This year marks my 5th year as a mother. I embraced pregnancy in 2020, followed by four transformative years of motherhood. The experiences of the last four years have been profound, teaching me invaluable lessons in empathy, kindness, love, sacrifice, and the essence of life – far beyond what my pre-pregnancy years offered.

As part of the world celebrates a mother’s love today, I would like to share that this is my first Mother’s Day where my child is with my parents.

It was my birthday ten days ago, and my daughter wished me via a video call. She kissed the picture of me on the phone screen and asked if she could hold my hand. I thanked her, but with no further response, as technology couldn’t allow me to hold her through the video call. Turning away from the phone, I cried. In that moment, I questioned every decision taken in my life, feeling that they were all wrong because I could not let her touch my hand on my birthday. Similar situations have occurred to me multiple times in the last four years.

Today, I want to shed light on times when mothers experience this pain:

  1. When they choose a career.
  2. When they decide to take a break from their career and be a stay-at-home mother (after studying hard, building a career, and then voluntarily taking a break of a few months to a few years).

Let me share another incident in 2022: my daughter was running a high fever and wanted to be carried. She was in my lap for 4-5 hours while I was on work calls, leading a group of people. I cannot run away from my responsibilities, and moreover, I love my job. So, I worked with her in my lap for hours, and this repeated multiple times, especially when she was sick. (I am sure mothers reading this post agree that this happens very frequently with toddlers). This was just one situation from one sick day.

Mothers in the 21st century face an extremely high number of similar challenges daily. And yet, they choose to work. And yet, I chose to work, pursue my passion, and progress in my career. We women do so because we are deeply passionate about our careers. Two conflicting personalities coexist within us – (1) a career-oriented individual and (2) a devoted mother. It usually happens that only one wins at one point in time. It is quite difficult for both personalities to win simultaneously.

A study by the Equal Rights Charity in November 2023 reveals that about a quarter of a million mothers with young children have left their jobs due to childcare pressures. Amongst surveyed mothers, 41% turned down a promotion or career development opportunity because they worried it would not fit with childcare arrangements.

When we look at stay-at-home mothers, they work for about 15 hours per day, seven days a week. Most mothers voluntarily choose to be a stay-at-home ‘mom’ and love taking care of their child; that is not the problem. However, when a career-oriented stay-at-home mother attempts to return to work as her child grows, challenges arise. The job search giant, Indeed, surveyed over one thousand stay-at-home mums, and 73% report that they have already encountered bias in the hiring process due to their parental status. Almost all (93%) of the mothers surveyed report anticipating bias in the return-to-work process.

The above statistics and thought process are some of the reasons why young mothers are hesitant to take a break from work. They see the career they built falling apart if they take a break.

I believe this isn’t how the world should function. While many companies and communities are initiating efforts to support mothers, more is needed, especially in Asia.

Emphasis should be placed on:

  1. Flexible work arrangements.
  2. Onsite childcare facilities.
  3. Career development opportunities, especially for mothers resuming work post-maternity leave.
  4. HR teams avoiding bias towards maternity breaks on resumes.
  5. Recognition and appreciation along with regular check-ins.

The above five benefits may seem minimal. However, I am aware that these five benefits are not universally implemented.

Currently, I am glad to be part of a business school where fellow members grasp the significance of these issues. Most of my classmates are not mothers, and yet they empathise. I strongly believe these future leaders possess the qualities to create an empowering environment for mothers.

Today, I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, especially those balancing careers right now – whether it’s a studying mum, stay-at-home mum, or working mum. When our kids grow up and face challenging decisions, they’ll choose something they are passionate about and will move heaven and earth to achieve it. This is because they are raised by strong women.

And I am confident that when my girl grows up, she won’t need to search for inspiration – she has one right before her – the woman who made some of the life’s toughest decisions to pursue her passions.

Momma loves you the most, and I cannot wait to hug you in two weeks!!!!