At the best of times, motherhood is an energy-sapping, full time job which engages the physical, mental and psychological faculties of women on a daily basis. The mother who also has to earn a living, as an economic necessity to support her children and family, is actually going the extra mile, whether this exercise is done at home (or far from home) or at a place of engagement outside the homestead.
More often than not, the economic imperative which throws up the wage-earning mom or career woman, can also be a recipe for a continuum of negative outcomes. These range from stress in the relationship between the working mother and her spouse, to outright destabilization of the family equilibrium, as well as some health problems.
Among all the usual suspects, the factor most responsible for these crises is the opportunity cost of giving insufficient attention to the home front because of the demands of a job or career. For whether the working mom’s undertaking is in the corporate world or the informal sector, as long as it makes strenuous demands on the mom’s energy, time, health and focus, it takes a toll on her responsibilities to her immediate family.
In this era of high-flying career-moms and ‘Kept Men’, the challenge to strike the right balance between the demands of the job and breadline and her marital and maternal obligations are often as challenging and precarious as tightrope-walking.
‘Working Moms’ spoke to a number of working moms and career women on this juggling act. Their stories, make compelling, but refreshing reading…..
“I have 4 children, all boys. The fact that they can look up to me and learn from my experiences motivates me to work”.
AMAKA VICTOR NWOSISI works with one of the leading telecoms companies in sub-Saharan Africa. She is also a mother of four children. She told WM that the fact that her four sons can look up to her and learn from her experiences is enough motivation for her to work. Please read on:
“I have 4 children, all boys. The fact that they can look up to me and learn from my experiences motivates me to work. The major challenge I face is that I can’t be there with them as much as I should. In addition, having all boys, another challenge is getting a good nanny to cope with them when I’m not there.
Thankfully, being a mother hasn’t affected my career prospects. I believe everything happens at its own time. It has nothing to do with being a mother or not. If you are really good on the job, trust me, motherhood won’t be a hindrance.
I make up for lost time at any given opportunity. I stay with them at birthday parties, have them run all over me at weekends, have weekend getaways with the family and I definitely spend every vacation with them.
Judging from my own workplace, I’d rate the nursing mother policy a 10/10. Nursing mothers get their full 4 months maternity leave and thereafter they close really early for another couple of months.”
“I work to contribute my quota to the family expenses”
LAURA PESTAROZZI ASUZU is an accountancy graduate of the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus.
Gregor, her husband of fifteen years runs an exclusive men’s designer-clothing outfit at Ikeja Lagos, while Laura works in a bank at Ilupeju also in Lagos Mainland. The couple are blessed with two teenage children, Kamsicho, female, 15, and Karl, male, 12.
Before her present bank job, Laura has worked in three other high profile corporate outfits in Lagos. The accountant, who says she started working on mutual agreement with her husband after her children had been fully weaned, told working moms that she is prepared to pursue a career now that she will no longer have children.
Working Moms spoke with Laura at her Lagos residence. Her experience and responses highlight the challenges faced by corporate moms in a fast expanding metropolis like Lagos. We bring you the excerpts:
“Essentially, I work to contribute my quota to the family expenses. I have a hardworking husband, but then I am a professional and I am young and healthy, so why not? Especially since my husband encourages me to work.
The greatest challenge is time management, plus the issue of not letting either my work or my family obligations suffer. In a financial institution, your time may not be entirely your own, although, in my own case, my employers do respect my needs”.
On the adverse effects of a career she says, “I wouldn’t say being a mother has affected my career prospects adversely, really, except in an indirect way by affecting the type of work or employment I accept. My work must not be too far away from home and it must not expose me to certain hazards I may not be able to cope with”.
“Presently I’m studying for an MBA, which keeps me out of the home after work for another 2- 3 hours, I have to face the fact that every good thing has a cost. An opportunity cost, if you like. My husband encourages me to improve my credentials and technical capacity, in the interest of the family. My two children are quite intelligent and they understand that mom is building capacity to be able to earn more and give them more. It’s a matter of family understanding. Besides they know that it is just for some time.”
