Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, October 22, 2009

Working it out with Working Parents

By Wahid T. Khan

This could be a tough beginning altogether, and no doubt awkwardly cliched. A lot of people amongst us would agree that the earliest memories they have of their parent(s) would be with a briefcase, and in formal garb, that's because “they had office to attend”. This image would continue to have quite an effect on our minds, so that when asked by elders what we wanted to do when we grew up, it would be something like “I want to go to office like dad!”. Or atleast, this writer and a few people did so.

Fast forward to your teenage years, and now that you actually understand what your parents did for a living, the question is, is it still the same? Do you want to have a go at the Stock Market? Does your Dad's military persona want you to sign up for Service too, or absolutely abhor it? In general, have your parents' professions shaped your idea of an ideal career, and to what extent? We did a bit of asking around, heard what people with parents working in various fields have to say, and this is what we have gathered.

The Workaholic Executive/ Business Parent:
Tailored suit. Check. Polished black leather shoes. Check. Awesome smartphone which beeps frequently. Check. That's a few of the many details that builds up your idea of your parent's top job at this company, or perhaps the company that he founded from the ground up. But that's not all, is it? The reason that is the stereotypical image in your mind, is because- simply put- that is all you see of your parent, when you see them, that is. “Dad's hardly at home; he leaves at seven-thirty in the mornings, and returns home sometime after midnight- and then he slumps to bed. On Fridays, always expect an abrupt meeting to be scheduled, or dinner with clients. The only part of him we see after his return from trips abroad are the gifts. That's it,” says Shadab, aged 14. When asked what he would like to do after his studies, Shadab replies, “I don't know, but definitley not something that keeps me too busy to be with my family, perhaps something that could allow me to work from home”.

There are people who would want to contradict Shadab's comments. Anik, aged 16, says, “Sure, life's hard and you have to compromise on family time, but it's the family that you are working yourself out for. Vacations and gifts just don't come free. You get to meet well-known people, and top of that get to globetrot. How cool is that!? I wouldn't mind working for a company, if not running my own business and investing in the Stock Market”.

The Doctor/ Engineer Parent:
They aren't any less workaholics than executive parents. However, this writer observes an ingrained sense of perfection among professionals from the medical and engineering fields. It extends into their personal lives and more so in cases of their offsprings' lives, but if only that could be said about their handwritings. This observation was made fom this comment by Zunaira, aged 17, and daugther of a Mechanical Engineer, “My mother hardly stays at home! But when she does, it' s always asking about our academics by throwing in difficult questions, about our sense of hygiene and about ourselves! Can't you just take it easy and let us look forward to spending quality time with you and not being at the mercy of the help?” Typical, parent-offspring conflict, that.

Rafee, whose both parents are doctors, has this to say, “I don't want to be a doctor. Watching Saw is one thing, and actually cutting up a person is another just for money is another. I won't be able to eat. Ever.” That may sound exaggerated and may simply be a misunderstanding on Rafee's part, but unfortunately his parents were not available for comment.

The Military Man and the Diplomat Dad:
In no way does this extend to only the military; there are other Armed Forces after all. Interestingly, this is one of very special occupations that not necessarily require parents to be the primary source of inspiration. Most movies, TV shows and novels display the fine sides of the disciplined life and patriotism. But let's have a look at what people from such households have to say.

Yeafesh, aged 18, reminiscines, “Dad left the Navy when I was just 7 months old. He always wanted to be a businessman, but cousins in the Service provided unwanted peer pressure. Sure, in the beginning, there were ups and downs in his early business days, and he joked that the thought of being out at sea for nearly 45 weeks a year was too much for him to handle. That would follow witty anecdotes on friends and seniors, but altogether Dad provided us with the pros and cons of the Service. I really wouldn't mind joining it after school.”

Others, like Alvi, wouldn't be too sure, “Army life's tough. We as families of Officers don't really manage to create long-lasting friendships with people since there's always postings to different Cantonments. That and school years do become a bit compromised.

That's pretty much it.”

Diplomat parents, to their offsprings, tend to act as a source of respect, irritation due to intense workload, and simultaneously a matter of pride on being able to travel to foreign countries. Tanvir, whose Dad works for the United Nations, comments; “Half the time it isn't that bad. A lot of globetrotting is done, a lot of skills learnt and food tasted! Attending schools with friends from similar backgrounds is fun, and momentarily it's like a second home. But eventually you get used to it; and kind of know in your heart that all people you meet may not exactly be long-time friends, even with Facebook and telephone. But perhaps worst of all is when Dad arrives late in the evenings, all irritated, with tons of files and doesn't even bother having dinner with family.”

Creative Designer/ Master Chef Mom:
No doubt society is male predominat, and what not. But there are some things only ladies can pull off. “Mamma initially started a small catering sevice in our home, meant for the building compound only, but word of good food went round to make sure she had to hire a few helpers to fulfill demands of her growing service. We are all so happy for her. I only hope I can cook and sell half the items she can prepare”, says Redee, aged 14. A very lucrative job option for her friends and herself, she thinks.

That's not the only place. Women are fashionable and artistic, so why not include them? Block-printing, embroidering sarees, while handicrafts such as festive Baskets and pots are just a few to name done by most Moms. With a knack for creating good designs and a bit of guidance from dear Mother, anyone could do wonders.

The Journalist Parent:
It seems parents have this unsatiable desire to remain updated with what's happening from around the world. So what happens when there are parents who bring out the daily news for other parents to watch, read and debate on? Enter the media. “I love seeing my Mom's name on print. It's weird but I feel proud of her and only wish I could be as good as her to write pieces. Her colleagues are like her friends and I guess that probably's fun” observes Fatema, whose mother works for a prominent daily.

Judging from most of the children's reactions to their parents' professions, it does seem they are being selfish on their parts. But, it would be safe to say that they interpret accordingly to the image that is portrayed and moreover, how it's affecting the course of their daily lives. It's on this level that encourages or discourages the ideas of a child about their parents' occupation. Prevalent factors are personality build, workload, occupational privileges, and most important of all, interaction with family. Scenes dramatically change too when both parents are working; and they are bound to be exposed to rifts between daylong tired parents and increasing dependence on friends (good and bad), other family members and domestic help. So, unless and until there's no quality time with family spent, they might as well abandon the job.



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