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You are here : home > Raising Children > Parental Dilemmas > The Working Mother

The Working Mother

Attitude towards working women is in no way different than that towards housewives. A working woman has to manage her home also in addition to her work. A woman has no choice but to manage both the home and the work front otherwise she is under guilty feelings.


Democratic notions

The tide is beginning to turn in the world social order. Traditional family roles are changing as democratic notions creep into the social system. Earlier, it was assumed to be written in stone that the man was the provider in the family and the woman the homemaker. In India, while a majority of the women may still be fighting against the old order, some have definitely seen the light at the end of the tunnel. And it is not just because women are beginning to realize that there is a world outside their kitchen windows. Women are also turning out in large numbers in the work force due to economic necessity. 

But as in the case of every social change, there is a lag between actions and attitudes. While people may be willing to accept the idea of career women, they are not willing to excuse them from their duties as career moms. The attitude towards working women seems to be that while people have no objection to availing of their talents and abilities outside the home, women are not allowed to compromise on home life. And if they do, they should be made to feel the error of their ways. In the first place, the term 'working mother' is a misnomer as mothers are working round the clock even if they don't go to an office. Being a working mother is not the easiest job in the world. Some women are good at it, some don't have a choice, some choose a middle path and some don't even try it. The point is that it is the women who should have the right to exercise the option to work or not to work, assuming that they have one. And if they do elect to pursue a career, it is important that their families be supportive. 
 

Making the decision

Mothers who have a choice whether to work or not to work have to consider many things before they take the decision. First of all, they need to be clear about their priorities. Does the baby and family come first or is a career and financial security of greater importance? They also have to decide whether they would be happy having servants or other family members look after their children. They need to realize that by taking the decision to work, they will probably miss out on all the major milestones of their babies' lives. Mothers need to remember that a job can be very demanding not only in terms of time, but also energy. Women spread themselves really thin trying to juggle work life and home life. They will have to consider the stress factor of the job because it is not easy to cope with the pressures of a high-stress job and the demands of a baby. Women should also discuss their decision to work or not with their spouses because they will need their support. It may help to find a job that has flexi-hours. It will make it easier for mothers to be able to stay home on days when there is no other caretaker for the baby or to leave early if there is an emergency. 

Sushmita Roy gave up a lucrative career as a management consultant with a multinational and started her own web design firm so that she could work from home. She says, "After Tara was born, I decided that I couldn't go back to working at a job with such long and erratic hours. I didn't want to miss out on any special moments in my daughter's life.  But at the same time, I didn't want to be a full-time mother because I really enjoyed working. Working from home was the only option."

Some women have no choice. Veena Marathe had to start working because she and her husband realized that his salary would not be enough to live on once the baby arrived. Veena started working as a receptionist when her baby was one year old. She says. "I felt terrible leaving my baby at such a young age, but I had no choice. It's not easy being a working mother. I come home tired from work and I have to look after the baby and cook and clean. I get so irritated with my husband and I have even begun to resent the baby's demands and I know it's because I'm so tired. To make things worse, I don't like my job. I'm just doing it for the money. " 

Suhasini Mehta dreams of becoming a partner in the law firm she works for. She says, "My job is high-stress and I have to work long hours, but I am determined to make it to the top. I live with my in-laws and both they and my husband are very supportive. I know that my in-laws will take good care of my daughter so I can work with a clear conscience."
 

When to return to work

Mothers often worry that their babies will forget them once they return to work. But they need not fear because babies recognize their mother's voices right from birth and are not going to forget even if their mothers are away for the whole day. The question then is when is the best time to go back to work? According to Dr. Sushma Mehrotra, "Ideally a working mother should only return to work when her baby is at least one year old. Otherwise, there is a danger that the baby may develop separation anxiety." Experts feel that mothers should wait till they have bonded with the baby and feel confident in their new role as mothers. For women who don't have a choice, it really depends on the amount of maternity leave they can wangle. 
 

Spending quality time

According to Dr. Mehrotra, it is not the quantity of time mothers spend with their children but the quality that matters. "A working mother who spends one hour of quality time every day with her child will probably establish a better bond with her child than one who is home nagging the child all the time." 

In Dr. Mehrotra's view, "Working mothers definitely have less time to spend with their children than the mothers who are at home. But it's not that a housewife is a better mother than a working mother. Even if the working mother is pressed for time, as long as she spends quality time with her child it is enough. Sometimes mothers are around the house the whole day but they don't even look at their children. They provide them with food and other facilities, but their involvement with the child is minimum. They think their presence is enough. But that is not true. It is quality time and the way you interact with your children that makes the difference." 

"For instance, if a working mother takes the trouble to find out what her child has been doing the whole day and accepts the child's reply, she will probably have a better bond with her child. On the other hand, a child may feel rejected if a mother who has been home the whole day has not bothered to see what her child is up to. It really depends on the kind of communication and bonding that mothers have with their children. Mothers must talk to their children, they must interact with them and must accept their children." 

