This piece of news in the papers touched me to my core. More than the article, the visual of the mother kissing her baby, as she listened to what was being discussed. Of course, the baby is so incredibly cute that she gave me agonising false uterine contractions, but the fact is that this is how most women struggling to cope with work and childcare have to compromise and make both work.
I read of how designer Sanchita Ajjampur took her child with her to work related meetings across continents. I see the maid in my building bringing her toddler with her to work, instructing the child to sit put in one place while she goes about her tasks. I am sure there are millions of such example of how women have built their careers on multiple adjustments around childcare.
Luckily my son is old enough now for me not to face this debate. And when he was younger, my little attempts at working were all centred around his feeding and waking schedules. I remember rushing out of a presentation that went on longer than I’d expected, barely a week I’d resumed work when I could feel my breasts disengorge at the precise time I would have fed him, had I been home. I could almost hear his cries. I thought I was hallucinating. I excused myself and rushed home. I still had a two hour commute before I could reach him. He was three months old, and when I reached, his tiny face had gone red from bawling his head off. I never felt as heartbroken as I did at that moment.
It twists up your gut, to leave your child behind. I had reliable family to help. I could leave the child behind with his grandmother. For a while though. It isnt easy to manage a rumbuctious little fellow. And when he started playschool and nursery, I worked my hours around the time he would be away from home. I still do. I do the drop off and the pick up myself, and am home with him as often as I can be. Except when work cannot be deferred to the next day, and only if I have the mother in law at home to watch over him.
Not everyone is so lucky. Women who work have limited support. Creches and daycare in India is almost non existent. The few that exist have such poor standards of hygiene and staff that one is terrified of entrusting one’s kids to them. Few offices do offer their female employees day care and creches, but then the problem is that of travelling distances in the urban situation with crowded and undependable public transport, with small children, which is always risky. No schools offer day care to enable working mothers to leave their children in a single place until they are able to pick them up at the end of the day, or if a few do they are a limited number.
I loved this picture of the Italian member of Parliament because it was such a declaration that job responsibility would not be compromised for motherhood. More power to her, and all of us mothers out there.