Working Mothers

How can someone send their child to a daycare?

Isn’t it the mother’s responsibility to take care of a child?

It’s better for a mother to quit her job and take care of her children full-time.

Whether or not they admit it, many people in India tend to think this way. A career woman is perfectly acceptable until she has a baby. Once the maternity leave nears to an end and the new mother prepares to go back to her job, many well-meaning relatives, in some cases even her husband and in-laws, start hinting that maybe it would be better if she quit. Many women do opt to become a full-time mother voluntarily and I salute their spirit. What irks me is that why women who decide to balance both family and career are so often decried as irresponsible by society.

For a woman, to leave her small baby at a daycare or at home in the care of an ayah is no easy task. After all she is the one who has carried and nurtured her baby inside her for nine months. She is the one who has withstood pain and discomfort only by looking forward to the day when she would be holding her baby in her arms. A mother’s bond with her baby begins long before the baby is born; it begins the day a woman learns that she is pregnant. From that day onwards her life revolves round keeping her baby safe and healthy. She faces cramps, morning sickness, swollen fingers and everything else with a glow on her face. And when her baby arrives after putting her through excruciating labor pains, she breaks down and cries in happiness as her bundle of joy is placed in her arms.

Then why do some mothers opt to go back to their careers? Because being a mother doesn’t mean you stop being a human being. Like men, women too have some dreams, some ambitions. Some women want to be stay at home moms; some dream of being a successful working professional. Many women belonging to the second category prefer to go in for an extended maternity leave or even a sabbatical and then resume work after a year or two. Then why are they still deemed callous and irresponsible?

All the people who feel that a woman should quit her job on becoming a mother should try this out. Cast your mind back and try to remember the number of hours you spent with your mother in your growing up years. When you started college, did the count increase or decrease? What about the number of times you took your girlfriend / boyfriend / spouse to a movie vis-a-vis the number of times you accompanied your mother to a movie?

What does a mother do all day when her children are away at school all day? Who does she turn to when her kids go out with their friends after college? Some women have their ways of amusing themselves; some remain lonely and depressed. It is called an empty nest syndrome and it is a reality that many mothers, having grown up children who have moved out of home in pursuit of studies or a career, still grapple with. It is human nature to spread our wings and go on our own way as we grow up. So why a woman should be expected to clip her wings when she becomes a mother?

I agree that there is no substitute for a mother’s love in a child’s life. But does having a working mother imply that this love is no longer available to the child? From my own experience I beg to differ. I have a working mother with a demanding job that she is really good at. Today when I look back I can’t remember a single instance when I needed her and she was not there for me. She wasn’t there to serve me lunch when I got back from school but she was always there to listen to me chattering on about school at the dinner table. She wasn’t outside the school gate every day to pick me up but she was always there waiting anxiously as I finished writing my exam papers. She left early in the morning for work but that did not stop her from sitting up with me as I studied late into the night. Even when I was in college, after getting back home we two would sit with a cup of coffee each and chat about our respective day. In spite of having to juggle both work and family she was, and is, not only my mother but my best friend.

Of course, a working woman needs support from her family to be able to balance both family and career. My father made sure that he played an important role in the upbringing of me and my brother. We have stayed in daycare or under the supervision of ayahs but never for a moment did we feel neglected by either of our parents. I am sure it is a difficult thing to achieve but it is surely not impossible.

How many men, who would like their wives to become full-time moms, would do the same themselves? How many of them will consider quitting their jobs or even working from home to take care of their kids? If a woman wants to continue working post motherhood, don’t discourage her. With the support of her husband and extended family, she can successfully juggle a congenial family life and a rewarding career. Adjustments are required to maintain any relationship but when that adjustment becomes a compromise that is when the relationship starts becoming unhealthy. So it’s better to help a woman adjust into the role of a mother instead of just asking her to compromise her dreams because of it.

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