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...


priya said...

Very well put Namrata. Am sure every working woman, and her man at home, would agree.

guess your trailing thought of us setting the stepping stone for our children would provide theworking mother some solace :)

Namrata said...

@Priya: That was so quick. :)Thank you. Yes, I see the situation first hand and it is sad at times..Hopefully things shall improve slowly.

Anonymous said...

When God designed 2 genders it was for a specific purpose. They both have different roles and responsibilities and so they are built with different biology. It is not just for the humans, every single species living on this earth the male and female have different activities. And it is on only humans now trying to do both the roles in both the genders. Contine further with this context. If not you can stop here and don’t balme me further.
Early women stayed home and the families were happy. Every one enjoyed lifes. It was never listed in the history that people led miserable lifes because only men worked. Why women work now? Better financial support to the family and better life for the children. I am not against women working, but struggling and giving the reason better life. How much better is better? With all due respect for a working women and the effort they put which is obviously more than men, do they ever think life is better that way? The only reason is lack contentment. Where will the better stop. Ever wondered what is the end of the better. I bet you will never find a answer, that is human physcology. Even the richest couple in th world still works and earns money, for what? to make what better? Sounds funny right.
Children, they do need parents emotional and physical support the most when they are kids, after that even if you want they will be on their own. Mother’s care can never be replaced by some one, even dad or grandparents. Whose life is the working mother trying to make better, hers with guilt of being a working woman and not giving enough time for the family? Kid’s with not much of mom’s time? Husband’s who gets a little more less time of her?
As far as I see none of those and that’s all of them in the family including hers. I am not against women working but work comfortably not struggling.
Better than some one is jelaousy,envy,ego. Is it hard to make the ends meet that women have to work? IT guys give me a break. I know it is not. Better is just to support a better life style. And you see the things you are scrificing and loosing for it? You believe that’s worth sacrifices and loses and a better lifestyle is gonna keep you haappy after all this? Think about it.
PS: Sounds Chauvinist? You missed the context. Please be in context and read again.

Namrata said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Namrata said...

First of all, I would love to debate with you on this. (I wish this was not an anonymous post!). Because I feel you have missed the point of the post.

Ever heard of gratification at work? Having one's own identity? Women who work LOVE the fact that they have their own identity, there is another dimension that gets added to their personality. They have put in years of hard work to get where they are and then they simply have to quit. That's nonsense. It is better then that girls dont educate themselves, right? No point getting so many degrees!

The post is only about that it is a roller coaster ride for working mothers - it is not so easy as the society thinks. It is about the fact that the Indian society as a whole is very judgmental and non-supportive when it comes to women working. In the US, there are SINGLE working mothers and they do well. Their kids become independent quite soon. Yes, a lot of them end up going the wrong paths because their moms are too busy to keep an eye on them. But believe me, I have seen a host of kids in India who go the wrong way despite of their parents keeping an eye on them! Perhaps a visit to most colleges in India for you will be an eye-opener.

At the end of the day, the choice is the mother's. If she cannot cope she will have to quit. But until then, I think the society should support her! The poem in the newspaper was ridiculous.

PS: I did not understand the "IT guys give me a break" point at all! Lol! That is really funny..

Anonymous said...

All I can say is you missed the context.

In your reply you never mentioned what you differ on, I myself mentioned in bold that they do work more than men and struggle.

I never questioned or commented on the individuality or gratification of a woman.

Kids go wrong way with or with out parental care, agreed. But if they go wrong and later you realize that it may be coz of you not spending time that guilt is gonna be as long as life exists. One might be busy juggling all the tasks to realize that when it is happening. Single mothers. Agreed. For them no option.

What is sense and what is nonsense I cannot comment as it totally depends on the priorities and perception of what life is about.

There are satisfied home makers who have a huge list of degrees. Having huge list of degrees doesn't mean gratification lies only in work. Again it is priorities. Whether one wants to show one's individuality or live for the something they believe in and what they love and care about.

It is a free world one is free to choose what they like to do :)

Vidya said...

i could relate soo many ppl working with me to this article ......the situation is actually very challenging and very few ppl really understand this.
it makes me sad ,seeing how some ppl think that women are meant to stay at home and lookafter their family and kids, cook for them and thats it. why is it always expected from the women to stay at home during illness of a child/family member? why it is always expected from a women to quit her job in case of some family need? why cant the role be reversed?
why cant a man leave a job to take care of a baby/old parents?
children need emotional support and it can come from any of the parent , then why it is expected from working mom alone?
Times are changing and and today we just cannot say that some things are to be done by men and other by women,i have personally seen families with no male members, where mother was working but the family was very happy and content:)

Anonymous's Daddy said...

I kind of got the vein that Anonymous was on the moment I read his/her first few words "When God blah blah". Sir/Madam...God did not design anything. Things are the way they are because of an explainable course of scientific process. The distinguishment between the genders was created by humans themselves. If women had been the ones doing the hard work and laborius tasks since the beginning of time, evolution would've taken a completely different path and things would've been completely opposite now. So lets not bring God and early man into the picture.

The most advanced societies and cultures (Including the Indus valley civilization) are the ones that adapt with changing times. we are not living in neanderthal times or the dark ages. As a society we need to be tolerant, adaptive and accomodating. If that means women trying to balance 2 lives, as a society we must try to enable that. Not remindthem where they belong.

I think your views, Anonymous, are archaic and unfortunately deplorable to me and I bet to a lot of people. It is very obviously chauvinistic in ANY context.

Namrata said...

Dear Anonymous,

Yes, it is about priorities. At the end of the day, a woman will quit in case she is not able to cope up AND be happy about it too. But only if this decision is made by her independently - not enforced - will she be able to accept it. It WILL make her sad, but then she will be more at peace.

She may take up a less taxing job (if such a job exists in today's world!) or start her own business to keep herself busy.

(As you prefer to stay anonymous, let me explain further right here. :))

You say -
"Early women stayed home and the families were happy" => Am not sure if this is true. :) If it were, then early reformers would have not forced women to study, progress and work. Work gives a lot of exposure to an individual in terms of how things are in the outside world and how good/bad people can be. One gets closer to family when one sees crap outside. So, work need not pull an individual away from family - as is the usual belief! :)

"Why women work now? Better financial support to the family and better life for the children." => Again, this is not true. According to your first comment you imply time and again that women work for money and they need to know how much money is enough (along with a strange out-of-the-blue reference to IT folks. LOL!) :D. Which is why I asked you if you know what job gratification and identity means to a woman? There is no lack of contentment in terms of money. It is mostly about the identity that makes a woman happy. She also likes to make her parents happy and show them that their money was well-spent on her education.

Sometimes, it IS about money too. It looks like you are probably not aware how high the cost of living is in metros. Do you know know what real estate costs these days?

What I have described in my post is how a mother adapts and sacrifices a lot of things in a bid to take care of her family and achieving her own goals. She knowingly dials down at work and does not give her 100%. All I did was point this out and how society overlooks all this.

Namrata said...

@Vidya: Thanks so much for the comment :) I know what you refer to in the end when you see that there are women who solely support their families too, and I respect that totally. Thanks again :)