Techies on the dearth of day-care facilities at Technopark
For most techies, especially women, work-life balance tends to be a struggle what with their less-than-ideal work schedules. It is doubly tough on young mothers who are forced to leave their tiny tots in the care of others while at work. Parvathy Prasad, a project manager with QBurst, for example, leaves her three-year-old son, Easwar, and her five-month-old daughter, Meenakshi, in the capable hands of her mother or her mother-in-law while she is at work. “I don’t know what I would do without their support,” says Parvathy. “It is a huge worry lifted off my shoulders,” she adds. The thought is echoed by Veena A. Prasad who works at Arackal Digital Solutions. Veena is mother to seven-month-old Advaith. “I manage only because my parents have come down from Kayamkulam to help me out,” she says. Techie Hridya Grace Thomas who has a three-year-old daughter, Shreya Rebecca Thomas, narrates the same story. “I moved from Bangalore to the city only because my parents and in-laws were here to help me out with my daughter.” Not everyone, though, has such reliable hands to support them and a good majority of the techies end up having to send their children to day care centres. It is then surprising to note that in the whole of Technopark, which caters to a population of more than 40,000 people, there is precisely one crèche! This facility, started in April 2011 and run by the Trivandrum International School on the Technopark Club premises, can accommodate only 35 children.
“Day-care has always been and continues to be a monumental issue in Technopark. There is a severe dearth of day-care facilities here,” says techie Beena George, a project leader with IBS, who recalls with a shudder the “difficult time” she had after her son, Jonathan, was born. “It was crazy! Because of our work schedules, techies usually require daycares to function from 8 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Eight years ago, there were only a handful of good playschools in the entire city that catered to such timings – none at all near Technopark. Now, though, catering to demand, quite a few well-maintained crèches have popped up all over the city, especially in the Technopark-Kazhakkuttom area, which operates on ‘flexible pick-up and drop off’ timings,” says Beena, who recently scouted several crèches on behalf of her sister-in-law. “Ideally, a good crèche near the office would be a boon to working mothers, especially those of us who are still nursing,” says Parvathy.
The most important features that the mothers say they look for in a crèche are hygiene, safety, efficient and caring caretakers, and most importantly, lots of opportunities for the kids to play. Techie Malu Nair who works at QBurst and whose three-year-old, Abhinav, has been going to playschool since June says: “I want my child to have lots of fun and learn at the same time. There should be lots of opportunity for him to sing, rhyme, dance, run around, play with toys…be the child he is,” Adds Beena: “Another important issue is that the caretakers should be loving and at the same time firm enough to discipline the kids.”
Then the question is why there aren’t enough day-care facilities within Technopark? Anoop Ambika, managing director of Kreara Solutions and Secretary, Technopark Club ,explains: “Actually, a survey to determine whether there was a need for crèches has been in the works for a while now. But it is obvious that it is much in demand. That’s why the one at Technopark club was started”. Can’t companies run individual crèches themselves? “The main issue then is the lack of real estate for such facilities. At least 70 to 80 per cent of the 250-odd companies in Technopark are small and medium enterprises that simply don’t have the office space, the employee strength and/or the financial flexibility to run crèches. Here such facilities can be run only as a collective effort,” says Anoop. Nevertheless, he says there is hope yet for the hundreds of young mothers at Technopark. “Perhaps it’s time to give the issue further thought. As it is, each company pays for the upkeep of common facilities in Technopark and maybe we all can contribute a little extra for the purpose of crèches. Also organisations within Technopark such as GTech and eWit are working towards a solution for the issue.”