Of working mothers and daycare centres

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.Β  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.

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32 thoughts on “Of working mothers and daycare centres

  1. I can so relate to the guilt part this post mentioned and also the “I had my mom all to myself after school hours”. You know this always makes me think whether I did a right thing choosing my career over spending time with Chirpy. And every time I think of it, I have different answer to it!

    Both cases have it’s ups and downs-for both mother and the child and the family at large. Like you said, deciding to work is a matter of choice and need. And most of the time,ironically or no, it is money than the ‘like working’ option.

    I too feel guilty at times when I come back home from work just to get only about an hours time to spend with my child before she sleeps. I strive to make it home before her sleep time…the rush in my head, the thoughts racing and the heart reaching out to her when I get late at work.

    Of course the Husby feels sad too if he is late from work and miss meeting his daughter at the end of the day…and I can safely say that the ‘working’ guilt is at both sides in our house!

    But I’ve to admit that largely it is only helping me on individual level that I’m working and of course monetary level for the family as a whole. So, at the end of the day I choose this positive note over the guilt of not being able to be around my child the whole day!

    Now coming to the point of day cares. Luckily, and I really mean luckily, we have MIL with us so we have a huge huge bonus on that front. We don’t have to worry about Chirpy being at a day care amidst strangers as well as what greater fun than spending the childhood with the granny?

    But someday we’ll have to do so. We’ll have to part with our child for the day,where in we’ll drop her to the daycare…maybe she’ll like it or maybe she’ll howl every single day…but we’ll have to do it since her social needs will be fulfilled with this step of ours…she needs to move out and meet new people, know other children and learn to play with them…sans her parents and granny…but as simple and positive it may sound, the very thought of leaving her in the day care breaks my heart….I don’t know how I’m going to manage that 😦

    And in between such thoughts when I read about daycare centers like Amelio I feel relaxed…but only in my thoughts cause they are not in my city 😦

    But any way, thanks for sharing this…now being the HR lead I can pitch in for such options at my org. which would benefit not only me but other mothers in the organization πŸ™‚

    P.S. like your p.s. : my comment might sound a mix of thoughts…and that it is πŸ™‚ hope you find something sensible out of it πŸ˜‰

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    1. @Scribby

      I totally get all of your comment. I understand exactly how you feel.

      It is great that Chirpy gets to stay with your MIL, and that you can be assured that she is in good hands while you concentrate on work. That is a good situation to be in.

      Childcare centres like Amelio would be a huge boon for working mothers. I only hope they extend their services soon to other cities as well.

      Oh, if you could pitch for such services in your organisation, nothing like it. πŸ™‚

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      1. When I turned 29, I looked at myself and thougt what am I doing in this job. The job was decent, a Marketing Communication profile but not really my calling. If all throug the week, I keep waiting for the weekends, why should I waste my time. I quit my job to seek out my passion in writing. I had no plan. Nobody believed I could be so whimsical. It was not whim. Thankfully we wer okay in going from double income to single income. Big deal! You get used to it. During my notice period I discovered I was pregnant and it was great because I wanted to relax during my pregnancy, and not rush to office with all the weight. Being in marketing profile, I did not have a 9-to-5 job, and as you said in your other post, I too cannot cut corners in what I am responsible for. I need to give my 100%. So now I am 100% with my baby, who is 1 year old now and thank god every single day that I am blessed to be able to spend so much time with him, without the need to rush to a job or feel guilty about what is getting neglected at home or office. As you said, it is specially painful when your baby is unwell. What would you do if you also have an important presentation which cannot be postponed! Phew! I ended up saying too much!

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      2. @Reema Sahay

        Hey, Reema! First off, welcome to my blog, and thanks for sharing your views. πŸ™‚

        Kudos to you for following your heart. Like you said,the most important thing is being at peace with yourself. If you achieve that, the rest of the things fall in place, I think.

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  2. It’s not just organizations. It has to be a change of mindset, I also noticed that the man is nowhere in the picture in your blog post. Fact is, both men and women need to share their domestic duties and responsibilities.

    I work often with colleagues based in Europe, and how men take months of paternity leave to help share in the child-rearing. Here, this never happens at all. Both men and women should be held equally responsible.

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    1. @Nishita

      I agree – the entire mindset needs to change. Parenthood needs to be looked at as the responsibility of both parents, and not just the mother.

      The reason I did not mention men in my post is that most of the times, I have only seen women concerned about balancing their careers and motherhood. I am not saying that is the way it should be, but that is the way it is, sadly.

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  3. I don’t quite know what to say. I wrote a paper on Work LIfe Balance and flexitime options for working mothers during my Masters days. The title of the paper angered me. Why flextimie option only for mom? Why not for parents? Why exclude the dads? I was depressed even as I went about collecting data. This is such a big struggle for most women. Especially in India, where they are answerable to their In laws, their extended families, their neighbours and even the random aunt you meet on the road. They enjoy rubbing in the guilt with added salt and lime.

    So many women, even if they do not want to work and would rather spend their time bringing up their child – do not really have a choice. We all need the money. I would love to see a balance between childcare and careers, though I am not exactly sure what that balance would entail.

