08 May 2009
Most city women are expected to juggle corporate and family life. Surprisingly, few complain about walking this tightrope
It certainly helps that the government has become more sensitive to needs of the working mother: On the anvil is a three year child–care leave for women working in the public sector. Even the private sector is reaching out to working mothers in its force, either by offering additional nursing leave or extending flexi–time work patterns.
Bandra resident Sonu Dhami, for instance, worked out of her house for eight months after her son’s birth, thanks to her employer’s open policy. She works for a multinational company (MNC). Media personnel Charu V has been working out of home for the last 18 months – albeit for a lower salary than the one she drew when fully employed. “But it is the only way I can manage both work and my baby,” she says.
Samyukta Mehta, a marketing official who lives in Santa Cruz, typifies the New Age supermum: She is mindful of the company’s targets, but has yet to miss her six year–old son’s school events She admits, though, that it’s not easy. In the workplace, everyone is expected to pull their weight, irrespective of their personal responsibilities. “It is not easy, but it is possible to juggle motherhood with a successful career,” says Mehta. “At the end of the day, it all boils down to management and prioritisation,” she says.
It helps when families pitch in. The fact that my in–laws live with us helped to a great extent. Moreover, my boss was very understanding and would give me leave to check on my son as and when required,” Mehta adds.
And with working mums, it’s all about quality time. “I help my son with his homework, and weekends are fun days with family outings,” she says.
Despite the success stories of women sailing effortlessly through teething problems, skinned knees, coughs and colds along with board meetings, deadlines and achieving targets at work, there are some who struggle to strike a balance. Ask 28–year–old Meenakshi Agarwal, an advertising professional who gave birth to her daughter last year. Resuming work has been quite a task. “At times, I am at a loss. I don’t know how to devote time to my daughter as well as put in long hours at work,” she says.
Agarwal’s in–laws who live in Bangalore, visit at times to help. “But frequent visits are rather strenuous for them too. Thankfully I have found a day–care centre where I can leave my girl. But I feel so guilty about the time I spend away from her. This is when she really needs me around her,” she adds.
This is where employers come into the picture. With the availability of video conferencing, internet, flexitime and extended maternity leave, working mothers can avail of a number of options.
A senior HR personnel states that companies now realise that by not extending ‘friendly practices’ to working mothers, they can stand to lose out a chunk of their trained personnel.
Tina Ghosh, an HR professional with an MNC, says that although the Union government’s Maternity Benefits Act mentions that new mothers can avail of two breaks of 15 minutes each (excluding travel time) to nurse their babies, it is rarely practised. “Blame this on the long commute in a city like Mumbai,” says Ghosh. She adds that providing working mothers with daycare centres in the office premises would help to a great extent.
A proposal to this effect has been mooted by city authorities and could be implemented soon.
Making the transition from home to work is not always easy. Here are some tips
- Let go of the guilt. Returning to work often poses emotional conflicts for new mothers. But working outside the home doesn’t make you a bad mother. And it’s all right to look forward to the challenges and interactions of your job
- Find dependable child care. Look for a safe, stimulating environment and qualified caregivers. When things are taken care of on the personal front, you will be able to give it your best at work.
- Talk to your boss. Clarify your job duties and schedule so you’ll know what’s expected of you after your maternity leave. You might ask about flexible hours, telecommuting, et al Once you’re at work, stay connected. Plan a daily phone call to your baby’s ayah/childcare centre to find out how your baby’s doing. Set aside time to connect with your baby.
- Make backup plans. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Know what you’ll do if your baby is sick or there’s no one to take care of your child at the last minute. You can take sick leave, or call your employer and see if you can work from home for that day or until the problem is solved
- Nurture your own well–being. It’s important to unwind with a favourite book or soft music. Cut down on any unnecessary commitments. On weekends, sleep when your baby sleeps
- Maintain a positive attitude. Tell your baby how excited you are to see him or her at the end of the day. Your baby may not understand your words, but he or she will pick up on your emotions