents. 
  At the creche where I used to work, the fee was €1,050 per child for two to three-year olds per month. A childminder on minimum wage, meanwhile, costs at least €9.55 per hour. Basically, it means if two parents are in low paid work, most if not all of one’s pay will go on childcare and nothing else. If one is a low-paid worker and a lone parent with a child that needs minding during work hours, they will not be able to afford both rent and food.
  When I was in South Africa, I never for one bit worried about this. I never thought the biggest barrier to having children could be fear of instability, in particularly the affordability of childcare. As I get closer to the age of 40, my fears get stronger and stronger. Back in South Africa, people have their own worries about life and survival, but very rarely have I heard of anyone having sleepless nights because they fear having no one to look after their child while they are at work. There is always a family member, whether close or extended, or a neighbour, or someone in the community who could do with the job. 
  This might sound like irony, but if someone is paid well, treated well and free to move up the ladder when they can, there is nothing wrong with offering domestic work to people with little employment opportunities if it is the only employment they can access.
  With all these advantages in my home country when it comes to having children, I still can’t just pack up and move back to South Africa simply to access family support. Neither can I easily bring a family member from there to Ireland to help in the first few months; visa limitations play a part. I have seen heavily pregnant migrant women come to my work, in tears, holding letters from the Department of Justice stating that their moms or spouses were not granted visas. It is always heartbreaking to witness when one has no control over their plans or wishes, but Government policy decides.
  I also know that having children isn’t everything in life. The list of headaches is endless and makes one wonder if it is all worth it. It is like a movie except that it doesn’t end after two hours. 
  Despite all of this, I would be at peace to know that it is these things that hold me back from my reproductive instincts rather than the cost of childcare. It feels like State policies will always decide when my body should do what. And I and many others in my situation just have to get used to going against the tide.
Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

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