A key reason why many mothers drop out of their careers, despite being extremely efficient and full of potential, is because they have nobody to care for their children in their absence
Imagine, you are tired after a long day at work but cannot sleep because your toddler is awake and wailing.
Maybe you are working on a very important presentation when suddenly your four-year-old arrives and demands that you play with her.
What would you do? If you are a mother, you will oblige. Because for any mother, her child is the first priority.They would sacrifice anything for the little one, but is it that easy?
For people like Salma and Nasreen, it is not.
"To be a mother, you will have to be a superwoman," Nasreen said, recollecting her memories of raising two boys while working full time at a private bank in Dhaka.
"My elder son was nine-years-old when I started my career. A year later , my younger son was born and it was not easy for me," she said.
She lived in a joint family and they helped in the beginning , but that was still not enough. Later when they moved out, her mother-in-law had to look after the children while Nasreen went to work as they were too young to be left alone.
"I would be in the office but my mind was always at home. My office hours went by wondering if the children were alright. I would keep counting the hours and rush home as soon as the clock hit 5pm so that I could be with the boys, especially my toddler."
Upon reaching home, Nasreen would help her son with his homework, prepare dinner for the family, plan for the next day and put the little one to bed. Sadly, she would also wake up every hour because the baby had peed and would start wailing.
On weekends, she would do other household chores. "It is a 24/7 job, for the rest of your life," Nasreen said, adding that even after the difficulties, it is still the job she loves the most.
This year on Mother's Day, her sons, now aged 29 and 19, surprised her with a breakfast they cooked for their mother. "This has been the tastiest meal I have ever had," Nasreen said joyfully.
May 10 was observed as International Mother's Day - a day when mothers are honoured for their roles and struggles in shaping the lives of their children.
Every working woman has a long battle to fight when it comes to maintaining a balance between being a professional and a mother.
Be it upper class, middle class or lower class, every mother has a long battle to fight when it comes to raising children and also being financially independent.
Sometimes it can get difficult to strike a balance between work and motherhood, but that is not the case all the time. Nowadays, other family members have become more supportive towards working mothers and that has made things easier. But the numbers are still pretty low.
Thirty-five year old Salma and her three children live in a slum in Dhaka. After her husband passed away, Salma started working as a part-time househelp in four homes to provide for her family.
She has managed to send the two younger children to school while the eldest has dropped out and helps her mother do the household chores and look after the younger siblings.
Amid the lockdown, Salma has been suspended by her employers and is yet to receive her pay. One morning when one of the families called her to take her due salary and do some chores, Salma rushed to work leaving three half-fed children at home.
Upon her return, she was greeted by her children with a hand-made card, made out of a torn page from a notebook, and a flower. The card, which had flowers sketched with a pencil, said "Tomake onek bhalobashi, Ma" (We love you a lot, mother)!
"This has been the best gift I ever got. I do not need diamonds or any other expensive items, this one card from my children is far more precious than anything material," she told this correspondent.
Salma never bothered about the special day. Why mothers would need a day for tributes, she often thought. But when her children made her feel special this year, Salma felt, for the first time, that her hard work has finally started to pay off.
Salma is a fighter. She wakes up at dawn, offers her prayers, and before going to work she cooks lunch for her children, washes the clothes and dishes, and cleans the house - a shanty in a slum near Badda.
She can never come back home before 6pm and the schedule repeats itself seven days a week. "After my husband's demise, I have struggled a lot to make ends meet. I have worked overtime for some extra cash so that I can send my kids to school," she told this correspondent.
There is little or no help when it comes to sharing responsibility in raising the children.
A key reason why many mothers drop out of their careers, despite being extremely efficient and full of potential, is because they have nobody to care for their children in their absence, Nasreen remarked.
In addition, not getting support from the husband, in-laws and other family members also makes it difficult for working mothers to keep pursuing careers, she added.
"Sometimes, family members refuse to help and put pressure on the women to leave their jobs," she said, adding, "Many families behave as if it is just the mother's responsibility to look after the children."
Nasreen said that by not being home, she had missed out on some of the loveliest moments of her little son growing up. "I was not home when he took his first steps and said his first words. If I had the facility, I would surely keep my son with me while I worked," she added.
Non-governmental organisation BRAC has solved the problem to a certain extent by opening a day-care centre at its Dhaka office, allowing both male and female staff to avail the service for their child aged up to five years. Grameenphone has the same facility for its staff. However, most offices do not have the facility.
"The private-sector should be more parent-friendly," Nasreen said, adding that more women will join the workforce with such inclusions.
"Motherhood is a blessing. They would need you when they are hungry, sad, scared, happy, excited, confused or just need attention. All you need to do is know what they are asking for," Nasreen said.
Family members should stand beside a woman and support her in playing the multiple roles she has embraced with time. That is how we will be able to build a more sustainable society and economy, Nasreen added.