The educated housewife: A choice, not a chore

Published: October 21, 2016
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Her daughter was born, and only four years later she established her own practice. PHOTO: LINKEDIN

Until recently I’d felt that feminism, when it came to women working, was baseless because in most modern families, women can choose to either work or stay at home. But I’ve come to realise that the only reason I feel this way is because I’m lucky enough to have been raised in an environment where I am not expected to give up my dreams because of something as trivial as my gender.

Let me tell you a story.

I know someone who married at the age of twenty-six, of her own accord. She had already completed her Bachelor’s degree with a distinction, and continued to work even after getting married. Her daughter was born, and only four years later she established her own practice. This woman has served on the board of a prestigious university, has been published numerous times, and now, two decades later, is fulfilling another dream and completing her Master’s degree on full scholarship.

I’d say that’s a pretty accurate image of a well-established female.

The woman’s husband supported her every decision, never once asking her to give up her dreams and stay at home. You say,

“She would’ve have never been around, her kids must have suffered”?

And yet, both her children are happy, healthy, and currently completing their O and A Levels from one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

“They must have no family life,” you think.

Wrong again. The four of them form a closer knit family than most – they regularly go out to the cinema together, they eat breakfast and dinner together, and no weekend is complete without at least one family or friend gathering.

When her children were born she took time off  (about a year and a half, both times) after which she worked only part-time and switched to a smaller nearby office so that she could reach home within five minutes if needed.

Despite having this strong female figure in her life, her daughter is different. She dreams of getting married in her early twenties with a huge desi wedding. She wants to stay at with home with her children. Are you thinking it must be because her mother neglects her family and the daughter doesn’t want to make the same mistake? No, she has never felt neglected, nor has she ever resented her mother’s career, quite the opposite actually, she respects her career. Are you feminists shaking your head at her? Are you assuming that it’s the only life she can have because she’s an airhead and can’t be successful? No, she is not dumb. She is intelligent. She manages to maintain outstanding grades at one of the most sought-after schools in the country, is applying to the top universities in the world, and has set high academic goals for herself so that she can be independent. The only difference is that after all this is over, she will choose to stop working and become a stay-at-home mom. Not because she is pressured into it or because that’s what her husband would want, but because that is what she feels would make her happier and is what she’d want to do with her own life.

Personally, I relate to the daughter, and those close to me know this. I was therefore left dumbfounded and hurt when they tsk’d and judged me for sharing a post about how girls should not be forced to stay confined to the kitchen.

Just because I feel that girls should not be bound to work in kitchens all day, doesn’t mean I’m saying girls should not cook because it degrades them.

It was then that I realised the extent of the situation. The majority of us have segregated to two poles. The first is the age-old “a girl should only cook, clean, and stay home.” The second pushes women to be solely career driven.

There is a stereotype of house-wives and stay-at-home moms being regarded as signs of subservience and accepted inferiority. The problem is that girls are expected by some to stay home, but looked down upon by others if they comply. Do you see the pattern? There is no right answer, and the girl’s own voice is lost somewhere in between.

A middle ground must be reached, where a woman can choose to either work or stay at home. To achieve this, there must be a shift in mind-sets of both extremes. Being career-oriented does not necessarily translate into being a terrible homemaker. Choosing to stay home to take care of the family does not give people the right to judge her for “accepting male superiority.”

The problem is not what women want and don’t want to do. The problem is that whatever they do, there will always be someone who will disapprove.

Feminists fight to empower women but sometimes fail to realise that women at home are empowered too. I am not a radical feminist, I am not a chauvinist. Yes, I want to stay at home. And no, I am not oppressed.

Mina Niaza

Mina Niazi

The author is an A-Level pre-medical student at Karachi Grammar School, with many diverse interests ranging from art and graphic design to national affairs.

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

  • MR.X

    yup, there are women who like to stay at home, like being provided for, this is their natural instincts and men are to provide for women as per islam ,,Recommend

  • Shahzad Aslam

    Very well written. A women should hear her own voiceRecommend

  • Fahim

    My wife had chosen herself to stay at home and YES I am OPPRESSED.Recommend

  • Razi Mallick

    The article is juxtaposition of the girl’s inner feelings and till-formed opinions, which are still in the formative stage. But one thing seems evident, and that is her subconsciousness is reflecting dream of a family life galvanized with outpouring love and affection between husband and wife. Here I do not see any curse or rebellion against coercion but yearning for a serene family, living in an environment of cooperation and not confrontation.
    Imagine how a society would look like built on this foundation, especially in the prevailing environment where men and women have been pitted against each other. I would like to cite an example from the US 2010 Census findings that twenty-four percent of the US children are living with single moms sliding down to further poverty, facing problems in transition from childhood to adulthood, and disconnected from the mainstream society.
    The innocent dream expressed by the girl gives me comforts and wish and pray for her dreams to be fulfilledRecommend

  • Hira Mirza

    Since we are new to the concept of feminism and regard this only as a campaign adopted by the privileged class, it will probably take some time to strike a balance between the two extremes you have mentioned in your article. Nevertheless, we are learning to understand (sluggishly, yes) that every human being on this planet has his own mind and heart, so let’s listen to what each says.Recommend

  • ajay gupta

    how can u be a pre medical student at grammar school? she aspires to go to med schl, is that what u mean?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely expressed….but you are talking of a very small percentage of people. In todays environment its the financial constraint that plays a big part in this decision. In many a family both parents HAVE to work in order to have a reasonable standard of living.Recommend

