“My baby would accompany me to my office mainly because my boss didn’t mind,” says Sabira, a mother of a three-year-old child. “If I didn’t have the opportunity to bring my baby along, I would have had to leave my job,” she adds.
Sabira believes that she is lucky but she sees many of her friends, who work, leave their kids at home or with family where they are mistreated. She thinks day-cares should be provided at the workplace so that women like her don’t have to worry about their children. “Only a handful of companies provide day-care centres the majority don’t. It is not fair for women who have to earn, they are in constant stress,” laments Sabira. Even though Sabira is allowed to bring her child to work, she still faces a lot of pressure from her colleagues – both men and women – when her child fall ills and she stays at home. “Since my child comes to the office, my colleagues think that I am given preference over others. And they think it is unfair that I can leave early or take a day off when my child falls ill,” tells Sabira.
“After my baby was born, I found it difficult to return to work. I didn’t want to leave my child and felt guilty and stressed. My boss – a man – seemed to understand my predicament and said I could bring in my child to work. I was delighted and ever so grateful to him. I felt relieved and less stressed because of this,” narrates Naz Fatima. She thinks that with more and more urban women working, companies need to provide babysitting at the office premises.
Sabira and Naz are among the thousands of working mothers who have faced the tough decision of leaving their children behind at home and continue to work. With the increase of women with children coming out to work; day-cares or babysitting facilities at the workplace is becoming quite a necessity. The good news is that organisations have started providing their women staff with day-care or baby care on the office premises. Day-care centres, provided at the office premises, is a great initiative which allows working mothers to be more productive. This allows them to be more focused on their work and not feel the stress or the guilt of leaving their children at home alone or to be looked after by others. “I think this is a big step as it gives the women a sense of security that their child is near and in safe hands,” opines Sabira. However, only a handful of multinational companies have provided day-care or babysitting facilities to their employees at the moment.
Although the percentage is quite low, men are also single parents and face problems of leaving their children alone at home.
Taha is a single parent and looks after his son who is now 10. Initially, Taha used to bring his son to office and the child would run around the office or sit in one corner watching cartoons on his father’s phone. “I am overwhelmed looking after my son and work. I am stressed that he returns to an empty house after school and is alone till late into the evening,” expresses Taha. “I can understand the problems working women face when they have to leave their kids at home. All companies should have babysitting on the premises so that single parents can bring in their children with them,” suggests Taha.
Taha said he had been told of day-care centres but these had age restrictions. “My son is now 10 and I don’t think any day-care will take him. So we have come to a system – of him staying locked inside the house until I return. We have both become used to it, and he is older so it is not as stressful now,” elucidates Taha.
Though women comprise 49 per cent of Pakistan’s population, they constitute only 24 per cent of the labour force. Understanding and experiencing the same problem as a young mother, Dr Sofia Rahman established a day-care centre for working mothers a decade ago. And now her day-care – Dr. Sofia's Daycare And Learning Centre – has four branches across Karachi.
“As a young doctor I had to work very long hours – day and night. It was extremely stressful to leave my child at home. I tried to convince the hospital I worked for to setup a small day-care centre but failed,” recalls Dr Sofia. “That’s when I thought if day-cares at workplace can’t be established, I would setup a day-care to help working mothers whenever I get the chance.”
“And a decade or so ago I set up my first day-care. Initially, people didn’t understand the concept of leaving children at day-care. However, many working women were delighted because only they could understand the importance of the day-care. And now many families have the couple working, so day-care is fast becoming vital for their lives,” explains Dr Sofia. Understanding the myriad of issues, Dr Sofia’s day-care tries to cover most of the bases. She employs full-time cooks to provide nutritional meals to the children. Teachers to help the children with their education and homework; helpers to tend to the children during the day and she herself looks after the health of the children.
Being a mother, Dr Sofia understands the needs and concerns of parents regarding the safety of their child. “From the first day when we set up our first day-care centre, we installed two cameras in all our rooms. I have access to the live footage from all branches on my phone. Strict orders have been given that no one is allowed to touch a child in anyway. Once a maid slapped a child, I sacked her on the spot making it clear that such behaviour wasn’t tolerated,” describes Dr Sofia.
To ensure more safety and to give parents peace of mind, Dr Sofia hires women staff to handle the children. “We have very limited male staff. I don’t even allow fathers to go inside any of the branches. If any father insists, we allow them to see the live stream of their child,” she informs.
Like Sabira and Naz, Dr Sofia also agrees that working women especially single parents suffer a lot of stress and other issues if they don’t have anyone to look after their child while they are at work.
She added that during lockdown the day-cares were closed down and many parents were worried because they had no safe place to leave their children. “From my own experience as a working mother, I have tried to provide parents with a holistic plan at my day-care. Some parents have to get to office early, so I have arranged to open the day-care early. My trusted staff is present to take in the children and they are given breakfast. If the child is a toddler, I deploy the relevant nanny to look after the baby. All children are fed, washed and cleaned and the younger ones sleep during the day. As a doctor, I also keep an eye on their health with the parents’ permission of course,” elaborates Dr Sofia.
In 2017, Pakistan’s parliament opened the first-ever day care centre to allow women parliamentarians achieve work-family balance.
A day-care centre is being established in the Balochistan Assembly. The decision comes after MPA Mahjabeen Sheran was not allowed to attend a session when she brought her child to the assembly. Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal approved the construction of the day-care centre inside in the provincial assembly premises. Balochistan will be the first province to have a day-care centre in Pakistan.
In addition to that, PPP leader and MNA Shazia Marri moved a Day-Care Centres Bill in 2019. This bill made it mandatory for all offices – ‘every public or private sector office’ – to have a day-care. The bill also said that on the non-compliance of this, the owner or in charge of the workplace will first be warned, followed by Rs100,000 and then face six-months in jail.
Day-care centre, also called day nursery, nursery school, or crèche (French: “crib”), institution that provides supervision and care of infants and young children during the daytime, particularly so that their parents can hold jobs. Such institutions appeared in France in about 1840, and the Société des Crèches was recognised by the French government in 1869. Day-care centres were established in most European cities and industrial centres during the second half of the 19th century; the first in Great Britain, for example, was established in 1860. In the United States, the terms day nursery, day- or child-care centre, and nursery school are often used interchangeably to identify various types of day-care for children and for preschool educational programmes.
Services to young children and their families have a longer history in European and Asian countries than in the United States, where day-care centres are generally private and of varying quality. In many countries, day-care facilities are associated with the mother’s place of work. Infant care and preschool programmes are a normal provision in many developed countries, and in some countries, such as France and Italy, they are included in the regular public-school system. However, the United States has developed no societal consensus about the appropriateness of day care, and the resulting unevenness of standards of care is cause for concern. Both the importance and the availability of day-care increased in the 20th century owing to the rising proportion of women in the workforce.
Today day-care centres are a child’s first introduction to formal education. Many parents find it difficult to send their babies or young children to a school, but day-care centres are an ideal way to nurture your child’s development.
Corporate Day Care: Large corporations often provide day care as a benefit to their employees. This day care is usually located within the parent's workplace, where it is convenient and accessible. In addition to not having to drop their child off at a second location, parents often feel more secure knowing their child is close by. Corporations generally seek out large corporate day care providers to manage their day care programmes.