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Abueland: ‘The nuclear family model has overburdened grandparents’ | Society

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For families today, having grandparents nearby is a lifeline. Even more so if they are present and “active” grandparents. Because parenting, especially in urban settings, has become a complex challenge in a society that only understands childcare as an individual issue, and one to be addressed with privatization.

Through the cartoon project Abueland (or, Grandparentland), journalist and illustrator Joly Navarro seeks to highlight the value of caregiving departing from the premise that “the personal is political.” In her 40 vignettes, she depicts “what seems insignificant and yet is essential for life to move forward” in order to make us reflect on the unseen work of grandparents – without whom it would be even more difficult to raise children in a world in which productivity takes precedence over quality of life. For the illustrator – who has launched a crowdfunding campaign to publish Abueland as a book – the way to find balance is to reconcile ourselves to a more sustainable and slower pace of life, but also to turn generational conflicts into a learning opportunity for one and all.

Question. Your first cartoon was inspired by your own journey into motherhood in 2018. Did your personal experience change your view of raising children?

Answer. I worked in the social sector for over 10 years, and that is where I learned about caregiving and where I began to come up with theories on it. However, the experience of motherhood definitely made me understand it. It’s not so much that my vision changed, but that I began to digest what I had assumed. Suddenly, all the people who had taken care of me throughout my life emerged very clearly and I experienced an intense need to appreciate and give value to what they had done.

I would say that in my case, motherhood connected me with all the women in history who have cared and continue to care for me. I felt part of it. And I discovered the way to contribute to this feeling of sisterhood was through illustration and reflecting on the crisis of caregiving.

Q. Abueland is a collection of 40 cartoons that focuses on the social era we are living in from a feminist perspective. How much is personal in these vignettes?

A. Each cartoon focuses on the everyday, on the details that may go unnoticed, on what seems insignificant and yet is essential for life to move forward. And I recognize myself in all of them. However, the situations I portray in the cartoons have not necessarily happened to me. They are a portrait of everyday situations that I observe, listen to and share; they are ones that concern me or that I find funny. They are situations that serve to address issues that are of immense social interest.

The phrase “the personal is political” perfectly defines what I was trying to convey with Abueland: that the care provided by grandfathers and grandmothers transcends the personal to become part of the public sphere.

Q. Many people between the ages of 50 and 70 and beyond provide their grandchildren with a large amount of care. In some cases, it is because they want to and in others, it is because they are forced to. There are also grandparents who are still working or live far away and cannot help even though they would like to. Parenting is not easy without grandparents. Are we aware of the role grandparents play in a country like ours?

Journalist and illustrator Joly Navarro.
Journalist and illustrator Joly Navarro.

A. Yayo Herrero, one of the most influential researchers in the ecofeminist field, talks about the difference in how caregiving duties were divided in the past and the way it is done now. Years ago, community, neighborhood and extended family networks were more common, and childcare was distributed in a balanced way. Now the nuclear family model makes this distribution more difficult and, consequently, grandmothers and grandfathers are overburdened.

Q. Particularly grandmothers…

A. Yes, in Abueland I flag up the role of grandmothers because it is older women, grandmothers, who continue to offer care, whether freely or otherwise. Childcare duties, throughout history, have been assumed by women and our society has undervalued them; this links to the feminization of poverty.

There is a cartoon in Abueland aimed at opening the debate on this situation called El Matrioskado. On the one hand, it is a play on words that prompts us to think about misunderstood matriarchies in which women continue to assume a disproportionate share of caregiving as well as making the decisions. The word also leads us to think about the impact of the patriarchal system. And finally, there is a parallel with the mechanism of a Matryoshka doll [wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another]: if we put it together, we can’t see the care that takes place behind closed doors.

Raising children without a network leaves less time for self-care, which can often lead to frustration and stress

Q. Those of us who don’t have help from grandparents have built new support networks with friends who have become family. Is it possible to raise healthy children without a network?

A. There’s a quote from Carolina del Olmo in her book ¿Dónde está mi tribu? [or, Where’s My Tribe?] that says, “Only gods and monsters can be alone; people can’t.” I think we forget the social nature of parenting and the importance of collectivizing caregiving duties. At least in the city, this is exacerbated by the scarcity of intergenerational spaces conducive to meeting and play.

Raising children without a network leaves, among other things, less time for self-care, which can often lead to frustration and stress. Having people willing to lend a hand allows us to disconnect and so connect with ourselves. But not only that. It allows us to learn from the experiences of others and get a different perspective on motherhood or parenthood. It helps us to understand that there are different ways of parenting and therefore that we should be more respectful. In short, it involves learning that improves the quality of our lives and that of our children, who will internalize the importance of bonding and cooperation.

