Choice between motherhood and career shouldn't have to be so hard

Journalist Malavika Menon's column, "Hard choice between career and motherhood" (April 18), resonated with me as a new mother who values her career as a social worker.

My daughter is only five months old, and various obstacles have already cropped up for me.

One obstacle I have faced is the unequal amount of parental leave my partner and I have received.

My partner used all our shared parental leave, giving him a total of 30 days, while I had three months.

He had to return to work during my maternity leave, which meant I had to carry my baby more, going against my physiotherapist's advice to not lift heavy things three months after the caesarean delivery.

Another issue concerns the question of working from home or returning to the office.

Both my partner and I have been lucky enough to work from home during the pandemic.

I experience a condition in which I feel a burst of negative emotions right before breastfeeding, and having my partner's presence at home is very helpful for me to cope.

And though my partner sometimes finds working from home challenging, the flexibility and reduced travel time have given him more time with our child and equal involvement in her care.

However, the gradual return to working in the office has made us anxious about how our parenting situation might have to evolve.

We are having more frequent arguments about caregiving.

We have even discussed the possibility of one of us quitting our job if we cannot work from home.

My last set of worries centres on infant care. We have decided to register our daughter for half-day infant care so that I can return fully to my job.

However, affordable infant care is hard to get - our current best option is a centre 3km away, and we are still on the wait list.

I believe there are ways these challenges can be mitigated for all working mothers in Singapore.

For one thing, paternity leave should be longer.

Both parents should have three months dedicated to their newborn and post-partum recovery.

Second, we should legislate the right for all employees to request flexible work arrangements, so that parents can more easily manage their care and work responsibilities.

Lastly, affordable infant care should be made more accessible.

Ideally, priority can be given to single parents (who have greater need).

The choice between career and motherhood should really not be this hard.

Elizabeth Quek

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2021, with the headline 'Choice between motherhood and career shouldn't have to be so hard'. Subscribe