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Musings of a new, working mother

Guilt and motherhood go hand-in-hand for me

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I returned to work after 45 days of maternity leave, back still aching, mind, tired from not having slept the night before. I loved my work, and I was happy to be back, but a part of me longed to return to my newborn. Not for the bond or love, but because of a constantly distracting thought. She needs me.

Many say that mothers have this God-given gift, only they know why their baby is crying. This was not true for me, I could not always figure out the reason but what I did figure out was sometimes all it took to hush her, was for me to hold her. But I wasn’t there.

The last one and a half years have been a battle with no sleep and no rest, and this is what I think most working mothers in the UAE go through. During a recent family get together, I inadvertently became a part of a group discussion about how guilt goes hand in hand with motherhood if you decide to be a working mum in the UAE.

Most of us come to the UAE to earn, to meet our career goals or to fulfill a dream. For working women who decide to be mothers, this is like a juggling game. I am not saying stay-at-home mums are any less but both are two different ball games. It is not just the physical tiredness; it is the mental exhaustion that differs.

Firstly, the work timings – most of us have nine to ten hours of work, some work longer because our jobs require it. Many studies have shown that long work hours mean less productivity at work places. A research paper by the International Labour Prganisation(ILO) states: “Alertness and resourcefulness may be compromised for workers even before hours become ‘overtime’ or ‘excessively’ long, particularly for those with responsibilities outside the workplace, such as schooling or caregiving.” It is extremely difficult to wake up in the morning, put your best face and clothes on and step outside to conquer the world if you have had just two hours of intermittent sleep because the baby kept waking up.

Secondly, the guilt – it is a constant feeling. A friend asked me recently: “If you feel so bad about leaving your baby home with the nanny, why don’t you stop working?” That was never an option for me. Why would I give up a perfectly great job? Moreover, we need the income to sustain a relatively comfortable life and meet our daily expenses. So then stop complaining, you say? I can’t, new mums should be allowed longer maternity leaves, and mothers of toddlers should be allowed either flexible times or shorter work hours.

- The reader is a customer relations manager based in Dubai