Looking For A Career? Outsource Mommy …

September 20, 2012

So we’re back from vacation, or “back to life, back to reality” as Soul 2 Soul so rightly sang. It’s taken us a couple of weeks to get over nasty colds that had us all sniffling away at the end of our holiday and we’ve finally gotten over the jet lag and baby T is back to a decent bed time. Ah everything has fallen into place. Just as everything comes together it falls apart again. That’s life!

Coming back to work after 3 weeks away was a bit of an awakening. Since having baby T and my time off work for maternity leave those 3 weeks away for our first family holiday were our first time in 8 months that we spent together day in day out. It took a bit of getting used to from both sides but as the holiday was nearing an end I realized just how attached I’d become to little Miss T and that going back to work was going to be tough.

During a casual chat with some friends they had asked if I would ever consider a certain career path that would have me traveling regularly at least once a month. My initial gut reaction was “no way, I can’t be away from baby T and live on the road” but I decided to keep my reaction to myself and replied that I would have to seriously consider it with my family. The response I got was “don’t you have a maid?“. Erm, excuse me? Well you see out here families hire ‘house maids’ or ‘domestic helpers’ to help with the house work and why not throw in looking after the kids too. In principle I would have no issues with this if these individuals were qualified as child minders or nannies. The reality is they’re not. Some were lucky that they were ‘good with kids’ and re-marketed their services as “nannies”. We had tried our luck with one such candidate and boy was that a sour experience. Despite glowing references basic hygiene was non-existent. There were so many red flags that had us recoil and decide to say “see ya!” to our brief ‘nanny’.

*Disclaimer: Before I get attacked this is by no means a generalization and many families we know are exceptionally happy with their ‘nannies’.

Somehow though this had become the norm and I was the exception for not having a “maid” at home. Our situation was uniquely different as I was blessed to have my parents living in the same city and my amazing mother has gone above and beyond in caring for my daughter during my return to work. If it wasn’t for her scrutiny and eye for detail we would not have discovered the lump in baby T’s abdomen that turned out to be a hernia that needed to be operated on urgently when she was only 3 months old. Being the doting grandma she is she knows every inch on baby T’s body and can spot a new cut, bump, bruise – you name it. I know my baby girl is in the safest hands in the world and I am able to breathe.

However this little comment stuck in my mind for a while for another reason and not because of whether or not a family decides to hire help but because of the judgments others pass and how they look at working mothers. The automatic assumption is that you would hire someone to look after your kids so that you can go back to “normal” and carry on with your fast-track career. The problem is you cannot go back to “normal” ie. life before kids. Your whole existence shifts. The way you approach every decision is completely altered. This comment stayed with me because it implied that the working mother should just take care of the “problem” and not let it affect work. Why is this a one-sided relationship? Why do we expect working mothers to make all the sacrifices yet our organizations are not willing to budge? We consistently lose exceptional female talent because we cannot put our egos aside and truly try to meet half-way and come up with a solution that helps both the individual and the organization. In addition in today’s economy having both parents working has become for many families a necessity and not entirely a matter of choice.

I digress. This is a topic so near and dear to my heart and I know I am not alone in asking these questions and in expecting our workplaces to be more “parent-friendly” instead of what we see today. The general attitude is that deciding to have a child is a “personal choice” that the organization should not bear the consequences of. No wonder there are still employers out there that ask during an interview whether a candidate is planning on getting married, or having children in the near future (yes – shocking!). This is not a rant about “having-it-all” and being made to feel that we should be so grateful as women that we even have “careers” but about realizing that our reality today is a completely different one – an entirely foreign reality to what our parents had experienced – and one where we must evolve as organizations to adapt to this changing landscape.

How can we make this a win-win for both sides? 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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