Motherhood has always been a celebrated word around the world. However, hiding under the depths of all that glory, there are some stark realities which still hound our society. Indian women have always been in an unfavorable position in our societal framework, which only compounds their problem when they find themselves in the dicey position of not only being a mother but also a working woman. Societal expectations, mental conditioning, and lack of help have led to many women giving up their jobs for taking care of the family. Working Mothers, though stigmatized, are gaining more acceptance these days within both their families as well as the workplace.
COMMON PROBLEMS FACED BY WORKING MOTHERS
The notion of motherhood, as it stands now, has been heavily influenced by the society we live in. While glorified, the ideal notion of motherhood set by the society is at times impossible to achieve for any human being. Not to mention the ideal of motherhood is still stuck in the past and has yet not caught up with the new breed of progressive working women.
From the initial stages of their lives, women have been brought up with the mental conditioning that they are born to take care of their families and children. This is her sole “job” and hence takes precedence over everything else. Even if you have an important meeting to attend, you might have to skip it just to take care of a sick child or a family member. Any dereliction of duty will mark you as arrogant and selfish, with society reminding you that you are neglecting your family by going to work.
Sometimes third parties do not really need to make an effort to errant mothers of their duties. Social upbringing and mental conditioning make it difficult for many working mothers to get over their own maternal “instincts”. A survey conducted among 1,000 working women living in Delhi and its nearby areas, found that only 18-34% of married women continue with their professional career after having a baby. While the lack of flexible working hours or crèche facilities does restrain their desire to work. Most of the Indian working women suffer from a strong sense of guilt.
Working women, unlike homemakers and housewives, often feel guilty at the prospect of losing quality time with their baby. Constant shuttling between work and home leaves many women exhausted, hampering their quality time with their children. Society, too, leaves no stone unturned to remind the working mother of her shortcomings, how she needs to learn from her Housewife counterpart about true motherhood and so the comparison between the two continues.
This complex cocktail of guilt and family pressure makes women quit the workforce, leading to a feeling of uncertainty, dissatisfaction, guilt, and often a battered self-esteem.
Increasing number of Nuclear Families
There was a time when joint families were the norm and the extended family as a whole used to take care of the children’s welfare. This has changed over the past years with the increasing number of nuclear families in India. With elders missing in the scenario, parents are expected to take more of hands-on approach towards their children, especially during the early years of growth and development.
In a majority of the cases, it is the mother who is expected to take a career break to take care of her newborn baby. The decision comes at a price in terms of both career growth and financial earnings.
Unequal Partnerships at Home
If social and mental conditioning has an effect on women, it also affects the other half of the human species. Most men are brought up in households where taking care of the home and family is a woman’s responsibility.
We have seen generations of housewives cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the needs of the family first and foremost. In an environment as such, many expect the working mother to emulate her homemaker counterpart and resume her homely duties once she comes back home after a long tiring day at work.
The stress and the added workload exhaust many women out, with the only option to get out of the vicious cycle, is to leave their job. Men, on the other hand, are able to continue with their work unabated as their help is neither expected nor given.
The Super Woman
Accepting a working mother is hard enough for many people. However, in the rare chance that you do get accepted, society expects you to be some kind of superwoman, handling every little thing on your own. You have to attend your home, attend your child’s PTM’s and annual functions, and not miss family weddings or any other functions. Missing anything only makes you a negligent mother who keeps her own job before anything else.
Lack of good Daycare Centres and Crèches
Even though many daycare centers and crèches have mushroomed over the years in most metropolitan cities, finding one with certified professionals is really hard to get. We have all come across news regarding children being neglected or abused in such daycare centers and so many parents hesitate to put their tiny tots at such a risk.
Most of these centers also don’t follow the proper guidelines given by the concerned authorities regarding setting up and running such places. Security issues force many new mothers to leave their professional career to look after their newborn baby.
Working women are no strangers to problems in their working space. However, their problems only get compounded with the advent of marriage and motherhood. Working mothers are always looked down upon if they leave early or ask for work-from-home days.
While in the recent years many companies have been making attempts to create a more women-friendly environment, there are still many places where women have to face discrimination and harassment when they announce their pregnancy.
Unlike their male counterparts, women are assessed on the basis of their marital status and maternity plans. Pregnant women are seen as liabilities and not exactly as long-term assets when it comes to working. Maternity leaves, though available theoretically, are hardly ever practically provided by companies. Most women complain of being denied of their maternity leave, and if granted, it opens a whole new box of problems.
It’s quite common for companies to deny promotions to women who have been on maternity leave as most promotions are performance-based and not tenure-based. With a women’s maternity leave being recorded as a time of average or no performance, many are left in a lurch in spite of their exemplary performance. Lack of incentives like daycare centers or flexible working hours also makes it difficult for women to make a choice between staying at home and working.
HOW TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY WORK-LIFE BALANCE
While problems abound at every step for working mothers, there are some ways through which they could maintain a healthy balance between their duties at home and at work.
Time does not stop for anybody; however, it can be managed. It’s best to start waking up early to get a head-start on day’s work. Prioritizing is the key here, as you need to structure your chores for the day accordingly. This will not only help you in managing the work at hand but also save you much more time.
One of the benefits of rising early is that you get ample time to contemplate on your day ahead and how you need to go about completing your work. It will also give you time to finish off all your domestic chores like cooking or cleaning before you leave so that you can come back home in the evening to spend some quality time with your family without worrying about these details. If you have a maid or housekeeper to take of these things for you, it is better if she comes early and finishes off her work before you leave for work.
