I want to live in a Pakistan where women support women

Published: December 23, 2013
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Work-life balance is of utmost necessity and if any one of them is being neglected, then this is a matter of grave concern.

I once had dreams of building a successful career as a legal professional. I pursued this dream all the way up to studying for the Bar-entrance-examination. However, our society expects a girl to get married as soon as she crosses puberty – before she can make any serious effort to pursue a career.

Eventually, I too had to succumb to pressure and tied the knot half expecting a career shift from the court room to the kitchen.

Initially, things worked like a charm and I was blessed with a home that I could proudly term my ‘heaven’. Yet I couldn’t curb my desire to get out there and work; to have a distinct identity of my own. Isn’t it one of the most difficult things to do – to kill your dreams and not give yourself a chance to see them come true?

Thankfully, I was blessed with the support of a husband who understood my need to be more than a homemaker, and a son who gave me immense perspective on life and more strength than I could have otherwise gathered.

Unfortunately, for the majority of working women, killing their dreams becomes inevitable after marriage. Despite living in times of progressive change, women are expected to stay at home, raise children and manage household chores. Women receive very little help from their in-laws, especially the female members, who could share such responsibilities.

For most women, it becomes almost impossible to pursue a career alongside family life. Working mothers further worry about leaving their children back at home and this obviously takes a toll on their performance.

As a working woman, I struggle with all the above mentioned issues on a daily basis, and the only way I managed to balance work and family was with the assistance of all the women in my life who made sure that I fulfilled my dream.

I leave home for work early in the day and return quite late in the evening knowing that my mother-in-law is taking care of my son. Most importantly, she give me confidence that I won’t be labelled as a ‘bad mother’ or an ‘irresponsible woman’ who is only focused on her career with no sense of responsibility towards family.

When I need support, encouragement and guidance, I have my own mother, sisters and sisters-in-law constantly by my side. This is how I can concentrate on my work while away from my husband and son.

In my experience, this is the best gift any female member of the family can give to women who need support to pursue their careers.  If all women in every household could help each other overcome the barriers erected by society — which rigidly assigns all household affairs to women — many of us would be able to have successful professional lives.

We usually hear people casually stating,

“Aurat hee aurat ki dushman ha”

(A woman’s enemy is always a woman)

Can’t we prove it wrong by helping one another move ahead in life so people say,

“Aurat hee aurat ki madad kartee hai”

(only a woman can help another woman)

It’s a fact that leaving children with paternal and maternal grandmothers and aunts has multiple benefits for children in terms of education. This eliminates the possibility of children going astray while mothers are at work.

If for any reason families are not living in the same house, town or city, why can’t female friends make an arrangement whereby four to five friends leave their children with one of their friends who has made a life decision not to work or pursue a career?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t promote the idea of women only concentrating on their careers, in fact, I am against it. Work-life balance is of utmost necessity and if any one of them is being neglected, then this is a matter of grave concern.

All I am saying is that a woman should also have the liberty of having a professional life if she so desires and I know it can be done but only with the help of other women.

God has created us in such a way that we cannot live entirely on our own. We constantly need the support of others, be it emotional or physical. This is why we have families to love, cherish and depend on.

In my opinion, the best gift from one woman to another is support and encouragement which allows her to dream and enrich her life, personally as well as professionally.

I have it and I know it’s worth a thousand jewels.

Amna Usman

Amna Usman

A Barrister-at-Law from Lincoln's Inn she is passionately pursuing the legal profession.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fatiha Asim

    I couldn’t agree more .Recommend

  • Ali

    I totally agree with Amna Usman, unfortunately Pakistani don’t understand her. I wish you could start on practical ground for women rights.keep it upRecommend

  • picky

    Amazonia – its called. Asma J as presidentRecommend

  • ali waqar

    If a mother leaves a child at her inlaws and wards off to work then that grandmother who has already reared three or four sons has to prctically bring another child up. An imballance. I am not driven by ego or nething . All i am saying if in todays society a mother does not give her child full attention there is great chance that that child might go astray and have problems in his futuer. And trust me if a mother devotes herself to upbringing she would not at all find time for ne job. Child rearing is a full time job. And mind it the west has practically lost it due to lack of a familysystem in which women have started to work and not rear. There is a serious demographic imballance in europe due to which their population growth is almost nill for future survival of the white . These are mere facts which i have tried to bring in as a viewpoint. No offence in ne way to ne one please. Recommend

  • Nobody

    Excellent post. I, too, have had the pleasure of growing up around women who are a great support system to me. Never understood the dirty politics among some women; I suppose it boils down to insecurities. Luckily, I’ve never dealt with it first hand and hope I never do.Recommend

  • Dr.Sheraz

    V balanced article. If u would really want to help, minister for women empowerment KPK welcomes .u Here, they r facing problems beyond your imaginations.Recommend

  • UzairH

    I am a Pakistani, and I commpletely endorse this blog and women having the right to pursue their own dreams and chance to accomplish something in life. As far as the raising of children, that is the combined responsibility of both parents. As a father I make sure I am part of my kids’ upbringing and that my wife is able to pursue her career.

    For me it boils down to women being as much human beings as men, and a woman should be able to feel like she has an importance in the world and an identity OTHER than just being the daughter or wife of a man.

