At what price motherhood?

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IT MUST have been a hefty price in the first half of the 20th century, if my now 83-year-old French teacher’s view is anything to go by.  

At that time marriage and children went hand in hand and since she decided not to marry, “I couldn’t bear the thought of dirty socks and underwear” she used to tell us.

She never had children too. 

This ties in with what the erstwhile philosopher George Bernard Shaw who wrote about “old maids” from that era said: “There are many women of
admirable character, strong, capable, independent, who dislike the domestic habits of men; have no natural turn for mothering and coddling them; and find the concession of conjugal rights to any person under any conditions intolerable by their self respect.”

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your outlook, nowadays marriage is not a pre-requisite for child bearing.  

However there is still a high price to pay for the modern woman who decides to raise a family and work at the same time. 

This trend has grown in the last century and is relatively new. 

Society still refers to women as “working mothers” and yet the phrase “working fathers” is unheard of. 

Sadly, making the workplace a better place for women does not appear a priority for most local public and private institutions. 

More can be done in addition to the family fun day. 

Old Mutual (SA) took the lead and built a R25 million day care centre at its Cape Town office complex. 

The centre caters for 350 offspring of the 8 500 strong staff complement and is reputed to be the “largest and most sophisticated” in southern Africa. 

Infants from three months to Grade R are housed in a safe, environmentally friendly complex within walking distance from their parents’ offices.  

Furthermore, there is convenience shopping and a gym, all of which makes the working mother’s (and father’s!) life much easier.

Research has shown that all this reduces absenteeism, which can be physical or mental absenteeism. 

A woman who is worried about her child will be at work physically but her mind will be elsewhere. 

Other benefits of family-friendly policies include improved employee motivation, enhanced job satisfaction and a better company image, which makes it easier to recruit and retain talent.    

The Gender Sensitivity Award (won by Nedbank SA in 2008) was just one of The African Banker Awards, which are hugely popular and held in Washington, United States every year.

However despite further searches I could not find this award in subsequent years — it appears to have fallen off the category list.

This piqued my curiosity and even a phone call to their London office yielded no explanation as to why this award has fallen off the radar screen.

Too few potential nominees maybe? 

So in a bid to attain the elusive work/life balance there are some steps corporates can take which will have minimal impact on their budgets. 

The formation of women’s forums within the company is one. 

This is a growing trend which some South African companies are adopting.

Mazars, a large audit firm has one and it recently held a breakfast meeting which raised money for a women’s shelter. 

A workplace forum enables women to present their issues as a collective and to initiate activities that are morale boosting and in line with corporate objectives. 

A women’s forum can also provide the impetus for management to introduce new policies.     

As we approach Mother’s Day this Sunday, the media is awash with images of smiling mothers hugging their kids with flowers all round.  

I suppose like other similar days, it has fallen prey to commercialisation and as every mother knows, the real life situation is something else altogether.  

I can already see how Sunday morning will play out in my household. 

“But she is not my mother,” my spouse will declare to the kids as he beats a path to the door, golf clubs in hand.

So yes, Sunday is Mother’s Day but, I suggest that in future it be made a weekday holiday, so that the “working mother” can have a real rest.

afrikarizma@gmail.com

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