Jul 7, 2015

Think beyond the first 6 months

It's really heartening to see technology companies taking the steps to support working mothers by extending the maternity leave upto 6 months. Kudos to Flipkart for thinking beyond these 6 months by supporting flexible working hours and supporting a year off without salary.

But there's also much more that can be done to enable mothers to return to workplace with a confident, happy and motivated mindset. Especially for mothers who do not have a family support system in place.

What happens to the mothers(and their infants) after 6 months? They would need to look for safe and secure day care options. Multiple factors have to be considered in order to narrow down this decision - the location, the care-takers, security, hygiene, food, number of children, child:care-taker ratio, timings etc.

It's extremely challenging to find a daycare that matches all the criteria that works best for the parents. Given the traffic situation, mothers have to spend an extra hour or two in managing commute. Considering these issues, most mothers choose to take a career break atleast for the first two years (if the financial situation at home is manageable).

If the mother chooses to raise the child at home by herself or with the help of a nanny, then it is clearly 4-5 years before the child can become a little independent. As the child starts play-school around the age of two, mothers can get anywhere between 4-6 hours for themselves, which they would love to invest in building their career.

Sadly, there are very few opportunities that can leverage these 4-6 hours of mothers effectively. Many mothers are fine if the career progression is slow during these formative years of their kids. They would like to stay in touch with their working domain/role/technology and continue to build their expertise in the pace that works for them and their family. Committing to a full-time job with typical work hours and a long commute is difficult and stressful at this stage.

I would love to see organizations think of ways so they can help mothers in dealing with these issues post maternity leave. Be it an in-campus daycare facility, flexible working hours, supporting work-from-home opportunities, moving away from in-presence to tele-presence location-independent working models, part-time consulting projects, outcome-focused(than time-focused) projects etc. I'm seriously hoping that initiatives like Sheroes and Jobsforher can bring a change in the way we think about work and enable mothers to find opportunities that work well for them.

P.S. I took a break for 2 years and then managed to find such flexible opportunities in the startup space. I realize that this is an exception and not the norm, as I hear from other mothers who had earlier worked in software development/QA/services/customer support domains.

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