Bias against mothers stems not only from assumptions about what mothers are like, but also from assumptions about how mothers should behave… leading to people deciding as “well wishers” if mothers are capable of handling a child and a responsibility. This is particularly problematic as many would indulge into this sort of gender bias without giving it a proper thought. When I say many, that of course includes all gender.
“You must be tired with a child crying in the next room”, “how can you work with a new born at home?”, “ah! Can I have maternity leave too even if I don’t have a baby?”, “you’ll be distracted at work with a baby at home”, “we can’t let you have so much responsibility when you have a baby you have to be there for”, “when do you plan on getting back to work/studies? Oh my! Isn’t that too early?”… and the bias goes on! It sounds all caring but for those of us women who want to be recognised for our cerebral capacity, this is problematic and discriminatory. A wall that is put in place for mothers to struggle ten times harder just to achieve the bare minimum.
Universities and other organisations have a responsibility to combat maternal wall bias and provide a level playing field for their members — for instance, by implementing strong antidiscrimination policies, by providing bias training, and by taking a closer look at practices and thought-processes that result in denoting responsibilities. If at any time the thought of someone’s motherhood hindering their performance crosses your mind as an excuse to fire the person from work or not hire the person, then you are playing into that bias.
From my last job till now I have faced this bias from women more than men in Switzerland. Rightfully one of my very close friend went through abortion as she was afraid of career-suicide! While talking to some women in India (for example) of course men put these barriers as much as in-laws in front of mothers. For me however (in Switzerland) where men showed more support and trust,women decided on my behalf that work (or any sort of) responsibility cannot be carried out with a child crying at home. Even if I have carried out similar responsibilities before and executed them with success.
I expect that kind of mentality from men and women brought up in a 3rd world country but not from someone living in Australia or Europe or let’s just say a “1st world”. Never for once did these women indulge in the curious quest for Knowledge and delve into academic papers talking about postpartum depression that can be treated by slowly going back to work and starting to take up responsibilities (other than baby) that keeps mind at bay from spiralling into a void. No.
The idea that birthing has no unforeseen side effects (such as depression) is not just naive but medieval. Even then, in medieval times motherhood didn’t mean staying at home and doing nothing! Unless you’re a royal with no other purpose in life but to produce heirs! And I doubt very much that a royal has nothing else to do but nurse.
My favourite example is that of my partner’s mom. She’s a formidable mother of 4 and I admire her greatly. She worked till the last day till she give birth and then she was back to work within a week (or day, not sure) of birthing (or so I was told). If her, a woman coming from a conservative background, does not question my motivation to get back to work/studies/position of responsibility after three months of birthing, then I am appalled by young liberal city women having difficulties accepting my choices.