Having kids will be a death knell to your professional life, a lot of women are told these days. Motherhood is seen as this giant roadblock that sets back women’s careers, in most cases, irreversibly. But is it kids that actually damage a woman’s career? Or is it society that refuses to back their professional lives once they embrace motherhood? If rearing children is continued to be seen as a gendered responsibility, how will women to re-enter workforce post childbirth. Also isn’t it unfair that the only choice society gives women is to either focus on family or choose their career and forgo motherhood, if they want to lead less complicated lives?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Women often drop out of the workforce following maternity.
  • But is it children that sabotage women’s careers or is it society?
  • Women aren’t offered backing and support by their family, which makes balancing work and home almost impossible.
  • Even employers tend to see their motherhood as an “inconvenience” assuming that it would affect their performance.

The rapid drop of women from Indian workforce, from 34 percent in 2005 to 27 percent in 2014, proves how Beti Bachao, Beti Padho is an independent slogan.

A 2015 survey of 1,000 women working in Delhi, and its neighbouring areas found that only 18-34 percent of married women continued working after having a child, says a BBC report. The rapid drop of women from Indian workforce, from 34 percent in 2005 to 27 percent in 2014, proves how Beti Bachao, Beti Padho is an incomplete slogan. What happens when this Beti grows into a woman? When she earns a college degree and gets a job, and then you marry her off? Ironically the pressure to prioritise family life over career befalls women both ways. It is not just in-laws and husbands, but also parents and siblings who advise women the same.

Also Read: New Maternity Benefit Act: Is it really in favour of women?

The grip of patriarchy may have loosened enough for people to educate their daughters, but not enough to see parenting as a gender-neutral responsibility. It is largely believed that till a certain age, it is best if a mother takes care of her child. That mother knows best. This understanding has been internalised across genders, so fathers assume that they aren’t capable of providing quality care to new-born babies or young kids. This stigma and the resultant shaming often demoralises women and they end up quitting their jobs, despite doing well.

It is extremely short-sighted of employers to not make any concrete efforts to retain talented women employees, from whose hard work and vision a company may benefit, merely looking at the (relatively) short term “inconvenience” that early motherhood poses at them.

But office spaces are equal culprits in creating an environment of hostility. We have to remember that industries, businesses and corporations are made of people, who bring their stigmas to the workplace with them. Since motherhood is seen as a woman’s primary responsibility, it is automatically assumed that she’ll lose focus from her work, or prioritise her child over office if such a situation arises. But the question is why must such a situation ever arise? It is extremely short-sighted of employers to not make any concrete efforts to retain talented women employees, from whose hard work and vision a company may benefit, merely looking at the (relatively) short term “inconvenience” that early motherhood poses at them.

Merely handing out maternity leave to women isn’t enough. How many organisations are willing to go one step ahead to preserve and nurture female talent and not let it go due to maternity? How many employers run dependable creches to aid new moms and dads? Or provide babysitters in case both young parents have to attend important meetings? It is little things like these that pile up to crush the spirits of working women.

Also Read: Dilemma: Should Women Embrace Motherhood Early On Or Later In Life?

So, if a mother has to leave her job, sacrifice her career to raise a child, the onus of it lies not with her or the baby, it lies with society. No woman should have to choose between family and profession. She shouldn’t have to postpone motherhood or forgo it completely because of lack of support and an environment that clearly discourages her from balancing both. The society can make it easier for mothers to keep working, but does it want to?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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