Our Digital and Family Competence Enabling Team (AWB – 2033 & AWB – 2037) finished their 3-month stint and we were speaking with the 4 women involved to better appreciate their experience. This was their first experience with white collar work and were entrusted with coordinating applications for digital and financial assistance after some basic training in the use of spreadsheets. All 4 women are recipients of such assistance themselves, have heavy care-giving responsibilities and were only able to take on this task because they had the flexibility to organize their own work hours.
These women were proud that they met work targets despite family obligations and unexpected challenges. 2 of them had family members who needed treatment at the hospital and such medical emergencies would have usually meant having to quit a job. However, knowing that their “employer” would have understood gave them the strength to keep going. “I had so many worries and was feeling like my head would explode but focusing on the work actually calmed me down.” Sufi recalled and added that “When I see others benefiting from the schemes I had introduced; I feel happy and successful.”
As for Juwana, she reflected that sticking to a routine she had put together meant that there was even a couple of hours in a week where she could care for herself. She told us that the experience had increased her self-confidence and altered her relationship with her children in a good way. Initially, her children’s plea for her to return early whenever she stepped out for work matters was discomforting. However, she sees that they have acquired a sense of independence that is timely and age appropriate. “Now they ask me when I am getting my pay so that we can go to McDonalds,” Juwana chuckled.
On a scale of 1 to 5, only 1 mother rated herself 2.5 in terms of readiness to join the work force fulltime. They were realistic that working conditions would probably not be as flexible and after-school care may not always be available. They also worried if their children would stay out of harm’s way if they were left on their own. Young people harming themselves or getting on the wrong side of the law was an all too familiar tale in their neighbourhood. Hence, they strongly believe that a mother’s presence is an all-important protective factor.
Perhaps, the biggest takeaway for these women was perspective about their own situation. By reaching out to others in need, they felt that had much to be grateful for. One of which was having their children seeing them hard at work in a way that modeled the diligence needed for schoolwork. Also, by simply having the opportunity to work, they were in a better position than those they assisted.
Lastly, we can only connect with something from our lived experiences. We may have been told umpteen times that we must be confident about our own abilities and that hard work will pay off but unless we actually experience some level of success in our lives regularly, pep talks go one ear in and out the other. Hence, we are glad to have created a context where these women can mutually support each other because their conversations are anchored in fears, challenges, and aspirations that they would each easily see as their own.
Wishing you the best of health, and peace of mind.
The only source of knowledge is experience. – Albert Einstein