Stay Home or Work?

A mother emailed in a question. She is considering pursuing a PhD as the opportunity presented itself, yet she has a toddler. What to do?

I apologize for the tardiness of this reply. Last few months our life has taken a beautiful new turn with the arrival of Baby Ali. But as promised, here is my two cents.

I was still doing my PhD when we had our first child, Yasmin. Compared to other professions, where the mother has to go to work full-time or has overtime commitments, doing a PhD with a child is easy-ier.

Having said that, compared to not having any other work or study-related commitments, having a child while doing a PhD is hard-er.

What I mean is this: I regret not being able to enjoy my first-born as I could have because I was constantly worried about my PhD. I believe that if we choose to be a receiver of these little blessings, we ought to prioritize them before anything else.

Children are not yet another to-do on our already crowded task list. They are not something we can squeeze in as we are multitasking. They are people, with souls…

Someone recently brought an analogy to my world… He said all kids are God’s orphans. They belong to God and they are away from their real home. So each of us care for orphans in our home. So each verse in the Qur’an that talk about the rights of orphans apply to us…

What a strong statement, isn’t it? It shook me to my core. And it softened my heart towards my kids another layer.

So my suggestion to this mother or any other mother who is considering starting work/study or is questioning whether they should quit:

(Some of us have this luxury and others have to work… so this suggestion does not apply to them- although even there, there is a debate to be had. Do you really really have to work or do you build up an extravagant lifestyle deceiving yourself by saying it is for the good of your children and then say you have to leave your kids to work so you can keep up that lifestyle???)

I suggest that you should ask this question to yourself: what will you do with your degree? Why do you want to pursue a PhD? Why do you want to work? And whatever your reasons are, then put them on a scale with the care of your children… which is more important? Can you sacrifice your children for this reason?

Here I do not designate between younger and older children, like most people do. Yes, it is definitely true that younger children (Ages 0-6) definitely need their mother’s full attention, love, energy, patience… but the same is true for older children too. Now that Yasmin is 6,5 years old, I realize how much she needs from us. Different needs than when she was a baby or a toddler, but just as important. Please refer to the Little Muslims post titled: Homeless Children of the Working Mother where I explain in detail why a home needs a full-time mother.

Again, I keep coming back to the same point: you made a conscious choice to receive these children as blessings to your home. Now can you turn back and say, oh sorry now I have more important things to do? There is no return policy on these ‘items’ nor can you transfer them to another’s care…

You are their world… yet to the world, you are just another dispensable worker/student.

So enjoy being their world. Enjoy being so needed by another soul who loves you to no end. And enjoy fulfilling their needs and their potential as insani kamil (the perfect human being we could be).

*Why the angry chicken photo?! Because that’s me when I try to be great at work and great at home. There is only 24 hours in a day and only one of us. It is a zero-sum game… Yes, women cannot have it all. Nor can men.