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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Maternity Break. Loving maternity, dreading break!

For nearly two years now, I’ve been worrying and fussing about what is now of immediate concern to me.
My maternity break.
I knew that I would be having a second one, either biologically or otherwise; I absolutely wanted to. Yet a gnawing fear on how we would manage.

When I was pregnant with O over 7 years ago, I quit my job in the third trimester and stayed at home till she was about 20 months old. She had to go to a baby sitter next door only for a couple of hours a day, 3-4 days a week. Since R works evenings, our situation was/is better than many other families in a similar fix. (He took care of O during the day and will do the same for Plus too.)
However, this time around, quitting my job is not an option. For one, we CAN’T AFFORD it, financially. For the other, I am finally realising the benefits of what I’ve worked hard for the last five years in my job. I am unwilling to give all that up right now.

Call me selfish… but the profession I am in is not something I stumbled upon or wandered into unplanned. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was 14 or 15. It’s something I started working towards while still in college. In many ways, for someone who plans so little, this choice alone was well thought out. A choice I made over other far more lucrative opportunities that came my way.
I want very little in life, but the little I want, I want it all… not sure if it makes sense. I WANTED/WANT my child to be born in India. That means a longer maternity break. I WANTED/WANT my children to be exclusively breast-fed, and that means a longer period of flexi-hours. I WANT Plus to have the dedicated attention O received. I DON’T WANT to terminate a career that has taken off rather well in recent years. I WANT the financial comfort we enjoy now, to continue. I am SCARED that all my WANTS are in conflict with each other.
This is my personal angst.

I agree that losing a trained employee for 4-5-6 months may cause some inconvenience for the company. But that’s where planning comes in, isn’t it?
We (the world) can’t afford to keep women out of the workforce. We need them… to meet the numbers, and also because of the expertise a large number of them provide.
What has happened now is that women are being ‘accommodated’ in structures/operations that are outdated.
Efforts to integrate women into the workplace have been add-ons of sorts. ‘Add-ons’ that need to fit in with an existing structure. The reason newer industries attract more women to its muster is because they have been established from scratch, keeping in mind a mixed work atmosphere. For instance, IT, PR, new media…

MadMomma in her recent post talks about this, and there is a great debate going on in the comments section.
This is a universal problem: conflict of the role of women in workplaces, equal opportunities (as against equality), and the personal torment of balancing work and home is universal.

A survey published by the European Equal Opportunities Commission in February 2005 highlights the extent to which pregnant women and new mothers experience discrimination in the workplace.
• 7% of working women were either dismissed, made redundant or left their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination;
• 45% of women who had worked while pregnant said they experienced 'tangible discrimination' such as denial of training opportunities and changes in job description;
• 21% had faced discrimination that may have led directly to financial loss;
• 5% were put under pressure to hand in their notice after announcing their pregnancy; and
• only half the women had a health and safety risk assessment carried out.

In this context, it’s fantastic that the Indian Government has done this. Six months maternity break and two years of paid leave that can be availed anytime before the child turns 18!

In Qatar, women are eligible to 50 days of paid leave from the date of delivery, as maternity leave. And following that, for a year, they can deduct 1 hour per working day, to be taken at their convenience, to support breast feeding.
Not enough, but something to begin with.

We cannot ignore or neglect our primary role. A majority of working women are homemakers too, and that role cannot be compromised. It’s like a house of cards, this card at the very bottom of the pyramid, holding the rest up. Pull that vital card out or displace it, and the rest will come tumbling down.
If a woman chooses to pursue a career in addition to running a home and family, it is in EVERYONE’s larger interest to make it possible: Not easy, just possible. And that would probably mean flexi-hours, tele-commute, and newer ideas that I can’t quite figure out right now.
We need to think more about this. And by ‘we’ I don’t mean women alone.

When I visited the CISCO campus in San Jose a couple of years ago, I almost regretted all the well-paid IT jobs I turned down at the NIIT placement, because I wanted to go for the unpaid internship at Indian Express. Who knows, I would have ended up in San Jose, with my brood of 6 children, instead of the O + Plus I am currently content with.
Every work floor at CISCO’s sprawling campus has a nursing room, complete with facilities to express and store breast milk. And within the campus is a superbly outfitted crèche.
Just perfect, guilt-free working. You take your child to work, and every time you sense a guilt pang, just walk up to the crèche for some cuddling/feeding/kissing/hugging. Mother happy. Child happy. Employer happy, because they don’t have train someone new every time an employee decides to procreate. Win-Win situation.

Back to the present and the future that’s looming large. I have a great relationship with my company, and so far both the management and colleagues have been supportive of the occassional lethargic mornings, forgetfulness and general feeling of distraction. But so far, work hasn’t been affected, as I pull myself out of momentary lapses rather quickly.
I would be fooling myself if I said this pregnancy hasn’t affected me professionally, at all.
I worry and worry some more. Four months out of circulation? And then many more months of restricted circulation… what value would my currency hold?

PS: A tiny part of this is taken from an editorial I wrote for one of my magazines.


Anonymous said...

Want to post anon because I work for the company you mentioned in San Jose :)

While this sector is definitely much better than others at supporting mothers, still there are some truths about the day care facilities that do not seem as we have a one year waiting list before you can get your kid in, and usually that is the year you need most care for your kid. Also the facility comes at a hefty price tag of $1600 a month...which after the astronomical rents in this are is a tad high even for double income families.

umm oviya said...

wow! that is steep. at least that facility is available. that's a beginning.

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Right now, you are doing what you want and touchwood, all is well. With the job and home. Just concentrate on the pregnancy and baby, I would say. Jobs may come and jobs may go but family is too important.

All this will work out. Even if it does n't it will. Will explain later.:)

Anyway, some bridges have to be 'gotten to' before you contemplate the crossing. ;)

umm oviya said...

i know tees... but as i said, so many things unsaid in the blog as well. my colleagues read this, so am going to be nice till i actually go on my break ;)

Does it matter said...

Oh yes, so true.
The Indian govt initiative is one. Mumbai city is also putting into place a regulation that large offices & office bldgs need to have a creche. Its another thing whether this will actually see the light of the day.

Yet, despite this, & more, there may always be a feeling of missing out at work.

Priorities after all - life is full of them, we need to find the right balance.

Nice blog!