This is a dilemma often faced by young mothers with young children be they professional or not and in the Western world as well as in Asia. Having been in the same boat myself many years ago, I have had my fair share of worries and anxieties while at work. Add to that, some bad experiences with maids mostly Indonesians ( btw, I’ve no grudges against Indonesians).
Trying to balance marriage, family and career commitments is not an easy task and if you add to that involvement in an NGO and its dakwah activities, it gets even tougher. Probably, that is why some of my friends and I decided not to pursue post graduate studies (consoling myself)
Islam has never denied women access to education and the right to hold a job especially in professions suitable to their innate character and abilities such as teaching, nursing, tailoring and medical which are actually important roles of women in society. Women are also allowed to work if the husband’s income is insufficient to provide for the family but this is not compulsory and must be within the boundaries of Islamic law and not forgetting her responsibilities as a wife and a mother.
Feminists might say this is unfair and gender biased, but these are roles fitted to women and is also stated in the Quran. Women have higher feelings of love and affection, ready to provide noble services, patient in working endless hours and not forgetting maternal sense and values. Statistics show that more and more women in the Western countries are abandoning their professional careers and opting to become stay- at- home mum ( SAHM) out of their own choices because of their deep desires to be there for every moment of their babies’ lives which is the good, the bad and the unbelievably messy. They are even saying that feminists need to accept the fact that some women feel happier and more fulfilled in a domestic arena compared to an office culture. ( Islam has been propagating this role for women in the home for more than 1400 years). There has been a much talked about growing trend of stay-at-home dad (SAHD) but the actual figures are small and not worth mentioning.
While being neither a feminist nor a traditionalist, only a Syariah law compliant servant, I would like to call upon employers both government and private sectors to provide family friendly measures to accommodate women in the workforce and also to increase their productivity. These measures include childcare centre or creche in the workplace, flexible working hours, ability to work from home and introducing result oriented performance instead of hours worked. Some of these measures have already been implemented but still not enough.
To my young friends out there ( young wanita ISMA activists) with babies and young children in tow, I would like to salute you for your strength, courage and determination in dealing with your family, career and dakwah activities and I urge you to aim high and pursue your dreams and aspirations. To those who have quit their careers out of sacrifice for your family and dakwah commitments, I would like to applaud you for making that bold decision and I have known of some who have become successful in their own businesses from home. To those in the early stage of their career, especially to those in their housemanship, I sincerely wish and hope that they will complete their housemanship and then decide later on whether to pursue post graduate studies or not.( hope my daughter reads this
To sum it up, there is no right answer and no one rule for all, as Dr Phil of Oprah Winfrey fame says, plus a few additions from me, just make the choice that fulfill your hopes and desires for your family, career and dakwah.
May Allah ease and guide you in your decision making and shower HIS mercy and blessings upon all of us.