This working mom thingy sure is tough. And there are very few role models that one can look up to and get some idea of how one can best manage it. So far, I have none. Of all the working moms I know, I cannot find a role model in any of them.
My own mother was a working woman and other than the standard maternity leave of 6 months or so, she worked all through our childhood. And we never felt orphaned or alone or neglected. So I guess that makes her something of a role model. But her job and pressures were so different from mine that I find it hard to take a leaf from her book. She worked (and still does) in a government job. And her hours were so much more manageable than mine can ever be. She was able to bathe us and get us ready before leaving for office. We lived in a small town and her office was pretty close by so she usually came home for lunch and hung out with us for a while. And she was home by six in the evening - well in time to play with us, feed us dinner and tuck us into bed. Now compare that to my life (or what it will be when I get back to full time work in a month from now). I would need to leave home at 8’clock – with just enough time for a good morning kiss and hug for my son. My office is at the other end of town so coming home for lunch is just not an option. And I would be lucky if I got back in time to tuck him into bed, forget about the rest of it.
Some of the working moms in my company are lucky enough to have a support structure in place. They have either their mothers or their mothers-in-law living with them - filling in for them so that they can continue to work the kind of hours that they need to. But both our parents live outside of Mumbai and have commitments that don’t allow them to come and stay with us other than for short trips. And even if they could, I am not sure that I would want them to and whether that would assuage the guilt of not spending enough time with my son. After all, he is my child – I brought him into the world and I don’t want to delegate the responsibility of his upbringing to someone else.
Yet other women I know are resigned to their children being largely raised by the household help. I was speaking to one such colleague the other day and she works really late hours (she is in office till 9.30 p.m. almost every day) and feels that that is something she needs to do to succeed at her job. But at what cost? I often think about this in terms of how I will feel about all this when I am on my deathbed. Will I be prouder of the fact that I became the CEO of some Fortune 500 company or that I raised my son to be a good, intelligent and successful human being? To me, the latter is a pretty obvious answer. So I cannot seek a role model in a woman who is willing to make her career a priority over her child.
And finally there are the women who manage to find a compromise. They either work out of home (like Mint) or manage to find a job that is not so demanding on their time. And these women are closest to my ideal role model because they have managed to keep working without compromising on their roles as mothers. But I have yet to find a way to make this happen in my occupation (marketing) or identify another occupation that I have the skills for that would allow me to do this.
So the search continues… both for a suitable job and for a suitable role model.