Motherhood or career- a choice women shouldn’t have to make: It is an age old dilemma that every working woman, or any girl who inspires to be one, has to face in her life. When the time comes, should she prioritise motherhood over her career? If she chooses to focus on her career instead, is the society right in calling her self-centered? The right question that we should be asking is, why should a woman have to choose between the two at all? Can’t she have both? What exactly is keeping a woman from striking a balance between these two aspects of her life.
Being progressive by our society’s standards is allowing daughters and daughters-in-law to study and work. Families feel like they are doing women a favour by ‘allowing’ them to work. However the progressive attitude stops right here, because this approval to work comes with its set of terms and conditions. Sure, a woman can have a flourishing career, but she has to do it while carrying the burden of parenting and household chores. Many working women have almost little to no help when it comes to parenting. the resulting stress and exhaustion forces them towards making a choice that’ll forever alter the course of their lives- motherhood or career.
Here’s how society can stop forcing this predicament on women, and be better allies instead:
1. Stop setting different expectations for men and women
If we don’t let parenting make a difference to careers of men then why must we do so for women? Equality isn’t just creating equal opportunities for all, it also means creating a level field for both men and women to sustain and nurture these opportunities.
2. Stop asking her about her plans of marriage and children in professional interviews
Women are endlessly asked about their future plans – when do they plan to settle down? How many kids do they want to have and when? Marriage and children are part of a person’s private life, then how professional is it in the first place to ask such details? Interviewers should spare women of such unethical and personal questions. In fact, such questions shouldn’t even be the criteria of the judgement of the professional capabilities of an individual.
3. Stop demonising a woman for not wanting children
In popular culture, successful women are portrayed as people who do not want children and potentially hate babies. They are shown as dressed in formal wear at all times, cold and insensitive. A career oriented man though, can come home late from the office and indulge his children without moving his own plate from the dining table to the sink.
In reality, the society gives a man the room to be an “absent” parent. They give him the room to be career-oriented and not want children. But making the same choices by default casts a question on a woman’s character and values.
4. Stop stereotyping the experience of motherhood
Motherhood has many facets. It is different experience for every woman. However, in our society the only kind of motherhood that is hailed is the conventional kind, where a couple biologically conceives a child, that too at what society deems as the right age. As a result single moms or women who opt for adoption, late motherhood have to deal with a lot of stigma, that adds even more pressure to their stressful lives.
No woman needs social judgement, motherhood is a choice and every woman should get to decide how and when she wants to experience it.
5. Stop seeing motherhood as a workplace inconvenience
Many employees look at motherhood as a workplace inconvenience. Yes, a young mother may need half days or emergency leaves while caring for a young child. Yes, she may call in for leave to care for a sick child on crucial work day, but it is unfair to use these yardsticks to pass a judgement on a working woman’s work commitment.
Employers need to develop policies that a mom-friendly and learn to find solutions around motherhood if they do not want to lose out on talented pool of employees who have a lot to offer to their organisations.
6. Divide the workload among the spouses
A working mom and working dad should divide the workload at home. Childcare is a responsibility that lies with both parents, so no parent should find themselves unfairly burdened with household and childcare duties, as that would naturally affect their focus from work.
8. Women need help, not scrutiny
According to research, children of working mothers turn out to be happy adults and high achievers as compared to the moms who don’t work. And yet working moms have to face endless scrutiny for their parenting skills.
The health of their kids, their performance in studies, sports, debates, cultural activities and their behaviour is constantly judged keeping in mind that they have a working mother. Every mother wants the best for her child, what she needs is a strong support system that makes her life easier.
Motherhood versus career is a predicament many working women have to face, because our society still holds them largely accountable for raising a child and sees career as a privilege for women. This outlook has to change not only because it is wrong, but because it unjust and unnecessarily complicates lives of millions of working mothers.
The views expressed are the author’s own.