Recently a Facebook post of a working mother Tasnim Kabir has gone viral in the busy and bustling world of the netizens. Tasnim’s cry resonates with the collective cry of many working mothers who are struggling to have a sustainable work-life-balance. Nowadays, the rise of consumerism and capitalism has increased the pressure of having dual income families. Both men and women work hand-in-hand to financially support their households and also to sustain their individual identities. However, for women, the idea of striking a balance between career and motherhood is still hypothetical.
Working mothers, regardless of their working hours, are expected to do the lion’s share of the household chores as well as parenting. It is humanly impossible for any working woman to bring perfection to both versions of her life. When she cannot meet the expectations that have been imposed on her with either positive or negative notes, she suffers from working mom guilt. This guilt also appears to her in different forms and makes her tremendously go through frustration and, in extreme cases, chronic depression. As a result, both her career and motherhood suffer.
There is a saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”. Raising a child is not a single person’s solo job. Those who say that they used to rear kids alone and so did not do paid jobs outside simply lie and hyperbolically distort the history of child-rearing culture of our country. Even stay-at-home-moms need a positive and proactive support system to raise their children properly. A mother is the one who carries the baby in her womb for 9 months, gives birth and then breastfeeds the infant for around 2 years. However, a baby’s emotional and moral growths largely depend on the environment he or she is in.
My mother always says that I am super lucky to have a supportive mother-in-law who takes care of my children during my absence. When I started my job, my children were too young to be without me for a long time. I left them with their paternal grandmother (dadu). They used to miss me and sometimes cry for hours. They refused to take food as if they were on a hunger strike for a while. My mother-in-law, very patiently, poured her emotional and physical energies to console them. But she never gave me a call in the middle of my class or meeting. She, as a retired working mother herself, knew and understood my situation. It was her patience and dedication which made me an empowered and strong working mom. Sometimes she also felt tired. After all she is a human being too. Then my father-in-law supported her morally and thus she got back all her energy. The current scenario is that my children are now die-hard fans of their dada and dadu.
This aforementioned personal anecdote is provided to let working mothers know that seeking help from your support system is very important. A woman cannot grow professionally and personally if she does not have the right kind of environment. Humans, regardless of their gender, are like trees. They need a firm and fertile ground to plant their seeds. They need fertilizers to let the seeds grow. They need proper air, light and supporting environment to stand strong and become full-fledged trees. When my mother-in-law, effectively the second mother of my children, tells me, “You go to your work. Don’t worry about them. They are fine with me”, I literally leave the thought of my home at home and concentrate on my work the best way I can. I believe what she says. I believe that my children are happy with their dadu.
Tasnim’s baby son cried vehemently because he was not properly counseled by his mother and his grandmother as well. A child is like a piece of clay. You can shape him in any form. He perceives the world around him the way the adults show him. If he is continuously told that his mother left him alone or did not take him with her, he will most possibly feel abandoned, rejected and uncared of. A child of a working mother should know that for a mother, her child always comes first. However, he should also learn to accept the fact that there are many other important things in her life which she has to accomplish. If the baby understands it gradually, he will be cooperative and understanding.
A study from Harvard University proves that daughters of working mothers are more successful at work. And sons of working mothers are better caregivers and more compassionate towards others, especially to the women around them. There are reasons behind this sort of research outcome. Daughters passively learn to maintain a balance between home and work by just observing how their mothers strike a balance between the two. My mother is still a working woman who keeps on teaching me how I can be a great mom and at the same time a proficient professional. She teaches me not by giving tonnes of advice, but by showing examples from her own life. Children also learn from the incidents of working mothers’ lives. When they see that their mothers really work hard for them, they become compassionate and positive as human beings. They respect their wives and want to empower their daughters too. It is a chain reaction of all the actions.
Therefore, stop being guilty. Seek help and ask them to stop criminalize you. As a working mother, you are not just contributing to the GDP of your country or financially supporting your family, you are beautifully setting an example for the future generation. Dear support system, by supporting a mother to work outside of her domestic space, you are allowing yourself to architecturally work on a child’s life. And dear beautiful society, please stop shaming working mothers and let them enjoy their motherhood.
The writer is a lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Premier University Chittagong