For working mums in the UAE, it’s more than just about money

While covering the costs of childcare is important for working mothers, it should not be the only motivation for a woman to restart her career.

I returned to work after my daughter was born when she was only 11 weeks old. That was very hard. It was the maximum maternity leave my UAE employer at the time would allow me back in 2006.

For my son, I was allowed four-a-half months. It was 2009 and the company was less worried about its bottom line as we were in the midst of the financial crisis.

Both times I struggled with the return to work. It’s hard to leave a baby in the care of someone else – even if it is the best nursery money can buy.

My story, however, is very different to the scenario highlighted in this week’s Money section.

The feature examines exclusive analysis from Killik Offshore, which reveals that a mother with two children contemplating a return to the office in the UAE needs to earn a minimum of Dh10,200 to break even once she factors in childcare costs and any work-related expenses.

That translates into Dh122,400 a year.

For someone considering a part-time option to help them juggle the demands of work and home life, restarting a career probably doesn’t add up financially unless they are earning a more profitable Dh15,000 and above.

For me, it was cost-effective to work but more than that, I had little choice in the matter.

Either I earned or we would leave the UAE. It was unsustainable to only rely on my husband’s salary and our savings goals would be shattered without my income.

In those early years of being a working mum, my biggest issue was the guilt - the guilt of not being there. But that was something I brought on myself.

When my daughter was born my husband and I worked very different shift patterns, so if my daughter wasn’t with me, she was with him. She never missed out.

After my son was born in 2009, I went freelance for almost two years to better juggle the demands of earning and childcare.

In both scenarios, I was able enough to earn enough to pay the nursery fees and save for our future - the whole reason for being here.

Today, my offspring are 10 and seven and far more independent. Plus a few years ago, I experienced a big shift in my thinking. I stopped feeling guilty and finally admitted to myself I actually enjoy working. I was no longer working to earn; I was working because I wanted to. And I like hearing my two tell their friends that “Mummy works at the newspaper”.

I realise I am one of the lucky ones because I split parenting duties evenly with my husband.

For many, working full-time would not be possible. Their husbands work long hours or travel overseas and working full-time would mean delegating duties to a full-time nanny - something I never had to do.

Plus part-time work doesn’t always pay off.

Now that her children are older, a friend wants to return to work. A former project manager she was willing to take a lower paid admin role to ease herself back into working life. The offer: Dh6,000 for full-time with just four weeks of leave.

“Yikes” I told her.

“I know,” she replied. “But I want to do something and this gets me started.” And I get that. Because working for me is not just about money - it’s about doing something for yourself and being part of something.

Ultimately, the important thing about motherhood is having a choice: the choice to either stay at home with your children if you want to or combine work and motherhood.

It’s a shame that astronomical nursery fees are preventing some from having that choice.

arayer@thenational.ae

Published: September 2, 2016 04:00 AM

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