I usually stay far away from any remotely serious topics, and am not particularly interested in controversy - I just don't have the energy or time to deal with it regularly, anyway.
That's why I've always been a silent observer of the entire Mommy debate - the 'Working Mom' vs. 'Stay at Home Mom' thing.
I had a good long set of months to observe this debate too, when I was on maternity leave with Peanut. It was a very much-needed break for me and I focussed totally on the baby - and realized that I need to work - actually, I want to work. It's just that I needed to find the right support system to let me do it, and also, to find work that I would really enjoy. Both of these happened when we decided to move to Delhi.
Of course, when I started work after the long break, I had a lot of things on my mind as to how it would work out - I hadn't actually left Peanut for more than a couple of hours - was continuing to breastfeed her, and she was still very fussy about taking solids regularly. I thought she would continue to be on my mind all the time, and that I wouldn't be able to concentrate. I also thought that my restricted travel could prove to be an issue. As would the coming back in the middle of the day to feed her. And so on.
Well, it looks like it's all going to work out, and has been working out just fine for the last couple of months. A lot of things have helped in this regard:
- Having a boss who is a Mom of three kids and openly supportive about my needing to go home at lunchtime to see Peanut. Being able to see her in the middle of the day is a very big plus, for both Peanut and me.
- Having family around for support - even though they all work, I know my mother and sister can be called upon to come home a bit earlier than usual on the rare occasions that I get late. Oh, and Vijay too.
- Having a maid who has been with us for a quarter of a century to watch over Peanut. I can't actually imagine trusting Peanut with someone new or unknown. I suppose one would have found a way to survive without her, but I'm glad I haven't had to.
- Breastfeeding. It is very relaxing, and ensures that Peanut and I get some alone time together at regular intervals of the day - before and after work, and even during lunch. I was planning to wean her at 1 year, which is just a month away now, but I actually see no reason to now. I'd like to hear from the moms who continued beyond one year, most of the mommy bloggers I've read seem to have stopped at 1 year or earlier. 'Benefits of extended breastfeeding', anyone?
- Having work that is engaging, and ensures that I don't sit around thinking 'Why am I here and not with my baby at home, sniff, sob'. It's not easy to leave her every morning, especially when that quivering pink lower lip and those frantically flailing chubby white arms come into play. I'd hate to be pining away for her while I was at work. But it doesn't really happen - I'm always glad to be back home, but I'm never dragging my feet to work either. ( Except that post lunch sleepy time is a killer for a few minutes, of course!)
Anyway, the point I was eventually hoping to meander around to - I was slightly - okay, very - inflamed to read an article on some study in Australia or New Zealand or something - which said that a recent survey showed that working mothers are treated as 'relatively unskilled' and given far less preference in their fields of work than their non-maternal counterparts. The time they spend on maternity leave, or if they choose to take a longer break, all goes against them when they do decide to go back to work.
I don't know about this. I have myself faced some slight bias in this regard. Even though my previous company gave me an enviably long maternity leave, I know there was some khit-pit ( a better word escapes me right now) about my wanting to work flexi-time. And this, when I worked on a branch of marketing which involves a lot of thinking time, and is eminently do-able out of home. Plus, I've done well for years at work and was rated fairly highly. When I finally decided to move to Delhi and quit, I was asked a number of times to reconsider but I really didn't want to reconsider anymore. I was told I was a highly valued resource but I didn't feel particularly valued. I was asked to give an exit interview, and I was very candid in my feedback. My candour probably had the HR person's ear hurting by the end of it. To be fair to him, he was very supportive as a person, but I think it was just a larger thing, a very real thing : there is this - in varying degrees of intensity and openness - bias against working mothers.
And even though I don't really face this in my current role, I think a large part of this comes from having a boss, who by virtue of being an effective working mother of multiple children, is just very understanding about the whole deal. What about other working moms, who may not be that lucky?
In short: it kind of sucks! What's your take?