I live in Northern Ireland, a place where I have been long enough to call home. A place that I get to love, and to hate, and to change and to demand better of. A place where I have a say (even if some people disagree!).
This is the place where I had my kids, and where I was left at my own devices with a highly insufficient provision for childcare. The place that made me get stretched and overwhelmed about it all. A place that I fight for, because is where my family belongs.
I am nothing but grateful for Melted Parents NI to make sure our anger and frustration goes further than just being shared over coffee with our friends. What they are doing to channel these insufficiencies is remarkable and they already have 5k followers on Instagram, and many people telling their stories. They have been in press and they are having important conversations and I am sure that they will be fundamental for the change we want to see.
I am so grateful to share their voice here!
Who are Casey, Becca and Paula the women behind the Melted Parents NI campaign?
A great wider group of women are behind the Melted Parents NI campaign. Within our core group, while we all very much use our professional skills (we work in the NHS, charity & public sector in mental health, campaigning and finance) we primarily identify ourselves as parents in this campaign.
Why did you decide to start it? What is the story behind it?
So, I'm sure just like every other parent in NI, we watched the Chancellor's spring statement announcing a phased introduction of 30 hours free childcare for England's under 4s (which NI would not receive) and it lit a fire under us. Becca and I had been long-time followers of the wonderful Pregnant Then Screwed (PTS) campaign based in England which had arguably brought about this pledge. As we complained about NI missing out, we realised that we both had messaged the team at PTS asking 'What can we do? How can we make change in NI?' and we decided that we should go ahead and do something together - and Melted Parents NI was created. As the campaign began, we met Paula as we discovered there was a kindred spirit who had started a petition in response to the Chancellor's statement demanding better for NI parents - we knew we should be working together and we were so happy when Paula agreed to join us
What is the biggest impact on what you do?
Our mission is to share the lived experience of families living under our crushing childcare costs and lack of support and provision. We believe that by elevating the voice and experiences of parents in this space that we can educate our politicians on the human cost of our childcare crisis and push for childcare reform to sit at the top of a sitting NI Executive's priority list, with families experiences at the centre of a thought out childcare strategy. Importantly, we hope that sharing these stories helps our local families feel less alone, educates our parent population about just how much we have been denied in NI when it comes to childcare support and galvanises what is arguably a hugely 'burnt out' group to demand better of our Government and make the change happen ourselves.
What has been your biggest learning since you started?
Personally, my eyes have been opened to just how universally our families are struggling under the cost of childcare in NI. It spans all professions and income brackets: from our essential key workers on the average wage to doctors and lawyers - it's an 'everybody' issue.
What is the goal? The big vision of what you would like to achieve?
Long term, we want to achieve meaningful childcare reform in NI and ensure that families' experiences are at the heart of a 'good enough' childcare strategy that will support parents to work and families to thrive instead of survive. In the short term? We want to galvanise our local parents, share their experiences and ask for immediate support with the cost of childcare for working families - we are currently compiling a letter to the secretary of state- watch this space!
How can we help you to get there!?
Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter @meltedparentsNI and tell your friends and family. Share your stories, engage with our polls and questions, support our upcoming open letter campaign and most importantly don't feel that we just have to accept that a terrible lack of support for the care and education of our young children is 'just how it is'. We, and they, deserve better.
And this is the feminist questionnaire identical for everyone
What is Feminism for you?
I keep it simple, it's equality of genders and sexes. What I find interesting is that what is a pertinent feminist issue changes for me as I age and my personal experiences change. As a child and teenager I was acutely aware of women's participation in certain education subjects, sports, their sexual harassment in schools and public, as I grow older, I more clearly see the penalty of motherhood, issues being a woman in the workplace, the inequalities that exist in our most valued relationships as we raise our families, it's ever evolving and it really alerts me to the need for intersectional representation in the movement.
Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?
Honestly? The ones that are really getting to me at the minute are my own! I'm always being alerted to my own blindspots. Just recently Becca, Paula and I were talking about our childcare Bills and it came up that we quantify our children's childcare bill in terms of our own take home pay- we are all married and in actual fact our childcare bill is a shared bill with our partners - but we clearly still see the care of our children as a woman's responsibility and expense - on a subconscious level.
Do you remember when you start identifying as a Feminist and why?
I don't remember a time when I wasn't a feminist, I maybe didn't always label myself that way but i've been acutely aware of the differences made between girls/boys and women/men. I had a strong sense of justice as a child and I was always in a gripe about the differences in what I could do and what my brothers could do, like when you start going out as a young teenager, the rules around curfews, boyfriends, alcohol etc. were very different for me as a girl and young woman - and I remember highlighting the difference as a feminist issue early on.
Who is your biggest feminist role model?
This is such a tough one, I think this changes for me as I learn new information, my own identity changes- and more public 'cancellations' happen. At the moment I tend to see a person or a part of their story and pause for a moment of admiration for them and their internal sense of feminist justice or their service to women generally. I was actually pleasantly surprised recently as I watched a documentary on Pamela Anderson and I was in awe of her resolve, her handling of a totally misogynist system in the height of her fame and her survival as a working mother.
What is your favourite Feminist quote?
Probably Mary Shelley's 'I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves'. It aligns with the self-determinism that underlines my general values as a person.
What is your proud feminist victory?
Honestly? I have no idea. I think that my close circle of intelligent, feminist women who I call my best friends, colleagues and co-founders are my feminist victory.
What is your feminist recommendation?
- Book: A Room of One's Own
- Tv show: The Handmaid's Tale
- Film: Promising Young Woman
What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading?