Advocating Flexible Work Hours For Career Mums

Flexible work hours may be the answer for better work-life balance.
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Working mothers often have to find a delicate balance juggling family and career. Photo by PHDuet/Freepik.com

When it comes to gender equality at the workplace, working mothers often have a more challenging time compared to their male colleagues. A viral video that had made its rounds on social media illustrated how things might have turned out if men breastfed instead of women. Created by a breast-pump manufacturer, the video shows a man going back to work and experiencing the same breastfeeding issues that most working mothers face when returning to work after maternity leave.

The difference, however, is that the man in the video enjoys total support from his male boss and colleagues, and even enjoys the use of the “Lactation Lounge”, where fathers watch football on TV, play poker as a form of relaxation while pumping, and are served lactation cookies and lactation steaks to keep the happy hormones up! They also compare their respective pumps and analyse the technology that powers each one. The end of the video shows the current reality, though: A woman is pumping in solitary in the office store room when her male colleague barges in looking for a printer toner for the copier machine, and lamenting how loud the breast pump is before exiting the space.

Double Standards

The video may be satirical, but it offers an unsubstantiated but popular opinion that whatever situation they face, men generally enjoy better support and conditions at work. In contrast, a woman has to swim upstream to adapt to office conditions while trying to be as non-disruptive as possible. She is often made to feel guilty for being “selfish”, since she takes more frequent “breaks” (for pumping milk), will not be able to work as late and is no longer perceived as a team player, due to the assumption that the baby must take priority over work. The woman who just had a baby is generally assumed to be less productive as well. To make up for this perceived decline in productivity, women often come to work earlier and even forego lunch breaks. Unfortunateiy, it is not her productivity but her morale that suffers.

In time, many choose to leave the workforce as they are not able to achieve a reasonable level of work-family balance. Companies are also affected as they lose high-value capable employees and end up having a high turnover rate.

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