In Focus 26th December, 2017

I Felt Mentally Exhausted: Experiences Of A Working Mother.

In the past few years, much has changed for the Indian woman. Progress has been made in terms of education and job opportunities; but as an educated, working mother, I feel upset. While women have started walking abreast with men in terms of financial responsibility, the same amount of enthusiasm and reaction has not come forth from men in return towards domestic responsibilities.

As a child, my mother brought me up with notions of independence and confidence, of not making marriage and kids my sole purpose in life. I was motivated and talented and after faring well in school and at the university level, I pursued my higher studies from one of the most premier institutes in India. I got a cushy job which I did well for 6 years. I managed to help my family and grow my life, fulfil my dreams. I even got married in the meantime, with no effect on my career. I could work as late as I wanted, even on weekends, travel as much as I needed to, no questions asked. Of course, managing the house, the maids, the bills, etc. were all my responsibility. But I was better than my spouse at managing the house so I did it all happily. Then, I decided to have a child. I knew that for some time my child will be my priority over my career and I was ready for that. But I did not know how difficult it was going to be for me.

Firstly, India sorely lacks good childcare options, even in big cities like Mumbai. I lived and worked in Mumbai, away from home and family, and thus it was impossible to leave my newborn in the care of complete strangers. My company did not have a daycare facility or a tie-up with someone, nor was there a good option nearby. They also refused to extend an unpaid sabbatical to me for 6 months. Thus I had no option but to quit. Not all women face this though, many companies have in-house daycare centres so parents can easily manage their little ones. Unfortunately it did not work out for me. I started working from home, but continued to not only manage the house but also be the primary, rather the only caregiver for my child. My husband was busy with his entrepreneurial venture and it was upto me to manage everything, and if I had time, to work.

Soon we moved back home, near family and I took the opportunity to start working full-time, as Delhi provided better and more convenient childcare facilities and my child was grown up enough to manage. With the help of a good daycare centre and my mother, I was able to work full-time for about a year. However, still the responsibility of managing the house and baby were all mine. My husband did help with homework over the weekends, but all other child-related jobs were mine, right from feeding, changing, bathing, pickup and drops, school projects etc. It was quite difficult, to be on the run from 6 am to 11 pm. Apart from the obvious physical stress and exhaustion, I felt mentally exhausted, keeping track of everything, following up, worrying, managing, calculating… all day long.

In addition to the double burden at home, there was discrimination at work. Working moms were considered a liability, as they were on the ones who always had to come late or take leaves when a child or a parent was unwell. They had to say no to late working hours as daycares wouldn’t open beyond 6pm. They had to give up on plum assignments if they included travel as the husbands could not manage kids alone even with help from maids etc. Marriage or parenthood makes no difference whatsoever to men’s careers, but it changes everything for a woman, mostly for the worse. Men are preferred over women for hiring, for assignments, for promotions; while moms are just tolerated. No wonder there are such few working moms who rise on the corporate ladder. Those like me who do not have family around or a very hands-on husband, are stuck for life, burning the candle on both ends.

However, having been a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) as well, in the past 5 years, I can testify that doubts and comments aren’t just reserved for working women. SAHM face comments everyday – what do you really do at home all day, you must have a chill life, I wish I could be a woman so I can also freeload on my husband.  The guilt trips and shaming are for both working and home moms – if you work, what kind of a mother are you, don’t you miss your child, how does your child manage, what if the child likes the maid more than you, you need to be around to teach values, your child is ill mannered or skinny because you work, etc. Everyone except the mother in question knows what is best for the child and family.

The sad part is, whether women work or not, whether they marry or not, whether they have kids or not, they are always questioned, made to feel guilty about their choices, and even sadder is the fact that this negativity comes most from fellow women. Women just cannot ever win.

I am back in Mumbai now, and back to working from home as I do not want to compromise on my child’s upbringing. I have help for cooking and cleaning, my husband occasionally helps with the groceries and feeding/babysitting. But my role as a primary caregiver continues, apart from my domestic, social and job obligations. I know I can do much more but I feel helpless in the absence of a good support system.

What do I wish could happen? I wish more companies would have daycare centres so women were not worried. More companies would hire women to work from home/part time so they can care for children or old parents/in-laws. More companies gave more leaves for maternity and parent care. More husbands helped out in the kitchen, with household chores, and with children. More daycares open with longer hours to accommodate women working till late, more agencies come up with better, more efficient, honest and dependable maids.

