Does having a career mean I’m going to be a bad mother?

Published: June 19, 2016
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Forget everything you've heard about stay-at-home moms. Many are starting businesses and working from home. Photo: CNN

I was having a chat with a newly married friend when she suddenly stopped and said,

“I want to start a family, but I’m not too sure.”

Relieved that it wasn’t some troubling marital revelation, I assured her that her confusion was natural and that time would probably grant her more clarity.

However, her predicament didn’t end there. She had always envisioned herself to be a home-maker, but now when it was actually time to start a family, she wasn’t too sure if she wanted to compromise on her promising career. To top it all off, she was not only confused, but rather, was ashamed to admit that she couldn’t naturally or unequivocally choose her family life over her career.

I, for one, could completely relate to her since I faced the exact same dilemma when I had my daughter a couple of years ago. Given my personal struggle with this issue and my countless discussions with friends and colleagues, over time I have gained some insight into this perplexing conundrum.

When we dig deep to assess why most of us millennials feel the way we feel, we find that a lot of young women today in Pakistan come from families with stay-at-home mothers. We have grown to appreciate their constant attention and supervision (which seemed much of a nuisance in our teenage years); our mind has conditioned us to equate stay-at-home parenting with the best form of parenting.

However, at the same time we realise that our stay-at-home mothers haven’t truly raised us to be like them. They have encouraged us to be more independent (monetarily and otherwise) and career-driven, by investing so much time and energy into our education and prospective career choices. Thus, these very home-making mothers have consciously or unconsciously raised us to not just be home-makers.

Furthermore, while we are intrinsically inclined a certain way, we also belong to a very divided and opinionated culture, so our confusion about this issue isn’t all that surprising. On one hand, old school beliefs perpetuate the idea that stay at home mothering is the ideal form, and that career driven women selfishly damage their family lives.

On the other hand, the “liberal and empowered” section of society deems stay-at-home parenting as an archaic principle and wastage of women’s education.

Therefore, under these opposing influences, a young woman finds it excruciatingly difficult to make the ‘right’ choice, because choosing one comes at the expense of the other.

So if you are a young woman who finds herself having to make this choice, realise that you are not alone. This is a huge decision and to seek the right course of action I humbly suggest you consider the following:

-Acknowledge your fears and concerns. Acknowledge that you don’t need to apologise or be ashamed for what you feel. Acknowledge your dreams, whether it is to be successful at your career or to be a perfect home-maker. And even if you want to have it all!

-Explore all parenting options, work out their logistics and address consequences. If you want to work full-time, consider the availability of family, day-care or a nanny, and whether you are comfortable leaving your child with them. You could also work part-time or from home, but then discuss the workings of such an arrangement with your employer. Or, you might want to take a couple of years off – but that might compromise your career growth.

Lastly, you could choose to be a stay-at-home mother and be completely content with that life-style choice.

-Don’t be too rigid in your decision because your perception of motherhood might be different from your actual experience. Decide and plan in advance, but be ready to face surprises. Either way, you will know what you want and how you want it.

-Be content and don’t compare your situation to anyone else’s. What you choose for your family might not work for other people and what they’ve chosen might not work for you; so don’t judge and don’t feel judged when you make your decision.

In the end, just remember that, no matter what decision you make, you are and will be a great mother – do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Mariam Javed

Mariam Javed

The author is a LUMS graduate, with a Bachelors degree in Economics. She is currently living in South Africa with her husband and a very busy two year old, remotely contributing to social projects in Pakistan.

