Almost a year ago, a seven months pregnant me had an epiphany. I remembered a post shared on Facebook about one of Italy’s parliamentarians, Licia Ronzulli. She took her six week old daughter along with her to work, initially because she was a breastfeeding mom and later because the duo became welcomed regulars at the Italian parliament. The post contained various pictures of both mother and her now two year old daughter sitting together inside the parliament. The reason the post had stuck in my mind was this – I too was searching for a job those days. Being seven months pregnant? Not helping the situation or my options much. I wanted to be there for my baby whenever needed and the lack or rather, almost nonexistence of daycare facilities in offices left me disappointed.
I then started searching for online jobs (jobs which I could perform from home), but the demands and conditions imposed by online recruiters were not only impractical for a young mother but were also, quite frankly, ridiculous! I served as a lecturer at a reputed university for seven years before getting married and relocating and was only now realizing that online jobs, while abundant, were quite unfeasible for women. Especially mothers. The amount of time and effort required by an online job would leave me little to no time for my baby let alone my husband and in-laws!
Disappointed, I again searched for firms offering daycare services, this time more diligently than before but the result remained the same. Even worse wasthe realization that a profession such as teaching, despite being dominantly populated by women, was void of the facility. It broke my heart.
Being a new mom I wasn’t (and still am not) willing to leave my baby behind while I work. It seems unfair that I have to choose between being there for my baby and having a career. Why should I leave my baby with a trusted relative or faraway daycare if I decide to work when I have the capability to be a mother and a professional at the same time? Why am I being forced to miss all his growth milestones and hear about them from those relative/s and daycare people? Why must I be forever indebted to relatives for taking care of my baby when I was out earning for his better life and future? Is it too much to want to work yet have my baby in the same vicinity as me? Why, even in this day and age, are women still leaving or delaying their careers with the consolation that they can always go back to work once their kids start school, (causing a 3 to 5 year unemployed gap in their CVs which is seldom recoverable). Won’t the ability to check up on their children and the comfort of knowing that their child/ren is/are close by increase working parents’ (especially mothers’) productivity, motivation and job satisfaction manifolds?
I realize that not all firms and organizations have the space or the budget to offer daycare services, but a casual Google search will reveal that even today the topmost earning organizations of Pakistan either do not offer or have only introduced the service in one or two of their branches/offices.
Depriving mothers of their right to be there for their children while contributing to their financial needs at the same time only implies that despite all their contributions and hard work, working women are still seen as a ‘secondary market’ (only needed for certain gender specific roles or in times of excess workload). Women are still seen as ‘guests’ in offices who, if single, will leave once married or after they have a baby. While mothering, no doubt, is a full time job why must it be done at the expense of a mother’s talents, interests and capabilities? Why must a mother’s skill take a backseat when a simple measure such as setting an in-house daycare can solve the conflict between mothering and working?
I write this article today as my year old baby sleeps peacefully by my side in an attempt to stay in touch with what I love. I love to teach and I love to write. It’s what I wanted to do when I was single, it’s what I wanted to do when I was pregnant and it’s what I want to do now. Can I teach while having my baby close by? Sadly, no. The number of universities and schools offering daycare services to teachers is surprisingly close to zero. In fact, many working women informed me that they have lost count of the number of times they filed petitions demanding daycare services. They claimed that authorities keep promising them that an action will be taken soon but nothing really happens. Here’s hoping that this article will hopefully move a few authorities into doing something to address the issue.
This article is written by Saba Mirza