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    1. @Pepper

      I understand what you mean. It is rather annoying that only women have to consider things like a balance between motherhood and a career. In fact, the same should hold true for both parents. Sadly, in our society, that is not the case.

      I believe that it should be a couple and not only a man or a woman who should be worrying about this whole career-child-parenthood thing. However, from what I have observed so far, it is the women who seem to WANT to be with their children instead of working. The part that the society plays in this mindset, of course, cannot be ignored.

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  4. Ok. I am not a mother and I can not, probably, understand a lot of things which you guys do. But I am having these repeated clashes with my parents over this. With the marriage thing looming large, they are in for a daughter-in-law-at-home while I am staunchly against that. Plus there is this cultural backlog that weighs in their favour. A really difficult time, if you could understand my situation.

    I read this somewhere in some psychology journal myself that a working, assertive and good decision maker mother- has a positive impact on her child. Also, a physics major or a girl having an engineering degree from a reputed college should not just trash everything she learnt. She should not and she must not.

    That said, I do not know how that works with those who really put this principle in practice. But I would dearly want this to work. It would require, if nothing else, a husband who stands up to his full height and says ” she will work and I do not care what you think about it”, to the world- including his own parents. I guess, we Indian boys are normally not like that. The same journal which I am talking about also said that Indian boys have a “prolonged infancy”, which is a fancy way of saying that we are mumma’s boys.

    And maybe, there is this false sense of superiority with them working and wife not working, that gives husbands an ego boost of sorts… I know what I have to do but I do not know if that is enough.

    Thank you for such a relevant post Ma’m !

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    1. @Tatsat

      I am not a mother too, yet, but have closely seen the woes of working mothers and so, can relate to them. Am glad you found the post relevant.

      I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this comment of yours. It is true that most Indian men do have a ‘prolonged infancy’, thanks to their families. I would say some Indian women do, too. The moment you realise that you are going through one too, it is best to snap out of it as fast as you can.

      Working or not working after marriage is a purely personal decision. There are some girls who do not want to work at all after marriage, while some girls are given no choice at all. If your wife wants to work, and you have no issues at all with it, yes, you should stand up for her and let her work with peace of mind.

      I am not sure if a working mother is better or a stay-at-home one. It depends on the person entirely, I think.

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  5. Such a thought -provoking post…. As I am now planning to start working again…this is the only worry which engulfs my mind all the time…On-site daycare would be such a bliss..also it would help increasing the employee productivity as well …happy employee= performance.

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  6. I think the only two options are to put your baby in a good day care or ask your husband to be SAHD. Now someone like me would jump at that opportunity but I know it ain’t coming. 😦
    About the sorry state of our work culture, the less said the better. And its not just with women. I have glorious stories of my manager jumping in front of me to block my way when I got up to leave after working for 14 hours.

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    1. @Amit

      LOL @ SAHD. Even my hubby would love that! πŸ™‚

      Of course, I know it is not only the women who are in a sorry state, as regards to work culture. It is just that women have a tougher time dealing with this due to the sorry thinking of the Indian society, which believes that she has to cook, pack tiffin boxes, do her children’s homework, etc etc etc and that is OK if she doesn’t work.

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  7. I agree with you. It is high time that Indian Corporate world wakes up to the fact that having day care within office premises can make a difference to the productivity. See My In Laws are staying with me and taking care of my son but there are days when I miss being with him 24 X 7 plus there are many more pppl who have to leave their ppl daycares which are sub standard.

    Nice post!

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  8. A topic very close to my heart too. A woman’s decision to continue working after a baby will always depend on what childcare options she has while she is away at work.
    We do have a daycare here provided by the organization that I work for … not so close that I can visit Cheebu any time of the day, but not so far either that I can’t reach her within 15 minutes if needed. I have been sending Cheebu there ever since she was 10-11 months old and quite happy with the facilities and atmosphere there. We also have good leave policies for women employees with kids (no flexi working timings though) All these go a long long way in helping me work with peace of mind. I know no daycare can substitute being at home with the child … but we have to make choices sometimes, a dilemma every working mom faces in her life.

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    1. @Lifesong

      I so understand what you mean by ‘the dilemma of a working mother’, Lifesong. It is good that Cheebu loves her daycare and that it is near from your workplace. It is great that your office has good leave policies for working moms. I wish more and more organisations would take this as an example.

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  9. This is one more of those issues where enough attention is not provided. We are aware of families that discourage a working women and calling her heartless for leaving kids with centre. My amma was a SAHM and I cannot thank her enough for choosing me over her career. Honestly, it is a toughie and there can be no judgements passed on whatever one takes up.

    I was also thinking of RM whilst reading this post. The most annoying part is where the male population strongly believes a mother leaving at dot 6 is a crime!

    I know of many offices that offer flexi work timings, amongst other benefits!

    Though your thoughts were a bit jumbled, the post is well written!

