Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Working vs non-working parents

Yesterday I happened to watch on TV an all-woman discussion programme. I missed the initial part, but the topic seemed to be "Difficulties of Bringing up Children".
I heard one woman say: "When mothers work, the children are deprived of love. Often the father is always in the office. Imagine if the mother is also always in her office! The role the mother plays for her child is unique and she fails in that if she works. Children are definitely at a disadvantage when their mothers work...."
There was near unanimity among the 15 or so women in the group, since there was no counterargument; except from one.
This is what she said: "Even if both parents work, they can definitely find time to be with their children. Cases of fathers almost always missing from home because of work are exceptions rather than the rule. In most cases working parents are able to make some arrangement by which children are looked after well...
"... What is important is not the amount of time but the quality of time that is spent with kids. If children of working parents are cared for in the proper manner, then such kids, turn out to be far more independent, mature, and better developed in an all-round sense, than kids who are constantly propped up by parents, especially by their mothers."
This lady also countered the earlier speaker saying the role of not just the mother is unique, but that of the father too is unique. A perpetually missing father is as bad as a perpetually missing mother, she said. A very crucial point often underestimated, well stated by that woman.
Sadly the importance of what this lady said was completely lost in a very poorly compered programme, and among the majority of women who didn't seem to have a full understanding of what parenting is all about.
Let me add a couple of points. It's often considered that money is the one criterion which drives mothers in India to work. A rich man's wife would rather prefer to be at home. It could be true. But to say that, is totally unfair and insulting. Not just mothers, even fathers shouldn't just be working for money. There's a world which no amount of money can buy.
Leave aside money. Mothers work also to keep their intellect alive and occupied. A working woman is often much better acquainted with the ways of the world than a mother who doesn't know what it means to commute to office and back, and work under a Boss.
Also, working parents, who fruitfully manage their time and resources are a source of inspiration for their children.
A good set of parents are able to mutually come to an understanding on how they can divide their working and home hours among themselves and with their children. This is not some sort of Utopian situation; but I know a parents who are able to strike this magic balance quite well. And, it shows in them and their children.


  1. I was talking the other day with a couple of women in my office. These girls were housewives earlier. They recounted the humiliation of having to ask their grudging husbands for money for their ever need. This drove them to leave the home and hearth to work. In fact many working moms I met in my previous office had the same tale to tell. Of husbands who treat them shabbily because they are dependent on him. All these girls were adamant after being housewives that they would not sit at home and go through that humiliation again. This side of the argument surprised me as it is never discussed at any talk shows. All working moms work because they do not want to be dependent on anyone and contribute to the family income.

  2. We always find the time to do what we consider important . What is required is to achieve a balance between worklife and family time. I agree that by the time they are 5 or 6, children need only quality time rather than quantity.
    It would be wonderful if people did not have to work for money - but the sad reality is most people do and more so in the poorer countries.

  3. Yesterday i heard this about one of my collegues "Why does she work for a couple of thousands when her husband earns lakhs of rs,she can take care of her kids isnt it"
    strange that we still have people who have such notions that working is always for money. Its an individuals choice and if they do they adjust everything in life so as to accomodate everything without doing injustice to their family and kids.
    Sometimes it can be a necessary also,what about single mothers? i missed my mom as a kid,but we accpeted that it is needed,Today when i see mom working i know its not for money anymore,its not for our existence,but its for herself and she was throughout been a wonderful friend and took time off for us when we needed us.For which she made sacrifices with her personal choices.
    well,Its always not what we want to see,sometimes its something which we might not know abt:)

  4. I have no idea what parenting is all about, all I know is that it is hard and any mistake may lead to alienation or estrangement. With a profession in ecology, parenting is a daunting thought to me.

    But I do hope that when my time comes, I will be able to strike the balance.

  5. Like marriage and divorce, one cannot generalize any of these. There are some kids who need a lot of time from their parents and there are some who are independent from an early age and are willing to let go of their parents :)-

    In my family all the siblings reacted differently to my mother being a working woman. One was suffering, one was angry and the other let go of her and was not impacted in anyway .

    I am somehow unable to differentiate between quality and quantity in terms of time with kids, since anytime with them is worth it. Even if the kids are playing on the streets and parents are watching TV at home, there is a bonding that happens in those moments.

  6. Having a career is not just about making money, its also about having an identity of your own in this world independent of the identities of your husband/father/son!