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Jill of All Trades…



-A working mother’s dilemma

In the light of a working mother in Bhubaneswar, locking her daughter in the confines of her home when she went to work, because there was nobody to look after her daughter, an underlying thought does surface: Can women have it all?

Pic Courtesy: philipbloom.net/blog
Pic Courtesy: philipbloom.net/blog

How do we define a successful woman conventionally? She must be the perfect wife and the perfect mother, who is also the epitome of professional excellence. She should be the rockstar of her world. But all the feminism and gender equity aside, just for a second, can we wonder if it is actually possible for a woman to perfectly balance life and work?

There are two sides of the coin, as always. Home makers or housewives often bear the brunt of not being competitive enough to make a wiser career move. They are frowned upon as women who have left the ‘independent’ bandwagon to live a life managing a household and thus chosen an easier and dependent option. On the other hand, women who are full-time working professionals are also castigated for neglecting one area or the other in the personal or professional arena because they have too much going on than they can actually manage.

PepsiCo CEO Indira Nooyi once made a blatant remark by saying that working women cannot have it all. It might seem like they do, but that is not the truth. Their support systems include their families and tertiary services to complement their busy schedules. Ailing parents are taken care of by nurses at home, nannies take responsibility of babies, toddlers are put in crèches, cooks and maids are hired, working hours and projects are planned accordingly. But hiring an army of housekeeping service is not enough. They have to be briefed and monitored accordingly. And the monthly expenses can burn a hole in the pocket.

Of course, one does feel guilty for missing out on many things; birthdays, parent-teacher meetings, office get-togethers, etc. But it is humanely impossible to be at all places at all times and please everybody. Moreover, in the current social scenario, where the man of the house cannot be depended upon to cook a meal or wash clothes, the obligation falls on the shoulders of the woman of the house to make breakfast, change a diaper and prepare a presentation simultaneously. Furthermore, in a nuclear family where no grandparents or relatives exist, delegation of responsibilities is impossible. Children of working women may not spend as much quality time with their mothers and hence a divide may ensue between them in the later years. Furthermore, work-from-home culture is also discouraged, except for in a few companies.

And if one is a single mother, the humongous task becomes even more cumbersome.

Incidentally, men are never under this pressure to be a superhero on all the levels. In a country like India, nobody expects a man to add housekeeping duties to his to-do list in order to balance his wife’s life and work. He has the conventional luxury of having a family while being good at his job.

Workplaces also have no facilities to cope with the trials and tribulations of a working mother. Agreed, that some companies have crèches and nanny services for their women employees. Adobe India, for example has increased its paid maternity and paternity leave to 26 and 2 weeks, respectively. But the number of such companies is negligible.

The question of the hour is, is striking a perfect work-life balance actually possible or is it just a myth that we pursue in the name of women empowerment? Or can this equilibrium be achieved if work conditions change and the society does not raise an eyebrow when a man wears a kitchen apron? As in the case of the 4-year-old in Bhubaneswar, where her father has risen to the occasion of taking care of his daughter, quitting his job and becoming a stay-at-home dad.