  • MR.X

    lol…so my fears about marriage are right??Recommend

  • Ravi Blr

    To waste an education is criminal. All educated women should work, it benefits the woman, it benefits the family, and it benefits society and the country. Men cannot choose to sit at home after education, why do women feel they have a choice?Recommend

  • http://thoughtsandotherthing.blogspot.fr/2015/09/hyderabad-as-i-know-and-feel.html Supriya Arcot

    Women in applied professions like CA/Doc/Eng etc do injustice by wasting their education but if some one is bare basics like graduation (B.A , M.A ) etc., then yes the opportunity cost ( benefits otherwise ) are not much by ‘sitting’ at home.Recommend

  • Mina

    Actually men do have a choice. They just don’t exercise it because people will consider them slackers and shameless if they don’t work. If their wife works instead then they can, essentially, stay home and look after the house and the children.Recommend

  • Mina

    How can you say education is wasted? Education means attaining knowledge and everybody should have an equal right to knowledge regardless of what they may or may not choose to do with it. And if you mean in the sense that seats are wasted, then maybe people who DO want to work and not stay home should work harder and get better grades so that they can get those seats instead.Recommend

  • farhan

    women are supposed to stay at home in islam..and cannot go out without their husbands permission according to Sahih HadithRecommend

  • Mina

    Wow, thank you so much!Recommend

  • Fahim

    Right but jokes apart it comes with a lot of benefits.Recommend

  • MR.X

    i know..but shhh…people want to hear what they like…they dont care about sahih hadith…their feelings are more important these dayzRecommend

  • MR.X

    Fahim bhai, seeing these feminists these days, i want nothing to do with them, they are spoilt,narcisstic.. And i am short tempered and straight forward , i dont tolerate non-sense..Women actually feared me in university as per my friends..But then again they respected me and did not mess with me…i enjoyed it though…lol…i like shy and feminine women..Recommend

  • MR.X

    feminism is a failed concept..People in the west have seen its fruit..they themselves say that feminism caused high divorce rate..near 70 %.. In islam clearly husband has more right over his women ..or do you disagree with prophetic teachings which feminists indirectly lable as misogynstRecommend

  • Fahim

    Shy and feminine woman is ideal wife. Short tempered is not good, after marriage forgive your wife 70 times a day even any junior.Recommend

  • MR.X

    hmmm… i remeber the Prophets saying’treat women kindly, a women is liked a curved portion of a rib, if you try to starighten it, it will break’. This i read in Sahih Bukhari as i recall it..Sounds legit adviceRecommend

  • farhan

    women respect you if they fear you..thats spot on…and youve got to be hard on them sometimes otherwise they get spoilt..i have seen it…men love to be respected..women love to be lovedRecommend

  • farhan

    you are discussing facts,statistics and logic…women dont like themRecommend

  • Mina

    The point is not that they should go out of their house even if their husband does not allow. The point is that the husband SHOULD allow.Recommend

  • Mina

    Nowhere in any hadith does it specifically state that women cannot work. Bibi Khadija, the Prophet’s first wife, was a businesswoman and the Prophet (pbuh) never asked her to stop working. Feelings are only being discussed because they are being hurt by uneducated people for unjustifiable reasons.Recommend

  • Mina

    Instead of blaming women for the increase in divorce rate, don’t you think you should be a little smarter than that and think of why divorce rates increased? The rise in feminism simply made women realize that they should not be treated as if they were worthless or inferior to their husbands. So actually the rise in divorce rates just goes to show that 70% of women were living in abusive relationships, which in turn goes to show how messed up the mindset of most males is.Recommend

  • Mina

    And men don’t understand them :) (Proof is the comment above in which facts were taken at face value instead of being analysed and understood)Recommend

  • farhan

    Its up to the husband to allow..not upto women …This is clear from islamic law..you can consult anyone about this as it is clearly stated in Sahih Ahadith which i have personally read..SalamRecommend

  • farhan

    and do you know that WHEN hazrat Khadija was alive the order of veil had not come..It was not revealed until she died..read sahih Bukhari and tafseer for further reference my sister..But i never said women are not allowed my sister..you just interpreted it wrongly..i just said you need husbands permission….This is islamic law and no one can change itRecommend

  • farhan

    Even people in the west are saying its due to feminism…Where are you living mars?…haha…Come one just told you facts and you interpreted them as you wanted to see. it dosent suit your interpretation of islam..Hypocrysy much..70% of women were oppressed so they took divorce..Its a factual statement as claimed by you…You analyze so good..70% divorce=70% oppressed women ..good logic..Just proves feminist think all men are bad,evil..Recommend

  • MR.X

    upto the husband to decide….as per islamic lawRecommend

  • MR.X

    Says a women who said 70% divorce =70% abusive men..Women were 100% correct who are angels and Gods greatest gift to earth??..You just proved your analysis and stating of facts is a lie and based on emotions..Farhan stands vindicated by his analysis of womenRecommend

  • farhan

    her analysis..lolRecommend

  • Xyz

    A woman has and should choose her course of life however she needs to also understand the realities. There is a reason why financial independence is so important for every individual, be it a man or woman. Life is not a fairytale – divorces, deaths, abandonment, spousal abuse – these are real. And often women find themselves stranded vulnerable to exploitation. Recommend

  • Abid

    In Islam men and women have equal rights. It is misrepresentation of Islam to say that men has more rights than women, instead in Islam the responsibility of men are more than women. Decision making is a responsibility not a right therefore the decision of husband should be followed by wife.
    The difference between rights and responsibility is that if someone does not avail his rights he will not be questioned rather will be awarded in hereafter on the other hand if someone does not perform his responsibility he will be questioned and will asked in hereafter.Recommend