By Tumusiime Deo
As we celebrate the International Women’s Day today, majority of the people will be keen to take stock of the myriad of achievements women have registered since they “left the kitchen”.
Today, many a modern woman would be deeply offended at the mention of returning to the ‘kitchen’, for gone days, women (including my own mother, RIP) honestly suffered. In fact, some women nowadays have practically abdicated from their original smoky duties, handing over to ‘lesser women’ in the name of housemaids. Resultantly, children have been part of the hand over items, and are paying the price.
In the Holy Bible, a when Martha lost her brother Lazarus, she said unto Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my child would not have died”. The media nowadays is awash with stories of innocent children killed at the hands of strangers; others tortured; others sacrificed; others abducted, while both their parents are away to work.
The children’s little souls there in heaven, must be silently saying, “Mum, (or Dad) if you had been around, all this would not have happened to me.” Perhaps the mum will respond, “Son, you surely know how much I loved you. I was away to fend for your survival.” Then the child may softly say, “Mum, thank you so much; but all I needed was you.”
Sarah is my friend. She works at a Supermarket in Bunga. She’s required to report to work at 7.30am and leave at 11.00pm when the Supermarket closes. Sarah recently got pregnant and brought to life a bouncing baby boy.
Three weeks later, I found Sarah back to her business in the supermarket. She told me her boss would not let her stay away more than one month, lest she loses her job! Sara’s baby started bottle feeding at such a tender age despite his mother having enough breast milk. Listening to this story, I almost dropped a tear and wished I could foot Sarah’s monthly salary so she returns back home to her child.
Julie is also my friend. She was working until she gave birth to her 2nd son Joshua. She’s been at home for the past 6 months. Since Julie has no housemaid, she has no choice but to stay at home with the baby. Julie tells me she’s fed up of home, and cannot wait for the slightest opportunity to get back to working ways.
Maria’s experience is a completely different dimension. After her three-months maternity leave, she returned to work and left her little son with the housemaid.
A month later, she discovers that the maid was actually breastfeeding the baby in the mother’s absence! Maria is so worried because she suspects the maid could even be sick! It’s when you return home in the evening and the little baby starts crying for no reason that you begin to imagine what a terrible day it must have been for him/her.
Before you beat spank the child for being a crying baby, take time to sympathize, because if children could speak much earlier in life, then we’d be bamboozled at how much is kept on their tender minds.
Aware of all these encumbrances, some women have found a few solutions, among them, enrolling these little angels in daycare centres; others that are self-employed carry their children with them to their businesses; and many others simply dispatch the children to their Grandmothers.
I also hear that Members of Parliament are passing a budget to start a care centre at the August House for Mps’ children. All these improvisations are not without fault, and very few employers will even allow the mothers time to return home and breastfeed.
Sometimes I look at hens soon after they have hatched their chicks. The hens guard the chicks so jealously that they will put up a huge fight should anyone attempt to touch on them.
Usually there are kites hovering all over the place, and the moment mother hen loses concentration, one chick is gone. Sometimes the chicks reduce from say 10 to 4, even under the mother’s watchful eye. How worse would it be if mother hen weren’t even around altogether?
I know that while many women are celebrating their empowerment with the right hand, they are silently recruiting fellow women as housemaids with the left and ill-treating them. Most maids have no rights, and in some homes they don’t even sit at table with the rest of the family, and they must shower from elsewhere because they will make the shower room dirty (even if it’s they who clean it).
Maids are also not supposed to have [feelings for] boyfriends because these boys could come and steal from their bosses! Yet, these are the very individuals expected to replace the mother’s love and care for the children while the mothers are away to work! Nothing can ever be ample substitution for a mother’s love-absolutely nothing.
Well, up to this point, I would like us to put emotions and sentiments aside and return to the drawing board. Since Doctors say that children should ideally breastfeed for the first six months, we could explore ways to realize this by either extending maternity leave or create an enabling environment for breastfeeding mothers to come to work with their children.
After six months, then we can make concessions regarding curdling and the rest of motherly expectations as our jobs may dictate.
There’s one other twist though; the younger mothers nowadays find it out of fashion baby sit for so long. Within weeks after giving birth, they want to be quickly back in shape and rocking yet again! While at the beach in Durban, I met a young girl dressed in her swim suit and carrying her five-month-old baby as if a doll just freshly bought from a supermarket! Ha, well I honestly think that six uninterrupted months dedicated to a newly born baby is not too much to ask because it could determine so much about its future.
The above suggestion may sound impossible as some employers would then rather not employ child bearing women. However, way to go around it could be to increase paternity leave to 3 months so that when the mother is leaving home, the father would be on hand to take over.
One may ask; will the father be able to breastfeed? No, at least he’ll provide the baby some natural warmth on his chest and certainly will not let the ‘kites’ devour his child, and will not feed the baby on spoilt milk! I also think that in addition to the statutory three-month maternity leave, employees should work out a compensatory plan with their bosses to allow more time; including undertaking some assignments online from home.
I congratulate all women on this year’s Women’s Day celebrations, and I pray to God to endow us all with the spirit of discernment in order to devise solutions that will ensure the proper upbringing of our children.
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