Rwanda has no shortage of ambitious women. Over half of the Parliament is composed of women, and Rwanda is among the countries in Africa with the most female entrepreneurs. As a result, there is an abundance of impressive women juggling workplace and home life.
Are you an ambitious working mom? We asked some of Rwanda’s hardest working mothers to show you how they navigate the work-life balance, and how to stay sane in the process.
Most mothers agree that the toughest days to manage the balance were the first few days back at work. Carol Rugege, an employee at East African Exchange and the mother of 16-month old Chanel, is lucky enough to work for a company that allowed her two months of maternity leave. Even after taking that time to be with her baby, she found it difficult getting back to the job that she loved.
“I didn’t know how to cope and my work suffered”, says Rugege. “My superiors are men, and used to be mad at me when I would come in late. They didn’t know what a working mom looks like.”
Early on, sleepless nights are common, and can obviously have a negative impact on work performance.
The first nine months of her daughter Chanel’s life, staying on top of work and motherhood was no easy feat.
This is where communication plays a key role. Your coworkers know you’re a new mother, but not all of them will understand what that means unless you take the time to explain. Repeat, remind, and don’t be shy about it. When your coworkers know what you are struggling with, they are more likely to be sympathetic.
It’s all about time
Wake up, feed the baby, get dressed, console crying baby, wait for the babysitter, and maybe, finally, leave for work. Your time is no longer your own!
It’s crucial to have a boss who understands the demands of family life. Solange Impanoyimana, a Lead Trainer at Resonate, a women’s empowerment and leadership organization, explained that the jobs she’s held as a single mother have been structured around specific results and projects. As long as she is completing her work on time, she doesn’t need to be sitting in the office. She takes her assignments home and works around her child Lisa’s schedule.
Here, again, communication is important. Ask your boss for the flexibility to come in and leave the office when necessary. Emphasize that you are as committed as ever to meeting your deadlines. Most will understand if you have to work early in the morning or late at night to get things done, as long as they do get done.
Dealing with social pressure
Despite the large numbers of Rwandan women out in the workforce, social stigma around traditional gender roles persists, and many people do not understand the challenges of working and parenting.
Rugege explains that when she made the decision to put her daughter on formula at six months, “people were shocked.” Instead of taking this personally and getting offended, Rugege’s answer to the naysayers was clear: “Get over it”. You have a baby and a job to manage. You definitely don’t have time to worry about other people’s opinions.
“Don’t feel guilty. People will say things, you have to let it roll off your back”, she says.
Similarly, when Impanoyimana’s busy work and study schedule forced her to enroll her seven-year-old daughter in boarding school, she endured criticism from others. But she stayed the course. After a few years, she was done with her studies and brought Lisa home. Now she has Lisa back and the education to provide for her future.
No doubt about it—balancing work and parenthood is challenging. But with the right support system, organization, and a little understanding from both employers and friends, it is more than possible.
Rather than detracting from her parenting, Impanoyimana says her dedication to her work is the best lesson she can give her daughter. “I see if I stop trying to achieve my dreams, it won’t inspire her”, she explains. “I see her thinking that she can do anything. She’s proud of my accomplishments. It’s motivation on my side as a single mom, seeing your kids appreciate your efforts.”
This article was originally published on the MindSky Career Magazine