No one can deny that all children need care from the moment of birth. Good nutrition, access to health care, early stimulation, and the demonstration of our love are key elements in a child’s complete development.
Being by baby’s side during the first year of life is crucial, as it’s the stage when most of his or her growth takes place. During this period, children have an intense need to be with their mother. According to experts, this emotional requirement is as basic as food. However, as a result of the increasing participation of women in the labor market and the lack of policies that favor the family, this stage tends to be affected by limited maternal presence and early socialization.
In Latin America, between 1990 and 2005, the female labor participation rate in urban areas of 18 countries rose from 5.9% to 58.1%, an increase that marks a trend throughout the region (ECLAC, 2006). In Argentina, 61.2% of mothers participate in the labor market, with 55.7% currently employed and 5.5% unemployed but actively seeking work.
The labor market that women are entering usually offers little in the way of benefits and flexibility that allow a mother to balance both aspects of her life. Long work days force women to choose between the right to motherhood and work, causing unnecessary stress as they search for child care alternatives.
While these days, various practices in favor of motherhood can be noted, we’ve still got a long way to go. Longer maternity leaves, gradual return-to-work plans, the designation of breast-pumping rooms, daycare centers, and assistance for new moms are a few examples of progress, but the important thing is for companies to make an organizational commitment to support employees during this stage.
Today, human resources policies should aim not only to retain talent through training and various economic incentives, but also to facilitate the employee’s personal and family life through flexible policies, aid and different kinds of support for motherhood. This group of initiatives and actions that companies have at their disposal will allow for the creation of a family-friendly work culture.
Family-friendly companies have responded to this challenge by including the employees’ families in their strategies as a relevant aspect of the business (like a supplier, customer or shareholder). Through their policies and benefits, these companies seek the comprehensive development of their collaborators.
In addition to the practices that drive business, it is important to highlight the role that falls to the government in terms of establishing public policies that address these needs.
The recognition of motherhood as a social function critical to children’s development and a country’s growth must serve as the underpinning of the joint effort between the public and private sectors. Only then can a work culture transformation begin, incorporating the new realities of the market and the needs of families and generating multiple health and emotional benefits for the mother and her newborn child.
Ángeles Destafano is an Argentine with a degree in Industrial Relations from Universidad Argentina de la Empresa and a research associate at the IAE Business School’s Centro de Conciliación Familia y Empresa (Center for Work-Life Balance). She forms part of the faculty at the Instituto de Ciencias para el Matrimonio y la Familia (Marriage and Family Institute) at Universidad Austral. Her article was selected as a finalist for the IDB’s Blogger Contest.