You are a stay-at-home mum who loves her role, who loves the fact that she is the centre of some tiny human’s universe but at the same time you struggle with coming to terms with this role publicly? You are not alone sister! Welcome to the club of ambitious, career-oriented professional women now turned full time Stay-At-Home Mums (SAHMs), by choice or by circumstances, all having one thing in common: some seriously confusing and conflicting mental baggage with bouts of no self-worth on and off and the anxiety of not being able to do so much more.
As a woman born in the urban middle class of the 80s Pakistan, I, like almost all women belonging to that era and social strata, was brought up believing that nothing is impossible, if you work hard you will reach the moon, that times have changed and women are walking side by side with men in all fields and so on. That was the mantra in every household and a significant mind set shift from the perceived roles and responsibilities of women in the baby boomer generation. BUT and it’s a big but, as it happens with all major changes, the thought was right but its execution was a bit flawed. Quite rightly we were encouraged to work hard in school and aim for a professional qualification paving way to a good job that would provide us with a good lifestyle and secure our future. However, somehow the fact that society had to be prepared and work towards accepting this new breed of women was overlooked, the fact that someone will still be needed to manage the house and look after the kids was somehow either missed or was left as an afterthought. The result: a generation of educated, professional women who are aware of their capabilities and rights but at the same time are expected to give their years of hard work, lower down their aspirations and accept the role of a homemaker without even batting an eyelid or a single frown. This equation has left the women of our generation not being able to get the balance right in terms of emphasizing the great satisfaction that comes from having a family and not just a career or vice versa. This single-handedly has become one of the main reasons why women of our generation our often unhappy and many a times depressed when they have to embrace the role of a full time SAHM, either by choice or due to circumstances, compared to women of the generation before who weren’t promised it all and hence took immense pride and joy in being a homemaker and having a happy, healthy family, although they had their share of society’s set pedestals and definitions of success.
I have only recently starting working again and am in a happy space at the moment, but in the years that I was at home, I had really low days in between when I went through so many conflicting feelings ranging from no self-worth, wasting all those years of education to even betraying the whole idea behind enabling women. Despite the fact that I loved being at home with both my babies and couldn’t be more grateful for having the option to do so, to be able to watch their every movement, every wink, every smile, every milestone first hand, I still had days where I would think am giving in and doing a disservice to the cause of women’s progress by choosing the traditional role of staying home and being just a devoted mum and not actually paying someone else to stand in as my replacement. And that’s just sad. And sadly enough, I observed it wasn’t just me, I would meet women in different social gatherings, 90% of them SAHMs with professional degrees and they all felt pressured to say things along the same lines as ‘I am thinking of taking up a course to brush up my skills’, I’m looking forward to getting back to work, someday’ etc. to indicate that they planned on leading a progressive, worthy life – which loosely translated to having a job and making money in the outside world. It was the same conversation every time you met someone new.
My take on this is simple: Modern society ties a person’s (specially a woman’s) success, cleverness and worth with their profession. How successful we are within our career is a yardstick against which we measure and compare ourselves with others. You might be everything from creative, innovative, clever etc. but if you are not working, you are not accounted for when it comes to defining success. Work done at home is not measured, quite underrated and rarely seen. There is no financial reward. Being a full time SAHM does not offer the same tangible milestones for success as other jobs do and this doesn’t take long to wear us down. In return, it becomes tough to find justification for this thankless role and simply saying ‘I’m a SAHM’ in response to ‘What do you do?’ doesn’t feel as exciting and impressive compared to any previous work title you held in this visiting card obsessed society.
About time, we do something about restoring the pride in CHOICE. Career or no career, SAHM, Single working woman, married working woman, it should be a choice and someone’s IQ validation shouldn’t depend on it. Everyone is different and that’s the beauty of our human race. We, as socially aware people, can take the first step by stopping to associate our self-worth and intelligence with only our profession and stop trying to convince others of our worth. Be confident in your choices as the more confident you are, the less you need other people to validate them. Be fulfilled in general and if not then try to work towards finding a solution. Don’t compete as competition is truly the thief of joy. Respect your decision, your needs, and counter respect others’ choices, don’t make it a competition. And this goes out more for women because if we unite on this front, we, as mothers, can drive this change more than anyone.
On an end note, please try and understand that women empowerment is not about having a career or no career; it’s about having a choice and being respected for things that actually matter and make a difference in society, not just a 9-5 job or a business, the choice to decide what is best for you and your family on your terms. Moreover, if you have decided to take that break, remind yourself that taking 4-5 or even 9-10 years from your career might take it a few steps (or more) backwards but to watch your kids grow and know them up-close and personal is a small trade off in the bigger picture of life. This is definitely not easy but now when I see how busy life has gotten since getting back in the rut of work-home life, I feel content I had the choice to spend a few non-rushed, lazy days and years with my boys. So, all you beautiful mummies: Embrace, explore and enjoy all phases and roles in life as Life surely is Beautiful!