Q. Is it possible to achieve a balance between paid work and childcare duties?

A. I think it is possible to reconcile ourselves to a more sustainable and leisurely pace of life that allows for the coexistence of paid or unpaid work and caregiving. But this requires revising the gears of a system of production that is incompatible with enjoyment, rest, fairness and care. On the other hand, of course, this is very complicated and many pieces of what is established would have to be moved. And that not only depends on personal change, but also on large-scale change that is slow, and for which there is generally little inclination.

The general solution that we are accepting as valid is the privatization of childcare. But we need a broader long-term vision that will allow us to rebuild a fairer more accessible care system for everyone.

Q. Another question is whether we let grandparents choose their own approach to caring for our children or if we pressure them to act the way we think they should.

A. [US anthropologist] Margaret Mead said back in the 1970s that we had not thought enough about the pressure we put on grandparents to stay out of the way – not to interfere, not to coddle, not to insist. In general, I think we demand too much of ourselves and the pressure we put on ourselves is passed on to our fathers and mothers.

We live in an era of information overload and speed in which excellence is over-valued. In such an environment, we sometimes don’t even know how we want to act and we have to make an effort to tune in to our beliefs. On the other hand, not being able to do everything can be frustrating and the accompanying discomfort can spill over into the family.

Q. How do you find the balance between consistency and a more each-to-themselves approach?

A. In my case, I have chosen to put the bond and the emotional well-being that Abueland brings to my children above all else. It is true that sometimes conflicts arise, but in those cases, I think it is important to talk and listen with a good dose of willingness to understand where each one of us is coming from. I also find it interesting to appreciate what the grandparents’ experience brings to the children. In fact, it is my father who tells them what life was like in the countryside and what the work consisted of. He tells them about seasonal vegetables and teaches them how to plant fruit trees. In short, he connects them to ways of doing things that I have not experienced.

Abueland’s proposal is to approach generational conflicts with humor and, if possible, turn it into a learning opportunity.

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Teenage girl travelling on scooter seriously injured in collision

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A teenage girl was seriously injured after she was struck by a van while she was travelling on a push scooter in Dublin, gardaí have said.

The collision happened on Walkinstown Avenue in Dublin 12 shortly after 6pm on Wednesday.

The teenager is being treated for serious injuries at Children’s Health Ireland Hospital in Crumlin. No other injuries were reported from the incident.

The scene was preserved for technical examination, and investigations are continuing.

Gardaí are appealing to anyone with information on the incident to contact them at Crumlin Garda station on 01-666-6200, the Garda confidential line on 1800-666-111 or any Garda station.

Any person, whether a motorist or pedestrian, who was travelling along Walkinstown Avenue on Wednesday between 5.45pm and 6.30pm is also asked to come forward.

Gardaí have asked that any camera footage is made available to them.

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Preparation for next winter’s wave of pandemic already under way, says Tánaiste

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic could continue into next winter saying we need to “seize the summer” while preparing for a possible resurgence.

It comes as the Government announced new restrictions in response to the continued high level of cases of the virus and the threat of the new Omicron variant.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin listed the new restrictions on the hospitality and entertainment sectors in a televised address where he told the country he shares “the disappointment and frustration that this will cause”.

Mr Martin said it is “not about going back to the days of lockdowns” but about adjusting the guidelines to the current threat from the virus.

The Government has accepted recommendations made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) which will be in place from next Tuesday, December 7th until January 9th.

Under the new measures nightclubs will closed and there will be tighter measures adopted again in bars, restaurants and hotels.

Tables will be limited to six individuals and no multiple bookings will be allowed though closing time remains at midnight.

There is to be a maximum of 50 per cent capacity at indoor entertainment and sporting events.

Covid passes will be required for gyms, leisure centres, and hotel bars and restaurants.

Mr Martin confirmed the Government has adopted Nphet’s advice on household visits and limiting them to three other households, while acknowledging the need for flexibility.

Mr Varadkar said this will be advice and it won’t be enforced by gardaí. The Government is not telling people what they can and can’t do in their own homes, he said.

The current rules for weddings remain unchanged.

At a press conference on Friday evening it was put to Mr Martin that he had previously said that once a sector was opened it would not close again and the new measures amounted to an admission of failure.

He replied: “Not at all. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment… the threats with the virus change and I think the vast bulk of society is open and remains open.”

Strong seasonal component

Mr Varadkar conceded that the pandemic could still be around next winter.

He said some experts have suggested the pandemic could last five years adding: “I certainly hope that’s not the case.”

Mr Varadkar said it is clear there is a strong seasonal component and that means two things have to be done.

Firstly he said “we need to seize the summer”.

“The last two summers we had the toughest restrictions in Europe… I’m determined that will not be the case next summer. We should open safely if we can”.

Secondly, he said: “We also need to prepare for next winter while dealing with this winter because there will be new variants”.

That includes building up the capacity of our health service and in the test, trace and isolate system, which he said the Government has been doing.

