Today, I sat down to talk with a fiercely intelligent and strong woman who describes herself as a friend, wife, and mother. She shared her take on work-life balance. I appreciated her honestly and advice on following through once you’ve made a decision. Love her confidence!
Zakera Begum is a 40 year old mother of four. She resides in Brooklyn, Queens and is currently working as a research analyst.
You’re a mother of 4 young children who chose to continue working after you had kids. What contributed to this decision?
I didn’t have a choice in the beginning. We needed 2 incomes. I had to figure out a way to make both things work. I was mentally prepared to manage my responsibilities once I decided to return to work. I knew the kids would need a babysitter for part of the time I was outside the home. Some days were harder than others but I also had friends in the exact same situation as me; working full-time while raising their family. They seemed to managing everything well so that validated my choice to return to work.
What was the most difficult part of going back to work?
I was devastated when I realized my own family didn’t support my decision to return to work. My parents were the ones who mostly worried. They were concerned about me leaving my kids with babysitters. I tried my best to understand their point of view.
I never doubted my decision because I would think to myself, “Who else is going to take the responsibility for my children? No one! Who else will pay my bills if I don’t go back to work? No one!
I didn’t expect them to agree with my every decision but at the same time, I tried my best to ease their worries and eventually, alhumdulillah, I was able to make them understand my decision.
Did you feel judgment from mothers who choose to stay at home and not pursue a career?
Everyone gets to make their own decisions in life. Each parent decides what is best for their child. I might not agree with your decision because my approach to life might be different than yours. That’s how I feel on the topic of casting judgements on each other. Why judge when we should just support each other?
If people dont understand, make comments, basically make their disapproval obvious, it doesn’t bother me. I can handle it because it was my decision and this is what works for my life.
I’m setting a difference example for my kids. I can have a full time job, take care of their needs, run all the errands, cook, clean; the list goes on. My kids realize that mama does everything! They’re sharp and observe everything you do. I want my kids to know that women are strong. We really can do everything we want to.
Did you re-evaluate your decision as the kids got older?
Yes. I had to of course. It’s tougher now because the kids are older and leaving them with a babysitter sometimes gets tricky. My kids need me more and need my guidance. So that’s why I decided to start working part time. I’m blessed that I have the flexibility to do that. I could get a job that pays more with a better career path but I chose to work less hours so that I can be more present with the kids because thats what my kids need right now. I dont want to sacrifice that time with them.
Do you feel your kids appreciate you?
I don’t do anything for anyone’s appreciation. I work because I wanted to put my kids in private school and also to help my husband. Now, we can manage on one income but why do that when I am educated and can help him provide more things for our kids? My kids now have access to better education, more activities, and vacations. Raising kids is expensive! Everything adds up. Even taking the kids to theme park can cost a couple hundred dollars. So why should my be kids be deprived? I can help out financially and take care of my responsibilities at home at the same time.
Now that I think of it, growing up, we didn’t appreciate what my mom did for us. She was, in many ways a single mother, because my father lived overseas for work. I might of not appreciated her back then but I used always watch her. I observed her every move. She was the strong, hardworking woman who taught me to be self-reliant.
Is your parenting style similar to how your parents raised you?
In terms of how my parents raised us, you could say I used to be more “americanized” when I had my first child. I was constantly reading and researching new parenting styles. My parents had one parenting style: strict. We weren’t raised to be entitled. Now, I think i’ve transformed into my mother. She did a good job with me so why change something that ain’t broke!
My sister and I had to earn everything our parents gave us, including new toys. We had to prove that it was a need. My sister and I had one doll and we cherished that one doll. My parents could afford much more but chose to limit our “needs.”
After my second child, I started realizing I was giving my kids too much. I wanted them to appreciate what they had before I gave them more. We’re in that era where we just give them too much. We want more for ourselves and more for our kids. I mean, I don’t want our kids to feel deprived either. I try to strike a balance.
Bedsides their materialistic needs, I stopped indulging their need to talk back and ask too many questions as well. I thought to myself, “I don’t need to explain my every decision to them!” Now my answer to most of their “WHY WHY WHY” questions is, “Because I SAID SO!”
Starts laughing hysterically
Do u see a change in your kids now?
Absolutely! Now when we buy them something, they’re shocked and so much more appreciative. It’s more of a treat or reward for something new they’ve accomplish like memorizing a new surah.
Did your life so far turn out how you had pictured it?
No. I had very specific dreams and goals. Nothing turned out how I imagined. Your life changes so much. I’m not not even close to the goals I have for my kids. I used to get upset because my plans didn’t work out the way I imagined.
But I had to work to change that way of thinking. I could still get upset if I think about it too much. This negative thinking just makes you miserable but doesn’t change your outcome. So why bother beating yourself up for not meeting your every goal?
So how do you tackle negative thinking?
Lots of self talk! I talk myself out of any negative thoughts. I don’t even go down that road anymore.
So for example, my son has memorized a certain number of Surahs but we didn’t get even half way through our goal for the month. I tell myself, “life gets in the way” and re-evaluate my goals. I could get upset at myself for losing focus but because I tried and put in the effort, suddenly the outcome doesn’t matter as much. Why? Because I made the effort. We can only really try our best. In the end, Allah is the best of Planners.
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