“A part of me is broken every time I walk out of the house to go to work. The endless goodbye kisses from my little ones bring tears to my eyes, the guilt and fear of what might happen to them while I’m away takes over me but I can only hope for the best and pray for them to be safe,”says Annet Kamugisha, a mother of a three-year- old toddler and six-month-old baby.
As a mother and the office administrator of an architectural company, Kamugisha has little time for her family.
Kamugisha is just one of the many women who face the dilemma of having to work and dejectedly leave their children behind.They miss out on the joy of motherhood that housewives are more familiar with, and the chance to give their best as parents to the children they brought into the world.
“I work because my family needs me to, my husband’s income cannot meet all the expenses we have, that’s why after our second child I went back to work. But leaving my babies behind is one of the toughest decisions I have ever made, it left a hole in my heart that’s temporarily filled when I get back home in the evening,” Kamugisha says.
For decades, working mothers have struggled with balancing work and family, many times, they strive to have a rewarding career and at the same time have a fulfilling life at home but as the saying goes; one can’t serve two masters at ago.
The commotion of organising meal times, doing the school run and attending to domestic chores amidst getting ready for work, occupies most days of a working mother.
An article by journalist Joan Thatiah in The Daily Nation states that guilt is a daily struggle for the working mother, her children may be her main motivation at work but a working mother still beats herself up for the time she misses out on with her children, based on findings by researchers from Harvard Business School this year.
According to a similar research on the tasks of mothers in 2013 by Radhika Sanghani, a journalist for The Telegraph, eight in ten moms admitted to finding it hard to remember everything they need to get done each day.
More than 70 per cent of mothers admitted to doing child-related tasks single-handedly which led to arguments with their partners because they felt they were relied on too heavily to remember everything for all the other people.
Hairah Kaye who works in the finance department of N&S Limited says that she started leaving her baby behind at only five months, and the doubt of whether she was doing the right thing was concealed with the fact that she was the only person available to cater for her child as her husband had neglected the family.
“Sometimes people judge us for leaving our children behind with nannies but for some of us, working is not a choice but instead the only means of survival. Besides, times have changed and money from one spouse cannot be enough for family expenses, especially if one has more than one child,” Kaye says.
She adds that it’s not easy waking up in the wee hours of the morning to feed the baby and then wake up early morning for work, prepare her food for the day, come back late in the evening exhausted,and cater for all that is waiting.This makes it hard for one to find time to rest.
However, according to Harti Munah, an assistant at a city law firm, women too need to be reasonable and meet their employers halfway.
“Sometimes women take advantage of the fact that they have kids and expect everyone to adjust, even though it means inconveniencing others. A lady I work with seems to always have sick kids. She is away more times than I can count; and in the end, I am the one who has to fill in for her when I have already done what is required of me. Call me insensitive, but I find that unfair,” Munah says.
What employers say
Paul Bitariho is a business man in Kigali; he says that working mothers face difficulties as they try to fit in the corporate world of work.
He says, “Mothers have a lot to handle when it comes to caring for children and the family at large.If you add to this, it hardens the situation and makes it impossible to satisfy both parties.”
Being a working mother affects their level of competence as compared to their male counterparts, Bitariho reckons. Working mothers are always in need of some days off, either sick leave or if the child is sick, and this in one way or another affects their performance.
“Working mothers sometimes fail to manage balancing time between their families and their work, for employers to work with them, one needs a high level of flexibility,” Bitariho adds.
What men say
Martin Kayonga is a married man whose wife chose to be a career woman.He says he is not against his wife working but he feels that the children lack parental attention from both parents which in the end affects their upbringing.
“I am not against women working but I think if the man brings in enough money for the family, the woman should stay at home as this will help in the proper upbringing of the children,” Kayonga says.
He adds that even though times have changed and a woman is indeed capable of doing what a man does, some things cannot change as children are always better off in the presence of a mother; same applies to the well-being of the family as a whole.
Simon Kalisa is of the view that with today’s changing world; things have totally transformed, especially those concerning money matters.
