Street noise level above average. Temperature ok. I just wore something comfortable and pulled my favourite colourful scarf, made sure that I have the keys, the wallet and the sun glasses. No need for my mobile phone today. Anyone who wants something from me would better just wait. I headed to one of my favourite places on earth. The little cafe the Quartet chose for our weekly coffee. Actually, it’s not my favourite place per se, it’s just being with them makes any place just magical.
After the hellos and good morning, they sat down and ordered their first round.
Amal: Girls, I have no idea why I’m so tired these days. I dream of simply spending the day in bed, doing nothing.
Heba: why? anything happened? Sounds like the first stage of depression!
Amal: not at all. I’m quite happy with my life. I thank God day and night for my little family.
Heba: yes, elhamdlelah, but didn’t you want to do something more?
Zeinab: More? Is there anything more important than building the family? For me, the smiles of my husband and kids are worth the world, and I wouldn’t exchange them for the world.
Amal: Before you two get into one of your usual work versus stay-at-home discussions, hear me out. Since I was a young girl, I always imagined myself to be an important career oriented woman, and didn’t understand how come my mother and other female figures in my family were able to just stay at home and do nothing. Such a waste of time! Then after getting married and having my little baby, I discovered that tending for these new needs take a hell lot of energy and effort more than what I anticipated. And with time, as you know already, I have accepted the role I was dreading so much. But lately, I started feeling a bit of growing bitterness, which led eventually to helplessness and antipathy.
Suad intervened: take care dear, this is not a good sign at all! I didn’t want to comment about this before, cause I really don’t want to interfere in your personal life, but what you are describing is a recipe for an unhappy family. You are sacrificing a part of your heart, and no matter how your family appreciate it, you won’t feel compensated enough, and one day you will snap and destroy the things you treasure most.
Heba: I told you before. Sacrificing your career is a wrong decision. You studied hard for all those years, you worked to make a decent reputation, and then all of a sudden you let all of this get thrown away!
Zeinab: Hold on a minute… Amal, habibti, did you think about the consequences of what you are implying? I mean the little details? Where will you leave your baby? And are you 100% sure she will take care of him as good as you would do? And how much are you going to pay for the nursery? And for the transportation? Or will you just work your ass off just to pay the nursery and the taxis? And after all that, imagine with me a sample of your day. You wake up 45 minutes before your usual time, to get ready first and get your baby ready, then hurry up to drop him off, and run for office, then work for 8 hours, go to the nursery to fetch your exhausted son, then head home, but not for rest and recreation, for the start of your other job. From changing, feeding, bathing, then tending to the pile of laundry and dirty dishes, and finally arranging the house. Are you a super woman to do all of this and remain sane??
Suad: girls, girls, both of you have touched important issues, but please take it easy on Amal, she is in a tough situation and we are here to help her. Look Amal, first of all, know that you are not the only one who is facing this dilemma. Thousands of women across the world suffer from the same problem, regardless of their origins, or their mentality, and very few are able to strike a balance between the multitude of roles they perform. Also, keep in mind that there is not a single formula suitable for all situations. Details like how open minded, helpful and supportive is your husband, how demanding is your baby, how encouraging is your extended family, how demanding is your job,,,, and much more, they all affect your decision making. So please don’t let images from movies, or insinuations from stories and articles you read affect you in any way. Some of the feminist writers go to extreme measures to prove their point, and some house wives defend their raison d’être by just showing you the pitfalls of a working mother. So beware from both of them.
Amal: Thanks Suad for the balanced opinion. I needed your voice to calm the turbulences running inside my head. On one side, when I stay at home, I feel like I’m repressing the woman I wanted to be, and eventually I will turn to be another person than myself. On the other side, just thinking of fostering my ego through a well paved career, makes me incredibly guilty cause my family will definitely be negatively affected.
Heba: so what about building your own career? So many women were able to cultivate their talents and building a business out of it without neglecting their responsabulity.
Zeinab: yes yes,,, hmm I can give you have if you decided to start a catering business. I have some recipes you will eat your fingers after it.
Suad: we all know your delicious recipes Zeinab. But looking at the current economic and the political situation, I don’t think starting a business is such a good idea. Many small ventures started with big hopes and dreams only to be smashed with the harsh reality. I would advise you to take a more stable path.
Amal: you mean a 9 to 5 career? I tried it before but didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought.
Heba: enjoy? No one enjoys work, but we do it to build ourselves, make some money and have a meaning for our existence. No one enjoys work or their workouts, but they do it nonetheless. It’s a necessity of life.
Amal: well, I want something more meaningful than just working to have a pay check at the end of the month. I’m not rich, but elhamdlelah I have enough to make me not running after the salary. I want to make a difference, to benefit people. I want that in my funeral, people would remember me with my good deeds, and feel that I left a good mark in their lives.
Suad: You don’t need a career to do! There are tens of ways to reach the same funeral, not only with a career… There are orphanages, developmental projects, volunteering,,, etc
Amal: True, but this is not what I meant. I want to leave an imprint on this world.
Zeinab: why would you want to feed your ego that much? Every mother if she did her job correctly will leave a mark on her children. Doesn’t this fit your description?
Amal: I can’t argue otherwise, but still I need to fulfil my time with something other than changing diapers and googling the best recipes. Girls, I feel that my mind has started to rust.
Suad: what about your book club? Doesn’t it fill your time with something to do and think about? And what about studying? You can make use of the time spent at home and study online…
Amal: reading helps, but again it’s not enough. I just read for myself. It’s like filling my mind with lots of inputs, with no outputs at the other side. And as for studying, well I thought about it, but it feels like a lot of investment for something that most probably I won’t use.
Heba: look Amal, don’t fool yourself. You want to work. It is a hard choice, and will necessitate a lot of changes to your daily routine, but think about it from the other side. If you didn’t follow your heart and become estranged from your true self, you’ll end up in a place you didn’t want to be. Plus, the amazing woman your husband fell in love years ago will become someone else. Do you want to fit the stereotypical image of unfulfilled women who turn their lives and the lives of their husbands into a trial?
With that last sentence, she looked at the quartet, bid them farewell till they meet again.