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Women Can’t Have It All

Matatu Musings: We need to normalize paying for help

BY Joan Thatiah

Apr 06, 2021, 10:10 AM

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My friend Faye called me distressed the other morning.

“The system is rigged! Women can’t have it all. It’s rigged,” she was saying.

“It is dear. It’s rigged,” I agreed with her.

Faye had her first baby late last year and she just returned to work. She had a really hard time finding a nanny and now that she’s back at work, she feels like she has fallen behind her colleagues and on top of this, she has to deal with the Mommy guilt of leaving her three-month-old at home.

And the pandemic which has all of us in competition mode looking to see who has managed to open a business, who is keeping the cleanest house, and who has managed to get the most work done, has amplified everything she’s feeling.

I’ve been here three times already. I’ve battled with feeling as if I was missing in action when I stayed home with my children and then got that sinking feeling in my tummy worrying that I was failing my infant when I had to go back to work. Let’s not about the guilt-tripping.

You’ll be struggling with balancing your life and then you will go to a family gathering and you will have your auntie asking you why you have a nanny. 

“You women of nowadays are so lazy. I raised all my five children without ever hiring a house girl and I still had my teaching job. I was taking care of ten cows too,” she will tell you.

You Shouldn’t Try To Have It All

If I have learned anything trying to juggle everything, it’s that when it comes to the workplace, the woman is biologically disadvantaged. It’s worse when she becomes a mother. No matter how you look at it, a woman’s career takes a hit when she has a child. My friend Bett likes to joke that her career has stalled two years with every child she’s had. Isn’t this the truth!

The race is rigged. You can count on your hands the number of local companies that have a crèche. A new mother is unlikely to ask for flexi-time because she is scared of reinforcing the negative stereotypes against women at the workplace that are already there so she gives up her social life. If you are always dashing to the office or the house, you will surely have no time left for a drink with colleagues or with friends. 

We Can’t Fix It

Biology put us in this box that we can’t wiggle out of. What we can do is stop glorifying struggle and learn to ask for help.

That notion that a woman doesn’t know what womanhood is about until she has struggled to balance motherhood, career and her social life belongs in the trash. Let’s take the shame out of delegating housekeeping or child care.

If you want and can afford to hire a nanny, a housekeeper, or a personal assistant, or two, go for it. Don’t kill yourself trying to do everything by yourself and only managing to be average at everything. A lifetime of struggle trying to do everything by yourself is not worth those bragging rights at the family gathering about how strong you are that you never needed a nanny or the daycare.

Let us normalize paying for help.

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