Quality time does not imply that the mother must cram a hundred activities in the little free time that she has to spend with her child. It is enough to just spend time together doing routine things like eating together or just cuddling each other. Mothers should talk to their children telling them about their day and asking about theirs. Given the fact that time is of the essence, mothers need to prioritize household chores and only do those that are absolutely essential on a daily basis. Mothers should try to tune out distractions like the television, radio and telephone calls when they are spending some special time with their babies. Quality time should not be restricted to the mother and baby alone. Mothers shouldn't forget the fathers and should make it a point to involve them in quality time activities. 
 

The disadvantages

In the long run, in a situation where both parents are working and not spending enough time with their children, it can have an adverse effect on the child's development. Dr. Mehrotra feels, "Children may feel neglected and seek stimulation outside the house. Servants can look after a child's basic needs, but they cannot be responsible for the child's intellectual, social and emotional development."

In her experience, Dr. Mehrotra has found that very often, mothers who have to go back to work are not happy leaving their child at such a young age. They feel guilty and anxious and their anxiety is transmitted to the child. The mother will phone home ten times a day to find out what is happening and try to give instructions over the phone. This can make the whole family develop neurotic tendencies. "When a mother is anxious, she makes everybody anxious." 

"Often working mothers succumb to children's demands very easily because they feel guilty. They feel that they can compensate for their absence by giving their children money. But a child's needs are not material. Children want warmth and emotional security," says Dr. Mehrotra. 

Probably the best thing for women to do if they want to work is to either work part-time or to get a job that has flexi-hours or to work freelance. However, in cases where mothers have no family at home to leave their children with, a good creche may be an option to consider. Ideally, a person running a creche will be educated and experienced with children and definitely a better option than leaving children to their own devices or with servants. But mothers must be very careful about checking the credentials of the person running the creche and speak to parents of other children in the creche before they take a decision to send their child to one. 
 
 

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Recent comments (96 comments)
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Name:
Country: India

My son is 4 years old, i join my office when he was 5 months old but still i m having guilty feeling for him, nw he is having diwali vacation and he always cry when i leave for office, it vry hard for me to leave him crying and start for office... i love him lotss.... i feel very bad for him... hope so when his school will start he will settle down
 
Name: Saini
Country: India

A working woman should be proud always for managing both family and work in a balanced way. Though provoking article!
 
Name: Shahnaz
Country: India

I am so happy I came across this sight. I find the texts highly credible and informative and also very well written.
 
Name: mn
Country: Uganda

is it worthy to stay in a marriage where a man cheats on wife with house girls?
 
Name: chandrakala
Country: India

i am a working woman and i can proudly say that i am able to manage both work as well as home
 
Name: NAM
Country: India

I feel that kids dont need 24 hours surveillance by their parents. After 4 years of age they grown independent. Its parent duties to give them good values and morals in addition to their quality time . I feel that a working mother is as good as a homemaker where kids development is concerned.
 
Name: Radhika A
Country: India

Desperately in need of help. Having a kid 7 year old, Cant cope up with married life any more, want to go for divorce but worrying how to manage job and kid after that. Job is need due to financial reason.
 
Name: rashmi
Country: India

i am working in a psu . working time is 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. before that and after taht time i am totally involved with kids as i am in supportivr joint family but i do feel guilty of not spendignthe whole day with them and taking care of their needs
 
Name: Mrs.Philomena Lasrado
Country: India

I am a married woman with a school going baby girl of 5 years age. I live at Juhu Lane, Andheri West, in 1 BHK flat in a very decent co-operative housing society having two lifts near to J.V.P.D.Scheme, Juhu, S.V. Road, and Andheri (West). My house is quite safe with grills on the windows for children. I get hot & cold running water for all the 24 hours and security provided by the society. I would like to start a crèche for small children of working parents. You may please contact me on mobile: 9820538570 in the event of your interest to avail my services.
 
Name: sharmila
Country: India

Iam a working mother and my working hours are from 9am to 4pm. During this period my child who is now 1.5 years old stays with my mother-in-law and a maid. Once I come back I devote time for my child by taking him out for a walk, playing with him, showing him pictures etc. My child is well attached with me. But at times I do feel guilty that i cannot spend the entire day with him.
 
Name: DEEPIKA
Country: India

i am a working mother and since there is no mil or my mother to take care of my son (7 months) i leave him in a daycare and i find him really improving in his play and he has become more independent than before .but as you said in your opinion it is the quality of time that matters than quantity.
 
Name: Nidhi
Country: USA

being a working mom from day one since the birth of both my children this article came as a video of my thoughts. one thing which i liked most about this article was the writer emphasised on quality of time spent with the child not the quantity. i agree i do not have 24 hours for my kids but i definately would like to have good 3-4 hours with them. it is stressful to juggle but you have to do what you have to do. i rather go to work and spend quality time with kids rather than stay at home and nag them all the time. i thing which i would like to add is that we should learn to beleive in the care giver. whether it is day care, mil, mom or any other service. easier said then done. i have to lear that too. at times i wish there were 48 hours in a day.
 
