Fair share: Editorial on plight of working mothers
Aworking mother is often caught in a tussle of priorities. Family arrangements in India, gendered expectations and inadequate facilities for mothers in the workplace — how many have crèches? — create this tension, which is unbefitting an equal-opportunities society. The Bombay High Court ruled recently that a mother cannot be asked to choose between her child and her career, a principle which is humane and fair. A family court had barred the woman from taking her nine-year-old daughter to Poland, where the mother’s company was executing a two-year-long project. The girl’s father had complained against this relocation. The family court’s order was reportedly set aside by the Bombay High Court, which, besides pointing out the unfairness of the choice being implied, also stated that no one could be prevented from pursuing development, as the woman was doing by accepting a senior position in Poland. To balance the rights of the mother with those of the father, the high court ordered that the father should have virtual and holiday visitation rights. The high court emphasised the importance of the strong bonds that a child has with both parents. This would suggest that the approach of both parents to work and home should be the same: the woman should balance her career and childcare as should the man. Ways should be evolved for a child’s healthy and happy upbringing within a given situation.
Like every domestic dispute, the specific circumstances of the case cannot be ignored, even though the principles that emerge from it may help in cutting through layers of gender inequality. The high court noted that the woman had left her marital home with her daughter in 2016, and had brought her up as a single mother — the father had visitation rights — while managing work and home. While a nine-year-old child’s natural place is with her mother, this was added reason for the high court’s order: the girl had always lived with her mother. The Bombay High Court also said that it was not uncommon for a working woman to leave her child in day-care. That answers a repeated complaint by families unwilling to let women work. Society would benefit greatly from the high court’s pronouncements about working women with children. It is unfortunate that inherited attitudes are so difficult to change.