Going back to work as a mother
A bit about me…
Hi! I am Sabina from Colombia. I have a background in social-sciences (Journalism and film), but have worked for financial institutions for over 3 years. I have an 18 month old toddler girl and the experience of motherhood has given me more perspectives on how feminism is a key element for driving change in our society, in order to do so; we should learn how to listen to parents and embrace equity for all of us!
I started a life and family in Estonia almost at the same time, which caught the eye of a documentarist; we got featured in a documentary you can see here (EST and ENG language).
I am a working mom now
This blog post talks about going back to work as a parent, and because I am one of them, as a cis-woman and mother. I am sure the challenge takes on multiple forms for every care-taker. This is the core issue here, balancing activities of care and work performance.
Caretaker role in society
In our society, the conditions for caretakers are constantly under pressure; why? We live in a high-paced individualistic and productivity-focused society. There are few to no spaces for activities of observing, pausing or doing something for others. As I became a mother I could see the lack of sympathy or empathy I would receive when going out with my newborn.
To pause, to think how are you going to exit the bus or climb up some stairs with your pram, to drop everything you are doing because we need help now. This is something you have to get used to as well. It’s a transition. Activities of care should be also distributed or delegated fairly. People who can afford to get help are not expected to do all care activities on their own. The story is radically different when you are forced by more challenging circumstances.
We can understand a lot about the quality of life in a certain country by looking at the differences in society’s way of treating older people and children. However, when we talk about women and mothers we can see across societies that we are still oppressed by the same expectations and gender impositions.
I will list some of the biggest challenges of going back to work as a mom:
- Feeling you got left behind: If you are taking a longer pause like I did (18 months) when I am back in my team at work I feel like everyone I worked with has already evolved and passed that stage. It’s a situation that we have to process. After being a mom we feel like we “can take on the world”, however our conditions limit us: time, having taken time off and becoming unfamiliar with the tasks.
- Feeling you can’t have it all: Even if you start working and give your best, there are still days that your kids won’t accept it – it’s normal, part of their adaptation of not having you around. This leaves us wondering and filled with emotions – especially when we are still breastfeeding. I heard about it and now experience it; the guilt of closing that door during the zoom meeting and leaving my baby outside, being unreachable, and ultimately, just not there at all times.
- Finding a good daycare: The task of delegating care is indeed another whole task and for some families is an extraordinary task! Going from making the decision to finding a place with an actual spot for your 1.5 year old can result in having one parent staying at home full time at least until we can find a better solution, that means less income for the family and in the end we have to deal with a situation that we cannot really control.
- Economical conditions before and during leave: Again sometimes things are not in our control, sometimes we leave for almost 2 years and when we come back we have the same salary (adjusted by inflation). Even if we wanted to go ahead and take on more tasks, the adaptation process to the workplace can take up to 3 months and while juggling a daycare possibility at home, it can mean living with less money to expend on other activities.
As mothers, we are giving a lot back to society, and also holding the economical layers of society by providing help to fellow partners working. It is expected that important stakeholders in social programs can sit and talk to the mothers and different caretakers and see what is really demanded from us everyday. It is important to have a way of easing out the journey and exploring the capacities that parents have learnt staying at home; our practicality, kindness, boldness and maturity.
Gladly, working at Wise, we all share a privileged background and we are part of this flexible, dynamic, fun, and lively crew of colleagues. Working for the Tallinn office we receive the world’s most generous parental leave (3 years. 1.5 years paid and the rest unpaid). I have also received support from my lead who understands and wishes to accompany me on a faster career development that reflects the experience I had on the role before going on leave.
Another positive experience has been learning about other parents and definitely connecting with other mothers at Wise. Currently I am in constant communication with two of them who have toddlers the same age as my daughter. We become different versions of ourselves when we have children; so sharing knowledge and experiences or just being able to be seen and heard, is a way to connect with that new part of ourselves.