This was in the news about 2 years ago, but it still remains fresh in my mind. The images of Italian Member of the Europen Parliament, Licia Ronzulli, taking her one-month old child with her to work in a sling, the baby sleeping away as her mother helped take major decisions for the country, and Ronzulli planting a few kisses on the baby’s forehead in the midst of work are imprinted in my mind still. Probably because of the beautiful statement that Ronzulli makes – that both her work and her children are of equal importance to her, and that she does not want to neglect one for the other. More importantly, she seems to be making a statement that ‘It is not necessary that you “sacrifice” your career for your children, however much you like it.’
As much as I love this move by Ronzulli, I cannot help but wonder: Does everyone have that kind of flexibility? Can everyone take their children to work? Can everyone achieve this beautiful balance between being a career woman and a mother? Will all organisations permit women to bring their children along, even if it gives them immense peace of mind to have them there? I am not so sure if all Indian firms would permit that. On second thoughts, is it really possible to take your kid to work every day, once he/she grows up a bit and starts walking and talking? Would one really be able to work in that scenario?
My mother was always a stay-at-home mother, and I had her all to myself after school hours, but I have seen my aunt juggle housework, a job and kids. So, I can say that I have seen the woes of working mothers first-hand. They are neither here nor there. Sometimes, situations call for a woman to be at home with her children, while she is required to do an important presentation at work. Sometimes, a delay at work causes a woman to be so held up that she is unable to rush to her sick child immediately, though her mind is already there. Inevitably, it comes to the woman having to make a choice: Career or kids?
I have often thought of why this is so. Why don’t Indian firms realise that they are losing out on an amazing talent pool of brilliant women, just because they are not able to juggle work and taking care of their children? More importantly, why do most Indian corporations behave like they own you, all your time 24/7, once they have hired you? Why do most firms look down on women who need to rush home at the dot of five or six, to be with their families – irrespective of whether they have children or not? Why is that so wrong, if she is through with her work?
I know that some corporations do offer facilities to their women employees who are mothers – like creches and flexible timings. To be fair, some organisations do offer facilities like cab services and flexi timings even to women who are not mothers. The point is – most organisations do not.
I have seen so many women working with such a guilty conscience at having to leave their children at a daycare centre, and when the kids fall sick or something happens to them, the mother blames herself, and that, I think, is a very sad situation. Why work in that case?, a lot of people ask. Why can’t the woman just be at home and take care of her children? That, I would say, is a highly personal choice to make. A lot of women need to work for the money, a lot of women work for the peace of mind that work offers them, and many work because they are just not cut out to be at home the entire day. My point is, a woman shouldn’t have to pay so heavily for this choice that she makes.
Daycare centres – now, they are an entirely different story. So many daycare centres have become just industries, with no real love and affection given to the children. Many daycare centres are just places where children have to spend time till their parents return home from work and pick them up.
In the midst of hearing increasingly horrendous stories about the plight of working women and their children and daycare centres, I read this article on Women’s Web. It was like a breath of fresh air into a room that smells stale. I loved the concept of an on-site daycare centre, and think it is a fantastic idea. I only wonder why no one ever thought of it in India before!
I sincerely hope there are more organisations like Amelio in times to come, and that there is some respite for working mothers soon.
PS: If this post seems like a jumble of thoughts, that is because it is. Too many thoughts rushing through your head when you write about a topic that is very dear to you causes such an incoherent and jumbled up post. I hope I have made my views clear, though.