    I personally feel proud of my wife for her career accomplishments, and on top of those she is a wonderful mother.Recommend

  • MrRollsRoyce

    The attitude that women should be “homemakers” and should not pursue their dreams is one of the main aspects of the ultra-misogynistic ideology that originates from the tribes of the middle-east. I hope that one day we get rid of these social attitudes.Recommend

  • Kanwal

    I think you are under the age old illusion that the “west has lost it and we have not”. 50000 human lost human lives and thousands of bomb blasts later, I totally disagree with you that at least in Pakistan we have not lost it all.
    I was wondering if I could request the Express Tribune editors to allow me to write a blog here on this topic because there are so many things that can be done using the benefits of our joint family systems sometimes that it amazes me how much potential we are loosing by keeping half of our population out of work. And women like us, who have seen it and been there, can contribute a lot towards this goal by sharing our experiences and opinions. Kindly let me know here in this space if there is any such possibility. Recommend

  • Amina

    Being a working mother of three kids ……….. I agree with what you have written. Happy to know that there are other women out there you enjoy support from family and friends to pursue their careers.Recommend

  • Nobody

    First off, having help in raising your children is NOT a bad thing. And just because a woman is working, it does mean she does not give her child attention. Strange how you expect a woman’s life to revolve around other people, even her child, but not a man’s. Children who are smothered often go astray too so that isn’t a barometer. Child rearing is a full time job for BOTH parents. It is unreasonable and archaic to expect a woman to drop everything in her life and devote it to someone else, even her child. EVERY person has the right to have their own identity separate from others. A woman can be a mother, but she can also be a career professional in her field of choice or whatever else she wants to be. Stop reducing women to their biological functions and nothing else. We were not brought on this earth to pop out babies and sit at home rearing them.
    The population decline in Western countries among whites is due to the fact that women have control of how many children they have and can CHOOSE to stop after 1 or 2. Eastern women often do not have that choice and have baby after baby that they may not want and often cannot afford. Having an exploding out of control population is not a point of pride.
    Furthermore, stop blaming WOMEN for all of the problems in the West. I’ve seen many successful families with working women and they all tend to have one thing in common: a strong supportive father figure who is an active parent and carries his weight as a parent and a husband, allowing the woman to have her freedom to do what she wants in her own time. So the loss of a family system is not tied to working women. It would be laughable to say Eastern family systems are just peachy because I think we both know that’s not true.
    Cheers.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In your write up you say……if for any reason the family does not live in the same town, then why can’t female friends make an arrangement where by three or more leave their children with one of the friends who has made a life decision not to work.

    In principle I agree with what you have said but in the above paragraph and the write up in general, I detect a high degree of ‘ self ‘ involved. The fact that others too have a life and possibly wish to lead it in the way they think fit, seems to have been missed.Recommend

  • Awais Ali

    100% AgreedRecommend

  • Fouz

    But of course it requires a lot of patience and compromise to have the best of both the worlds. My mum left her job and raised the children only to sacrifice her lifelong passion – but those were different times. Nowadays I dont think any educated girl, let alone a professional, should make that kind of sacrifice. Working is not just about making money but having a personal space of your own too.Recommend

  • Gp65

    You assume that unless grandma steps in, a working woman cannot raise a child well. This fact free assertion can be given a lie if you find even one well adjusted child raised in a nuclear family where mother was working. If you look around, you will find millions of such kids.

    Secondly it is cetainly not the case that all stay at home Mom raise wonderful well adjusted kids. Do you think the suiccide bombers’ mothers were working women?Recommend

  • Jawad

    Change is inevitable and it will come to us eventually. But
    when, well this is still a question mark no doubt.

    Living in US I realized that not only do they give or at
    least constantly try to give women their God given rights they also see the
    value for their society in women working and then this value further becomes
    the driving force behind the will to give women their due rights. However somehow
    somewhere we got this all wrong.

    I agree with the author that women should help other women.
    Additionally I will say be little rebellious.Recommend

  • a mother

    Dear Amna,
    i couldnt agree more with you had i read this post an year back. Like you, i too had dreams and had a professional career until i got married and had to leave my job. After few months, I started to get depressed and decided to pursue further studies. My husband had been supportive and I started my graduation with the aim to enter corporate world while my son was 6 month old. He would stay at my mothers during my classes and both my parents would take really good care of him.

    However, after one year, I have realised no matter how hard I try, this balance cannot be achieved. My son, who has turned 2 now, has developed certain habits that I would not want in him, just because I was away for a while. Also my parents are getting older and I cannot put more burden on them this way. I cannot take a chance to trust a maid or babysitter as well. I am often depressed with the fact that I did not give him his due attention.

    My point is, leaving your child with grandparents is neither a sustainable solution nor good for his upbringing as the grandparents have different stakes and would rather shower your child with endless love than disciplining them. Only a mother can.Recommend

  • Nobody

    That is the same argument men use when they are trying to find a justification for being lazy (“only mothers can do such and such.”) My father was a HUGE part of my life and my sister’s life growing up. My mother couldn’t have done it without him and I don’t find it acceptable or fair to expect only mothers to give up everything and have only one identity in life.
    No disrespect to your ow your choice. But I am inclined to disagree with you last statement. A father can and should be an equally active part of his child’s life, allowing the mother more time to herself to pursue her own goals as well as taking care of her child. It’s a two person job and leaving the burden entirely on the mother is not an acceptable way to live in my not so humble opinion.
    Cheers.Recommend

  • the mother

    Dear Nobody,
    First I disagree with the upbringing of your child termed as ‘burden’. But the two have become synonymous because of womens priorities now. I agree when you say fathers need to contribute too, but their contribution can’t go beyond spending time with kids on weekends or after they are back from work. You obviously don’t expect your husband to stay at home for your kid.Recommend