I want to share a post I wrote a couple years ago on MuslimasOasis.com. A lot has changed since then, and it is still relatable today.
First, let me start that this is true for me, and probably for many, but not for all.
I was a supervisor/manager for nine years in different industries. The most recent one was an Internet Service Provider (ISP) where the job was very high stress, most times very high paced as well. We provided services across the country, and even some services to clients in various countries such as the UK, Australia, UAE, Singapore, etc. I worked hard at the bottom of the ranks and worked my way up, as I’ve done in each company I’ve worked for. I knew what I was doing and people came to me for answers. I solved problems and created solutions. There were far more important people than me at the company, don’t get me wrong… I wasn’t a make or break person.
Working in the IT industry (computers), it took work for me to get any respect as a female in the field. I will never forget a training we had on the corporate firewalls and I mentioned that I had been fulfilling customer requests for quite some time. The engineer looked at me as if I had put an apple on top of his mom’s head and said I was using it as target practice! When I would meet with customers and clients, I could tell it took a bit of time for them to warm up to the idea that yes, I knew what I was talking about and that I would contact someone else if I in fact needed assistance. Interviewees were fairly consistently surprised at one of two pictures – One or two tall, large men walk in with a petite woman and sit down with you for your interview. The woman is the one who asks you the vast majority of the questions, and she isn’t with Human Resources, she would be your supervisor. OR Two women walk up to you to start the interview. These are the two supervisors for the Technical Support position you’re applying for.
During all this time, I am a single mother as well. I would bring my daughter to school and pick her up around 6pm each night. We would rush home, eat a dinner I could prepare fairly quickly, maybe play a game for 30 minutes before she had to get in the shower and get to bed. I did my best, but there was definitely room for improvement in terms of patience with my beautiful daughter, mashaAllah. I was always tired and I wanted to do nothing more than sleep in on the weekends and not get out of my pajamas. I went to school full time as well, staying up late into the night working on homework to complete my Bachelor’s Degree. MashaAllah, I was working hard and I had respect. People felt that I was a capable individual.
Then I started wearing hijab. It felt like I had to prove myself all over again, especially when meeting with clients. I had already pushed through and worked twice as hard to prove to people that I had what it takes, and now I had to do it all over again. Rumors spread on why I was wearing the headscarf. People were distracted in meetings. It appeared that my team of technicians tested me all over again to find if there were new boundaries now. I pushed through it and we all found that nothing really had changed.
Then I got married, and less than two months later we both got laid off. They eliminated our position. They didn’t need middle management.
I looked for work for a period of time, but we took this as Allah’s blessing to us that I can stay home and start homeschooling. MashaAllah, I was so happy for this new period in my life, our lives. Little did I know that the respect that people once had for me would fade. I was no longer capable and worthy of respect in many people’s eyes. I now was lazy and wasting away the education I had worked so hard for. I was working again to prove myself to everyone that I was worth it, and that I was doing something worth while, and worthy of respect. For some, it didn’t work.
My husband found a job in the exact role he was looking for, mashaAllah, and this is when it dawned on me… maybe I’m not doing anything worth while. Am I doing anything that someone without a middle school education couldn’t do? My things to get done today? Clean the floors, vacuum, write this piece, work on some lessons with my daughter, and possibly respond to a few blogs I feel obliged to respond to. What happens if I don’t do any of these things and I just watch TV all day? Nothing. What makes this special, or worth while? Why do I deserve respect for what I’m doing?
The fact is that in our culture, a woman staying home to care for her family is not respectable. We see it as something that uneducated women do because day care would cost more than her paycheck. So what about me? I have an undergraduate degree and experience that would make me a nice salary, growing with time. Islam tells us different though. Being a mom and wife is worthy of a great amount of respect! We are educating and supporting our future generations and we are supporting the current people working in our communities (our husbands) in their worthy efforts. When I was given the opportunity to do so with all of my attention, the quality of the support I gave became far better. I no longer was rushing my beautiful daughter through her life and losing my patience because I had numerous other things on my mind and bothering me from work, school, traffic driving to either, etc. When my husband comes home, he does not have to think about the work he then has to get done after he leaves his day job.
Our lives feel balanced and complete, even if I had to check my ego at the door. What is more important, my pride and respect earned from external sources, or being the loving support I can be for my family? I feel that I am more greatly pleasing Allah now as I am able to dedicate more time to worship, learning, volunteering, and teaching. Am I saying that working mothers are less than stay at home mothers? No. But I find that I feel a greater sense of accomplishment in being a mother and wife now that I don’t have to juggle a corporate job along with everything else.
It takes time to find a new normal. It takes time to find a sense of accomplishment in these new duties, but it is there. Alhamdulilah for the guidance from Islam that shows us how valuable it is to be a wife and mother. We don’t need to be “little men” to do something worth while.