Tales of a Domestic Worker: We need to talk about childcare
2018-11-01 14:41:12 -
Opinion
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By Mariah Bhatti

 

The news of two schools with safety issues being shut in Tyrellstown hit close to home, and that suburb in north-west Dublin was my first residence in Ireland, and also my first workplace.

I remember the very first day my first (and exploitative) employer brought me to the Educate Together school to introduce me to the teacher of her then eight-year-old, and of course so I would know the way there.

That day was followed by many others that were full of rushes in the mornings and afternoons, between the school and the creche and house errands.

I also remember the little young lady greeting one of her schoolmates or classmates ‘Hi Siobhan!’ and me thinking what a beautiful name that was. Now when I look back, the name is still beautiful but it’s even more interesting that I’ve learned Siobhan is originally of African descent.

I also recall afternoons playing in the park, hearing stories of which boy the little young lady liked and how she would be shy when we saw him in the park. Of course, she liked him from a distance but that didn’t stop her from blushing even if the poor boy had no clue what was going on.

I can still visualise the park and the playground in it. I imagine the two kids climbing up and down, the little sibling rows that could quickly escalate to a mini war where I would have to happily play the peacemaker. Pushes on the swings were also a must. We would often do them just before going back home for a snack, homework and the beginning of dinner.

Around 4pm and after eight hours of work would normally be seen as the end of a working day for someone who starts at 8am, but it was different for me; it was only just over half of my long day despite having started at 7am.

Listening to a recent radio interview with parents of kids left stranded by their school’s closure, of course I felt safety was of the utmost importance but the domestic worker in me also couldn’t help sympathising with the parents and imagined how inconvenienced they must be.

One parent explained that her husband had no annual leave remaining and would have to take unpaid leave. She went on to say that she wouldn’t be able to take time off either or afford the childcare costs that would be involved.

This is a reminder of how important it is to invest in childcare and how crucial of a job people who look after children do.

As it is unknown for how long the schools will be closed, it remains to be seen if this will be an opportunity for the Government to not only be accountable for failures in safety measures, but also to have a frank discussion about the cost of childcare and investing in our children’s future.

 

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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