The Women, The Myth, The Legend: Working Moms - Interview with Rakhshanda Mansoor
In the second interview of the 'Working Moms' series we looked at the experience of a member of the older generation who had already spent decades maneuvering the complicated dynamics of fulfilling the duties of her marriage and raising children while catering to the demands of her workplace. In this interview, Rakhshanda Mansoor shares her physical and emotional journey during which she learned - and unlearned - numerous things about herself, motherhood and society through her experiences as a working mom.
Growing up, what image did you have in mind when you thought of the ‘working mother’? Do you feel that image has changed at all between then and now?
“I always saw a working mother as someone more modern and accomplished than stay-at-home ladies. However, eventually I began to feel that they - specially middle-class working mothers - were overloaded with the double burden of office and home responsibilities, which immensely affected their health. They are exploited by men and also belittled and disrespected for not running their home errands properly, forcing them live in guilt for pursuing careers - as if they are doing it for their own pleasure. There is an outright rejection of any acknowledgement that they are doing jobs to support their husbands financially.
Presently, I feel there is a slight change in this trend as men seem more prepared to acknowledge women’s contribution in providing financial support to the family and they try to help them run domestic errands at home with mutual respect and consent. However, I also believe that this understanding is limited to a very restricted set of socially aware people.”
In your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges of being a working mom?
“The biggest challenge is to keep a balance between your personal, domestic and office responsibilities. In an average home, women are expected to take the lead in upholding relationships, attending family events, looking after children’s needs while attending to their husband’s demands with full efficiency, as if they have to justify and compensate for their absence from home. The truth is that mostly women are going out for jobs to pitch in some extra income for the smooth running of their homes!”
What were some of the key factors which motivated you to pursue your career alongside being a mother?
“I had always been advised by my late mother to stay productive: looking after homes is not enough and we as third world citizens have the added responsibility of contributing positively to society. With such a limited percentage of educated people in the country, we cannot afford to sit back at home and relax. Other than this thought, I felt it would be an opportunity to earn some additional income for the family as well as to expand my exposure beyond the close circle of family and friends. Mingling with other people and facing challenges at the workplace contributed to my personal development. According to my observation, women working at respectable positions are smarter in every way. In my opinion, earning on your own raises self-esteem and leads to happiness. A happy individual is the best gift for the family, children and society in general!”
Do you think work has positively or negatively affected your relationship with your children?
“Positively for sure. I was chained to toxic cultural norms and my own limited vision about various things before joining my workplace. I feel a lot stronger and clear headed in my goals and objectives in life, less frustrated and much more contented. Naturally, this results an overall pleasant environment at home. Exposure to other people and families, has made me more understanding and compassionate towards my children’s issues and opinions. I find myself in a better place to advise and counsel them if needed, and be heard. I think that this has earned me genuine love and care from my children instead of receiving fake acts of affection done out of fear. It has also helped prevent heavy feelings of anger and resentment for parents deep inside their hearts. I believe that good parenting involves acknowledging your children as separate individuals and not your possessions, they must be nurtured with love and care, taught right and wrong to make them good citizens and responsible adults, without the urge to control their existence and lives. Their love and attention for parents should come naturally and not out of mere sense of duty or fear."
Do you feel that working mothers in South Asia have limited work opportunities available to them?
“Yes. Our male dominant society makes it extremely difficult for women, especially young ladies, to go out on their own for work, without the fear of being harassed. Unfortunately, this greatly limits their work choices. Secondly, our ignorant society’s tendency to label certain occupations as indecent further limits their choices. To add to this, the bindings and conditions put on them regarding commute, timings, and domestic responsibilities, when selecting their jobs, further minimizes their opportunities. In many cases, the insecurities of husbands that their wives can do better than them, also drags women back from taking up good opportunities.”
What advice would you give, if any, to the next generation of working moms when it comes to balancing their professional and domestic lives?
“Young moms should set their priorities according to their individual circumstances, giving priority to the well-being of children. Be strong and confident, yet soft and flexible with ultimate aim of keeping your home environment peaceful and healthy for the young minds to thrive. It is very important to understand that dedicating some time for yourself for your mental and physical well- being is not a sin, instead it’s very important since you are at the helm, therefore, you need to be fit! I do not believe in the suppression of men, instead efforts should be made to spread a spirit of mutual love, care and respect between both genders.”
Rakshanda Mansoor teaches English at a renowned education institution in Karachi where she has been working for more than ten years. She has been married for 24 years and has two children.
The interviewer, Arooba Mansoor, is an Editor of the Perspective Magazine and the daughter of the interviewee. She is a third year student at LUMS where she is pursuing Law and History.