The dilemma of working mothers - whether to quit the job?


DEAR working mothers,

Let's chat.

As young girls, we grow up learning to make seemingly tough' decisions. Pink or purple? Brad or Keanu? Halter or tube? But we soon realise after deciding on what colour, fashion, or man is right for us, there are tougher questions that follow! And it's not so much about what's right for us anymore than it is for the ones we love. As quickly as we enter the happily ever-after' chapter, the next phase in life springs up on us as a bundle of joy with more decisions! The main one being: Career or kids?

The choice

The straightforward question is “Do I quit my job to stay home and care for my children?” Often, this question boils down to whether the family can manage on a single income.

But allow me to take this Ladder vs Cot question up a notch. Most women I know are asking this question instead:

“Do I take a step back in my career goals and progression to focus more on my family?”

When asked in this manner, we scale down the financial impact of this choice and focus more on the emotional and personal impact it has on the mother, children and husband.

For the ladies, this may mean turning down a larger role that demands more of you in time and effort, or taking on a new (and sometimes less desirable/exciting) job that religiously finishes by 5.30pm or even leaving full-time employment (and its employee benefits) and taking on 3 days work week as a contract staff. For the driven ladies, it can mean not taking on that extra exciting project your boss wanted you to be part of.

In considering this, some may wonder if your education is all a waste of money and the years you have worked hard to get to where you are all thrown out the window especially so if you have a promising career progression ahead. Some may wonder if you are being a not-good enough mother if you choose to continue climbing the corporate ladder.

Looking at the other side of the coin, it means choosing to have more time at home, to have more flexible hours, and perhaps the option of not needing to leave your child(ren) with a baby sitter, maid or daycare the entire week.

With many factors to consider, it is fair to say that our decisions commonly fall into one of these categories.

1) Full time stay home mothers (some with leisurely income from their hobbies)

2) Small home-based businessentrepreneurial mothers

3) Home-based employed mothers

4) Working mother with fixed 8 hours work day

5) Corporate mother who works more than 8 hours (in office & perhaps home)

Whichever category we fall into, most mothers I have met havestrong desires to be a present mother to their children.Almost every working mother want to be able to balance climbing the career ladder and spending quality time with her children.

Though most of us wished the housework will automatically be taken care off! And the act of balancing is truly a challenging one that we learn in the journey of motherhood.

The shift

As opportunity for education extends to more people, women's role shifted from housewives to working professionals. Over the decades we have seen how the majority of women moved from being purely home-based, to taking on clerical work, to being professionals in the rat race. And at all levels, we have seen women being very successful in what they do in the corporate arena.

As the ladies climbed the corporate ladder, the engagement of maids and baby sitters began to rise too. Children are being raised by caretakers while parents work to make living. Some children had good experience, while others did not. We have all heard stories of abuse, careless childcare, and neglect that affected the children for years.

Today, we are seeing another shift. More mothers, regardless of their position and pay, are making more effort to be a present mom. Some opt to quit their job, while others opted to take on a more flexible work arrangement (FWA).

In Malaysia, although the demand is rising for FWA, the employers are not as quickly responding to this. Some companies like PwC, IBM and Leaderonomics have recognised the need for a present mother in families and have taken steps to be a more family-friendly company with their work policies. Mothers in these companies can opt to work two-three days a week from office and the remaining days from home.

More excitingly, the compensation and benefits for these working mothers on this arrangement is not reduced and as long as they continue to deliver on KPIs, there can see continued career growth.

Corporate Malaysia for mothers

Although we have a handful of companies who have led the way, so much more can be done here in our country. Mothers in Malaysia can start making this change in Corporate Malaysia by putting in requests and recommendations for office childcare, breastfeeding rooms, work from home policies, flexible work hours, shorter work week (while remaining a full-time staff), phased return from maternity leave, special arrangement during school holidays and so much more.

I believe we have a caring bunch of employers in Malaysia who may agree with some of your suggestions but just need enough nudge from a substantial group of mothers to find ways to make their company a family-friendly company.

So fellow working mothers, let's gather up our motherly gusto and help our employers see the need and importance of a family-friendly company.

This week, we have a new face in our Talking HR team. Elisa Dass,who hashad a varied career in various HR functions and is an expert in people assessment,joins the panel of experts. As a mother and a business leader, she brings her perspective on how she successfully balances her continued career acceleration with ensuring her family gets the best of her. We welcome Elisa to our Talking HR team and we say farewell and thanks to Roshan DEAR working mothers, Thiran, who bows out owing to other mounting commitments.

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