We speak of women’s empowerment and emancipation, but do we care about new mothers who are forced to quit rewarding careers to rear a child? Being at stay-at-home mother does not define womanhood. A modern, professionally qualified woman needs to realise her own career aspirations and reclaim her unique identity as well. And she can only do it when she finds a support system to help her work guilt free. A place where her child is in caring, professional hands, in a safe, healthy environment, away from home.
As per ILO reports, bringing Indian mothers back into the workforce after childbirth has been a major concern. This is primarily due to lack of adequate support systems as more and more urban couples stay away from their parents and hometowns for job requirements. With the number of nuclear families on the rise, the ultimate sacrifice is always of the mother, who is ready to leave her job to rear the child due to lack of proper childcare facilities.
A quality child care service can empower and emancipate a woman. And this is how it works:
For a new mother, it is the guilt of leaving be-hind her child while she is at work, that drives all her decisions. She feels she is committing a monumental mistake by ‘neglecting’ her child. The guilt pangs wors-en when she has no informal support system of parents or in-laws at home and needs to hire a maid to look after the child, thus compromising with the quality of child rearing. A good Childcare Centre can be a home away from home, where children get to spend quality time with other children and professional caregivers, as opposed to being being alone with a maid at home. Take the case of working mother Rookie Shetty, who sends her daughter Tia to one of the KLAY centres. She says: “I do not feel guilty when I am at work, as I realised my daughter’s learning curve is fantastic and being with other children she has become more re-sponsible. She even looks after younger children at her play school. Being the only child, had she been left at home, she would have no work but watched TV. Spending time at the Childcare Centre was a much better option.”
: A new mother is constantly worried. From what a child is eating, to their safety, to illness and injuries – there are so many issues that keep her on her toes. In the absence of experienced elders or caregivers at home, a good Childcare Centre can take care of her worries and help her relax and focus on her work and herself. For mothers like Sonvi Khanna, leav-ing her 4-month-old child with someone was a huge leap of faith. But a visit to the Childcare Centre made her realise he will get more love and care than what she can give back home. “For eight hours a day, I am completely relaxed, as I know my son is being taken care of in a stimulating environment.” Flexible timings and after-school facilities are also a huge help for working mothers.
Often there is a fear among elders that a child reared anywhere other than home is more vulnerable to abuse, can fall ill easily, can meet with accidents and get injured more easily. Many grandparents are thus opposed to sending grandchildren to Childcare facilities and often force their daughter-in-law to quit their jobs. It puts tremendous pressure on the mothers, who are also battling volatile hormones, sleepless nights and emotional upheavals. There are instances where working women had taken skeptical grandparents to Childcare facilities like KLAY and helped them change their minds. The trip and interaction with the educators convinced them that the child would not just be in safe hands, but would surely learn more than they would back home. A good childcare centre can thus change the family dynamics and help the woman to as-sert her wishes.
A good Childcare Centre can even turn a shy child into a confident one. This in turn is a sort of success for a working mother who would otherwise be blamed by the extended family if the child did not learn his or her social skills properly. For Shikha Mittal, mother of five-year-old Arjun, the Child-care Centre was a Godsend. “I had no support system. My son was an extremely shy kid, he used to get scared. Now he is completely transformed. Even my ex-tended family realises that. He walks up even to strangers confidently.” Kinjal Darukhanawala’s daughter Tanya for instance has become more independent and assertive.
Safety is a major concern for mothers these days and many quit jobs because they cannot compromise with the safety of their children, leaving them to drivers and maids. There have been cases where a maid turned out to be a child lifter despite her background being checked. These worries are well taken care of by a professionally managed Child-care Centre that has cild proof interiors, equipment and furniture, well trained caregivers whose backgrounds are constantly checked and kept under strong vigil. Little Veda’s mother, Tahira Nath, is now breathing easy – her daughter is not just turning out to be a great story-teller, but is also growing up in a safe environment that only a home could have provided. “I could not have provided her with the kind of stimulus she gets here,” says the mother.
As per Bloomberg reports, the percentage of Indian women engaged in the workforce is abysmally low. Only 1 in 5 women in India is reportedly in the workforce. Familial responsibilities, child care and odd working hours at workplaces are factors that hold them back from building their careers. Working with a professionally managed, quality Child-care Centre can go a long way towards changing these statistics.
With children out of school, physical distancing as the new norm, and children’s rights under threat, the new world order has “turned back the clock” on years of progress made on children’s well-being. However, it’s not all bad. As a human race, we’ve been built to adapt: we’ve seen a tipping point in technology-enabled education and the promise of a new education policy in our country.