About 6 years a go I wrote my thoughts on working mother struggle to balance motherhood and work. I wrote it when I just had my second daughter. I am sure that many working mothers in Indonesia face the same problem. In Indonesia, women are allowed 3 months maternity leave (there are no official paternity leave). So, come the third months we must make a tough decision on how to take care of our baby when we go back to work. Some are lucky enough to have their family, usually the grannies to help look after the baby. But, for those who live far from their parents like me must seek other help such as hiring a baby sitter or a maid. That was the choice that I made. But, I have a friend who prefer to put their baby in a day care. Each method has its pluses and minuses, and I would not go into details about them, because either way it is a difficult choice.
Today, I read an article about a member of parliament in Kumamoto, Japan that is barred from bringing her 7 months old baby to the parliament. So, it does not just a challenge in emerging economy like Indonesia. It is a universal challenge for working mother all over the world.
I can really relate with Ms. Yuka Okata struggle. There were times when I have to bring my girls to my workplace because of so many reasons. But, I was lucky that my colleagues and workplace is quite understanding. Nowadays, two of my friends often bring their babies to campus. But, in other situation where the workplace does not allow for this option, then juggling between work and motherhood can be a constant struggle for the mother, baby and the family. This will also affect the employer.
Other countries offered better solutions. If you read on to the story from the Telegraph, member of Senator Larissa Waters in Australia is allowed to bring her baby and even breastfed her baby girl inside the Chamber. During my IVLP trip to America, I got a chance to speak to a female senior faculty at MIT. She said that in the US there has been a move in the university to allow female faculty member to take longer maternity leave. At the same time, female lecturers are given longer period to obtain their tenure to allow them to focus on raising a family. Swedia, is at the front of this issue because parents are allowed 480 days paid parental leave and 60 days are reserved for the father.
Other solution that would also helpful is to provide more childcare units. In Indonesia, it is still very scarce.
I just hope that working mother are not left alone making the hard choice to care for the child or continue working.
Until that time comes, let us working mother encourage each other and stay strong!