One in 10 women in Ireland quit their jobs over pressure of juggling work and homeschooling 6 months ago

One in 10 women in Ireland quit their jobs over pressure of juggling work and homeschooling

Parenting two children on my own, living in a different country from my own family, let me just be the first to say that these past 12 months have been intense.

Trying to juggle SeeSaw passwords and senior infants Reading Eggs and helping out with 5th class maths and making four million lunches and catching up on Zoom classes and also holding down my own job with deadlines and demands – it has been challenging and exhausting and full-on in a way I never even thought possible. And I know I am not alone in this.

According to new research, as many as one in 10 women in Ireland have already quit jobs because of the pressures of juggling work and pandemic home life, raising concerns that many will face years out of paid employment.

The findings of research conducted by Maynooth University shows that a fifth of women have felt under pressure to quit their jobs during the pandemic, with the National Women's Council of Ireland claiming the stresses of the past year had widened inequality at home and the workplace.

The researchers also discovered that in almost two-thirds of families, the mother took full responsibility for homeschooling.

Dr Katriona O'Sullivan, who lead the researcher on the project, said of the 10 percent of women who had already left their employment, it was not because the job had been sidelined because of the economic impact of the pandemic but rather because the mother felt unable to continue to work and homeschool.

"Whether real or imagined, mothers experience much higher levels of stress than fathers and that is significantly connected to homeschooling," O'Sullivan explains to the Irish Examiner.

"It is amplifying the pressure on women not to continue in the workforce – it is real for women," she said, adding that there could be "long-term consequences to the health of the family".

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Here are some more findings from the Maynooth University research, which involved a survey of 438 parents – including 306 women – and in-depth qualitative interviews with another 25 families.

It found that:

  • 20% of mothers said they felt pressure to leave their job due to home-schooling versus 5% of fathers;
  • When asked the question "Have you left your job due to home-schooling", 10% of mothers had done so;
  • 65% of families report the mother is taking full responsibility for homeschooling, versus 5% where the father is and 23% where both parents share the responsibility;
  • 71% of fathers are confident with their partner's ability to support their children to homeschool, whereas only 37% of mothers feel the same way.

Orla O'Connor, director of the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI), said the research reflected the contacts it had received from women over the course of the pandemic, and particularly over the past six months.

"It really shows what women have been talking to us regarding the stress they have been under, they are really at the end of their tether, with homeschooling and working from home, and the huge difficulties lone parents have faced."

O'Connor said the NWCI was particularly concerned about the "build-up of pressure" over the past year, led by concerns that it will affect women's participation in paid employment.

She also pointed out that a second major concern was while there had been advances in recent years in the sharing of caring duties in the home, the research showed it was still unequal.

"The pandemic has really exposed it – when schools shut women did the homeschooling and more of the caring," she said.

"We need a radical shift in our society," she said, adding that a debate on this issue needed to be front-and-centre in any referendum on Article 41.2 of the Constitution regarding women's place in the home.