Child Care and Working Mothers

Image Courtesy What To Expect.com
Image Courtesy: What To Expect.com

Motherhood they say is the best experience. True for most of us. At least for the majority I have interacted with. To many, it was a well thought of decision. While for many others it was accidental or forced by family and societal pressures. But all in all, motherhood is an experience in itself. You learn most of life lessons from this lifetime project.

And how much ever we debate a father (even if he is willing to) cannot do as much as a mother for their child in the initial years of birth.

I am a mother of two girls, aged nine and six. I had a full-time job and was a middle-level manager. So you can understand the responsibilities I had at work. During my first pregnancy I had 56 days maternity leave. I had to take a month’s extension on without pay basis to take care of the newborn. During the second pregnancy, the company had revised the policy and I was entitled for 86 days maternity leave.

I left both my girls when they were around three months old with young girls (20 years and above) whom I hired from various agencies. Total strangers with not much prior experience. Some of them were true gems. Here I would like to mention about the hefty commission amounts that the agents charge you. While the house help’s salary was as low as INR 1800 in the year 2006, the commission we had to pay the agency was about six months salary of the maid. This went up to INR 10-15K as the help’s salary and about 35-50K as the agent’s commission by the year 2013. The money I have paid to agents and domestic helps in the last 8-9 years could have helped me pay off my home loan in entirety.

I loved my job. While it kept me up to date on the subjects of my interest: Computers, Science and Technology for professionals and researchers, it also took care of my medical expenses through the insurance scheme for employees. Motherhood along with the job was managed pretty well with lots of help from the husband and the parents (all working), the house helps and understanding managers. I am much more at ease with this considering my younger sister who is in the Mid-East and cannot afford to even have a house-help due to employment policies prevalent in the region. There aren’t many good child care centers too.

Sometimes, the house helps we employed were not so helpful or trustworthy or clean or were not comfortable with childcare. There have been emergencies when a maid left on a holiday and didn’t come back. The agencies never provided a replacement immediately and so I have never had any leave encashments all through my career spanning 15 years. But nevertheless, my work spoke and so I still had my job. Of course, like most females I have had to listen to comments/remarks on my leaves from managers, friends as well as colleagues.

But this post is not about any of this. This is about how important childcare is and should be to any parent, any family or any country. Imagine having well-managed child-care centers or government-funded agencies that provided trained and trustworthy domestic helps or child care centers managed by the companies. I as a female can assure 100% dedication and commitment from every female employee. If you are sure that your child is in safe hands, you can concentrate on your work and help the company achieve its results efficiently. If not, you’ll always be divided between your workplace and the place where your child is.

For my second-born, I even tried a child care center named Roots to Wings. She was just 18 months old. One of the most difficult 12 days of my life. I left my daughter at 7.30 a.m at the gate of the center and tears rolled down as my kid refused to leave my hand. This I accepted because my job too was important for me. But on the twelfth day as I picked up the kid from the center she was crying in severe pain. The center manager told me that she seems to be unwell as she had been crying since afternoon.

I reached home and checked her nappy. That’s when I saw blisters all around her bums. She was in so much pain that she refused me to pick her up. I can tell you no pain is as unbearable as seeing your child suffer for no fault of theirs. The ayyah at the center had ‘used her marvelous brain’ and washed the used nappy and made her wear it again instead of checking for a new nappy which was inside her bag and was informed. Neither the teachers, the center manager or the ayyah bothered to check why the child was crying in pain since afternoon. They didn’t even bother to inform me. I thought I could never forgive that lady. But I understand, she wasn’t trained well for child care. I wrote to the parent company and within months the center was shut down. I understand from other parents that they too have had similar or more grave complaints regarding this center.

We keep reading and listening to horror stories of how domestic helps and child care centers harm young and innocent children. Childcare definitely the most responsible task and one must not take it up if they aren’t ready to put their 100% into it. Opening a childcare center is the most easiest way to make money these days. But what needs to be understood is that it must have dedicated employees who help it strive for better.

