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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

progress is a strange thing

My aunt, a genuine rocket scientist, gave birth to her beautiful baby in India. I was only a freshman in high school then. She took about 9-months maternity leave, mostly paid, knew her job was not at stake because of her new motherhood, and knew she had the option to quit.

Not quite mature enough to grasp the profundity of motherhood and the associated struggle working women go through, I thought, 'wow. how nice. when i grow up, i too will get to be a great mom and a smart career-woman'. This is progress.

Not so. While part of me wants to believe (and blame) men's increasingly unchivalrous descent from being the Provider for the family as the reason for the predicament new moms face today - viz., to work for a living or not - the rational side of me tries to see that the problem is slightly more complex and involved. Like it or not, it appears that single-income families have been left out of Natural Selection. They are doomed for extinction.

Setting aside facts like disparity in wages, downsizing, outsourcing, and other nagging issues, when I became a new mom, I was struck by the fact that work-place and employers have not made much progress in meeting the needs of working mothers.

It is naive to simply dismiss this as an individual woman's "choice" - viz., to work for a living or not - once they become mothers. But, that's another issue.

What i wanted to get across today is that once a new mother, out of necessity or not, has decided to work for a living, it somehow seems like it is entirely her burden to bear. She makes the trade-offs she has to live with - damned if she tries, and damned if she doesn't.

Being a new mom in IT field who got a 30-day matenity leave (small companies need not adhere to FMLA) and went back to work, i knew not to expect progressive policies from IT employers who were outsourcing and reducing pay scales...

Being my baby's primary care-giver - because i am wired for it, because Nature built me for it and most of all, because i want to be her everything - i am convinced that i should not have to work full-time, manage household, pack off my baby to daycare (one that meets my budget, but not all my needs) and pretend everything is fine. ...

In my green 9th grade brain, I had visualized this utopia:
- best quality daycare center and children's play areas in every office building where a new mother can safely leave her infant/child and drop by to nurse/feed/play as often as she needed/wanted
- parks near offices where working parents can take their children on lunch breaks
- paid time off if baby needs to visit her doctor, or mommy needs to visit her doctor
- working hard, but, limited hours, always remembering family is topmost priority and job comes next
- working loyally for one's company, where loyalty is recognized and appreciated
- growing old with the company, just like with one's family
- having month long summer vacations each year, paid vacation because employer values you, and knows vacation will recharge you so you can come back and work with renewed vigor

once kids start going to school, it is whole new ball-game, but, if the start is good when they are under 3, things will fall in place as they grow up. right?

are these so far-fetched?
are we being unrealistic?
should we stop expecting these because we are asking for "too much"?


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At 9:14 AM, Blogger Lakshmi said...

I came to your space just today through Saffron tree and I am glad I did. This is an amazing space. I would love to read the archives, especially the books and crafts.


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