Working Mothers Who Travel

Working mothers in India grapple with work-life balance on jobs that need travel: stories from working women

Working mothers in India grapple with work-life balance on jobs that need travel: stories from working women

Managing the work-life balance gets complicated when you have a job that needs travel. For many working mothers in India, declining travel because they have young children can severely impact their career, and therefore they need to work out a system where they are able to travel on work without it affecting their children.

While there are companies which are sensitive to the needs of new working mothers and help by deferring or reducing travel requirements at least for the first year of motherhood, most don’t.

Do companies support working mothers in India?

Says Priyanka Chaturvedi, Director, MPower Consultants, an executive placement agency, “As a recruiter, yes, I have had companies that are hesitant to take women who are mothers, especially if the job requires a lot of travel. I do not blame the companies though, if travel is a must, since women who are mothers find it difficult and this will lead to all round dissatisfaction. I do find that companies are more sympathetic to women who were part of the company before having a baby and rejoin the company after maternity leave.”

Companies are more sympathetic to women who were part of the company before having a baby and rejoin the company after maternity leave.

Says Aarti Krishnakumar, Freelance HR Consultant who has worked extensively with leading BPOs, “It largely depends on the company and the role played by the woman, but as far as we know, there are no specific HR policies related to women and travel. Most companies accommodate pregnant women, and if they want to return the same day, it is organized.”

Mallika Ganguly, who works in a senior position with a public limited company concurs, saying, “We have no separate travel policies for women…Since the purpose of travel is specific, declining is definitely frowned upon, unless one is dying!” Being a veteran traveler, Mallika shares her tips for working mothers. “I travel light, finish my work and hare back home. Sometimes I make a Mumbai trip in one day — catch the first flight to and the last flight back. We co-ordinate so that my husband and I are not out at the same time. We’ve crossed flights a couple of times and once we had to leave the two girls, my MIL and the cook alone for a night and that was scary for me.”

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What it feels like: Being a working mother who travels

Being a veteran doesn’t free her from guilt though. Says Ganguly, “I have been doing it for years, and have even left a severely asthmatic daughter wheezing for breath when I had to go for a workshop. I died a hundred deaths that week and can still see her face looking up at me, now, after 14 years.”

According to Rohini Haldea, a marketing professional with a multinational, “Since I am in a marketing job and need to travel to be effective, declining to travel routinely would be career-limiting.” Says Anita Nandini, a Freelance HR Consultant (she and Krishnakumar work as team), “If the role of the woman is to meet/interact with clients, go to client site, or be on the road, then it might be a sticky situation. We’ve also noticed that many companies comply with the employee’s request, and might move her to a different role for a period due to her situation.”

Many companies comply with the employee’s request, and might move her to a different role for a period due to her situation.

Luckily for Haldea, she has never had to decline travel. She says, “I have never had to decline travel except when I was pregnant (first and last trimesters) and that was understood.” She adds, “I plan my travel in advance so that my husband and I can co-ordinate our travel schedules and never be out on the same day. NEVER in four years. On the days I travel, my husband makes sure he is home in time to eat dinner with my son and do his bedtime routine. I also plan most of my travels as one-dayers…If I am away for more than two or three nights, I request my mother to come over to babysit. I try and compensate travel by trying to come home early or work from home on another day.”

Work-life balance when the job involves travel

Babysitting. The base of course, is to have responsible babysitters. Either a trusted nanny or grandparents who will watch over the child, or your spouse taking the day off – whichever works for you. Once that is in place, women can travel on work comfortably. Make sure the caretaker/Nanny has your phone number, your spouse’s number and the child’s doctor’s number handy. If possible, set your and your spouse’s number on speed dial on the home phone and the caretaker’s phone.

Plan, plan, plan. Book your tickets to ensure you take the first flight out and the last flight back on the same day, if possible.

Coordinate so at least one parent is available at the child’s bedtime and dinner time.

Additional support. Have a friendly neighbor or family member know you will be out of town and have someone come over to check up on the child if you need to leave the child with maids. Have your child’s schedule written and placed at a prominent spot along with all necessary phone numbers if your parent or some one who doesn’t live with the family is coming over to mind your child. Also inform the person where all the child’s medications are, and write down doses on the bottles and label them. (Eg: For Fever, 10ml or 2 tsps).

Activities. Arrange for a playdate with a friend, it will keep your child busy and not let him or her miss you too much. Have your spouse take part of the day off, if possible and take the child to a movie, zoo or museum.

Let your children know. Always prepare your children beforehand that you will be gone, and be specific about when you will leave and when you will return. This reassures the child that you will be back. Always say goodbye when you leave (except of course if the child is sleeping).

Stay in touch. Stay in telephonic touch with your child. If your trip is for more than a day, have a webcam chat with your child, with the help of your spouse. Seeing your face will be very reassuring.

For mothers with infants. If you are still feeding your baby, ensure you pack your breast pump and enough nursing pads to avoid any embarrassing situations.

Make it fun. Return with something for the child – a toy, book or souvenir that shows the child mamma was missing them when she was gone.

And don’t think of overnight trips as a drag. Do use the rare time to yourself to check into the hotel spa and get some good relaxing treatments done, watch as much television as you can and sleep for a good undisturbed eight hours!

Companies are becoming aware of the need to factor in women employees’ child care issues when assigning travel. While few companies may have specific policies yet, more bosses are becoming sensitive to the situation and devising ways to help out their treasured employees.


About the Author

Kiran Manral

Kiran Manral is an Indian author, columnist and mentor. She has published books across genres in both fiction and non-fiction. She lives in Mumbai. read more...

5 Posts | 311,261 Views

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