by Shagufta Kashmi
Mothers who work are often saddled with extra responsibilities in comparison to working fathers. Scarr, Phillips, & McCartney (1989) established that married women spent roughly five to nine hours per week working more than their husbands in both household duties and employment combined, whilst mothers spend sixteen to twenty-four hours per week working more than fathers. This causes a negative impact on the physical, psychological, and emotional health of the working mothers, especially due to the lack of social support. Motherhood remains as one of the most strenuous and hardly acknowledged responsibilities of all times.
Farhana, a mother of a beautiful 20-month-old baby girl, was willing to share her experience juggling family, education, and work. She is an international student from Bangladesh and has almost completed her Bachelor of Social Work. She has recently returned to work after taking maternity leave for a couple of months due to her pregnancy and to look after her newborn child.
Q. Can you tell me about how you felt when you discovered you were pregnant?
I think it was during my second year of study when I realised that I got pregnant. Of course, I was ecstatic. But at the same time, it was not a planned pregnancy. Also, two months prior to my pregnancy, I had lost my dad. It was exceedingly difficult at first. I remember when I got pregnant, the COVID-19 had just started and all the borders in Australia were closed for about two years. I kept asking myself how I was going to manage everything because of the lockdown and the borders being closed. This was our first baby, and it would not have been easy for my mother or in-laws to come over here from overseas to give me some support. I was not even able to take a break from my studies because there are certain requirements from the university, not to mention the time limit to complete my degree due to visa processing. Overall, I was a little worried and scared as I was not mentally prepared for everything. However, I think that in the end, the whole journey went pretty well.
Q. What made you decide to go back to work after having a baby?
I think when my baby was seven months old, I was able to go back to my work. Firstly, being an international student, it is a little bit tough for me to organise tuition fees for my university. Secondly, I wanted to support my husband and contribute to our family’s financial wellbeing. Basically, it was to do with financial reasons
Q. How do you manage a busy schedule while being a wife, a mom, and working professional?
I would say I used to be a very organised person and I always had a plan. Now, I am putting a 100% focus on being a mom first, and then playing my secondary roles as a wife and a worker. However, it was not an easy journey. At first, I struggled a lot with getting the necessary physical and mental rest. My baby is still breast-feeding, so I had to feed her every couple of hours. It is also tough being a working mom your baby is sick, and you struggle with the guilt of not always being there for the baby.
As I am a student, I also had to struggle with additional responsibilities like completing college assignments, presentations, and writing lengthy essays. Sometimes I feel I am not taking enough care of myself. Although I am young now and am able to do everything, I am worried that in the future I may not be physically strong enough. I never get enough time to rest, nor the support I needed, as there was no family member living with me other than my husband. While he is working, I am with my baby and vice versa. I also did not get support from other community members. There are few people from my country in my community, but I still did not get any support from them.
Q. What are the inner qualities or strengths that have allowed you to persevere despite the challenges?
I think its dedication. I would say that one of the reasons is giving full dedication no matter what I faced. I decided to be mom, you know, and I am fully dedicated. I know that I have to be a good mom and I also know that it is going to be tough for a few years. But still, I want to give time, love, and dedication to my baby and my family alike.
Q. What have you learned about yourself during your most difficult times?
I think patience. I have never thought of myself as a patient person. Even before my pregnancy, I have never thought or known how physically strong I am or how mentally capable I am of managing everything; I am still on the journey. However, it’s not that I had it within me, but rather that I developed a lot of patience and strength within myself during these times.
Q. Who has given you special understanding, support, and guidance during these times?
I would say pretty much everyone around me. Especially physical support from my husband and mentally support from my family members. And while I was studying, I would like to mention my friends and classmates as they gave me lots of support and because of them, I was able to continue with my studies. One time, I was talking with one of my colleagues who had several kids. She advised me “Sometimes it’s okay to take a break just for yourself from the baby rather than being a primary carer for 24 hours every day. Even if it just a little break to give yourself some self-care, you are going to feel better.” So, when I started my work again, I was able to take a break from every other responsibility, including being the primary carer of my baby.
Q. What is the best part of being a working mother?
I think the best part is that I am financially healthier and mentally much more confident right now because I am a working mom while I am managing my other responsibilities. At the place where I work, I have lots of colleagues who have been remain incredibly supportive. Same with some wonderful customers who have known me for three years or more years. When I see them or talk to them even during my short working hours, I feel better mentally, and it helps me take my mind off from the daily hectic schedule.
Q. What is the best parenting advice you can give to other new moms?
Just go with the flow. And if you feel like you are struggling, you have to make yourself comfortable by thinking that you are not the only person experiencing it. Every single parent is different, every single pregnancy is different, every single baby is different, every single parenting is different. So, if your friends are not struggling to feed their babies and you are struggling to feed yours, then it does not mean that your baby or your struggle is less than theirs, or that there is something wrong with your or your baby.
Your story is wonderful. Have trust in yourself. Reflect on how much you have achieved so far. You have carried a human being, you know, a beautiful small being into the world. It is an incredible achievement, for me, the best in my life. Make sure to give appreciation and congratulations to to yourself from time to time. You deserve it.