Photo courtesy of Enmita Marin

PERU: Don’t Make Me Choose Between My Profession and My Son

For Enmita Marin the reality of being both a doctor and a mother in Peru is far from what she dreamed as a girl.

Despite the sadness of leaving my newborn baby at home with a stranger, the pain of my swollen breasts full of milk, and the constant exhaustion, I was working towards my dream.

EnmitaMarin | Peru

When I was 16 years old, I decided two things: I would one day become a mother and I would be a medical doctor. That is what I planned to do with my life.

I did everything I thought I needed to do to make my dream a reality. I studied for almost eight years and became a doctor. After that, I studied one more year for a postgraduate degree. I even took additional courses to learn more about my future career.

When I was 30 years old, I became a single mother. I thought I was ready. I had three jobs, a supportive family, and a good bank account.

Because of the injustices of our labor laws, I worked without being granted sick leave during my pregnancy. Even though I work in a healthcare profession, I was not granted leave for my prenatal appointments. In fact, when I fell during my eighth month of pregnancy, I still had to go to work the next day.

My Cesarean section was scheduled for the 14th of December and I had to work until the 13th of December. After delivery, I was given only 15 days of leave to be with my baby and to recover from my surgical intervention. After that, I had to pay a nanny to take care of my newborn baby.

The worst thing that happened to me was when I found out that my employer expected me to compensate for my 15 days of maternity leave. I will always remember when my boss told me, “Dr. Marin, we’ve already paid you for the entire month, so you’ll have to pay back in hours the work you didn’t do.”  

For two months I had to work for eight hours every Saturday. I felt so mistreated.

I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby for at least six months as the World Health Organization recommends. I pumped every time I had a spare moment at home. I could not pump at work since there were no special rooms for lactating women. The first three or four months after childbirth, I only managed to sleep four hours—six if I was lucky—per night, and I had to give up one of my jobs.

I felt this was terribly unfair considering all my jobs were part of my professional development, and I also had patients who I cared about. But then again, I had become a mom, and my son was my number one priority.

While Peru has some maternity laws, they only apply to women who work under an official contract. The hospital I work at, managed by the Peruvian Ministry of Health, pays me for my ‘productivity’ so I am not eligible for these protections.

But even women who do work under contract struggle to balance their careers with motherhood. If you have an official contract with your employer for at least six months, you have the right to one hour for lactation until your baby is one year old. However, you only have the right to maternity leave for a total of 98 days including the time before, during, and after birth.

In this scenario, the great majority of women prefer to keep working until one or two days before delivery, and only then start using their 98 days of leave. When their leave runs out, they must go back to work and leave their three-month old babies at home—even if their babies happen to be born with special needs.

The woman without official contract, money to pay a nanny, and support from her family is going to find herself facing a tough choice: either stop working or leave the baby in a daycare facility. However, daycare also has a cost. And the more expensive it is, the better and safer quality you get for your baby. This sounds like a horror movie, but sadly, it is the truth.

I went once to deliver a donation of little chairs to a daycare facility, and I found all the children crawling on the dirt ground. The walls were made of recycled wood and plastic, and the facility did not have potable water supply or toys. This free daycare center was responsible for overseeing the welfare of about 15 children aged two to four years old. I ask you, if you were a mother who needed to work or continue your studies would you leave your little child in this daycare?

Why is it that in Peru a woman has to choose between being a mother or a professional?

Until my baby was six months old, I barely slept. I worked as a medical doctor; I tended to my patients; I worked with my father (an orthopaedic surgeon) as his second assistant in surgery; I played with my baby; I took him to all of his medical appointments with the pediatrician; and I took him to get all of his vaccines.

Despite the sadness of leaving my newborn baby at home with a stranger, the pain of my swollen breasts full of milk, and the constant exhaustion, I was working towards my dream: to be a mother as well as a professional.

I am more than happy for it, and really proud of myself. But how many talented women must we lose because they have to take care of their children instead of work? How many doctors, nurses, engineers, artists, economists? How many? Is this the society that Peruvian women want?

I do not want to renounce any of my dreams, and I believe no woman should ever have to renounce any of hers.

Story Awards: Putting the Spotlight on Maternal and Reproductive Health

Comments

The maternity laws of Peru are terrible. It needs some political intervention. Women should demand better entitlements. 

