Catherine Daly
Irish Times- A New Life:   Pharmacist's new drug of choice

Catherine Daly tells Sylvia Thompson how she swapped pharmacy for a role as a mum and writer

Adjusting to a home-based life looking after a young family after years at university and full-time work can be a taxing affair.

One of the biggest challenges for many women - and it is still almost always women - is to find some personal space within the maelstrom of energies that children create around them.

Five years ago, mother-of-two and pharmacist by training, Catherine Daly (38) began grabbing time to write as her one-and-a-half-year old daughter, Clíodhna took her morning nap and her three-year-old son, Lorcan was at Montessori school.

She would then snatch another hour or so when they both slept again the afternoon (getting them to go to sleep at the same time was a major achievement, she says) and then again in the evening after dinner with her husband, Denis, a dentist in the Dublin suburb of Rathfarnham where they live.

"I found fitting my writing in gave a shape to my days and allowed me get more out them," she says. "After Clíodhna was born, I found my brain was going to mulch as I was up two and three times a night with her and we were also having the house done up. Reading has always been my main form of relaxation and at that time I was reading more popular fiction so I began to look at how things were put together and decided to have a crack at it."

Within nine months, she had put together the first draft of her recently published book, All Shook Up (Poolbeg Press) in which the life of a high-flying career woman begins to fall asunder even as her husband opts to stay at home to mind their three young children after their childminder leaves.

"I followed the age-old advice to write about what you know and at the time house prices, childcare and parenting were topics that were hard to get away from.

"I landed the husband at home rather than the wife to make it more interesting and to challenge the assumptions.

"An editor working on the first draft of the book said the woman comes across as a hard and harsh person who leaves a lot to the husband. I thought this wouldn't have been said if it had been the wife at home with the children."

Catherine's previous work as a retail pharmacist and earlier as a hospital pharmacist in St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, England seems a world apart from her life now.

"I worked in England during the end of the Conservative government, a time in which the NHS was undergoing massive reorganisation. I moved into management grades and much of my work was about managing finance and people which I enjoyed.

"But we left after five years as all along Denis and I had no doubt that we would come back to Ireland to bring up our children - not just to be near family but also because the whole of England was in too much turmoil - educationally and socially."

Their Lorcan was born soon after their move back to Dublin and Catherine returned to part-time pharmacy work until their daughter, Clíodhna was born.

"Then it was a case of sitting down and doing the maths. I couldn't get part-time childcare and I would have had to increase my work to three days a week just to break even. Also I felt that pharmacy was the type of career that one can get back into at any time so I decided to stop work.

"Choice is the biggest thing missing in the whole parenting/childcare issue. A lot of people are forced into working full-time or, for women, being at home full-time," she adds.

And for Catherine, finding an outlet for her creativity has given her the personal space craved after by many stay-at-home mums. "Now, when Denis is home and it's impossible to get an hour, I retire to the bath with a book," she says with a smile.

The rationale for stepping out of her pharmacy career was strong but the reality now - five years later - is that Catherine sees the development of her writing career as her way forward. Before her first book was even published, she has a second book written. And now while working on its final drafts, she is still promoting All Shook Up, following its publication in March.

Financially though, Catherine's writing has yet to prove lucrative. "The royalties will come in at some stage. The book is selling reasonably well in Ireland," she says.

And does she see herself as a writer? "I see myself as a mum who writes rather than a writer but writing has become part of what I am.

"The children are in school now but in some ways, it's more complex. I manage by getting someone to come in to help with the cleaning and ironing twice a week but sometime I will have to get extra childcare. In fact, a taxi-driver would solve half of my time problems," she says.

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This article was published in The Irish Times
Health SupplementTue, Oct 05, 2004