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First personHumour

Death to the Irish Mammy: Should we retire the martyr matriarch?

By November 13, 2021No Comments

Emma Doran explains why she thinks it might just be time to do so…

Up until 1973 in Ireland, once married, women had to give up work. Sure, some days the thoughts of legally having to depend on a husband’s salary sounds appealing but I think we can all agree that Ireland of the past isn’t missed. A society that was controlled by the church and where women fell somewhere below cars and pints in the pecking order.


With each generation positive change thankfully continues. The Irish Mammy figure, however, has seemed to be able to cling onto her position of beloved national institution by the skin of her cavity filled teeth (because she can’t afford such self luxuries as a trip to the dentist). 

We are forever presented with the greatness of the selfless matriarch. In the corner internally screaming in pain over secret traumas of her past, but fair play to her, she always had a dinner on the table. She made sure everyone else was looked after first while she stood in the rain nibbling a dry cracker praying to Saint Anthony to find her late period. 

The Irish Mammy today is the Irish Granny though. The mothers that were told in the early 90s by the government ‘actually we do want you to work’.  You see, the lads in power had told their multinational mates in the states that we had a deadly workforce in Ireland, so they needed to make it happen. 

The Irish Mammy went back to work because she was ever compliant and always did what she was told. No childcare, no equal pay, no flexibility, no bodily autonomy. What was on offer though was the joy of still getting to look after all those silly children and house bits that they’d been doing already.  

And of course, The Irish Mammy money would be referred to as ‘paying for the extras’, because being a provider for her family didn’t really fit in with the martyr mantra she had been brought up with as an Irish female. 

So here we are today. The first generation where couple roles aren’t clearly defined. There isn’t one size fits all. Ireland as a nation now needs to help and support families of today and I propose a National Day of Mourning would be a good place to start. I mean let’s face it, we still love a good funeral. 

The Irish Mammy needs to be put to rest. She is dead. She has no place in today’s Ireland and we need to say goodbye. She clearly went above and beyond to raise an entire island but Christ, she’s bloody exhausted. It’s time to tell her to shut the fuck up with the ‘don’t be worrying about me’ bollix and put her out of her ‘I’ll just keep having babies till my womb falls out’ misery. 

Once she’s gone not only will she secretly be delighted with the bit of a break, but we can all have a chat once she isn’t in ear shot.  Letting her live much longer than she ever should have only makes it harder for us all. The guilt of not being able to be the mothers our mothers were to us is real. There certainly is a bit of talk about you must look after yourself first in order to look after your family. But do we really believe it? 

Even though I cut ties with the Irish mammy a long time ago, I still don’t want to commit the greatest sin of all and upset her. Irish Mammy would not hit McDonald’s drive through every Saturday to get her children happy meals. She would not be ‘treating herself’ to new clothes in the run up to Christmas. And please don’t tell her my children are not baptised! She would give herself a stroke worrying what the neighbours would say. Sometimes the only way I feel I can exorcise her voice from my head is to do a rage clean. Which ironically probably makes her happy.

I don’t want to brush her memory under the rug. That would be disrespectful. No. Let’s have a big day where we all force feed each other sandwiches, drink a cup of tea every 20 mins from the good China and give her the send off she deserves. I’m even open to doing a quick decade of the rosary. But let us stop paying attention to her. It’s truly what she would have wanted.