Opinion | Speak Your Mind

Focus: Stay-at-home mums

How does a mother’s choice to stay at home help a child? And in what ways can it be a disadvantage? In this week’s debate, we look at the various aspects of the difficult choice many women have to make after having a child - to work or stay at home. Share your views with us at readers@gulfnews.com

  • Compiled by Huda tabrezCommunity Web Editor
  • Published: 16:26 February 1, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit:
  • Lesley Cully Stay-at-home mum and founder of a safety campaign for children
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16:06 Gulf News: Mothers who stay at home convey a limited role model to their daughters, while a working mum shows that she can have both a career and a family.

16:08 Tayeba Hussain: I am currently a stay-at-home mum, however I had been a working mother for seven years earlier. I would have to disagree. I was brought up by a stay-at-home mother and it did not make her any less of a role model.

16:09 Rajesh Kapur: I disagree with the statement. An educated mother can nurse her children in a better manner. She is aware and strong. But I’m not against working mothers. They are an integral part of today’s economy.

16:11 Tayeba Hussain: While a working mum may provide a child perspective about being a professional, a stay-at-home mum does that and much more. A well-educated mother can help a child learn values that apply not only to professional life but to personal life as well.

16:13 Judith Wheat: I was a stay-at-home mum while my children were young and then worked only during school term. I don’t agree with the statement. While I was a stay-at-home mother, I involved myself in volunteer work that fitted well with my parental duties. I was active in the school parents’ group, eventually becoming its chair. I volunteered in the school, helping out with activities in the classroom. I used the hours that my children were in play groups to take painting classes and exercise classes and I studied with the Open University. Eventually, I took on paid work in schools and through this, became a school governor. I might not have had a high-flying career but I didn’t limit my role caring for my family.

16:13 Rajesh Kapur: My wife is a successful career woman. She sacrificed her promising career to educate our children. The economy lost a resource but our home won two wonderful children.

16:16 Judith Wheat: I think that a working mum can be a fantastic role model too but that shouldn’t make the stay-at-home mum feel guilty or inadequate. It is the qualities we bring to the role that matter much more than the role itself.

16:18 Rajesh Kapur: My opinion is that if we are ready to sacrifice some additional potential money that would come from the working mother, an educated mother can turn a house into paradise.

16:19 Tayeba Hussain: My point is that when you come home at 7pm or 8pm and your child sleeps at 9pm, then you don’t even see him in the morning. How much of a role model can you be? I have tried it and, after a point, I chose to give up my career to spend more time with my son. And even though I miss work, the independence and of course the extra money, every time I talk about going back to work, my son gets upset. It gives me some insight into what we were missing all those years.

16:20 Lesley Cully: I disagree that being a role model depends on whether you work or stay at home. The time I spend with my children is what matters – I could spend hours with them but teach them more in a few minutes than a whole day sometimes. Having said that, I did have friends tell me I’d ‘feel better’ if I went back to work because I was a stay-at-home mum – not true! I am happier knowing that I am the one who takes my children to school and is there to collect them again. That’s because I have a choice and I am blessed to have that choice. Some women don’t.

16:24 Gulf News: When educated women become stay-at-home mothers, it wastes their talents.

16:26 Lesley Cully: I disagree. I am educated, I am not ‘wasted’ being a stay-at-home mum any more than a non-educated parent.

16:26 Judith Wheat: Sadly, I agree. It is true that women’s talents are often ‘wasted’. But it is not while the woman is caring for her small children. Her talents as a mother are put to full use at that time. The waste of talent occurs on return to the workforce, when the children are older. It is often difficult, if not impossible, for the woman to regain her previous career impetus. She is not taken seriously as she has taken time out to pursue an activity that is not valued by society. Women who were in a management position have to often take a backseat, being given lower positions or seeing male colleagues promoted above them. There are often no ‘refreshers’ for women returning after a career break in jobs where technologies evolve swiftly and it may be impossible to return to this type of job. This makes it very difficult for women in many fields to choose to take a career break. They may be forced into returning to work much more quickly than they would have wanted.

16:27 Lesley Cully: The key word is ‘choice’. Someone could be educated as much as they want but if they choose to stay at home with their children to raise well-grounded individuals, then that’s hardly a ‘waste’, is it?

16:27 Rajesh Kapur: Talent is not only for the outside world. First right is family.

16:27 Tayeba Hussain: This is a point close to my heart. While I gave up work to be with my son, I can’t help but think that I am losing my talents, that they have gone rusty, and how difficult it would be to go back to work. This is especially true in this part of the world, where you don’t have many options for part-time or volunteer work.

16:29 Rajesh Kapur: An educated mum uses logic and perspective in cooking food as well. If she had to get a salary for being a homemaker, I promise you, that would be a sum we cannot afford to pay.

16:30 Judith Wheat: But women do not get salaries for being homemakers. They are often forced to make very difficult decisions. While they might want to care for their small children, they know that this can be a long-term detriment to their career.

16:30 Tayeba Hussain: While we know we are not wasting anything by being what we were meant to be – mothers – the world just stereotypes us and does not accept us openheartedly when we return to professional work. I wish there was a way of having the best of both the worlds.

16:31 Rajesh Kapur: It is just a matter of putting in some years. After the children attain a certain level, complete school and move to university, she can return to the corporate world.

