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This post examines why Indian working women have a difficult time creating a work-life balance.
Indian woman is known to be one of the most dynamic and versatile races compared to their counterparts around the world. They get moulded easily into various forms starting from being a daughter, sister, wife, mother and the list goes on. Every Indian girl has a dream and she always looks forward to accomplishing it. Many have reached the pinnacle of success while some have cut their wings at the very onset of their career. However, the journey of every woman takes a big turn as they step into the world of marriage be it love or arranged marriage.
I have always felt marriage makes you grow very strong as a woman, by playing the role of a perfect wife and daughter-in-law while you are missing the protective shelter of your mom and dad. The woman goes through a huge emotional turmoil after this change in life. As she settles down herself in the new phase, life takes a huge leap when she gives birth to a new soul and step into “motherhood”.
I have always accepted this phase as a welcome change but at the same time wondered why it is so difficult to be a mother, well to be precise a “Working Mother” – a very new and latest phrase. Let me tell you, I am a very much a working woman and grew up seeing my mother working. However, why am I always balancing my work life, when I never saw my mother doing the same. I keep wondering, what has changed in this world after 20-30 years.
The answer lies in the shrinking of society and movement of people to populated cities for work; leaving the safe and cozy corners of their home town, parents and families. The world has expanded leaps and bounds but our family ties have shrunk into a small nest of 2 to 4 people and now this is called a “nuclear family”. The root cause of difficult times as a working mother, is a small secluded family without family support and at the same time the urge to fulfill the career aspirations in different avenues.
Recently, a report published by the World Bank mentioned that India is the 2nd lowest country of working woman, just above Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I wonder what is that which prevent women from stepping out of their family ties. This report was really disturbing as I know of many women who hold several degrees, master’s degrees and even a doctorate and are adept in several skills but have chosen to become a “stay-at-home mum” not out of choice but for fulfilling their duties as a wives and mothers.
Here are some of the common day to day challenges faced by Indian working women :
Indian women are constantly judged right from the time they get married. She is constantly judged for the choices she makes, when she should be having kids, how many kids should she have and how she should be taking care of them. Women who refuse to follow the set rules are termed as selfish or arrogant. She is judged for pursuing her career after the kids are born, even in educated households. From what I’ve seen, Indian woman have a very strong “maternal instinct” which compels her to quit the workforce and be with her children full-time.
They grow up with the mindset that they are responsible for taking care of their family and kids after marriage and they feel things will not move without them. There are instances when I am in a meeting and my mental clock counts every minute and second and I keep wondering when the meeting would get over so that I can pick my child from the daycare. As I get delayed, I feel the pinch of guilt and wonder if I am a selfish mother who is neglecting her child. This is very common for most of the working mothers.
Well, this is an interesting fact that many of the Indian women faced discrimination at work. People look down upon women who leave early from their workplace or work from home. I have heard taunts like you have taken up half day if you leave by 5-6 PM in the evening. It may be that you have been working from 9 AM and would again log in from home. However, leaving work early is like you are good for nothing.
There are very few companies in India who have flexible working hours or daycare / crèche facilities in the office premises. As a result, there is constant pressure on woman and so many end up quitting their jobs after having children.
Child care is very important not only when the child is small, but the issues become bigger when the child starts going to school. The simple coordination of picking up the child from school or from the bus-stop becomes a great task. The options are to appoint a nanny at home who would pick up the child and feed him taking care at home. The next option is sending the child to “after school daycare”. Now this is fairly a new term and many of us may not have even heard of it. It is the concept of taking care of the child after school hours. However, the last option may fail as all cities in India have not yet adopted the concept of daycare or creche.
Moreover, these day-cares mint money by asking a huge amount for taking care of the child. Not to forget, getting a sincere and dedicated nanny is even a tougher task and on top of it, we are constantly worried, if the child has reached home and is in safe hands. In recent past, there were several incidents of nannies / maids abusing and physically torturing the child at home and even kidnapping the child. All these issues traumatize us mentally and force the Indian women to be at home and ensure that the child is safe with her.
Women in India filter the jobs based on timings, shifts and travel. Indian women prefer a teaching job which makes it easier to coordinate with the child’s school schedule. She may also opt for 9 to 6 jobs as night shifts or any other shifts may affect the family and disturb the routine.
Nowadays, woman opt for sales role or consultant roles in various industries be it IT or non- IT , the need to travel within India or out of India has become very common . However, most of the times as a woman we end up refusing the travel assignment and this creates friction in the company and as a result the career growth is hampered by all these restrictions.This overall demoralizes women.
There are many women who may be highly qualified and must have worked in several companies in good roles. However, after marriage or in most of the cases after a child is born, the family or spouse would not allow her to pursue her career. Raising children or taking care of the family and cooking complex Indian meals everyday, hinders her career. I had known a well educated Indian woman whose spouse demanded serving him fresh hot, home cooked meal each time. Now this was really obnoxious behavior and with such people in the society whose demands know no bounds, how can we expect Indian woman to pursue their career. The daily life of such women start and end in cooking food and raising their kids and a bigger kid in the form of “the husband”.
One of my home maker friends has said it aptly, that we all mothers do our duty, but I salute you because you as a working woman has to do double duty. When it comes to the child’s health, we wake up in the early hours to prepare nutritious lunches for the kids, as food is the last thing we would compromise on. Now, be it PTM or annual day function or a sports event or any science events, dance classes, sports classes, drawing class and the list goes on, the super mom is present everywhere and not to forget the office work. This not enough, all the social events like birthday parties, family wedding, house warming ceremony etc, you are supposed to be present always and bunking any one of these crucial events would make you an irresponsible mother who keeps work above everything else.
I, being an Indian working mother myself, have faced some of these issues in the past and still face some every day. Over the years, I have learned to get a work-life balance. Take a middle-path, work on lighter assignments till your child is of an age where he can be independent. Everything has a right time and I am sure by God’s grace, good time will come in your career and you would be able to achieve a lot. Thankfully, I also have a husband who shares the load at home. Sadly, most Indian women don’t have this support and it is unlikely that they will have in the near future.
However, they need to tune themselves to a better thought process and start their career somewhere as when the children grow up they would love to see an independent mother whom they could really look up to. They would feel proud of their mother who despite hardships has achieved a lot and has never given up despite hurdles.
Indian working women will always get caught in the work-life balance trap and it will continue to be an ongoing challenge. The work-life balance strategy offers a variety of means to reduce stress levels and increase job satisfaction in the employee. I personally would recommend yoga, meditation or in that case any fitness activity or simply pursuing a hobby like gardening, dancing, singing, swimming etc. which in some way reduce your stress level and allows you to breath in your own space making a perfect balance in work and life.
Image Source: Pexels
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