Working women and the fear of not being the ‘perfect’ housewife

Published: June 17, 2015

Every woman has her own experience of creating a work-life balance and what works for one person may not work for the other.

It is not easy for a working woman to strike a balance between work and other duties in life, but it’s not impossible. Women are striving to join the workforce in Pakistan and are reaching new heights, however, the expectations of their partners and in-laws discourage them from pursuing a career post-marriage.

Every woman has her own experience of creating a work-life balance and what works for one person may not work for the other. Therefore, I decided to share some tips that have helped me manage my work along with my personal life, post-marriage.

Start your career before you get married

Your job comes with a lot of pressure and it takes time to adjust in the office environment and learn the art of not allowing work politics to affect your personal life. If you start your career in your early days of marriage, you will end up with two new alterations in life – job and marriage – which can be quite challenging.

Hence, work for a year or two before getting hitched, experience how to manage an eight-hour shift at work and perform your personal chores once you get home – it’ll help you in the long run. For the women who are afraid of losing good proposals, get engaged and delay your marriage till you have learnt the art of balancing your priorities.

Don’t compete with house wives

Once you are start working, your standard of household precision should change. It’s not possible to have a flawless house with a full-time job. You may come across unpleasant women who will try to find faults with your not-so-perfect home, so don’t take their criticism to heart. Just be yourself and socialise as much as you can. If your partner does not have a problem with the way your house looks or is run, you have nothing to worry about. I’d advise you to not compromise on your well-being either. So don’t ever justify yourself while facing criticism, just shrug it off with a smile.

Discuss the vital aspects as a couple

If you strive to be a perfect housewife, you’ll end up distressed because the chances of that happening are slim to none. What married and working women need to understand is that there is no set standard of what how a perfect housewife is supposed to be. Every woman ends up setting that standard of perfection themselves.

You may, however, occasionally encounter your spouse pointing out imperfections in the household. The solution to this problem is communication. Ask your spouse the three vital aspects he expects from you and have a healthy discussion. Also inform him of the expectations you hold from him. Some men want their wives to appear attractive, even if they are a slob at cooking. Others prefer a wife who is a friend i.e. spends time with them in the evenings rather than engross themselves in the kitchen whipping up the best dinner.

Once you know what is important for your partner, just focus on those things. For example, if he wishes his wife to cook well and have conversations, then let go of the daily scrubbing and cleaning.  This will ensure that you two remain happy with each other even if the surrounding isn’t picture perfect. The key is to prioritise what is important for your happiness as a couple.

Contribute to your household financially

A lot of women make the mistake of keeping their salaries to themselves and ask their spouses to bear the household expenses. In my personal experience, one should spend together and save together. I don’t blame men who expect their working wives to be perfect housewives when they don’t share living expenses. Imagine, your husband refusing to pay a penny for household expenses, asking you to pay all the bills and whines about how tiring his job is. Doesn’t sound nice, does it? So, take care of some of the expenses and enjoy the feeling of being the bread winner along with your husband.

Get help if you find it difficult to cope

If you can’t wrap your head around the idea of your not-so-perfect home or you live with your in-laws, then get help. You can choose to pay for the domestic help as a part of your contribution to the household. In Pakistan, domestic help is quite affordable, but even if you live abroad, you may be able to afford weekly cleaning services. Over the weekend, you can focus on getting other tasks done rather than scrubbing your house clean.

Take regular breaks from work

Even with all the above strategies, you may find yourself exhausted juggling between household chores and office work. So don’t accumulate your recreational leaves, rather use them regularly to revive yourself. You will be amazed at how efficient you are at home when you take a few days off, as you are used to your routinely eight-hour shift. Take a two-day leave before or after a weekend and get your life back on track in four days. Also, don’t forget to spend some time and money on pampering yourself.

Desi men are good at heart; they are just not used to working women

I find a lot of women frustrated about why their partners are not like western men who share equal household responsibilities. I think western men perceive women as equal because they have witnessed generations of working women and perhaps have been raised by a working mother themselves. On the contrary, many of us have homemaker mothers who have pampered their family to bits. Therefore, I believe it takes time for a man to realise that his working wife is not like his mother who used to fetch a glass of water for him.

With time, your partner will realise and help you with household chores since you are helping him with the domestic finances. If you start demanding equal rights and equal share of household responsibilities in the beginning of your marriage, chances are that you will have a sour relationship with your partner; it will result in you choosing between your career and your marriage. So don’t try to impose perfection on everything, give it time; things do fall in place.

Keep in mind, what works for some might not work for others. These are some of the methods that worked for me and helped me strike a work-life balance alongside a healthy and happy married life. Since everyone’s situation is different, there will be exceptions and while sharing household expenses might be feasible for one family, might not be for the other. But with time vested and some effort, anything is possible. One other crucial factor is the understanding between the husband and wife. If your husband understands of the pressure you deal with every day, then half of your problem is sorted right there. After all, your marriage is based on the mutual understanding between the couple, and if he doesn’t have a problem with your choice to have a career, then nothing else matters.