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  10. Very word is so true. It just makes me sad to think why are only women looked upon like this for whatever choice we make. My office offers work from home facility, which I believe is very very helpful especially when the maternity leave is just 84days in our country. Even then, with the system we have, it becomes really tough for a new mom to cope up with work (which never lessens and then there is additional burden of doing it from home) as well as the new born child. An extension to the maternity leave is reviewed like 1000 times by the manager and HR ppl – which obviously pushes the mom to either leave the child at in-laws or parents (if she is lucky) or send it to the day care and come to work.

    My mom was a house wife and I had her for myself throughout my childhood. I do believe it makes a positive impact on the kid to have a person (esp. mom) to go to whenever it needs. I am not sure how would it have been if my mom was working – I cant even imagine. if this is the case with me, am I not depriving something to my future kids? I am not sure.

    I too have many questions of how so many day care centres open up in each street. Will they take care of the kid with real love n all that? At the end of the day, its just like a service they do for the money we pay right?

    Even my thoughts are incoherent for the same reason you mentioned TNGD. There is so much to say and I just cant think straight here.

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  11. i think almost every working mother feels this.. here i am struggling hard to bring up the day care centre at my office. luckily we got permission and trying out the financial part of it.hope every organization sets up this..

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    1. @Ashreyamom

      I know how much of a struggle it is, Ashreyamom. 😦

      I think an on-site daycare centre is a brilliant idea, and hope more and more companies take to it. Hope the project gets through in your organisation as well.

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  12. The concept is actually not that new TGND. Back in 2006-2007 Wipro had actually opened an onsite daycare at their koramangala office – they had a HUGE waiting list! But yes these are few and far between. In fact just a few days ago husband and I were discussing that this is such a good business opportunity and why are more people not doing it?
    With unreliable and untrained domestic help, and unlicensed daycares, most mothers are stuck betweeen a rock and a hard place. That’s the harsh reality. I wrote something similar last year on my blog last year, have a look: http://advaithandyukta.blogspot.in/2011/07/men-women-and-work.html

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    1. @Aparna

      Yes, I know of one other company which has an on-site daycare centre, too. I think it is Lucent or something. Not sure. The OH’s friend works there, and she leaves the kid there till she is done with her work and can pick him up.

      The concept of an on-site daycare centre is not new, yes. The few companies that have them have started these centres on their own – as in they are a part of the company’s management. I haven’t heard of a firm like Amelio (an outside agency) starting on-site daycare centres in various companies.

      Hopping over to your blog to read your post!

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  13. *Stands up and claps loudly*

    This is an issue so so close to my heart…I can write tons and tons on it no matter what…

    yes as a working mother who drops her child to daycare for 10 hours a day right from the time she was 1 year, it breaks my heart especially on days when she is sick..but I must admit, there are two reasons I work – we need the money, and I like working…

    I read about Amelio earlier and was wondering why in Bombay we dont have such daycares…though I must admit, R loves her daycare..most of the teachers are really nice, they love her and she has tons of friends there..so much so that even on Saturdays she insists she wants to be dropped there..but again, I wish she was in a daycare at my office..life would have been so much better

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    1. @R’s Mom

      I had you in mind when I was writing this post, RM.

      I have always wondered about what I would do when I had a child and wanted to work. I know I would love to work post a child,but I am sure I wouldn’t be up to the kind of timings and stress that I face now. I am not sure if I would be comfortable leaving my kid in a daycare, too, but then I don’t see any other solution to the issue.

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      1. This issue is close to my heart also, though i am not working after i had Zini, but i plan to work in future and i keep thinking about various options that we have. and daycare is one of them. But then i have my concerns about leaving Zini at a daycare especially in Noida, as we keep hearing horror stories of kidnapping and sexual abuse. i hope to find a good day care where i can trust them with my daughter. But if the daycare would be in office premises it will solve this problem upto great extent.
        I know about few offices where the daycare is situated in the same premises.
        When i was pregnant and still working, i kept giving this suggestion of having a daycare in the same premises, or to have tie up with a near by day care, so that all the working moms can have more peace of mind, though nothing concrete happened…
        Thanks for doing this post..

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      2. @Techie2mom

        I am glad you were able to relate to this post, Techie2mom.

        I know of very few companies that have on-site daycare, maybe because I have never really felt the need to research that.

        Hope you will find a solution to your issue when you come to it.

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  14. To be very frank things are certainly not that easy. Even when I was not a mother and wanted to leave dot on time (my work was done), I was still looked upon with curious glares. It is a norm in I think every industry. I have witnessed it in IT and feel so bad about it. Why is there a need to keep sitting at the desk doing nothing? I would rather be at home with my family after finishing my work in the designated hours.The work culture is so bad that you are actually forced to follow or crash and burn.

    As for day cares they are so many mushrooming everywhere without caring about what actually such a facility should include. I wonder if there is any kind of license they have to obtain. I guess not.

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    1. @Jas

      “Even when I was not a mother and wanted to leave dot on time (my work was done), I was still looked upon with curious glares. It is a norm in I think every industry.”- That is exactly the point I am trying to make. I have been through that too. I can only imagine how tough it could be for working women who have children.

      I am not sure about the laws governing daycare centres, but I too am stunned at the number of such centres mushrooming all over.

      Like

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