Updated: May 27, 2022
Much has been written and shared about Mothers in the last week leading upto Mothers day. Two videos which stood out were the #Tanishq ad and the #Preganews one. Both potray women going through motherhood challenges. Two mothers, two different perspectives of the same role.
The Tanishq ad focused on a woman returning to work after a maternity break.
The Praganews one focused on a woman feeling the “pressure” and “guilt” of returning to work with a young baby at home.
While it is commendable that we are having conversations around women choosing to return to work, why glorify it by calling it a leadership bootcamp or euphemistically phrase the maternity time off in corporate language. I don’t want to use the word maternity break here as it is interpreted as discontinuity rather than a brief pause!
The Pragnews ad talks about “regretting” returning to work “too soon” as the new mother chides herself for forgetting to order the formula for the baby.
Both ads end on an optimistic note – one with the new mother being offered a role which fits her qualifications & the other by talking about “mothers being allowed to be imperfect”.
Several questions ran through my mind after reading the flood of posts about these ads.
Maybe some of you have the answers or a different perspective which you can share.
With India at a female workforce participation of 21%, compared to the world average of 48% , should we not be proactively discussing moving the needle as far as social norms and systemic support are concerned?
Women are held up to impossible standards of perfection, both in their work lives and at home, and that is why many of us "give up" and take a backseat when it comes to chasing our ambitions.
Taking a maternity break is a make or break decision for women, and a supportive ecosystem would go a long way in ensuring that women continue in their careers - to break biases and barriers, to shatter glass ceilings and achieve the success they deserve.
These ads have got the conversation on Work and Motherhood started.
Here are a few questions to keep the conversation going - let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Over 80% of women cite motherhood challenges and maternity as reasons for dropping out of the workforce (as per a report by Avtar Group). Why are so many women dropping out of the workforce?
Are we giving any thought to the root cause of the leaky bucket?
Is childcare only a woman’s responsibility? Yes, it is biologically impossible for a man to give birth, but definitely possible to share child care responsibilities.
How can we move towards an equal world when gender roles are so rigidly defined and women continue to be perceived as the primary care givers?
Would our daughters dropping out of the workforce and putting their careers on hold be acceptable to us?
Should we not normalise motherhood as a natural phase instead of a “break?
Why is it that only women feel “guilty” about leaving an infant in the care of hired help or even family members?
When are we going to normalise (instead of glamorise) men taking paternity leave to take care of the new born?
When are we going to normalise gender neutral sharing of domestic responsibilities?
There are no easy solutions. Except to highlight more positive stories of women who have successfully navigated both their personal and professional lives. Let us showcase those women who have brought up young kids and have a thriving career because they have had a supportive ecosystem.(the spouse, family and friends).
I worked till the last day when pregnant and was back in office in 3 months in a larger role with more responsibilities. Thanks to a supportive spouse who stepped in when ever there was a crisis at home. He did everything from feeding the baby to changing her nappies to giving her a bath. And he was famously known as the Dad who made the (dabba) school lunchtime snacks.
Our daughter is now 20 years old, a bright, strong & brave girl who has the courage to follow her own path in Life.
And very proud of her Mom who in her own words is strong & inspiring.
The decision to have a child is joint and the decision to jointly share childcare should be normalised.
If we want to leave the world a better place for our sons & daughters, we must choose ambition over accommodation, conviction over compromise & success over sacrifice.
Putting our career first does not make us “bad mothers” it makes us better because we chose to pave the path towards creating a more equal world for our daughters and sons!
Yes, the world will judge us either way and there is a price we pay compromise and take on a role at lesser role after a break or continue in your career after motherhood to face judgement and censure.
The last question we need to ask ourselves as women is - Is it centuries of conditioning which makes us choose to be the ones to drop out of the workforce or fear of moving out of our comfort zones?
Courage or comfort- the answers lie within us. When are we going to normalise gender neutral sharing of domestic responsibilities?