The Global Work Culture Requires An Impossible Balancing Act Of Working Mothers, But We Can Do Something About It

Job systems, created by men for men, need a complete revamping of the global work culture if working mothers are to have any kind of work life balance.

As life takes a turn and the journey from a girl to a woman takes a rollercoaster ride with motherhood, women often wonder if they are ready for it? Whether they will be able to handle it all? Working women go ahead with questioning the career sacrifices they will have to make once they take the big leap.

I mean, I have seen men sitting late at night, working at 2 am on projects in office, and women, even unmarried women, wondering that will they be considered less efficient if they leave earlier, since their bosses expect employees to be around 24*7. This is, after they finish more stuff in less time (Gosh! Are we safe? What do I say at home? I hope my boss doesn’t think I am not dedicated. Oh! These guys in the team just chatter till 12 pm in order to show they’re dedicated). That is how the gender system has been in offices all over the world.

However, once women get into motherhood, the balancing dance takes another turn. You cannot ignore your career (you too have aspirations after all) and you WILL NOT ignore your newborn child (well, you would be an awful mother if you do). No such questions traverse the minds of males even when they become fathers, thanks to our patriarchal, ‘Women are the nurturers’ attitudes!

Also, according to our honourable Maneka Gandhi ji (Minister of Women and Child Development), men aren’t even entitled for an extended paternity leave. With no policy in place, we cannot expect a man to take a break from work along with the woman, given he has to bring some money to keep the house working, as the woman takes a back seat in her career. In such a complex situation, two things are very evident:

Working women are in a limbo

Not only are they having second thoughts about taking on motherhood (well, apart from some, who don’t want to) because of this reason, but they also feel guilty and disgusted at the same time. They feel they are not giving enough time to their child as well as not performing really well in their jobs.

Given how Indian bosses and systems in offices are, especially the private sector, even when they come back from maternity leave, they are undervalued and their performance is often judged with goggles of “Oh she has a baby now, thats why she is losing her focus”.

Fearing that all this is going to affect their future, women keep on delaying pregnancy, and at the end, whenever they take it up, they feel their whole career crashing in front of them. Not just that, the fact that the patriarchal society will label her as a selfish woman who cares only about money, not doing enough for her child (well, there are more important reasons I can list on why women work than just money) is one fear that takes over her mind.

What about breastfeeding? Well, thats just another debate in itself. And, let us not even talk about the TASKS to be done at home. Worse, nobody applauds them for the good work they do trying to balance the whole act. Why? Because, it is ACCEPTED by society that women are MEANT to deliver and take care of babies. Well, guess what, so should men be – taking care of their babies.

Complex environments around working mothers

If you are getting married or are pregnant, the immediate reaction from your team or boss is “Omg!“. They fear first and congratulate later. This is the worst situation because such surroundings make the woman question herself, her decisions, her choices and her future. This is, not only in India, but a reality women the world over face.

We question getting paid less than male counterparts for the same job. We question why men work late on a job which is 9 to 5 because that puts an added pressure on women. And worse, women who don’t fulfil that, are called out for being not dedicated enough to their jobs.

These job systems, created by men for men, need a complete revival in the way work is approached globally. When women at high positions say, well, “We can’t after all have it all“, they make a statement which reinforces the fact that these systems will never make a woman have it all.

These systems, all around working mothers, be it the house (where her husband will never chin up as a father; where her in-laws and family will despise her for taking up a career again) or the office (be it bosses or colleagues, they will undervalue her and be non-appreciative), only reinforce the problem further, making women confused about their choices and decisions on motherhood.

Motherhood questions

I am a woman in her late 20s. I am working strongly towards a career I want to be proud of. While my world around me sees this as someone who is greedy for money or power, I see this as a thing I have to do for myself, because I owe it to my birth, upbringing, education and experiences. I am no different.

These motherhood questions worry me because as much as someday I want to take it up, the fact that my handwork won’t be valued much, takes a toll on my mind as well. Though I am designing ways to deal with such situations in my own ways, these fears surround me often. Because, I have been in situations where I have been questioned by prospective employers about my plans on marriage and now, pregnancy.

India, at the point where it stands now, is at it’s worst. While women are moving ahead in careers, our policies and mindsets remain the same. Till date, 90% companies do not have a gender strategy or breastfeeding policy in place. Maternity leave is still a dream at a few. Given consultancy is taking over permanent jobs, this lack of financial and job security is taking a toll on decisions made by working women and working mothers.

I see my sister, my cousins, friends and colleagues balance the baby/child vs office and I look at them and know how much they feel they are a failure in balancing it. Aspirations vs emotions vs societal stress, is all a reality. I am so done and dusted with the cartoons of women doing everything with a label ‘superwoman, smiling at the end.

superwoman

Image source: here

Expecting that the woman HAS TO do everything is the worst kind of pressure women today are living with. While world over, we question why despite education, women do not work, we have the answers right in front of us: “We do not create environments conducive enough for her to work and do everything else as well“.

And here, I stumbled upon this beautiful video about a new mother’s performance review. Do watch it.

What can we do as colleagues, as relatives, as families and bosses of working mothers?

Be more empathetic, more appreciative, more humane and non-judgemental on their roles. As men, share responsibilities and take leaves to take care of the child; as women, help working mothers around us be supported.

Companies need to develop more gender balanced policies and cater to practical gender needs instead of just strategic ones. Breastfeeding to day care, we need more reality based offices, because, guess what! WOMEN WANT TO WORK, not just because they have to, but because they can and they want to.

I just want to say one thing to the working mothers out there: “Keep it up. Keep going. You are awesome“.

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Published here earlier.

Image Source: flickr

A Development Communication & Social Work professional working in the field of gender, health and technology

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  1. Wow…. Amazingly written….so inspiring

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