16:32 Lesley Cully: Not true. We have been told for years women can have it all – career and family life. But, in all honesty, I don’t believe we can.

16:33 Tayeba Hussain: The last time I tried to work at a place closer to home, which would have allowed me to spend more time with my child, I got offered a third of the salary I was making more than two years ago. It was depressing and heartbreaking. The corporate world needs to incorporate roles that are more suited to mothers. Workplaces need to be more accommodating, so that all the years we put in to get an education can be used to help others and not just our children.

16:35 Rajesh Kapur: There is no limit to earning money, but we have a limited number of children. The choice is yours.

16:35 Judith Wheat: I agree with the point Lesley made. Women make sacrifices whether they stay at home or go to work. Only the lucky ones are able to make real choices.

16:37 Tayeba Hussain: Yes, but a child is much more valuable, Rajesh. You can’t really put the two on the same podium and ask a woman to choose.

16:39 Gulf News: Mothers who stay at home can ensure their children get the best possible start in life.

16:39 Judith Wheat: I think we all try to give our children the best possible start in life. Many women make the most difficult and heartbreaking choices while trying to do so. For some, like me, the choice is easy – I had no career to worry about and my husband worked away from home for long periods so I naturally stayed at home while my children were young. For others, they have to weigh the short-term effects of spending valuable nurturing time with their babies and toddlers against the probable long-term damage to their career and pay prospects a career break would have. They have to consider the effect this might have on their personal and family life. I don’t envy my daughters and their friends in facing these choices. Whatever they choose, and however carefully, they can never be certain of the outcome and they often face being judged by family friends and society.

16:42 Lesley Cully: And it’s this judgement I get so upset about. It depends on choice and possibility. I had the option to stay at home and yes, I would like to think my children are getting a good start in life. If I had no income, though, then that start may have been affected, particularly here where we have to pay for education. Having said all that, my mum always said you cut your cloth accordingly.

16:42 Tayeba Hussain: I agree. Mothers who stay at home have more time, patience and strength to meet the demands of a young child who needs guidance and coaxing in all his milestones – from learning to talk, starting pre-school and moving on to school till they become more independent. I started work while my child was breastfeeding and it was a challenge. I had no choice at that time and it broke my heart every time he clung on to me. If given a choice, I would surely do things differently.

16:44 Rajesh Kapur: You may put your children in the best possible school, but when a child comes to a locked home or looks to the house help for food, the values get diluted, if not lost. They want their mum to share the tiny little things that happened at school. This cannot be done late in the evening, when a working mother returns.

16:44 Judith Wheat: In the UK, mothers who stay at home are often made to feel inadequate. They can feel anxious and depressed and this can prevent them from giving the child the best start. Mothers need support in their choices in order for the child to have a good start.

16:49 Tayeba Hussain: A woman should be ideally given a choice and no matter what choice she makes, she should allow herself enough time and strength to give a child a good start.

16:55 Gulf News: Child care options are bad, and often unaffordable for families.

16:57 Judith Wheat: I think it is true that child care options can be bad and unaffordable. Outside of the UAE, only a minority of women in highly-paid jobs can afford nannies. The rest must juggle their working lives around child-minders and nurseries. The majority of women who work in child care are low paid with a lower standard of education. They are usually responsible for a number of children. This means that child care is often below the standard that mothers would provide for their children.

16:57 Rajesh Kapur: I partially agree. Child care options are bad. But even if you can afford them, there is still is no guarantee of a fair result. Nannies can never be mothers, no matter how much you pay them. Probably grandparents can play that role during the initial years.

16:58 Tayeba Hussain: I agree with the statement. There are limited options for child care here and are often too expensive and it is just getting worse with time. Getting a decent house help is very difficult and the costs are too high. There are very few approved child care centres and those too are expensive. There are hardly any agencies that monitor any of the independent baby-sitters who are slightly more affordable. I was lucky as I had my parents living with me. But even then I had to get a full-time house help to meet the demands of a young child.

17:02 Rajesh Kapur: There should be day care facilities in big companies. You could come to work with your child, younger than five years of age, leave him or her in the daycare of the company. You could then nurse in between and go back home with him or her. But this is more a fairytale.

17:02 Lesley Cully: House helps and nannies are often confused for each other. Quite often, children are left with unqualified carers who don’t even know basic first aid.

17:03 Tayeba Hussain: I agree Rajesh. There should be child care services provided by the company within the premises if possible. Or there should be a centralised centre in business hubs so that the mothers are closer and feel more connected to a child. Imagine having to drive back an hour to attend to an emergency. I have seen mothers go through it, and it is scary. Companies should at least consider subsidising some of the cost of a day care centre if not providing the services themselves. This will allow women to be able to afford something more closer to work.

17:05 Judith Wheat: Business mostly continues as if children and families do not exist. Even most schools do not have a crèche. I think the best approach is one that suits the individual family. If it’s suited for a woman to stay home and she’s comfortable with that then great, as long as there is adequate support financially and emotionally for her to do so. Likewise, if she wants to return to work for her own reasons then, again, she should be supported.

- Compiled by Huda Tabrez/Community Web Editor

Do you think that women end up looking after children because they receive maternity leave rather than a father getting paternity leave?

Yes 60%

No 40%

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