Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

20 February 2012

Rwanda: Family, Work Takes Toll On Modern Women

Modern urban life is relatively easy, thanks to access to water, electricity, education, health and communication facilities like telephones and internet. However, all these come with their immense pressures, especially for a family woman who has to juggle work and domestic affairs.

Annette Mukamana is an employed woman and a mother of one. She wakes up at 5.00 every morning to get everything ready for the day. "I wash the baby's clothes, clean the house and then prepare breakfast for me and my husband," she says describing her daily routine. She then leaves the baby with a housemaid and rushes to her office.

After work, Mukamana returns home to see how her baby is doing and prepare the evening meal. After that she prepares a few things for the next morning and then calls it a day. "It is not easy, but it has to be done. I have two responsibilities: my home and my work. And if I am not able to coordinate everything properly, one of them will suffer."

Francine Dushime and her husband are both working from morning to evening, but before going to work, she needs to make sure that everyone has taken their breakfast and then she takes their three children to school. "It is always a crazy time for us. With bathing and getting ready, sometimes we don't even have the time to seat down and eat breakfast properly as we are trying not to be late," said Dushime.

After getting the children to school, Dushime rushes to her work in town where she has a business. "I work the whole day, I don't even have time to take a break for lunch. I then rush to pick up the children from school and take them home. I am actually lucky to be self-employed for I cannot imagine how I would do it otherwise," she added.

As both women pointed out, they need to be careful to balance work and family matters. But according to Mukamana, no matter how hard one tried, one of the two will suffer.

"You cannot neglect work as it is the one helping you bring food on the table. This means that a few things at home will be left undone." One of the hardest things, especially for mothers, is leaving babies with maids at home. "I was constantly thinking about my baby, who is my first child, wondering whether the maid looked after him well," said Hyacintha Uwase. "And I was missing him so much by not getting enough time to be with him."

"I left that work and I am currently searching for a job that will allow me to take care of my family as I should."

Uwase then did something she says she would not advise other women to do. "I left that work and I am currently searching for a job that will allow me to take care of my family as I should."

Leaving a child alone with housemaids is one thing that is dreaded by every mother because of horrible stories that happen. "A friend of mine was working and leaving her child with the housemaid. Then one day the child got sick and the doctors told her that the baby suffered from malnutrition. She was puzzled as she left everything the baby needed at home." Uwase's friend later found out that the housemaid was eating the child's food and preparing junk food for him. "The story scared me so much and made me worried about my baby's health. That it is one of the things that contributed to me leaving work."

Being too busy, some women are not able to spend time with their children and know what is going on in their life. The children's education therefore suffers, especially if both parents are busy. "Changing housemaids all the time also proves to be a big challenge," explained Mukamana. When there is not enough time spent at home, a bad housemaid can also sell what was bought for the household and affect the family economically.

But despite all this, these ladies said that their challenges are not as great as those faced by their fellow women who have families, go to work during the day and then attend classes in the evening. "I am not sure how they do it," said Mukamana. "It's hard enough juggling with work and family, which I sometimes fail to do, but I don't know if I can add studies to it."

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