“To make up for all the time My work and education takes me away from them, my husband takes the kids out whenever he can. They go to his health club or some other place the kids love. They know that before my MBA programme, Mom spent a lot of quality time with them and took them out at weekends and all that. I also plan vacations with them. They are happy. Everybody is happy, knowing that mom is actually stretching herself too.”
On the issue of policies and facilities for (nursing) mothers in the workplace, Laura observes, “In Nigeria generally, there are really no facilities or special mother-oriented policies as obtain in advanced economies overseas. (In the UK, mothers can get up to 9 months’ maternity leave and their employers must provide a conducive environment to breastfeed and express breast milk. In Germany, the Government encourages childbearing by offering tax rebates and child support stipends to parents). Here in Nigeria, I believe the companies see such policies as distractions. What some companies do instead is to pay full salaries to mothers on maternity leave. My employer for instance, offers three months’ maternity leave and goes further to permit nursing mothers to close a bit earlier than other employees, after about three months from birth.”
“I do think more could be done by employers though. I think they could start by establishing in-house crèches and even nursery schools attached to the work place, especially those who employ fifty and above staff. They should also pay full salaries to mothers on maternity leave instead of the half pay that is prevalent in most places. Again, chief executives should not discourage women from having children, through some obnoxious policies in some outfits which discriminate against married women and moms.”
To keep fit and keep out stress, Laura makes sure she never gets depressed. “You get depressed when you are unhappy or feel hurt or unappreciated. That has never happened in my case. However, I do a lot of table work at the office and rarely move around which sometimes can cause cramps and other mild complications. Never executive stress though, because I love my job, I’m not over-used, and my home front is always there for me to unwind. I work out and do aerobics every morning before going out… when I remember!”
“My primary motivation to work is for my family.”
CHINELO LINDA IKEME is a mother of 3 lovely children, Daryl 7 and a set of 5 year old twins. She previously worked for Afribank Plc. Chinelo’s primary reason for being a career mom is to support her young family.
“My primary motivation to work is to provide for my family, in addition to and in support of my husband’s efforts. The secondary is to avoid being dependent on anyone for anything. Third is to build a career and become VERY successful in it.
A major challenge for me is sickness. When any of my kids is ill and I can’t get time off work to take them to the hospital for treatment, it is a problem. Otherwise, motherhood has never affected me adversely career-wise.
I make up for lost time by spending my weekends & vacation entirely with my family. For the kids particularly, I allow them sleep in my bed, bathe in my bathroom, eat on my bed, watch tv in my room and even bounce & jump on my bed. As common as these may sound, they are rare treats my kids love because they hardly get the opportunity during the week when we all rush off to work & school every morning.
I think most Nigerian companies are fairly mom friendly. The best you get is your 3 months’ maternity leave. Some offices/bosses permit their new moms close work by 4pm.”
“Do as much preparation the night before….”
NINA ARCHI works in an oil servicing and engineering firm in Lagos. She has a five year old daughter named Diva. Nina works full time as an Architect and she still takes care of her daughter who goes to school. She says that juggling work and family has not been very easy.
“I would say that to a large extent my organization is mother friendly in the sense that I close at 4pm. However, I leave home at 6.30 am and have to get my daughter to school so early. The only area I wish my company could review is that of allowing me time to attend my child’s school activities. It is always an issue taking time off to go to school programmes.”
“My daughter was almost 5 when I returned to work. It was a huge change and I’m now reluctant to alter the routine I set up. I take her to school when I’m going to work and pick her up after work. I feel more comfortable that way because I’m not comfortable leaving her with any house-help, without any family supervision. It has not been difficult because the work is very challenging and I always want to learn new things, but I’m concerned about my daughter’s welfare and the impact on her. For other new moms preparing to return to work, my advice is, just leave everything to God….”
Nina’s time saving tip is, “Do as much preparation the night before so in the morning, you just need to dress up and take off”.