Nadia Rizwan

The author is currently pursuing her PhD in Marketing and is a Lecturer at an Australian University.

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

  • Ozair

    A very good and balanced article. Usually we see women writing blogs to whine about injustice and discrimination in society and portray all men as evil. However, to my surprise this article was quite balanced with genuine advice to all working women out there.Recommend

  • rz

    i think i will forward it to my wife who forward me those flashy what’app /fb digital play cards full of Drama and all kind of advice for men and how victimized girls are etc etc i loved the article.A Guy.Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    A well written article that addresses womens issues without wailing endlessly about injustice and demonising men.

    You’ve got the right idea about equality methinks.Recommend

  • Critical

    U forgot the most important part…When they are looking for rishtha,tell your prospective groom and their parents that you are someone who would like to work after marriage too and get their approval….

    Most of the parents nowadays want a doctor or engineering graduate daughter-in-law but they also want them to remain housewife after marriage or atleast after she delivers a baby…

    With the current needs and fluctuating markets,there are many men who want a working wife with a stable income but make sure you find one of them…Recommend

  • Arsha

    But injustice and discrimination is a daily reality for women. Definitely that does not equate to all men being evil.
    But you have to be fair, in our societies it’s the current generation which is perhaps experiencing that tipping point of coming out of the thought process of being considered as second class citizens, of not getting any recourse for domestic abuse, of not feeling empowered to decide the course of own life and not feeling guilty about having their own individuality……
    And that’s why all the “whining”

  • ghina

    Nice article! Have learnt a lot from the given advice but you write about work within working hours, there were no suggestions for late sittings, what would you suggest for a working mother who have responsibilities of children and her employer did not allow her to leave offices even after office hours despite completion of all the assignments within time. Why it has been set as standard that the people sitting till late night are more efficient than the female mother leaving office on time to look after her kids?
    Looking forward for answers, please.Recommend

  • Shumaila

    Thank you Nadia for the tips. At the end of the day it all depends on how understanding your partner is.Recommend

  • Nadia Rizwan

    Thank you Ghina. Unfortunately there is a prevalent mindset of “long office hours” = “hard working employee”. I am not an expert, so I can suggest what I would do. So if you are punctual at arriving to office and manage to get work done in office hours, then set an appointment with your boss and have a conversation that you need to leave office on time. Don’t discuss other stuff as this will dilute the purpose of your meeting. Explain to him / her that you are efficient during working hours, but you need to leave office on time to attend to your children. Sometimes we assume that our bosses would automatically understand our situation, but communication is the key. What is the worse that can happen? He/she will give you a lecture on being “competitive”, say “thank you” to them for their invaluable advice. At least next time you leave the office your boss would know you are not leaving to party.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Very good article, doing justice to both the gendersRecommend

  • islooboy

    Working women are better with money CUZ THEY KNOW IT DOES NOT GROW ON TREESRecommend

  • Saeeda Usman

    Very well written MA. I am myself a working woman and have two young kids. And, I practice the above-listed advise/tips to keep my work and domestic life in balance. I enjoyed reading your stuff. Thank you.Recommend

  • saleha

    you wrote something really impressive and helping :) Thanks Nadia :)Recommend

  • Kamath

    Is it not in-Islamic to work outside one’s homemade for a Muslima ? Wasn’t she strictly told in the foundational texts of Islam that work in the house after husband and family. Why accept this fad of combining outside and inside work ?Recommend

  • Frank Mossman

    There are three routes towards gender equality, empowering women, disempowering men or a combination of the two. It took the two world wars to destroy the ‘weaker sex’ myth in the West (women worked in heavy industry manufacturing weapons, war material etc), on farms producing food, and even in armed conflict (French Resistance, Balkan conflicts, Luftwaffe, Soviet Army etc). Men realised that women are their equal in most respects. You need the compulsion and upheaval of war to breakdown cultural stereotypes. Pakistani women should exploit the dislocation created in Pakistan by the War on Terror to seek equality with their menfolk. You can already see the beginnings of this process in KPK (Malala, the arming of the women teachers and policewomen etc). Pakistani women have to take the initiative themselves to seek power – the government will not grant them on its own. You need house-husbands, or, at least a more equitable sharing of domestic responsibilities. That would be a good start.Recommend

  • Jehangir Khan Mescanzai.

    ” Start your career before you get married”… women have that
    luxury? In what part of the sub continent? After the desi women reach
    a certain age, they are considered old maids. If your career takes slightly
    longer to kick in,…marriage prospects will be harder and harder to come by.
    Is this blog, by any chance, aimed at desi women in the West? it’s an
    entirely different ball game in the sub continent. When it comes to marriage.Recommend

  • Ma’am

    Points are practical but in the growing fields as medicine coping with household family life in-laws working hours and education simultaneously is a near to impossible thing. U can’t do justice to any of them. Also not just ur partner but all ur in-laws reserve the right to criticize N design the pattern of ur life in subcontinent…. Sigh!!!Recommend