NADIA KABIR BARB
O you have three kids and you write a column in Star Weekend Magazine?" The question was posed to me by an old friend who I had not been in touch with in years. The pause on the phone was enough for me to have an inkling of what was to follow. "But you used to be very adamant about getting married after you had a career wasn't pursuing a career really important to you? So what happened?" As I thought about the answer to that, I realised that he was absolutely right--all those years ago, my outlook on life had been completely different. I had different aims and goals. Having worked intermittently since marriage, the birth of three children in between made me take stock of my life and make a conscious decision to take time out and spend it with my children. Back to answering his question "So what had happened?"--"I guess life happened" was my answer.
When you are young you start out with a whole lot of ideas and perceptions of how your life is going to turn out but the naivety of youth makes you very unaware that destiny may have chosen a completely different path for you. We all make choices in our lives starting from the little ones where you decide whether to have toast or cereal for breakfast, to how you want to lead your life and what you want to become. But when you are a woman the decision to choose between being a career woman and staying at home looking after her children is not always a clear cut one. In my view, there are a few lucky women who can create the right balance between the two. If you decide to pursue a career with a view to starting a family at a later stage or even not at all, then people look at you with disdain. The impression is that a woman must lack natural sensibilities to not want to settle down and raise a family. Being a wife and mother seems to be the natural progression of a woman's life. So the idea that someone should choose a career over a family seems to send the wrong signals. Sadly, in many areas, there is a misconception that a woman who earns her own living and is independent, does not make a good wife or mother. Some men, I think are slightly intimidated by women who are established in their own right and feel that they may not have the last say in everything. Fortunately, there are many men who find this independence a quality and want someone who they believe will be a companion and an equal.
However, there are always two sides to a coin and on the flipside we have the women who either choose not to have a career or give up their career to raise a family. It's funny, but even then people look at you with pity, "Oh, she's just a housewife". As if that is something one should be ashamed of. Even when people talk about how hard it is to stay at home and raise a family, what a full-time job it is, and label you as a "home maker" (it's supposed to be a more politically correct term), it can still be likened to a condescending pat on the head. As with being a career woman, there is yet another misconception which some people seem to subscribe to, whereby, if you happen to be a housewife, then obviously you are not capable of pursuing a job in the first place. Somehow being a housewife almost becomes a lowly occupation. Then of course the concept of the female being the nurturer is forgotten. It makes you wonder whether you should be carrying a name card with all your credentials and the numerous roles one has to take on when you become a full-time parent. Actually if you think about it, it can be a lose-lose situation. We just never can get it right because there is always someone to make disparaging remarks about any decision we might have taken. Sometimes you just can't win.
However, not every woman has the luxury of even dreaming of what their future may hold in store for them. Many don't have the option of working, despite being extremely capable or having the desire to do so. Marriage may be the only path for them because of financial circumstances or family pressures. On the other hand, some may be forced into employment to support their family. The choice between being a career woman or a housewife probably does not even feature in the scheme of things. As we all know, life is never equal nor fair. Once again, life just happens.
At some point we all suffer from the grass is greener syndrome and there have been many times that I have felt envious of some of my friends with their high-powered jobs. But similarly they seem to feel the same pang when they see me with my family. We all make decisions in our life with the best of intentions and only time can tell us whether the choices made were the right ones. It is not easy to juggle both a family life and pursue a career but it is not impossible. It really doesn't matter which path you end up following, whether you are a career woman or a housewife, as long you do it with conviction.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005