As a mother of two school going boys, I believe that the biggest challenge that the working women face today is navigating career opportunities while exercising motherhood. Though the economic, social and political freedom for the Indian women is the highest that has ever been, career women still need to prioritise. Working mothers can either excel in their careers or motherhood, but rarely both. Enabling a mother to take up from where she left while being a part of the workforce should be a given. Career breaks to prioritise family life still eludes many proficient women. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but the experiences of other women can shed some light and help the lady in question manage her choices better.
The 21st century work places should priotise to extend the basic rights – political and social freedom as well as economic opportunities to women within their organisations. International Women’s Day is round the corner and this year’s theme is, ‘Each for Equal’. An equal world is an enabled world. How can one help forge a gender equal world should be something that the policy makers must ask themselves. Some ways are by means of celebrating women’s achievements, helping raise awareness against bias and taking action for equality. IWD is celebrated in almost all organisations around the world and many activities are carried out. That week we highlight the most pressing issues and speak about concerns affecting women’s lives. But they are brushed under the carpet soon after the euphoria settles. Let’s ensure that the celebration gives way to meaningful decisions taken by the organisations and women in turn empowering themselves.
Concerns of a working mother
General concerns that working mothers have to deal with are the kinds that women around the world face. I have friends who had children soon after completing their education and before building their careers. I also have friends who focused on their careers first and then decided on not having children as it didn’t work out. And then I have friends who are in the happy medium like me; having a decent career and raising children. The key for the ‘happy medium’ being working on a reduced schedule and not have a very demanding or high pressure job.
It’s all about having hopes and priorities and learning to work with what one has; if things aren’t quite going his or her way. Family and career are not mutually exclusive. One can have both and with the right balance. It’s not about ‘having it all’, but about finding joy in what one has. A person can have the best-laid plans, but in the end, it’s your ability to ride the wave and adjust to external factors that will determine your success. Women who are trying to balance career and motherhood can take a few pages from the lives of all those who have ‘been there and done that’. Though every person and every situation is unique, we pick up inspirations and lessons from others. It is said that when one door closes, many others open. When situation weakens or tears you, there is a strong will power and confidence that builds inside which says, ‘I can manage it.’ Can’t say we can manage it all to our likings but we can maneuver our lives beautifully and without much stress.
Need for a supportive environment
It’s a whole support system starting with the spouse, supportive in laws, parents, siblings, and good caretakers at home! Also one needs to set clear priorities such as reduced mobile time and more of face to face talks everyday with the child, sharing responsibility, seeking support from others are some factors that have helped many career women balancing their responsibilities of being a mother as well as the home front. A career mom needs to first embrace the change and be determined; without being stubborn though! She also needs to prioritise by focusing on one area at a time. The results are not the same for everyone so one needs to accept the self with new set of challenges and priorities.
At the Indian Women in Hospitality (IWH) forum, the topic of discussion often is career women who have taken a break to bring up their children wanting to get back to doing things that they were once very passionate about. Personal messages that I receive are generally seeking counseling. I try to handle them the best way that I can and in my capacity if not; then I connect them to the ladies I believe who can. This has lead to the thought of building a Mentorship Program. We have drafted one and would like to partner with organisations, publications, CSR and women empowerment initiatives. I hope to strengthen this community. This IWD I urge all stakeholders to join hands in creating a more sustainable approach that women; especially working mothers can benefit from.
PS: Image is taken from google with due credits