An overall change in the mental attitude of Indian men especially, and a robust childcare system needs to be developed, else the country will miss out on the talents and abilities of 50% of its workforce, and that is a lot!

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11 thoughts on “I Felt Mentally Exhausted: Experiences Of A Working Mother

  1. Well said … Despite all kinds of slogans and schemes for gender equality, society remains deeply flawed in this critical aspect of equality for all genders. Moms raising sons will need to ensure they deeply imbue in them a value of respect for the opposite gender and teach them household and childcare skills… there are far too many pampered sons with a sense of automatic entitlement growing up in Indian households.

    You have raised an important issue and written succinctly and passionately about it. I hope you will continue to raise other meaningful issues and to enhance awareness levels about them. Thanks!

      1. Hi Aditi
        I have gone through your Blog. The story is same as mine. I am a working women in telecom with all good facility with 7 month child but now a days m suffering from mental pressure to manage both. I am not able to understand what to do since I stay at joint family and every one supports me to continue with my job but at the same time they pressurize me to complete the all task of my baby too which is not possible. My husband also sometime teased me that i am not a good mother and at the main time I have to afford my own expense too. it is really very tough for me to get mental relaxation which i could not get. Finally I took a decision to leave my Job next month and stay at home. But I know that after it the life will be more tough as I will be asked to financial support at home and I could not fullfill even my own needs. In India we should have some authorized service sector where we can get some good child clutch services.

  2. Well presented real article. But if the problem is here tjen definitely solution has been suggested well… Why not to make all the people learn skills required for daily living without any gender bias.. Daycare centre should not necessarily be in office where mother s working, afyer 3 years of age when there is no need to breastfeed a baby, they can be managed by husband as well.. Cooking and cleaning should be learnt by all as a basic necessity.. Women have been successful in doing what men could do in the fact that they can earn too.. But unfortunatrly poor men are still handicspped to learn cooking for their own family.. Not to mention then men are really better cook when we see master chef and the ones who have an outlet or tea stall anywhere in our country.. I will say that each perdon is capable of earning and feeding as the volume of brain and mpyor skills is same.. Just our social set up has created such rules that men should only earn money and rest of the task is to be done by women.. I srriously think that its the time for men to fight for becoming equal to women in learning household skills.. My point s not to hurt any gender, but its an effort to make men aware of their capabilities too..

  3. very well described a situation of every working woman….. i wish boys would have been brought up in a different way …. apart from all these struggles every woman also faces unreasonable demands and expectations of her parents in law. They want to be pleased as they take care of our kids . They want delicaces every now and then .

  4. So much of this is my story too and it’s really sad that Indian women get burdened like this all the time. All household and kid responsibilities are comfortably left on the women irrespective whether they are working or a homemaker. Our careers are compromised while men continue to do what they want to and wish to. I too hope that men are brought up in a more rounded way in our country where they are made to realise that work responsibilities are as important as household duties, and that married couples are equal partners at every stage in life.

  5. Very well written. Can connected well with me.
    It feels so helpless when you want do something in your career and coz of other Mandatory responsibilities your most prior thing thats your career becomes your least prior thing.
    Dont know if condition will goin to be improved or not ever??

  6. Hey Aditi,
    You’ve raised the concern very poignantly.. feels like it’s the story of every second working woman in our country. It’s true we can’t change the mindset of men who’ve been grown up as a pampered boys in households. You’ve mentioned it twice and echoes the same in my heart that – we prefer to take responsibility/ownership of those tasks our husbands can’t do meticulously and so start over burdening ourselves with a diminished hope of getting support and understanding from our better halves. Do not want to pose like a sulking wife- but these differences and women’ Difficulties only increase! Few are the lucky ones though who have full mental and physical support of families.

  7. Echoed my story too…we maybe top performers in our fields but unless our children are cared for well it is very difficult to work to our full potential. I’m personally planning to work half day …to feel less guilty about not working at all and also not leaving my child in daycare for the whole day. Another important issue is that as women we must accept the choices other women make with respect to balancing career and and children …most of the criticism and guilt is actually induced by other women.

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