Working mothers or working vs mothers?
Updated: Jun 24, 2019
This question is a very serious question for every working mother out there who leaves her children back home in the care of some loving family member, efficient daycares, sometimes at home alone if the kid is grown up enough or even in care of elder siblings. Every mother who does this faces a constant dilemma of ‘To be or not to be?’ She faces the turmoil of not being able to be perfect at either of the roles. A working professional and a mother. Wherever she goes, the constant worry and thought of her children follow her. It’s like a haunting.
Consider this scenario. I was in the office which I recently joined and was struggling to keep up with the schedules with both my kids and I, falling ill one after the other. My husband, of course was helping out but here I was, fighting with the circumstances where I wanted to badly give a stellar performance at work and at the same time, be there for my kids when they needed me. After the first 3 days of barely managing to concentrate on work since I was tending to a sick child while working too, I finally went to the office on a Monday. No sooner had I reached, I was worried that hope my kids don’t fall sick today. I started to work and after half an hour I got a frantic phone call from the daycare that my son has high fever and my daughter is crying with some excruciating leg pain. I felt embarrassed to start with, since this was practically my first day at work and I probably might have to leave citing reasons of ill health yet again. Although this was a valid reason and no one was stopping me but the urgency that had developed inside me wasn't something that anyone saw. I was an hour’s drive away from the daycare and needed to complete some crucial tasks since I did not attend office often. The situation got under control with my husband who was nearer to the daycare did get an off and picked them up.
However, I was in a dilemma for the nth time. Should I be really working? Is it too much? Am I too ambitious? Am I too careless when it comes to kids? Am I selfish about having a career? Am I too greedy for a good life and money? Too much too much too much!! Endless times have I faced this situation where I have found myself at the receiving end of bad vibes.
I get a lump in my throat when I think that my kids are being compromised. That I am probably giving them a secondary treatment by keeping them at the behest of other people. They ought to be with me, not with someone else.
But you know what? I probably love my children like any other mother does and I do cry unconsolably when they suddenly fall sick and go dull, I get goosebumps at the thought of even the slightest hurt that might happen to them, I am perpetually worried about their well-being, I am always making plans to give them a great future, education, holidays and endless things that I can.
However, a mother is punished, if not by others but by her own conscience when she tries to wear both the hats. That of a working professional and that of a mother. Thanks to the upbringing and the societal pressures. That’s because she is supposed to be available for the children 24/7 come what may. The professional world is another beast altogether. Each time a working mother walks into the office the co-workers watch her with either awe because they can’t handle that she is managing so much or either with a very odd form of hate that Why is she even here? Why doesn't she do one thing? Either way, she will walk off the moment it’s time to pick the kids or when she gets a frantic phone call from the daycare or another PTM comes up or an annual day or sports day etc etc. She will still get paid a full salary even when she works according to her schedules and asks for leaves citing reasons related to kids and family time. We are looked down for trying to be too much yet again.
Ultimately in an Indian scenario, where only people who work endless hours and are available at the beck and call all the time are rewarded, given promotions, hikes and a definite career path; working mothers are left with no choice but to accept that they CAN’T have a career, but can only be a secondary source of income with whatever jobs come their way. That they shouldn't even think about climbing up the ladder since they will not be working beyond the 9 hour work day nor will they be working on weekends and holidays because they would rather spend that time with family. After all, they can’t have both, can they? It’s either a career or the family. Period.
It really doesn't matter then if they are efficient at their work, are great performers and go-getters, chase targets within the time allotted and so on. They are a THREAT. Yes, they are. In a man’s world these creatures cannot survive, forget about calling the shots. FEMALES ARE ACCEPTED IN CORPORATE WORLD ONLY IF THEY ACT LIKE A MAN. If they act like there’s nothing important than the office. Or else they are less talented and dumb or at least act dumb, are not ambitious, come to office just to kill time and do not try to outperform. This is the truth that is, like an unwritten rule everywhere.
Another demon that chases us is the constant expectations and reminders from our very own kids that they are so unhappy and sad because they are being sent to a place where none of their friends go. That why can’t their mother stay at home like other mothers and why can’t they be dropped home from school. I remember when I started working I used to cry endlessly and struggle to hide my tears and missed my kids all the time throughout the day. I felt guilty of giving importance to my career over them and felt like a criminal. Even today after my kids have been in the daycare for 5 whole years, I cannot help crying when I have to drop them at the daycare when they do not want to go.
Thankfully I have had friends and family who have been supportive and very encouraging. They have been with me throughout. But frankly, as I discussed this with my sister in law today, the journey of a mother gets very lonely when she goes through these choices all the time. These things stress us out the most because we are out-performers frankly and want to be our best versions in both the worlds.
Be it home or work. The whole ecosystem needs to change here where mothers should not be labeled as child caretakers. We need a human treatment. We need to be treated with respect and empathy for the difficult choices we make. Not sympathy, mind you! It does pinch us when we take that compulsory break from careers because pregnancy is a difficult physical condition at times and needs to be handled with care. It not only plays with our bodies but with our minds too. After all, this when we struggle to come back to the workplace and juggle duties of being a parent and professional, we need organizations who respect the new individuals we are.
Organizations need to respect the work-life balance way more not only for mothers but also for fathers and everyone else. We need to be treated like 'able resources' who are still capable of delivering great performance at work. Not like some individuals who need to be felt sorry about. Definitely not.
Organizations and the society both need to stand up to us and realize this. Only in a world that treats us human, will more and more mothers make this choice to step out and work for their children, for themselves. We need a society and culture that does not look down on us or consider us as secondary in any way. Judge us basis our capabilities, basis our talents, basis our values and nothing else.
Finally an open letter to my dear kids
“My dear little ones,
I have never ever loved anyone else more than I have loved you. My every waking moment is an ode to you and your being. I do not even remember my life before you. I only remember how it felt like to be a mother. I will never ever leave you in a place where I do not have full confidence that you will be taken care of even better than I could do it. I live and work each moment in an effort to give you a brighter tomorrow. I have not known any love greater than the one I feel for you because motherhood is the greatest phase of life. Being a Mother is the greatest role to play and the hardest battle to fight. I am sure you will rise not only up to but way farther than my expectations. Always remember that I will always watch over even when I am not visible to the naked eye. Because I just can’t be away. It’s not possible for any mother to be. But always remember that I am as human as everyone else is. I might cry, I might get angry, shout, go weak and give up. I might steal some time for myself so that I can be my happy self and give that happiness back to you too. I need to. At the end of the day, all I want is that you grow up to be happy individuals and satisfied with your lives. So don’t be upset that I take that time. My love for you has been and will always be the most precious thing in my life. Being your mother has been the greatest thing to be my little ones. I Love you! To the infinity and back!”
A loving mother