By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Lahore–I was watching a TV show about a couple once. They had 2-3 children. One morning their alarm didnâ€™t go off and they both woke up late. The husband looked at the clock and showed his frustration at the fact that he was late. The wife looked at the clock and rushed out to get the kids ready and make sure they get to school on time. When she came back in the room she found the husband trying to get ready and murmuring in anger while doing so. The wife told him to calm down she said, â€œlook I am running late too its okay we will both be fine.â€ The husband said in a very calm voice, â€œI know honey but itâ€™s important for me to be on time, my work is important.â€ The wife said nothing and left the room frustrated.
This is a growing problem in our societies. If a woman is staying home to take care of her kids she is considered to be wasting her time. The work she does at home making sure her kids are doing well is not considered important. If a woman says she is a lawyer or a doctor she will get a lot of respect and praise from the world. However, if she stays home, people usually become quiet, nod and say, â€œOh okay.â€ Itâ€™s as if they are saying oh okay so you donâ€™t do anything.â€ Itâ€™s come to the point where women are ashamed to say that they are at home raising their kids. When asked, they make excuses such as, â€œwell I am between jobs right nowâ€ or â€œI canâ€™t get out right now because of the kids and nannies are so expensive, but I plan on going back to work as soon as I can.â€
What I donâ€™t understand is that why is it a wonderful thing to have kids. The process of a child being developed in a motherâ€™s womb and being born is called a wondrous and beautiful miracle. And when the same woman who has kept that child in the womb decides to rear and take care of the child that has been a part of her for so long, she is considered to be wasting her time and not living up to her potential.
I wonder what a womanâ€™s potential really is? Is her potential only utilized when she leaves her house? Is there no way she can be a productive member of the society while taking care of her children at home?
What does potential mean anyway? Potential means ability to do some things well; it also means to be able to accomplish something in life. Doesnâ€™t raising children and getting them ready for the world and teaching them to be productive members of society fulfilling some kind of potential and capabilities?
And letâ€™s talk about productivity now. We want our women to work because we want them to be productive members of our society. First letâ€™s see what it means to be productive. Productivity includes benefit of the organization or the society that one is a part of. It means to help make things better and more usefull for that organization or society. So, if we evaluate the jobs mothers do from that standard they are very productive members of the society. They are helping our kids become something that we can be proud of as a nation. Who will these kids become once grown? These are the kids who become doctors, engineers and lawyers because their mothers helped them realize their capabilities and helped them learn what good they can do in their lives.
In reality mothers will be less productive if they leave the house and find something else to do. For example a mother leaves her two-three kids at home and goes to work as a lawyer. She makes a great lawyer and helps a lot of people. While she is gone there is no one to teach the kids right from wrong. There is no one to help them with their homework. And when they come home upset because someone bullied them at school there is no one to teach them how to deal with bullies. Those kids donâ€™t know what their full potential is hence never learn to use their full potential. They never really learn how to deal with all the issues that they may come across. So, the chances of them becoming productive members of the society are very rare. In most cases women are more useful members of society when they are helping in providing the society well balanced well trained young adults who can go on to do great things for us.
The argument that is given most often by those who want women to go out and work is that if you want a woman to raise the children one can always hire a nanny. The kids can stay home with the nanny and the mother can go out to work. The nannies may be able to feed the children and clothes the children but thatâ€™s really all they can do for them. The stability and productivity we are talking about is not dependent on being fed and clothed. This comes from emotional satisfaction and teaching them to deal with the world. How can a person who is pretty much a stranger help in the emotional growth of the child? Not that the nanny canâ€™t help but why would a stranger even care to do that for someone elseâ€™s child. Usually nannies are not paid to make the children productive members of society. They are just paid to make sure the kids are physically taken care of until the parents get home and believe me that is usually all they doâ€¦.barely. And why would they do anything more. Those are not their kids. They have nothing invested in them emotionally. And itâ€™s just another job for them so they take it as a job. On the other hand for a mother itâ€™s about her childrenâ€™s well being and her childrenâ€™s life. Most likely she will not slack off in trying to help them to the best of her abilities.
This kind of situation can bring emotional instability for the children. This is a known fact that children who see their parents leave them every morning and donâ€™t have their parents at times of emotional distress become very insecure. When they come home after getting into a fight they need their mother to comfort them and tell them how to deal with it the next day. The nanny might be nice about it but she is not the mother she does not have that biological bond with the child so she cannot help in the same way.
That makes the children feel abandoned and emotionally distressed. Emotionally instable people cannot be productive for the society. If they are raised with the insecurities mentioned above they will remain insecure in each aspect of their life producing not much results in whatever they do. They will also not know how to use their capabilities to the fullest because they have not gotten the encouragement and confidence only parents bestow on their children.
Islam also tells women that their first and most important duty is at home taking care of their children. The purpose of this is not to bind women to their houses and not to let them leave ever. The purpose is to make them realize that they are free to do what they choose as long as they are taking care of their children and raising them the best way that they know how.
Islam does not forbid women from working or from having their own lives separate form their house and kids, but does ask women to raise their kids and pay full attention to them. The reason is that our Creator understands that women have much to offer and the best way to avail that is to make them in charge of rearing and molding the whole society through their kids.
The people who make women feel bad for staying at home to take care of their kids may envy those women in 20 years if their children become successful and are able to provide their parents and the society with much good.
On a practical level, a â€œcareerâ€ that might work for others may not be the best solution for us. By asking mothers to leave their homes and children behind we are robbing our society of well-rounded intelligent people who can take our the `ummah to great levels.