All Mums on Equal Footing, Whether Working or Stay-at-home


Whether to stay home with the kids or become a working mum can be a tough decision, yet it is a personal choice that shouldn’t be judged by others, says Mariam Sobh.

On Equal Footing: Mothers Who Work and Those Who Don’t _Aquila Style
Image: Dreamstime

I always thought that I would not work after having kids. At least, I figured I would take some time off and wait until they were in school before returning to work.

That didn’t happen, and I often sit and wonder whether I’ve made the right choice. The decision whether to stay home or to work can be a tough and delicate subject for some mothers, and I’ve had both experiences.

After I had my first baby, I managed to tweak my work schedule so that I didn’t have to leave my daughter in daycare and I could be home with her. It was exhausting. I went into work early in the morning, I’m talking before the sun comes up, and when I got home, my husband would leave for his work.

It was about two years into this arrangement that I started to feel that I was stretching myself thin. I started to feel really tired all the time. I could barely drag myself out of bed. And it didn’t help that my daughter would keep me up with breastfeeding sessions. I knew I had to wean her off breastfeeding because she was nearing the two-year-mark, and that was my plan when we all went for our winter vacation.

After spending a few days in sunny Florida where I felt my energy return, we returned to cold snowy Chicago. There was something about Chicago’s cold that threw me back into feeling exhausted, or at least that’s what I thought.

I ended up turning in my resignation letter to the radio station I worked for. My boss and the station manager were surprised and thought maybe I wasn’t thinking things through.

It was so hard for me to let go, but I knew it was time. I needed sleep!

Little did I know I was pregnant with my second daughter; when I found out, it dawned on me that I was tired for a reason.

I thought that was it. I would stay home full time with my children until they were in school. But that didn’t happen. Since then I have worked at two different places, one at which I’m now a full-time employee.

I don’t mean to digress and get into all my personal life details, but the thing that I’ve come to realise is that we can never plan or anticipate anything.

I had thought for sure that I’d stay home and raise my girls, but the reality is, I love working. There is something satisfying about putting your skills to use. I also love being home with my kids and would love that more than anything. But in order for me to grow my career it’s very hard to have it both ways.

When I was home briefly while my girls were young, I was restless. It was so hard to raise young children with no family support because they live so far away. It would be just me by myself until my husband got home. All my friends were working at that time, so it got pretty lonely. I managed to meet some other mothers in the city, but none had kids in the same age range as mine.

That said, I did have my own website that I was managing, so that was a great outlet.

During this period of time I would get particularly annoyed with the responses I got from people when they asked me what I did. When I mentioned that I ran a website, the general reply would be, “Oh, you’re a stay-at-home mom”. Such remarks rubbed me the wrong way because I was more than that. It’s quite condescending especially when people make the remark and walk away afterwards.

I’m not sure why some people want to downplay the role of women who stay at home. Similarly, I don’t know why some others do that to women who work. “Your kids are in daycare? I could never do that, but that’s just me.”

Each path has its own sets of struggles and triumphs. They can never be compared because they are vastly different. The only similarity is that being a stay-at-home mum and a working mum are both full-time jobs and take a lot of effort.

Ironically, the moment I went back to work for a prestigious media company, people who brushed me off suddenly changed their attitudes, “Oh you work for so-and-so. That’s so cool, I hear you on the radio all the time.”

Did you really? Because not too long ago you couldn’t be bothered to say “salam” when you saw me at Eid prayer.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we shouldn’t write people off because we assume we know everything about them, and where the competitive world of motherhood is concerned, we need to get off our high horse.

People can surprise you.

Someone who seems to be just your average stay-at-home mum can be the most amazing person you’ve ever met. Give them a chance and get to know them.

Likewise, if a working mum seems really career-oriented, don’t exclude them from your playdates. They will come when they have the chance because they, too, are lonely and raising kids in a big city.

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