We live in an age where women are vigorously encouraged, in fact openly expected, to instantly join the workforce following graduation. A phenomenon that is completely opposite to what our grandmothers and great grandmothers experienced. Today 77% of Emirati women graduating from high schools continue their education at university as opposed to 58% of Emirati men. No doubt that females are feeling more capable and work-ready than ever. Be that as it may, this new brave movement introduced a number of challenges that we, women, must face on daily basis.
I recently was honored by the invitation of POAG (Promise of A Generation) to be part of a panel discussing work-life balance. This was part of an initiative called E7 Daughter of the Emirates. Our audience comprised of 35 young ambitious Emirati women from across the Emirates, between the ages of 18 and 25, who wanted to contribute to their emirates by creating socially impactful initiatives. I was blown away by the positive energy and enthusiasm in the room. We then preceded to complete an exercise with the participants that aimed at recognizing and understanding the various elements that make up their lives. Most girls rated career and family as their top two priorities. They clearly wanted to succeed in both areas equally. But is this achievable? And is there a recipe for a successful balanced life?
The answer is yes and no. Confusing? Welcome to the life of a working mother who is attempting to juggle million things at the same time. As society evolved to become more demanding of women in the public sphere and more engaging in areas that were previously reserved for men, it somehow forgot to adjust its expectations of women as mothers and wives. Corporations today do not offer day care facilities, maternity leave is limited to a mere 40 days, and the allocation of responsibilities between husbands and wives hold true today as they did 100 years ago. A woman is not only expected to be a super mom, an available wife, and an extraordinary cook, but also to have a prosperous impressive career! Let us admit it now, it is just not possible. Time is finite and so is someone’s energy.
There is no formula for balance that suits all. Every person needs to find their own personal balance that works for their needs and further their happiness. Today career might be a big item on someone’s agenda, tomorrow that same person might decide to take a break and dedicate more time to other aspects of their life such as family, travel, or volunteer work. They might decide to freelance, work from home, run their own business, or simply read more books! That same person may return to the workplace, build experience, and pursue a leadership role. The ability to have a choice is in fact a luxury that isn’t available to the majority of women around the world.
We are conditioned to judge one another based on what is familiar to us versus what is out of the norm. Or better yet, we judge others to make ourselves feel better about our own personal choices. In spite of that, let us keep in mind that one-day we might be on the other side of the fence. A working mother might become a stay-at-home mother if she experiences an imbalance in her life. A stay-at-home mother might be required to go back to work to supplement the family’s income. Circumstances do change constantly and so do the decisions that follow. Let us start accepting each other, sympathizing with one another, and let our hearts and minds be our guide to a balanced life. Remember, a happy you has a better chance of becoming a successful you.