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Motherhood and career pursuit: how can women combine?

By Rachel Sarpong

 

Many women around the world have been successful in their career despite the demanding job of being a mother as well. Responsibilities of climbing the career development ladder in any career involve attending executive meetings, conferences and courses which involve a lot of travelling.

 

On the other hand, the responsibilities of motherhood entail a lot- washing of baby bottles, changing diapers, attending Parent-Teacher Association meetings, supervising wards’ assignments, sending and picking children to and from school and taking children for check-ups, among others.

 

The nine months’ pregnancy that women go through has health related challenges which could cause women to miss business opportunities and result in loss of work time. All these challenges affect women’s career advancement in their lifetime. Thus, the top positions are oftentimes dominated by men.

 

Family planning is a method of controlling the number of children one would want to have and the intervals between their births. It also includes the age at which one wishes to give birth. Family planning methods may involve the use of contraceptives, sex education and voluntary sterilization. Due to the stress and sacrifices women have to go through during pregnancy and the subsequent responsibilities of motherhood, there is the need for career women to plan the birth of her children.

 

No employer would want to give a woman three maternity leaves in five years and so a woman may face a lay-off when something like that happens. Proper planning and consideration, therefore, need to be taken by career women only if they want to keep their jobs.

 

Many family planning arrangements available from which to choose. These range from contraceptives to pills. The Ministry of Health has also introduced a family planning policy that helps women to have access to family planning at One Ghana Cedi at any government hospital in the country to enable as many women as possible to get access to family planning.


Alternatively, women can venture into entrepreneurship and choose motherhood as a priority. No feeling is wonderful than having one’s own business and to have full control over the day to day running of the business. Women who would want to adequately balance the advancement of their career and the joy of motherhood should enter into entrepreneurship in order to balance these two responsibilities. In that regard, they can have ample maternity leaves to take care of themselves and their children and can also take their newly-born babies to work without any caution or warning from employers and colleagues.


The Ghana’s labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) allows women to have 12 weeks of maternity leave without losing their position in the company. During this period, the woman’s salary is still paid. In situations where there will be no pay for maternity leave; women should save towards their leave so that they can take good care of themselves though it can affect a woman’s pension benefit.


A study conducted by the Ghana Health Servicein Waindicated that about 81% of nursing mothers enjoy the compulsory three (3) months maternity leave. After the three months, 69% of nursing mothers who go beyond this do not receive any support from employers.


Leaving one’s three month old baby at home to attend work can be very worrying to mothers. It may have health implications on the baby. The GHS study conducted in Wa also indicated that, “about 94% of mothers are aware that infants are healthier on only breast milk for the first 6 months than they do on other milks, nevertheless 10.3% practice the exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) in the first 6 months”. This can be attributed to the pool of unemployment in the country and one has to secure his or her job at all cost.


On the premise of this study, 3 months of maternity leave for women can endanger their babies’ lives because they will not get enough time to feed their new-born babies, as it states that it is healthier to breastfeed a baby exclusively for 6 months.


Women all over the world can therefore put forward an advocacy for maternity leave to be extended from three months to six months. Ghana’s first lady,Mrs. Rebecca Akufo - Addo, called for the extension of maternity leave from the current three months to five months on August 21, 2017.This, according to her,was in line with provisions of the International Labour  Organization’s Maternity Protection Convention to which Ghana is a signatory.


Looking for a day care arrangement at one’sneighborhood in advance can also reduce the burden of who would take care of the babies after birth. After the maternity leave of three months, mothers would have to get a crèche for the child and return to work in order to avoid layoff and disturbances from employers. It is, therefore, imperative that expectant mothers make preparation for their babies after maternity leave. A day care centre that one can trust to take care of one’s baby while at work will be most desirable.


Other ways women can combine career and motherhood include bring the fathers of their babiesand other family members on board. Discuss with the father how the new baby’s arrival can work for both as a couple. Have a common goal and vision. Some fathers are very helpful in terms of preparing the children for school.

 

They can even help with the washing of clothes and handling of the babies. In the absence of the father, get support from family and friends. Everybody needs people to survive at a point in time. One cannot do it alone; so family and friends can be of help in taking care of the babies whilst mothers attend work.Women can also hire a baby sitter or a nanny to take care of the child while they are away to work.


Career women also need to take good care of themselves. In the early days of motherhood, women are sleep-deprived and need a lot of energy. They lose energy through breastfeeding and taking care of the child. Women are advised to eat, sleep and exercise well in order to have energy for the task of combining career and motherhood and enjoy one’s baby to have psychological strength.


In conclusion, women can resort to family planning, endeavor in entrepreneurship, advocate for extension of maternity leave, arrange for daycare in their neighborhood in advance, get the father and family on board and,  lastly, take good care of themselves to be able to combine both duties.


The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.