Mr Varadkar did say that scientists believe they can tweak vaccines for new variants within three months and there will new anti-viral tablets available next year and “that will help too”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said one thing that gives him confidence is the booster vaccine campaign and indications that the jabs will still provide protection from the Omicron variant.

The Government announced a series of expanded financial supports for the hospitality and entertainment sectors and workers who may lose their jobs.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will be temporarily reopened to new entrants in order to cater for people who lose their jobs as a result of the restrictions. Further details are to be announced in the coming days.

There is to be an extra €25 million to support the live entertainment sector.

Mr Varadkar said that the Covid Response Support Scheme (CRSS) will be reformed to help more businesses.

Up until now it was only paid to businesses that had to close or saw a 75 per cent reduction in turnover. It will now apply to businesses like restaurants, pubs, theatres and nightclubs who are impacted by the restrictions though there will be terms and conditions involved. Minister Paschal Donohoe is looking at raising the weekly €5,000 cap.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) – the rates of which were cut this week – will stay at the new reduced rates.

Mr Varadkar said this is because the majority of businesses and jobs supported by the EWSS are not in sectors affected by the new restrictions.

He said the Government want to make sure EWSS is targeted at those that need it the most.

There will be a €62.3 million targeted commercial rates waiver for the first three months of 2022 for businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sector that are impacted by the restrictions.

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Nphet proposes cap on households mixing over Christmas period

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended that no more than four households should mix over the Christmas period.

Nphet met on Thursday to consider advice for the Government on the latest pandemic situation, at a time when Covid-19 case numbers have stabilised at a high level and further information on the Omicron variant is being awaited.

It last night sent a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly which recommends a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and limits on households mixing.

The contents of the letter are expected to be discussed by Ministers and senior officials at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Friday.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Government would move “as quickly as it can” to examine the latest recommendations from Nphet and to decide if further restrictions will be introduced. She said the Cabinet would need to be given time to “look at this advice and take it on board”.

During an interview on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said the Government had to ensure it was clear about about what it would do in terms of restrictions and why before anything was announced.

“Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this…I hope people would agree that we haven’t left people wanting,” she said. “We have always responded where business has needed additional income. Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won’t be any different.”

Tests for travellers

Separately, the Government has notified airlines that the introduction of a system of PCR and antigen testing for passengers arriving into Ireland has been delayed by 48 hours.





Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU


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117

The measure was due to come into force on Friday, but Aer Lingus said airlines had been informed on Thursday night that the regulations would now begin on Sunday. All arrivals into the State – whether vaccinated or not – will need a negative Covid-19 test result from then onwards.

Those travelling with an antigen test result will need to have obtained it within 48 hours of arrival into Ireland, and it will have to be a professionally administered test.

No self-administered tests will be accepted under rules approved by Cabinet. Those with a PCR test result will have a longer pre-travel window of 72 hours before arrival. Persons arriving into the State from overseas who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 will be required also to have a certified negative test.

Hospitality sector meeting

Meanwhile, Government members are due to meet representatives of the hospitality industry on Friday. Ministers have said there will be supports for the sector if new pandemic measures will impact on their ability to trade.

Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that people had been asked to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.

“I am talking to businesses particularly in the hospitality sector and I know the impact that is having on them. This should be their busiest time and it’s not. We are taking this on board. We are going to support all of these businesses as we have always done during the pandemic,” she said.

The Minister dismissed suggestions that the Government was flip flopping or that there was confusion behind the scenes, saying the State is in a “fluid situation” because of the nature of Covid-19.

“What we have seen with the antigen test is that the market has corrected itself. That wasn’t a matter of flip flops or changing. We simply saw the market adjust itself. It is not about Government changing direction. We have to change direction sometimes because of the nature of this pandemic. Everybody is doing their best here,” she said.

‘Random and arbitrary’

Earlier, Maynooth University professor of immunology Paul Moynagh said the latest restrictions reportedly proposed by Nphet could lead to some benefits but seem ed “random and arbitrary”.

He told Newstalk Breakfast that “big mistakes” have been made with regard to messaging to the public.

“Back in September contact tracing was stood down the reason being that children were missing too much school. But we had the option of keeping contact tracing and using antigen testing. And there has been a resistance over the last year from Nphet in terms of using antigen testing,” he said.

“We saw over the last number of days the reluctance of Nphet again to impress advice from experts in the area of ventilation and air filtration. There seems to be this reluctance to accept scientific advice from outside.”

Prof Moynagh said there was a need to look at this reluctance and “learn from our mistakes”.

“Whereas at the moment it seems that mistakes are made and that narrative is defended. And again we end up now with new restrictions that I am not convinced are going to be very impactful,” he said.

“We know they are going to be highly impactful in terms of the sectors for example. I am not convinced by the strategy that is being used at the moment.”


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