He says, “The world has changed; women no longer have to stay at home as they are now capable of joining the corporate world even though they are bound to face obstacles.
“I know it’s hard for the mother to do both jobs justice but a woman is naturally capable of multi-tasking. She can fail to give a hundred percent of her efforts but she can do her best to provide bread and at the same time provide parental care for her family,”Kalisa says.
Having to leave a child behind to go to work is hard and will stir feelings of guilt.But every mother knows what is best for her family and the debate of whether “to leave the kids behind or not” is one that can’t be tackled; especially of you consider the rise of women in the workforce.
6 steps for working moms to have it all
Wake up, make breakfast, drop the children off at school, go to work, maybe get a wild card call from the principal of the school to pick up a sick child, call a babysitter to watch the child, go back to work, leave work, make dinner with whatever is found in the kitchen, put the children in bed with a hope that they go to sleep, re-engage with work for the “second shift”, successfully collapse into bed and repeat.
Where does a facial, your favorite cup of coffee, or shopping fit into that kind of schedule? Does “me” time exist? Where is the free time to think outside of the box and expand your business?
Several successful women were polled to help find the tips and tricks they used to survive a full time job, raise their children, and still look (and feel) fabulous in the process.
1. Include your children in the business whenever you get the chance. Yes, it could be crazy. But there is also a mutual benefit. They can see you in action, learn something, and you are able to see your children grow with your input.
2. Get outside. In an age of video games, iPads, and television, nothing can change a family dynamic like being outside. Go to the park, or walk together after dinner—there are many options for encouraging play outdoors. It not only benefits your children, but it benefits you as well.
3. Have a separate office in your home. Somewhere that allows you to get away, and work without missing out on time with your children.
4. Rest on Sunday. Most people try to schedule their Sundays with fun activities for the family, but it really benefits everyone to have a day of rest.
5. Take the time to do your makeup. It is true that you can still get your points across without make up, but it is also true that when you look good, you feel good. Take that time to give yourself an extra boost of confidence while looking your best.
6. Plan outfits several weeks in advance. Whenever you get an hour free to yourself, play in your closet! Let’s face it; most women lack the ability to speedily pair together great outfits in the morning. Especially while breakfast is cooking and children are running. Taking the time to put several outfits together is a mindless way to find “me” time. After you are finished, you may have 20 new outfits you had never thought of before.
Every working mother has to follow a different path to make it work, but hearing others’ recommendations can only help to make a difference and learn tips the easy way instead of the hard.
I say: How can mothers balance work and family?
Mary Murerwa, communications officer
I believe it’s all about time management; if you use your time effectively, balancing both motherhood and career wouldn’t be a problem at all. If it is time for work, give it your best and deliver impressively as we have seen with different women who juggle both. On the other hand if it is time for family; let them feel your presence, attend to their needs in the time available after work and during the weekend.
Jacqueline Mukacyimayire, entrepreneur
Succeeding in managing both motherhood and career requires understanding and teamwork at home. Some jobs are demanding which leaves you with little time to attend to your family, and calls for your partner’s intervention. It is good to go through your programme with your husband so that in the event that you have a tight work schedule, he is there for the children, and that’s what I call teamwork. Personal commitment is also essential.
Francoise Mukansanga, entrepreneur
It has never been easy to balance both motherhood and work without leaving room for complaints and ineffectiveness. However, hope is not lost completely; if you’re lucky to have an understanding employer, you can negotiate the chances of going home early to look after the children and also get a few extra hours to do some of the work at home. This makes it a win-win for both parties.
Emeline Zawadi, vendor- Gahanga Modern Market
It is a challenge to get enough time for your family and attend to their needs the way they want you to and also do your work without your productivity being questioned. So, employers need to be understanding and ease the work of mothers so that they can get enough time for their families. For instance, they can let them go home early or even take some assignments home. However, it requires commitment, hard work and passion to convince an employer that you deserve that favour.
Compiled by Dennis Agaba