Motherhood is not a career move. Not even for sixteen year old school girls who want a flat and enough money to survive on. Because that’s the thing – Lone Parents’ Allowance is just barely enough to survive on. I have never met a single mother who has had a child in order to ‘earn’ money. I have met women who have had a baby thinking that would ensure them the attention and affection of their beau. I have met women who had babies because they got drunk and then pregnant, and wouldn’t contemplate having an abortion. I have met women who got pregnant in order to escape a dreadful home life. I have met women whose marriages have broken down and they have had no choice but to accept social welfare payments in order to raise their children.
Still, along with the ‘those foreigners stole our jobs’ brigade the ’single mothers should be forced to work’ brigade are clamouring to be heard. Talkshow hosts give them air time and consider their views. There are several ‘interesting’ ideas about how unwed (or no-longer-wed) mothers should contribute to society. How they should have to work for their payments, or how they should not receive as ‘much’ as they do.
What all these opinionists fail to recognise – and what has yet to be pointed out to them by any radio host I have heard – is that Bunracht na hEireann protects a woman’s right to raise her children. Article 41 (2.2) states that:
‘The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”
It would, therefore, be unconstitutional for any legislation to declare that women who have children and no partners must work outside the home.
Some people think this Article is demeaning to women. They interpret it as a reflection of the misogynistic view that “a woman’s place is in the home”. Personally, I see it as recognition of the valuable job that mothering is. A woman’s right to mother her children is upheld by the Irish Constitution. I actually think that’s quite progressive. The Irish Constitution itself recognises that, while motherhood is not a career move, it is the most important job any woman will ever undertake.