 

With best wishes,

Nusrat Ara 

WorldPulse Community Champion (Environment Group) 

To become a doctor in any country in the world is very difficult.  To become a mother anywhere is also a very large task and except for very few countries most women must choose between their careers or caring for their children and those who do the best they can to juggle both are often left either guilty at not being with their children and guilty not being able to devote all their attention all the time to work. 

I can tell you, I have seen children who grow up with a loving family and  modicum of satisfactory day care wdevelop into successful adults like any other child.  To have a mother who has fought to become her dreams - well what a lucky child that is! And what a wonderful example for any little boy or girl to know that his mom worked so hard to have him and keep him well but also to support herself with her plans and not give up.  As a young man I am sure he will have respect and admiration for his partner the way he will have for you. 

Maybe as he gets older he can help you and other women in Peru to mobilize to get more fair labor laws.  It is an uphill battle but "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead.

ezaroff

Thats the strength of a woman right there and beauty that comes with motherhood.As we women we need to stand up for our rights to parenthood,happiness and know for sure our dreams too are valid

Nusrat Ara, Ellen And Nurse Christine, thanks a lot by your words. I still working by my dream: be a doctor and also be a mother, a god one in both aspects of my live. And yes, we need to change the maternity laws in my country, sadly many women thing that this kind of stories are "common" and many time i see friend of mine give up of one of their dreams and this is so unfair! 

I hope that my baby boy, who is a 3 years old right now, grow up and believe in equality and fights for his rights and the rights of everybody and he can be happy, that is a successful person for me. 

Thank a lot for your words. 

And spread the words, women are strong humans and never give up about ur dreams.

 

Hello Emita

It's not easy to be women and having a career not only that, at times one make choices not to have children as well due to career choice. All the best my friend 

Dear JaquelineWilson, all the choices are good choices, that is what always believe. 

All choices, have or no to have children, are good one as this choice has been made freely. And the oportunities shoud be equal for everyone.

Best regards for you my friend!  

Dear Doctor,

The injustices upon women are far and wide.Your story is similar in our continent.You will see women with heavy load on their backs and at the end of the day they are still expected to look after their families.

Thank you for sharing ,this are highlights to bring forth during the next Women Deliver Conference.

Best,it shall be well.

Lucia Buyanza -Clinical Instructor

Career and family life balance especially for working mothers has been an issue that many are still struggling to grasp! 

Your story is so touching! Your courage and strength so inspiring.

I personally advocate a work -life  blend instead of balance, because balance will mean making choices and giving up some things, most of the time life to catch up with work. 

I believe we need labour laws that permit working mothers to take family life to the office and vice versa and living both fully. You should be able to mark a pause to see how your baby is doing while working and resume without feeling guilty!

I am a work-life blend advocate! Training seminars in the pipeline for young career women like myself in my community!

You just inspired me more!

Cheers!

The Best  you can ever be is YOURSELF! 

Leila Kigha

Hi Karitz, thanks for your words! 

Congrats for the work that you are doing with  young career women in your community, i am working with teenagers from my community as well and your words give me strengt. 

Thanks. A fraternal hug for you. 

Hi Karitz, thanks for your words!

Congrats for the work that you are doing with young career women in your community, i am working with teenagers from my community as well and your words give me strengt.

Thanks. A fraternal hug for you

Hello sis This is the true picture of motherhood and career in most countries. This is a real situation of gender based discrimination In my country women too miss good job opportunities though very qualified because they will need maternity leave someday I really love your determination. I just hope our society will change this inhumane practice soonest.

Masalien's

Hello sis This is the true picture of motherhood and career in most countries. This is a real situation of gender based discrimination In my country women too miss good job opportunities though very qualified because they will need maternity leave someday I really love your determination. I just hope our society will change this inhumane practice soonest.

Masalien's

I hope like you that our daughter don´t suffer this kind of discrimination and they can have better opportunities and realize their jobs and their maternity dreams. 

Dear Enmita,

Wow. I'm impressed by your courage, your insistence and your achievements. But I'm also feel so sorry to hear what you suffered in order to be a mother and a doctor as well. You are really throughful and know what you want, what you need to do and how to achieve your goal. Both of your stories are touching. Thank you for sharing your story, and really hope women in Peru be treated better in the near future.

Best,

April 

Nothing is impossible.