“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!”