Information sourced from Reuters India: In U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he says he will triple the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000. “In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have,” Obama said. “It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us,” Obama said. “And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America – by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

A country can progress only if it’s children get proper development atmosphere. A happy and healthy child means happy and healthy parents who in turn prove to be valuable resources for the country and the world. High time we take childcare as a serious issue and find solutions to tackle it. Company sponsored or subsidized childcare centers within or outside the premises, government-funded or privately managed trained domestic help providers are a necessity for double-income families. I wish we see this as national issue and work towards the necessary solutions.

What are your views on this? Do let me know.

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13 Replies to “Child Care and Working Mothers”

  1. This is a post that had me nodding away. I live in a country where household help is not an option. But we have great childcare options in nurseries. I went back to work when daughter was 4.5 months old, voluntarily, because I was being given a very interesting role. I could have availed a year’s leave, but chose to go back, simply because there were good day care options for daughter. I did take a break from working later but that had more with me needing the break than for the lack of childcare options. Now when I chose to go back to work the after and before school care is an absolute boon.

  2. Quite a lovely meaningful post you have put down here Reks. Only working mothers can truly understand the anguish and tension that they go through when they leave their kids behind at home, even if it is with the kids’ grandparents.

  3. As a doc, I totally concur. I cannot understand how child care does not get priority in India or how its just seen as “a regular thing”. We see all strata of society and know the burdens they suffer looking after children while managing a house or even going to work.
    Effective and trained staff for the same would be a boon and I really dont think it would require that much of an effort from the government to help give it a priority… which is what makes the lack of attention even more sadder

  4. True, Rekha..Child-care still hasn’t got the kind of attention it needs because it is still considered to be solely a mother’s responsibility. The working-outside-of-home status for a mother is again the woman’s problem. Sure, we have loads of day cares available but none of them follow a standard method of hygiene or have trained helps. We only have to rely on sheer luck to have stumbled on good, reliable helps/day care options or have able family members to chip in. Not surprisingly, we have so many women take a break in their career. A well-thought out post!

  5. “If you are sure that your child is in safe hands, you can concentrate on your career and help the company achieve its results efficiently. If not, you’ll always be divided between your workplace and the place where your child is.” – You said it all when you said this. These two sentences speak to mothers as well as employers.
    Good post.

  6. Hugs Rekha, for what you had to give up, and for what you had to go through as a working mother. Can’t even begin to imagine the anxieties you must have felt at the time. I completely agree with you on the need to have more pro-active child care centers in our country. “A country can progress only if its children get proper development atmosphere. A happy and healthy child means happy and healthy parents who in turn prove to be valuable resources for the country and the world” can’t agree more!

  7. I can empathize Rekha…I left my 3 month old with a maid(she was a gem) when I went back to work. I felt I was walking on egg shells that one year since I didn’t want to offend my maid in any way causing her to leave…she was old enough to be my mother and I treated her like one….I still can’t believe my luck, because not everyone gets a maid like that…then I moved to US and we couldn’t afford a sitter so had to send my kid to the day care…But the day cares here are good(majority of them)..the care givers are cpr trained..they are all licensed..the state gives them ratings based on yearly inspections.for babies they change nappies every two hours…they take good care of the kids….I always felt that my baby was in good hands when I left her there…:)

  8. I so agree with Obama’s speech that in today’s world, this can no longer be treated as a woman’s issue! It is a family issue and ultimately it has a huge impact on productivity if people know that their child is well looked after!
    I’ve been very lucky that I had wonderful childcare providers and afterschool care – people who are not only professionally trained but who are also caring.
    I felt so awful reading about your younger daughter’s trauma…such callousness!!

  9. There is a high need for authorities to come law when it comes to child care organizations and it’s sad to see the pain your daughter faced. We shouldn’t treat childcare as a side issue and it’s irritating to see the lack of accountability on the part of those people.

  10. It is very difficult for the mother to take care of work and kid, although many are managing very nicely. The law should be implemented to provide the mom work from home option if this possible. Nice writing and thanks for surfacing this issue.

  11. I admire your will power Rekha, bcoz you could manage it for many years. I am worn out and feel so helpless bcoz of constant child care issues we face. Most painful part is that when our near and dear ones look at this issue as a “very common thing and nothing so special about yours…..”

    1. I can totally relate to you. Been there for a long time before finally taking this call. And yes, the words from the near and dear ones are the ones that hurt you the most. Hope you find out a way out of this dilemma soon.

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