Thursday, December 3, 2015

New mothers around the world deserve a decently long paid leave from work

New mothers around the world deserve a decently long paid leave from work - it is for the sake of the well-being of the society as a whole, not for the new mothers and their young kids alone.

This link (How America fails new parents and their babies) to a Tedweb talk argues that the paid maternity leave to new moms in America is very short.

The scenario is not very rosy In India either. I was of course lucky to have got longer paid maternity leave than what is mentioned in the video. But with no facility of creche-at-workplace, I could not continue and quit soon. When I went back to work, this break did not go down well with my new employer (ambitious women NEVER do that "mistake" because they know going back after a break is an uphill task) and I had no salary negotiation power obviously. There were two kinds of guilt I suffered from during those days - the guilt of having had left work for two years (it didn't help that my new employer and my parents, relatives and friends silently ridiculed me for that) and the guilt of dumping my little son in a  creche with no warm-up period for getting himself acclimatized to the new environment. No wonder he changed overnight and was seldom understood by caregivers. It was a fight with my emotions and feelings of guilt that I fought alone. Sadly, the world neither listened nor empathized.

Many a time the media projects a working woman who has worked her way up in the organization, after having sacrificed many joyful family moments, as a strong personality. This has slowly but surely changed societal attitude towards women who have reluctantly quit jobs because things were not working out at all for them owing to scant or no support system for decent childcare even after their valiant efforts. They are taken as faint-hearted or unambitious or over-attached to their kids (ironically even by many working women). The aftermath of it is that such women blame themselves for no offence they have committed and also that many women who have hung on to their jobs after attaining motherhood have quickly silenced their strong urge to speak up and ask for a decent period of paid maternity leave from the employer, all along convincing themselves that it is a good thing that they are not being sentimental and that they need to continue to be strong.

The need of the hour is - understanding and cooperative employers. Women too need to recognise the emotional trauma they are going through. They need not put up a brave face when they are actually crying inside. They need not go around telling themselves and making the world believe that everything is almost fine at home-front and will soon be fine. They need to know the psychological damage quietly occurring to themselves and their young, vulnerable kids. Working women turning mothers need to speak up boldly without any feeling of guilt about the turmoil going on in their  minds. They need to tell openly that they deserve a longer paid break from work to bond with their young kids who are the future of the country. For this they need not feel that they are asking for a favour.

The world is changing. Higher the emotional quotient the better the person fares at workplace. And for that, the person himself or herself should have enjoyed a stable and secure infancy in the relaxed company of an empathetic mother with loads of time to share with her kid and with no tensions from thoughts of how to bring back financial stability to the family or equally disturbing thoughts of how soon she can join the workforce again with a decent salary without getting significantly exploited for having taken a break for her young kid.

Quit job or not, women have proved time and again that they are strong, much stronger than they are believed to be. 
A woman who does not quit a job is strong enough to face her tough boss and work through the day even after a sleepless night next to the infant. 
A woman who has quit her job is strong enough to do many chores at home even after spending long hours on demanding and stressful childcare through the day and night as well as face the silent ridicule of friends and family and ex-colleagues for having kicked a job because she believes that bonding with the infant does matter a lot which she is going to cherish decades later. 

It is time women stood up for themselves and pointed out the true picture to the society.
It is time women who have not suffered because they have reasonably good support system (parents/parents-in-law/dependable nanny/excellent creche) for satisfactory childcare empathized with each of those women who have suffered and are suffering (either by quitting great jobs or by being forced to ignore certain emotional needs of a young child because of stressful, long-hours jobs they continue with).

It is time men stirred in their cosy office chairs and thought about this.

It is time employers (men and women) listened and did something.

Women who have suffered with their kids and have managed to be still there at the workplace and have broken the glass ceiling could bring this burning issue to the table and get it sorted out. They probably wouldn't like their daughters to go through all that hell that they themselves or many of their colleagues long back had gone through.

Is anybody listening?

Women! Go, get inspired here...40 Years After Women Went on Strike in Iceland, Here's What Gender Equality Looks Like

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