There are no easy answers to question of working mothers.
When her 10 year old son started school, 39 year old Phelene Spenser was working full time. But keeping a balance between working hours, doing school runs and then dropping her son to after school clubs became too much and she started to realize that for the pay she was getting there was hardly a day of rest for her. In weekends she tried to finish her household chores and did not have enough time to spend with her son and husband. Complaints started to arrive from school that her son was falling asleep during lessons. Philene’s husband thought she was too preoccupied with her own life and they were constantly rowing. Three years ago she decided to quit her job, ‘I grasped the reality that my family is suffering because I am not there. It is good to earn some money but at the end of the day of my child is unhappy and my relationship with my husband is strained I wonder if it is worth it.’ Now she feels she can spend more time with her son and husband and there is routine in the house which involves everyone. Like Philene, 28 year old Sarah Simon is a stay-at-home-mum and has two daughters under the age of six. She feels comfortable about her status and says, ‘I grew up only wanting to be a mother one day. I am good in crafts and DIY and many other things, but I will not pursue any of my skills to earn money. I am happy with what I am doing and that is to be at home and look after my family.’
Though highly desirable these days for women to be seen as juggling work and family duties, it is not necessary an essential choice. Some may simply want to put their families first, as giving quality time to achieving a secure and stable home environment is what they want to do. However by offering childcare only to couples where both partners earn the government is sending across the wrong message. It seems that women who prefer to stay at home are marginalized for their contribution and maybe forced to look for options to include the cost of after school care if they have to work apart from looking after the families.
It is hardly encouraging in upholding ideals of family values when women cannot make their own choices on how to raise families. If the government is serious about being supportive of family values, then women need to be made to feel they are contributing by looking after their children to the best of their abilities.
Salima Yakoob tweets as @mssolidarity
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