If you are a Pakistani woman returning to work, you must face several hurdles and obscurities. Being a mother doesn’t help. Daily you are faced with the dilemma of where you will start from and who will do the laundry if you are gone. There are many ways you can solve these problems, here are some of the tried and tested methods that will make your transition smoother than you think!
Helping your kids make room for your new role
As a mother returning to work, you are looking for ways to ensure that all your children's responsibilities are being fulfilled. You don't want any of their work to go undone and at the same time, you have your work-related commitments.
An easy way to get around this problem is to give them some responsibilities. Let them adapt too! Have them take charge of chores like doing the dishes in the morning. Teach them how to heat a pre-cooked meal in the oven. Ask them to clean up and organize their rooms. This way they understand how easy it is to mess up their rooms but how difficult it has been for you to keep cleaning up. They start empathizing and valuing your efforts. The earlier you drill these in your kids, the easier the transition becomes for you and them.
Setting time boundaries is key to your children adapting to your return to work. You can begin doing this by keeping kitchen time. Yeah, you heard that right. Kitchen time is a thing. Tell them that just as the official time is between 9 to 5, there will be a set time for kitchen use. Lunch, dinner, and breakfast will be served during set times. Eliminate the expectation that it will cater to them during times outside of kitchen hours. The long-term benefits are always great. It has been found that children of working mothers tend to have better adaptability in the outside world than children of those mothers who choose to not work.
How to divide household tasks?
Your household tasks are going to be something that would be on your mind. After all, you are the commander in chief of your house! To get you going, you will need to divide your housework in the best way possible. In the case of working mothers, everyone agrees that it is a dual-centric role. The job wants you to give your all. Your kids want you to give your all.
These tips can help you in case you find it difficult to work:
Making arrangements with the house help. It is no lie that house help is available in abundance in Pakistan. Give him/her a detailed plan of action to ensure that all things are checked by the time you are done with your work. Delegate all the work and never forget to appreciate them for what they help you with. A note of gratitude goes a long way.
Making arrangements with the members of the household. Every member of the household will need to take agency and be more responsible in terms of the chores that they do. They will need to become more independent. Everyone needs to be handed out a checklist to see
Learn to say no. The high expectations placed on a Pakistani woman’s shoulder make it difficult for her to say no. Dr. Nicole Washington, a clinical psychologist says that ‘We don’t want to say no because of the fear that we may hurt someone else’. However, when you do this, you forget that there are just 24 hours in the day that you can utilize. With work, family, and a house to take care of, sometimes you may forget that you already have loads on your plate while saying yes.
How to ensure family time can remain intact?
Being a working mother is extra stressful because of motherhood guilt. Everyone feels it. Whether it is someone who is just returning to work or someone who has worked in a top position. Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico for 12 years shared an interesting time from her daughter's childhood. Her school would hold a morning tea party for mothers on Wednesdays. Due to her hectic schedule, Nooyi frequently missed these sessions. She complained about the guilt she felt and the different coping mechanisms she used to get around the guilt. Regardless of the nature of your job, the demands of a child are the same whether it is Pakistan or any country in the world.
However, working moms have many options at their disposal to ensure that they don’t feel guilty with the:
Opting for flexible timings: Unless you work in the military, flexible timings are always an option. Whatever job you join, you can negotiate flexible hours with the human resources department. With the pandemic and work from home being a new normal, working from home is here to stay. Companies like Jazz and Careem offer flexible timings to their workers. This helps reduce mommy guilt. After all, there is no other guilt like mommy guilt. Am I right?
Work from home. Aleena Ayaz, currently serving as Talent Recruiter at Minerva Pakistan made a comeback after 12 years. She said that she selected her current role on the basis that it was a remote work opportunity which made it easier for her to handle the roles of motherhood and an employee. In a country like Pakistan where workplace harassment and bad transport systems can make it difficult to go to work, arrangements like these help to minimize the difficulties faced by women who want to return to work after a career break.
Completely pull the plug after work and engage with the family around you. There is a very thin line between working a 9 to 5 and working 24/7. Everyone is susceptible to crossing the line, especially with phones buzzing with chats and emails. Make it a ritual to log out of work email after work and mute work-related chats after the day is over.
A study conducted by UC Irvine reported that it takes an average of 23 minutes to recover from distraction. Imagine, if you are distracted by a bunch of dreadful emails at home...
How to face the family members and friends who guilt-trip you?
It can be difficult for family members to comprehend your need to join the workforce. Pakistani women commonly face things like “Isn’t your husband earning?”, “Job kar ke kya karogi?’, ‘Bachey kon sambhal lega?’, ‘Ghar ko kaun dekhega?’, ‘Aaj kal halat bahut kharab hai’. The list goes on and on. They do not spare any opportunity to guilt-trip you and make you feel bad about your priorities. In such a case, these are the things you can do.
Keep your goals in your mind. You know the reasons behind joining work. You didn’t just wake up one day and decide to go back to work, right? An exercise you can carry out to inculcate this habit is writing down your reasons for returning on a small piece of paper. Stick this paper somewhere you can easily see it. This could be on your bathroom mirror or your fridge.
A study conducted by Dr. Gael Matthews of the Dominican University found out that you were 42% more likely to achieve your goal if you have them written down. Additionally, you will always be reminded of your goals and are constantly motivated to keep focusing on them. The motivation thus helps to drown the noise that comes from family members who are constantly demotivating you.
Acknowledge that you cannot change them. A sad reality of Pakistani culture is the expectation from women to put their families above all. The infamous ‘doctor bahu’ syndrome is responsible for keeping 85000 female doctors out of work in Pakistan. It is a deep-rooted cultural issue. In this case, even the thought of changing them to understand your beliefs is wrong.
It is no lie, motherhood requires your full-time attention. So does your job. In the end, it all comes down to the support system that you put in place to make the transition back less burdensome. When juggling between home and work, even learning Google Drive can become easy for those who have never heard of it before. However, during the process never shy away from asking for help. Remember, even though we live in Pakistan, we are still very lucky to be able to find a support system to rely on as we make big moves in life. Good luck returning to work!