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

  • maz3tt

    Motherhood is a full time job period .The primary role of a woman is raising children. My question is why should a child suffer because a mother want to pursue her career?. Who-ever is doing 9-5 job, her children will suffer a great deal.Recommend

  • Amna

    All due respect I completely disagree. My brother and I grew up with a full time working mother who sat for CSS after marriage. It was her amazing ability to keep a balance. I grew up wanting to be just like her. It was hard for her no doubt but it was fulfilling. Does a woman not have the right to feel her life is more than just her primary role? It becomes much more manageable if the man in the relationship steps up to be a present father :) if both support each other, nothing is impossible. And also consider another factor, financial constraints of life today also need both partners to be working to afford a comfortable life.Recommend

  • Razi Mallick

    Life is always tough. In some situations tough choices have to be made. Everyone should make decision according to his or her circumstances. In some cases, like mentioned in the article, the contemporary trends may have compelling effect. In majority of cases it is very difficult to resist this pressure, like these days it is much talked about women empowerment. The article is reflecting the same phenomenon. But life is yours, and makes decision what you think fits to your priority and the given circumstances.
    If your give more weight to your family happiness and also want to work, then make a collective decision in consultation with your life partner. Do not make a solo flight. If you want to be a home-maker, that is also not a bad idea. If you give preference to your work, that is not a problem. In that case select your life partner accordingly. Also flexible to change your decision to your changing circumstances.
    Always try to strike a balance between competing demands, if you want to lead a happy life. Whatever you choose, pursuit of family happiness should be the overriding preference. Draw a feasible plan taking all the factors into consideration. But do not trade anything in exchange for a happy family life. If you do that, you may feel comfortable at the young age but as you move towards ageing, the situation will changes drastically.
    Do not make the sociio-economic and political eltes your role model. They are a different class of their ownRecommend

  • maz3tt

    I am talking generally. Part-time mothers and part-time fathers who doesn’t maintain work and home balance etc will get part time sons and daughters. Things get reversed after 30-40 years. Why bring the young ones to life if it feels a burden for both of them. they should have pity on them!

    I am not talking about those mothers who is doing it for survival. ”un per to salam hai”.

    In modern materialistic world there will always be financial constraints for some. you know what i mean.Recommend

  • Sana Ajmal

    I think it’s a personal choice and nobody should have the right to judge your decisions.
    I completely agree that sometimes it’s financially necessary… and sometimes you have a body and mind that is more active than can be satisfied with performing household chores.
    If pursuing a career gives you satisfaction .. It should not be jidged as you being a bad mom. Recommend

  • gp65

    You are just making assumptions. There is no data that shows that mothers who work outside the home cannot be attentive, caring and loving parents.
    In any case the kids are in school for most of the day, how do they suffer because their mother is not sitting at home waiting for them?
    If you personally prefer a situation where mother is at home full time, you have the right to reflect that decision in the spouse you choose. DO not assume that what works for you is necessarily what works for others.
    Oh and by the way, are you close to your father? I know I am very close to mine. He of course worked outside the home but I did not think of him as a part time father. He was engaged and affectionate and caring. Mothers can be the same.Recommend

  • gp65

    You respect the mothers who work outside the home if it is necessary for survival. You are of course assuming that once she is home, she is caring and loving and affectionate towards her children.
    Well the same goes for women who might not be doing it just for survival. They too maybe caring and loving and affectionate and engaged once they are home.
    If a woman works outside the home, that does not mean she considers her children a burden.
    Of course if someone considers children a burden, I would agree with you that they should not have children. There too, it may not be as much of a choice as you imply. they maybe compelled to do that due to social pressure. Society in India and Pakistan is not very open to people choosing to remain childless.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    not a bad mommy but maybe a bad wife
    and which world r u living in? this is the 21st century. no one thinks about such backward thoughts nowadays.Recommend

  • Aisha

    My mother is a divorced , working woman, a doctor. And i am proud to say that I never suffered a bit even though, you know, how hectic a doctor’s schedule is. She always assured that she made time for me. I am 16 years old now and the immense bond I have with her, I haven’t seen teenagers around me sharing a similar bond with their stay-at-home mom’s. Please don’t generalize all working mothers like this. There is a lot more that defines a mother so please don’t put generalized labels about stay-at-home moms and working moms.Recommend

  • MR.X

    No, But the probability of being a bad mother and wife definitely increases in my viewRecommend