Pregnancy causes al sorts of reactions – congratulations, special treatment from friends, a few funny looks from people at work and most recently the belief that people know what is best for me.
I put up with some very rude comments from other Muslim women when my children were very small – about how I must be selfish and money hungry to be still at work when I have small children, how children need their mother with them all of the time. This caused years of guilt and anxiety on my part, in particular that my children would have all sorts of psychological issues. It was only as the kids got older and I started to see that actually they are good kids – messy and rowdy, but essentially good and very independent, that my fear and guilt started to alleviate.
The last two weeks I attended the sister’s circle I go to on Sundays I have had comments. Initially congratulations and lots of questions about how I was feeling. Then one sister asked me if I was going to stop working now – “I can’t manage being at home with three, how are you going to work with four?” I got a bit cross at her tone and answered “Same as I manage now – I can do anything”. I didn’t mean to be arrogant, but I am long past tolerating this kind of thing.
The second week, the sister that asked was a little gentler – “Are you going to stop working now?” I explained I hope to stay home for a year and then see what our situation was, but that depended on a lot of things.
I know a lot of sisters disagree with mothers working, both Muslim and non-Muslim, what I can’t understand is the attitude that they know best and their inability to respect the decisions of their sisters. I also can’t understand their inability to see that many women are not working because they love money more than their children but because they want to keep a roof over their children’s head and pay the bills (because like hell am I raising my children in state benefits if I can help it).
I know stay-at-home mothers whose kids are messed up because they are so messed up. I know stay-at-home mothers who are busier than I am with studies, Islamic studies, school activities and their social lives. I know working mothers who would love to give up work, even when their children are all at school or adults and don’t always feel they could afford to.
I have also learnt that a woman grows to meet a challenge. When I had one child it felt like hard work, when I had three and a busy job, I took it in my stride. Now that I am pregnant with a fourth, have a crazy job and three demanding children, with the in-laws due back soon, I am still going – albeit with the sense to slow down a little and with a yearning now and again to step back and take a break from it all.
Thankfully at this weeks study circle, no-one mentioned the topic – they must have got bored!