Name: Pratibha Singh
Country: India

i am a working mother of two sons aged 7 months and 4 years. each time i joined back in my office when they were just 5 months. since then i don't have time for myself whatever time i had, has been given to kids. my elder son has been brought up in joint family with his grand parents besides that he is not very attached to his grandparents. he is very much attached to me because of the quality of love he got from me. i am proud of when my in-laws have a bet to let him sleep with them because he never sleeps with them in the adjoining room when i am also at home. except my office hours i never let him away from me. we daily play/talk at least 4/5 hours when i listen to him carefully and replies all his queries and the releated things patiently. now, i found that he never forget those things which i had explained him. but now with two children it's really a difficult task to work. i don't have enough time for them. but i hope that as soon as the winter is off, i will be able to devote more time with them. now a days in indian contest too, these sites are very useful to discuss problems and solutions of working mothers & kids.
 
Name: jyotsna
Country: India

i feel that for a working woman , it becomes almost a neccesity to work as she is so used to going out and working. the quality of time with your child is definitely important but equally esential is the fact that the quality of relationship with your husband is also better when you areworking. when i was on leave , i would be ready to pounce on my husband nagging him because the day would leave me so tired and monotonous. when i am working i am in a more cheerful mood , am happily giving quality time to my son and husband and they are happy too.when one is at office the home problems are forgtten and when one is at home the office problems are forgotten, so one gets a vent for ones feelings. of course this needs a supportive husband, which my husband sure is.
 
Name: kiran
Country: India

iwas a working mother with a rewarding and stressful job, but have now given it up. i plan to start a daycare for children of mothers who face the kind of trouble i had in looking for quality care for my son when i went to work.quality time is definitely a great concept, but what about the effects of the unsupervised9by you) time the child spends with servants- you never can be sure of what goes on behind your back, unless the child is with known, trusted people. and domestic help, specially the younger age group is definitely not trustworthy!
 
Name: Shambhavi
Country: India

i am a working lady. i am having one son of 5 yrs.now everyone expects us to have second child. i am confused. can you tell me why should we go for it.
 
Name: vm
Country: India

i was working before my daughter was born. now she is 18 months old and i intend to go back to work. this article gave me an insight which enabled me to take a decision. otherwise i used to just keep thinking without results.
 
Name: Roopa
Country: USA

i am a working mother. i stayed at home with my kid for a year and i proud to say i could breast-feed for a year. both were happy until he was a year old, after that i started to get really bored. here in america (especially, in the bay area) you don’t have any friendly neighbors or any other adult to talk to. i started getting depressed and felt like killing myself. i had fights with my husband every day. this was not at all good for my kid. i started to look for a good place to keep him and started out with an old lady and i felt terrible, my guilt almost killed me for a year at least some times it pops up now and then. btw, my kid is 4 and half years old now. today i can say i am happy mother and my kid is happy and my hubby is happy. bottom line is to keep the things in good perspective and find a way to make all of us happy. roopa.
 
Name: zhejun
Country: USA

the site is very good for the children and some of the story even a man can read it!
 
Name: A. S. Rao
Country: India

dr. mehrotra has presented a very nice picture on the condition of working mother. but what i have noticed in the whole of the article she has used a "child" never children. does this mean that working mothers prefer child rather than children or out of necessity she should go for a child rather than children. pl. comment.
 
Name: ash
Country: India

i found the site very informative,but at the same time i feel u should be more specific. like you have mentioned abt spending quality time with the child,u cd also give some suggestions on how do we as parents spend this time togethere.
 
Name: rs
Country: India

the site is good,but too brief i feel.there should be some elaborations on the quality time being spent with the child.i would also like to know more on single parenting as my son has lost his father in physical as he is no more but he is present in spirits & emotions.he is 4 yrs old & it has only been 6 months since his loss,though he is getting good care & love from his grandparents but he misses me sometimes when i'm off to my office.i devoted full 3 yrs to him after his birth by leaving my job & joined another only after he was 3 yrs. he had ample time of both me & my husband till 3 yrs of age then i started working & then his dad went away.....with my job how to tackle it is my concentration
 
Name: nh
Country: India

my son is 10 yrs old and we are staying in a joint family. i am carrier oriented lady and have to tour a lot. and also have no option than working due to financial situations.though the father and grand parents take care of him, i have a guilt concious in my mind as he do not get well along with my husband or with grandparents.many a times this makes me disturbed. please let me know how should i go about it?
 
Name: soniq
Country: India

hi very good article from dr. mehrotra, it gives lot of factors that a working or a non-working mother has to consider. well i say it all depends on individual needs & thinking. but the dilema still remains .
 
Name: DMP
Country: India

the article should be a little elaborate, examples of quality time spend. a working mom sometimes has to call up ten times a day. she is not anxious but seeing to it that the servant has done all the jobs needed for looking at the child like putting the rice & dal cooker, made vegatable and that to at the proper time or lets say the alloted time. thereafter 4-5p.m small eat and milk then dropped her to the park. as a working mother i do not pass my anxiousness. thereare times the child does not listen to the maid, throws tantrums this is when the phone call helps. there is no one compartmentalised solution. remember there is a solution to every problem. try and work out the siuation to ur and the child's advantage.


 

 
 
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