Andrea Mara

Official website

Office Mum Stories – Joanne Keane

It is usually women… who see the raised eyebrows when they actually have to leave their desks to go and pick up their children and can’t stay late, but who maybe then put in another few hours on the laptop when the children go to bed” 

Originally from west Clare but living in Dublin, Joanne is mum to Cara and Seán and two goldfish, Sharkey and Jaws. She’s married to John, a hurling and football mad Dub.  She’s a primary school teacher, who is currently on a career break; at home  with her children, and coaching ‘Camán & Play’ sessions at weekends.  She loves cooking, baking, fitness, positivity, supporting the Clare hurlers and footballers, and as she says herself, learning to love the Dubs!

Find out more about Camán & Play on Twitter @CamanAndPlay or on Facebook

Joanne I’m delighted you’re taking part! So how many children do you have and what are their ages?

Joanne Keane Caman and Play Office MumI have two children: Cara, aged 5 and Seán (aged 3 and a half).

What do you do for a living, and for how long have you been working at this?

I am a primary school teacher with around 15 years’ experience, and have also completed a full-time MA in Education for 2 years.  I spent two years teaching Educational Methodology at Mary I in Limerick on a part-time basis and since then have worked in a range of schools; single sex and mixed in a range of urban environments.  I have worked with most age groups right up to the senior end of the school, with children with learning difficulties and with children whose first language is not English, a really mixed bag!  I am also a certified GAA and Athletics Ireland coach and CPR trained.  Pre having children, I really enjoyed supporting the Banner men in their sporting endeavours and the Dublin hurlers, however my hurling and football mad husband has dibs on going to matches these days!!

What kind of hours do you work?

Currently I am on career break and a stay at home mum!

Do you have the flexibility to job-share?

As a teacher, there is the opportunity to job share provided it is available as an option in your school and you can find another teacher willing to job share with you.  This tends to work as either a week on, week off option or a three-day-on, two-day-off model, depending on the particular school.

What kind of childcare do you use, if any?

Currently, it’s just me full-time with the children and I am lucky to have the support of my husband’s family who live fairly close by. I am looking at returning to work next September so am trying to get my head around the childcare options at the moment – think it will be quite the challenge!

Are your children in school at the moment?

Cara has just started Junior Infants and Seán has just started Montessori so it gives me a couple of hours in the morning to get in the food shopping, make the dinner and work on developing some ideas for a physical activity playgroup called ‘Camán & Play’ that I have set up to introduce children between the ages of 3 and 5 to the skills of hurling/camóige and Gaelic football with a bit of Gaeilge thrown in too.  From starting off with a small group of 6 children, we are now coaching 3 groups at the mighty Kilmacud Crokes on Sunday mornings.  As a stay at home mum, I am really enjoying it and look forward to seeing our groups on Sunday mornings.  I feel like it certainly has given me a new lease of life!

What do you think is most difficult about balancing work and home?

I think no matter what situation you are in, whether you work full-time or part-time or stay at home; with children, family life is a juggling act. I think everyone has lots of pressures, be they internally from within the family or extended family or externally with jobs, travel or various commitments.  And I feel that you have to try to do what is best for you in your own particular set of circumstances to make it all work and come together.  I guess being at home makes it a little easier for dropping off to school/collecting, organising playdates, dropping to afterschool activities but I think on the other hand, and especially with very young children, it can be all-consuming and that you need to take a few minutes to yourself each day to draw your breath and clear your head.

Do you think there is an optimal solution out there?

In a word, no! If there was, we would all be doing it! I guess it all depends on the individual family, their circumstances and the perspectives of both the mum and dad and trying to do what suits your own particular needs and situation.

If you could do any job, what would it be?

I would love to continue coaching the young children and maybe try to grow it into a business over the long-term.  I would also love to teach Infants, I just love the innocence and openness of children at this stage and their enthusiasm and interest in things, they can and do just come out with anything.

Do you think there is a glass ceiling for women?

Yes I do think there is, to an extent, particularly when you get to certain levels within companies or organisations.  When you have children and are working, whether full-time or part-time, it is usually the woman who will have to leave her job if one of the children gets sick, or often is the person who takes the lion’s share of the drop offs/collections, and the person who sees the raised eyebrows when they actually have to leave their desks to go and pick up their children and can’t stay late but who maybe then put in another few hours on the laptop when the children go to bed. Again, it goes back to the issue of juggling career aspirations and family life.

I think the recent campaign to extend maternity leave by 16 weeks is welcome but to be honest I think there needs to be a great change at societal level and maybe something of a rethink around sharing duties and responsibilities in the workplace and some kind of greater flexibility in work arrangements.

Do you have 3 top tips for women returning to work to make their life easier?

I think being prepared is important.  Obviously at a practical level of having childcare organised and trying to trust your choice on it but also at an emotional level, having your little cry and then just embracing it and enjoying being in an adult environment with adult conversations again! Having family support around you, if possible. I also think it is very important for everyone, whether stay at home or working, to take a little bit of time for themselves every day and go for a walk or a run or check out Andrea’s cool blog on the net! Having a good network of mums and not being afraid to ask their advice/experiences is great!

Joanne thank you for taking part – there’s a real sense through your words of how much you’re enjoying your career break. Yet there’s clear honesty there too – partiuclarly in terms of how important it is for all of us to have something for ourselves. Time out for a walk or a run or anything that is being “me” rather than mother or worker, for just a few minutes.

I think you are right that we’ve a long away to go, especially regarding workplace flexibility. Even in families where both parents are equally responsible for taking time off when kids are sick, it’s tough. It’s hard no matter what the set-up – as you say so clearly yourself, if there was an optimal solution, we’d all be doing it!

I wish you continued enjoyment of your career break, and I sincerely hope you get your wish of turning Camán & Play into a business (and what a great name!)

PS thank you for the lovely mention in your interview – I resisted to urge to edit it out 🙂





Click the button below to sign up to my Penguin newsletter.