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.