By Shaikha Abdullah
A while ago, my aunt asked me if I would quit my job if I get pregnant. I told her that I am equally passionate about my career as I am about raising a family, and that I would like to hire some help to assist me with raising a child in order to be able to dedicate my attention to both. She sneered at me and said that I should probably not bring a child to this world if my career is a priority in my life.
My aunt’s attitude isn’t unique; it is something a lot of career passionate women in the Arab World have to endure at some point because there is still some pressure to raise a family in the traditional setting (with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother).
Lately, there has been a lot of debate on social media on whether or not working mums make good mothers, if their time at work takes away from their time with their children and how a child is eventually neglected and can go astray because of that. Some people even went as far as to blame working mums for their offspring’s drug problems, and bad social behaviour.
But, I refuse to believe that. I refuse to believe that because a mum works it would mean that she would automatically neglect her children, or that it would make her a less competent mother. I have personally seen bad examples of stay-at-home mums just as I have seen great examples of some.
“Some people even went as far as to blame working mums for their offspring’s drug problems, and bad social behaviour.”
The funny thing is that men are generally not referred to in the conversations of child-rearing. While in the old times men often spent many months away from home, and women had to take care of both their home affairs and raising their children, things are not the same anymore. Just as we have adapted to living in air-conditioned homes, and now ride automobiles instead of horses and camels, we should also adapt to the new options available for raising a family.
I strongly believe that we need to follow the Nordic countries’ examples when it comes to parental leaves for both mums and dads. Sweden, for example, offers approximately 480 days of parental leave per child to be divided between the two parents as they see fit.
Arab countries should also provide similar options for fathers, as they also share the responsibility of raising a kid and a family. The conversation should also start before the work level. The conversation should begin at schools, and through awareness campaigns in society that a mother’s role should not be confined to the home, and that both working and stay-at-home mums are good mums.
The focus of the debate shouldn’t be on whether a mum stays at home or works. On the contrary, we should focus on how we can support a mum to be a good one regardless of the path she chooses for herself, whether she is a CEO, entrepreneur, or a stay-at-home mother.
So, this one is for you working mums and stay-at-home mums; the fact that you are raising a family is inspirational. You are the unsung heroes of our homes and our society. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let others bring you down.
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Shaikha Abdullah is an opinion writer from Bahrain.