A group of Donegal women and former homemakers have broadened their horizons with a first-of-its-kind course. Here is how Ballybofey woman Evelyn McGlynn helped them realise their potential:

Every Donegal mammy has a personal CV of incredible skills she often doesn’t realise – she is a multi-tasker, a chef, a dietitian, an accountant, a doctor, a counsellor, a negotiator, a teacher and so much more.

These amazing women run households without shifts, breaks or annual leave for years, but when the kids go off to school, college and work, what happens to Mammy?

A new course, Women in the Home… New Beginnings was created for these very women.

The free course was organised by NCCWN–Donegal Women’s Network and funded by Donegal Local Development CLG. It was created and delivered by qualified trainer and facilitator Evelyn Mc Glynn from Donegal Mammy,

It’s aim is to support women taking on a new path in life and to help them assert their role in society.

A group of 14 women met in St Mary’s Parish Centre, Stranorlar every Thursday morning for the past eight weeks. They listened to guest speakers each week and did empowering workshop exercises to build up belief in themselves and belief in the transferable skills they had.

Trainer and facilitator Evelyn McGlynn with the Women the Home course participants, Stranorlar. Photo: DonegalWoman.ie

While the women were of different ages, different family dynamics and circumstances, they all bonded over shared experiences.

“If I wasn’t here today I’d be in the supermarket or at home cleaning, but this is my time,” one woman said.

Evelyn ensured the group were inspired by inviting a range of guest speakers to show them all the local resources they have access to and how they can work on setting goals for their future.

Many of these women were at senior levels in their career when they left to concentrate on raising a family, and have spent a lifetime of thinking and caring for others.

Speakers included education representatives from the LYIT and ETB, employment company People First with their WISE programme, Donegal Volunteer Centre, women’s health professional Lorraine Boyce, nutritionist Neasa Harvey, Psychologist Angela Maguire of De Exeter house, life and wellness coach Emer Callaghan, meditation consultant Deirdre Grant, shape and image consultant Stella Mc Groarty and Yvonne Megahey – McElhinneys manager.

Yvonne Megahey – McElhinneys, Roisin McCormack – LYIT and facilitator Evelyn McGlynn. Photo: DonegalWoman.ie

One mother said: “It has me thinking about what to do next. It gives me the confidence to get my CV dusted off and think about a refresher course.”

“It’s great that all the information is brought to us. We didn’t know there was so much out there for us to do, so many options and so many places looking for volunteers.”

Another attendee said: “People often ask me ‘what do you do’, and I didn’t know how to answer. The course helped me to look at myself as an individual and not just as a mother.”

“I see now that I CAN do it, I CAN open my mouth and ask for help.”

Evelyn Mc Glynn is the woman behind ‘Donegal Mammy’ a new community website to support women and the family in Donegal. A mum of three grown-up children, she experienced the ‘empty nest’ phase, and immersed herself in marketing, business and writing.

“All of us come to a crossroads in our journey”, she said. “This course is about women realising: I have transferrable skills, have achieved as a role model and carer to my family and now I can hand in my CV to a business to seek employment or go back to college, consider setting up a business or use my time to help others by volunteering.”

“It is also important to remember women who do work outside the home they also struggle with childcare issues, guilt and pressure in being mammy. It’s important that all women support each other,” Evelyn said.

Donegal Women in Business PRO Evelyn McGlynn. Photo by: Rachel McLaughlin, DonegalWoman.ie

Women recalled how they were told by psychologist Angela Maguire to introduce themselves to their children, to enforce their own identity other than ‘mammy’.

On week seven, the group were visited by Roisin McCormack, Learning Support Specialist at LYIT. She outlined the Access course, designed to help people gain skills to enter third level education.

Roisin McCormack, LYIT, with the Women the Home course participants, Stranorlar. Photo: DonegalWoman.ie

The majority of the women in this group are not on the Live Register and not working outside the home, therefore relying on their partner’s income for finances. Roisin presented finance options for Back to Education schemes, but it raised an important issue.

SUSI student grants are means tested on family income. As this accounts for a woman’s husband’s earnings it does not recognise her as an independent mature student.

“We want to be valued as women who supported society by raising the future generation, stand on our own two feet, not measured through our husband’s income or standing,” was the consensus as the women talked about misrepresentation.

Roisin McCormack, LYIT, with the Women the Home course participants, Stranorlar. Photo: DonegalWoman.ie

The course helped the women realise the vast network they belong to, which can be used to make contacts, develop business or make a change.

Evelyn reminded them that they all represent a wider community and there are up to 500 people like them behind each chair they sat on in the room. She said their voice had to be a voice for all women who do not work outside the home and are not on the live register, in other words, not recognised in their own right.

An empowering boost came from McElhinneys People & Development Manager Yvonne Megahey. As part of the recruitment team, she said she seeks high emotional intelligence from candidates. “This is something each of you is really good at,” Yvonne pointed out.

McElhinneys People & Development Manager Yvonne Megahey with the Women the Home course participants, Stranorlar. Photo: DonegalWoman.ie

Yvonne explained how women and mothers are skilled in awareness of their family’s emotions and needs, which is what McElhinneys requires of staff for the best customer care.

“Qualifications are important but the bottom line is looking your interviewer in the eye and saying I want this job,” Yvonne said.

The women were buzzing with ideas after this stimulating morning. They all have their own goals to achieve and have already overcome challenges by participating in the course. It takes confidence and social skills to speak out in the group, and it was clear they had already formed friendships by the casual way they interacted.

Women in the Home course participants, Stranorlar. Photo: DonegalWoman.ie

Even the act of travelling from all over Donegal brought the opportunity to make friends in this course. Women car-pooled and those who couldn’t drive were offered lifts. One group made a tradition of going for tea every week after the session was done.

There are great plans for trying to bring about change for women in the home who are not on the live register.

Evelyn and the group discussed how they can lobby government and women’s organisations to make representation and bring about this change. Evelyn said that women like Finola Brennan from NCCWN–Donegal Women’s Network were at the centre of providing support and knowledge in this area and about making this course happen. 

The ‘Women in the Home’ programme started with a market research survey on the Donegal Mammy Facebook page to find out about mammy in the home and if there was interest in the course.

Evelyn then created a programme to achieve positive outcomes for each woman and invited friends and business colleagues to deliver the workshop talks each week.

Through Donegal Mammy Evelyn hopes to deliver other courses that will support women at all ages and stages of their lives – Digital Mammy, Menopause Mammy / Healthy Mammy, Empty Nest Mammy, Redundant Mammy and more could be in the pipeline for local groups.

If you would like to invite Evelyn to host a course or discuss any ideas to support all women in the county contact her on Donegal Mammy Facebook, Donegal Mammy Twitter or www.donegalmammy.com. Plus, keep an eye on social media for more Donegal profiles to come!