By: Maria- Zain
When society thinks of the Modern Muslim woman, many envision a mother in hijab tending to her many children, building the family home, teaching her brood (home-educating even), and multi-tasking a million errands and chores at one time. Many Muslim women also work from home, as this shift in the career arena has become very apparent.
However, there is still a large segment of Muslim women / mothers who still physically participate in the work force. They range from doctors, engineers and other professionals, to teachers and educators in general, as well as hold lower-level office positions. And this is true, across the globe.
Regardless of their qualifications and upbringing, interest or ethnicity, a common thread that binds them is the responsibility of their own home. While stay-at-home or work-at-home mothers juggle their children, work and chores from their own home (while dealing with the inherent stress), working mothers leave their home early, and return to the responsibility of children and chores as well in the evenings.
Many mothers pool at least 40 hours a week as well, similar to their husbands and male counterparts. One begs to wonder how a woman as such is able to find balance in a career as well as family, but in the short-term – how would and does she deal with the inherent stress of being a working mother?
If you are a working mother, these tips may help reduce the tensions of balancing career, family and home.
Purify your Intentions and Reasons to Work
Writing out clear intentions as to why you are working will reduce substantial stress and pave a route for a balanced life full of sakeenah (tranquility). This does not mean challenges will not crop up in the future, but making intentions to please Allah through a career, will help you focus on what is important in building a career.
While pleasing Allah is the driving force behind a job, it goes without saying that the means of earning an income is halal (the underlying business nature of the company has to be void of haram activity, such as trade in alcohol or riba); and the job itself does not compromise Islamic principles, such as refraining from mingling freely with the opposite gender, the freedom and discipline to observe prayers, and other religious obligations (such as hijab). The career itself should ideally be focused on the betterment of society (and not merely for personal gain and growth).
Starting a career with pure intentions, including not neglecting the family, and observing Islamic principles in their own right, will help in dealing with personal, job-related or family-related strain in the long run.
Openly Discuss Your Career with Your Husband
As women are neither obligated to work nor spend on their family, an honest discussion with regards to your career with your husband is a must. This is in order to keep the nucleus of the family robust.
With two working individuals, there will be more time spent as individuals rather as a family, compared to having one spouse/parent at home. A thorough discussion with respects to chores and errands, as well as time management with the children is essential so that neither spouse feels like the other is shirking responsibilities. Furthermore, if a mother is also contributing to the family’s expenditure, which is understandable, (because many women do work to supplement a single income), then there needs to be an agreement as well, as money earned by the wife is rightfully hers.
Discussing time-management, errands, household chores, parenting choices and financial matters will also reduce the risk of falling into misunderstandings, if both spouses are on the same page. This does not have to be an agreement carved in stone, but one that adapts over time and may change with circumstances. For example, as children grow older, it is only normal for them to be included in helping to run the household – so both parents need to have mutual understanding on how this will pan out in the long run.
Have an Open Line of Communication with Your Employer
Keeping an open line of communication with employers is essential to run the risk of losing the family unit.
A good employer would acknowledge the challenges women have in the workforce, and sometimes a good compromise is required for a good outcome. Besides the job description and career path, pertinent matters that need sorting out, such as leave (including maternity and sick leave), child benefits, flexi-time (if possible), overtime and weekends (you have to decide whether or not you would like to be contacted then), possibilities for a career-shift to work from home.
Additionally, childcare would be something of colossal importance, and an employer who takes care of their female employees would be one who also prioritizes childcare and probably has a crèche on site. In tangent to that, many mothers choose to breastfeed their young children, and this also needs to bear a fruitful discussion, as to your needs to express and store milk (without prejudice or harassment), while at work.
Although this sounds ideal, and is probably a far cry from reality for many, with many women in the job market, it’s probably a good time to start pitting for these accommodations. If more women are in employment in the corporate and public sector, these offices will also be forced to change their mindset and accommodate these requests at the best of their ability in order to retain career-women of high caliber.
Seek out the Best and Safest Childcare for the Children
Children are obviously the biggest concern for working mothers. Searching for high quality childcare is a must, and this differs from mother to mother. Knowing that your children are safe will considerably reduce stress, even on a daily basis. While it is probably encouraged for children to be left with family, not everyone has that option, and may seek out recommended nannies or baby-sitters, or have live-in maids. A crèche, nurseries, play centers and schools also have to be researched in order to formulate the best and safest care for children while away from their parents.
Similarly, a careful observation of your own children when at home is essential. This is really to catch if something is amiss in their behavior or attitude. Children need to be comforted and reassured that no matter where they are, or no matter how long they spend away from their parents, they should still come home to mum and dad as their primary care-givers, the two people whom they can and should love and trust unconditionally.
Plan Your Week Wisely
Effective parenting requires discipline and time-management. Truth be told, once you’re pooling 40 hours a week, and subtracting the hours spent asleep, there really is not much time spent at home. So plan your week wisely, factoring in errands and chores, because the priority once you reach home is really caring for your spouse and children.
Again, having the husband on the same page is essential. Try to take the opportunities of lunch breaks to run errands, and if possible, use the online resource! We live in a great time that we can order groceries online and have it delivered to our homes, so do not waste the opportunity to make life easier, as far as the family is concerned.
Continued with Part 2 here.