Monday, May 6, 2013

The Story of the Working Mother...

Recently, a leading newspaper published a poem, "Where are you, Mother?". It was a poem to convey to a working mother that she is basically ignoring her child and giving more time to her job..(Can you believe it?) The wordings were somewhat as follows: "When I find my Math tough, you teach other children..When I am feeling ill, you treat other people.." and so on. I cannot believe that someone wrote a poem like that! It was absolutely shocking. Let me tell you the other side of the story - the story of the working mother - that most people do not know.

I see working moms around me, in office, literally struggling in a bid to strike the right balance at work and home. I know what they sacrifice at both places in order to do this. We have been brought up in a generation in which we were told quite vehemently that men and women are equal. We were allowed to study as much as our brothers or male counterparts in the family. An equal amount of money was spent on our education and grooming. But somehow, the moment some of us stepped out of our schools or colleges we were made aware of our limitations.

When a mother comes to office in the morning, she's had already done a million things before leaving her home. All day, half of her mind is with her kids who are in daycare. There is a phenomenon called the "working mother guilt" which all these women go through. By the time they reach home in the evenings there is another list of things pending for them to finish while their husbands (invariably in higher positions at office) come home late.

A working mother reserves her sick leaves to use them when her child is sick. But when she is sick she drags herself to office. She reserves her yearly leaves so that they can be used for such emergencies which may arise in case her kids or relatives fall ill. 

A working mother feels awful, because on one hand she has been hammered in her childhood to stand on par with the men, but on the other she has to dial down her talents and abilities so that she is able to pay equal attention to her family life and kids. I see some men at workplaces who take it very easy, but most women stretch and work really hard so that they make up for lagging behind. 

It is sad, believe me. These women give up a lot of opportunities (for e.g. traveling abroad, promotions, better ratings, rewards.) The so-called fact that women can be on par with men is false in the current generation. I have seen very few women in top-most leading positions. Why? Because they drop-out on the way to the top. They get overwhelmed and the working mother guilt consumes them eventually. 

The competition today is tremendous because the work-force has doubled since the time women have entered technical and managerial fields. The expenses and standards of living in most cities is very high. Schooling has become extremely expensive and so has real estate.  So women also have to support their families - they do not have a choice.

On top of all that, they need to make sure they fit into the so-called norms of an "ideal woman" that the Indian society still expects them to fit into.
It is said that a woman is expected to..
"Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man and work like a horse." Very very true.

Most of my friends' mothers were working women. They had 9 to 5 women-friendly clerical or teaching jobs. That generation was a stepping stone for us. Our generation went one step further by entering technical/managerial fields - traditionally avoided by women. I think it will take one more generation, a better support system and a better society for working moms to really be comfortable to march ahead confidently...