There are no superwomen...
Alvina Clara, March 18, 2017, DHNS 0:08 IST
The apex of the corporate ladder comprises mostly of men, as many women during the childbearing stage refuse leadership posts or quit their jobs...
Returning to work after maternity break is an emotionally taxing endeavour. You are hauled from separation anxiety to working mom’s guilt. Qualms about whether you can shuffle between work and family arise. And the prime concern of all: How would the baby cope without you and settle with a caretaker? The uncertainty of it all will make you anxious as you prepare to fit into new schedules and reacclimatise to work commitments. Lack of sleep, stress and exhaustion will make you feel foggy.
To add to the already impossible situation, household responsibilities will also weigh you down. Contrary to the supposedly flattering women’s day ad campaigns, superwomen do not exist and burnout can set in sooner than you anticipate.
The overwhelming diurnal errands rise from uneven partnership at home. What is unfortunate and infuriating is that relatives, friends and colleagues generally sympathise with the man of the house, saying, “Poor guy, he has to work and earn for the entire family’, but this deliberation is rare in case of employed women.
No support at work
The situation at the workplace is no better. Women of child-bearing age face immense obstacles in their career path that only multiply once they decide to become a parent. The maternity leave doesn’t suffice to meet the lactation needs of the infant.
Rarely do companies provide breastfeeding breaks or private lounges at their offices to feed babies. Nor do they allow female employees to bring their infants to work. Due to this, women suffer from engorgement of breasts, which causes severe discomfort and can even lead to mastitis.
At many workplaces, there is no way for women to even dispose sanitary napkins and the management expects equal work hours from both sexes.
Despondently, salary discrepancies based on gender are also commonplace. Women are paid less, despite having to bear additional expenses to get a nanny or a nursery to take care of their babies. Sylvia, product manager at a leading company, talks of a ‘motherhood penalty’ against pay and promotion.
Women feel orphaned at the workplace after returning from maternity leave, and allege that their employers lack understanding of family issues, she says.
Furthermore, young mothers cannot afford to put in the long hours required to hold on to senior positions. These factors work together to make the professional atmosphere acidic for women who wish to advance into higher ranks.
How to cope
Firstly, understand that you have no reason to be guilty. The fact that you want a career doesn’t make you less of mom or mean that you are less invested in your child. Your baby will agonise due to separation anxiety initially, however as days pass by, he or she will gradually adjust.
Spend quality time with your kid every evening and on weekends. Talk to your spouse about sharing household chores and childcare responsibilities. Perfect parenting is just a myth.
Taking up double the amount of responsibilities is a courageous act and you deserve encouragement, not criticism. Realise that having created a baby, you are a stronger person now.
At the office, squeeze in time during your lunch and tea breaks for pumping milk. Request a room, may be the conference hall or a private place where you can calmly use a breast pump and store milk for your baby.
Be honest with your employer – and yourself – about how much time you can devote for work. Make your peace with the fact that motherhood will affect your potential at work, whether you like it or not. Give up the perfectionist mind-set and learn to say no to tasks that you can’t do justice to.
Don’t try to compete with single women or perform like you did pre-motherhood. It is a disingenuous and self-defeating endeavour. Accepting limitations and being true to our capabilities is the only way to keep our careers, families and sanity intact.
Need for a level playing field
The work place today is without boundaries. The work-life balance involves a juggle between family, career and health. Professional and personal lives are interconnected and inseparable. Corporate policies fail to take these aspects into consideration.
The apex of the corporate ladder comprises mostly of men, as many women during the childbearing stage refuse leadership posts or quit their jobs. Bearing this setback in mind, companies need to design a flexible work environment after women return from parental leaves in order to stick on.
There is a dire need for collective thinking about the absence of women in leadership posts due to lack of opportunities for growth. Women need a more forgiving atmosphere to thrive. A women’s capabilities are no different from those of a man.
She needs to be respected and provided equal opportunities to realise her potential.
Motherhood is a natural process and child-rearing is a shared responsibility between both parents. It is unfortunate that only mothers end up losing their careers due to a mutual decision to start a family. Steps need to be taken to create a level playing field.