Other than the work at home, many women have other duties outside the home like buying groceries, paying bills, attending school PTM’s and annual functions are among other things. Rather than trying to finish off these works on weekdays, it is better to schedule them for the weekend, if possible.
Jot down notes for things that you need to finish during the weekend, be that buying groceries, attending a family function or any other important event. This also helps you to keep a track of all your work and minimize clashes. You can use modern schedulers like laptop and mobile phone reminders to remind you of the tasks that you need to complete.
Working mothers often tend to stress about both work and home duties. Family issues and welfare of their children often keep them away from work for an extended period of time than they would wish to. At a workplace, it is of utmost importance that you keep all your home concerns away.
In order to ensure respect and support at the workplace, it is better to complete your work within the set deadline, so that you do not let anyone down or let anyone have a chance of pointing their finger at you or your working capabilities. Precision and a sense of responsibility towards the work assigned to you will ensure that no complaints come your way. Free time or mealtime can be used to check on your family or home, but it is always better to keep such concerns at a bay from your workplace.
It is quite common to see working mothers running helter-skelter in the morning preparing breakfast or ironing their children’s school uniform before finally leaving for work. In order to be free from all that running around, it is better to pre-arrange everything the night before.
It is better to pre-plan the next day’s meal or even get the ingredients prepared beforehand to make the process easy the next morning. Decide what you need to wear the next day and if anything needs ironing do it before going to bed.
This will ensure that you are not stuck in the morning making last-minute decisions. Arranging everything will effectively manage your time so that you aren’t left wasting your time later. The extra time that you will be left with, will only add onto the quality time with your family or be finishing other important works.
Most of us have been guilty of this one sin one time or another. Putting off work may seem pleasurable at that moment; however, it puts a major damper on your time management process. Completion of last minute tasks is often stressful and takes away the entire time management process. It is always better to manage your work according to your priority, rather than keeping the more stressful or difficult ones at the end. Doing so only makes it even worse.
The Art of Saying No
The superwoman syndrome is something many women develop while handling both work and home. However, what they need to understand is that not everything could be managed by them. This is where the act of saying no becomes important. If you come across a situation where your coworker asks for your help for an assignment, don’t feel guilty about refusing them, especially if you are backed up with your own work or duties at home.
Taking up more work on top of own projects and assignments will only put a strain on your time management and will mess with your organizational skills. Even if your work demands you to work along with your team-mates, be clear on where to agree and where to disagree. Elucidate if you are tied up with your responsibilities and why it won’t be possible for you to help them.
How to manage with Flexible Working Hours?
With the changing gender dynamics, many companies are now becoming sensitive towards working mothers. They understand the importance of flexible working hours and the option of working from home. However, most companies still will be concerned about you completing the required tasks before the designated deadline. In such a case it is preferable to have an open discussion with your coworkers and superiors. This will ensure that your managers and superiors at work are aware of your work capabilities and know that you are punctual about deadlines.
Ask for help
Micromanaging everything on your own seems like a fantastic idea on paper, however, more often than not, it is a perfect recipe for disaster. Working mothers need to realize that certain jobs need to be delegated to other people in order a run a tight ship at home. Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse and family members to step in and help you out with some of the chores.
You can also look for professional help at daycare centers or preschools and kindergartens. Hiring maids or housekeepers who can help you, is also another option that women need to be open to.
At work, women should clearly state out how much responsibilities they will be able to carry and what won’t be possible for them to take care of. This prioritization of the tasks certainly does not make you inefficient, rather it is a better way of organizing your time to and concentrating more on high priority tasks.
Work from Home
Working from home is an always an appealing option for many mothers, especially when their babies need their help the most. The key here is to take care of the deadlines and ensure that you don’t let household chores keep you away from your professional commitments. Be prompt while responding to emails, keep track of all your important emails, and most importantly have a healthy relationship with your colleagues and superiors at work.
Asking for Help from Spouse
While most men have always taken a hands-off approach towards helping women in their household duties, in recent years, there have been some forward-looking changes. A fair share of men has stepped up to help their wives for things that were once considered women’s job. In our modern society where men and women work shoulder to shoulder, men can lend a helping hand in household chores too.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help or to share your responsibilities, especially for chores that require physical strength. Let your spouse become a part of the child-rearing process by letting them manage the children while you get done with your work. This process will not only save time but will also help your spouse in becoming a better parent.
Taking out some “Me” Time
Taking care of children and running a household often takes a toll on women, both physically and mentally. The unfortunate news is that often neither the family nor the society and not even moms themselves gives much consideration to the moms’ own rest and care. It is important for women to take care of themselves before they could take care of others. Valuable “me” time thus becomes very important for your own well-being. Spend these moments by keeping away all your household and work-related issues, and give some time to your individual self to heal and rejuvenate. A quick getaway with friends or family, or meeting up your friends for movie or shopping, are just a few examples, in which you can indulge yourself in, to destress yourself.
The new generation has become aware that working women are as capable of taking care of their babies and family as they are of committing to their responsibilities at their professional space.
However, a lot depends on how women take up these new challenges. Prioritization of work and effective time management will ensure that both your household and professional work goes smoothly. It is equally important for women to celebrate these new phases of their life be that as a mother or as a working woman.
The tips mentioned above will surely take some stress off your shoulders by helping in managing your time and energy in a better way. It will be easier for you to encompass all the little modifications over time once the initial steps have been taken.
Have you faced any of the issues mentioned above or some great solutions? Do tell us what you think about this in the comments section below. We are eager to hear your story.