As my daughter Amelia reaches her third birthday, her personality and preferences seem to have developed well. Amelia is easy to please; she’s a fan of most people she meets, you will most likely be crowned her best friend if she spends an enjoyable half hour with you, and she likes having many friends. But she will be the first to tell you that Mummy is her favourite!
Amelia constantly tells me I’m beautiful, my eyes are pretty, that I’m her ‘sweetheart’. She spends her play time ‘cooking’ or going to the ‘supermarket’, holding her little pink bag with Monopoly money. Amelia will pretend her camera can take pictures and she’ll talk on her phone. Oh, and she’ll often be found taking care of her toy babies; rocking them, feeding them, putting them to sleep...do you see a pattern? She’s being me. She’s acting like Mummy.
Prising apart the past from the present
The feminist in me is conflicted about this. Do I want my daughter to be idolizing being a homemaker? Shouldn’t I be the one teaching her to aspire to be so much more? The one to teach her all about the glass ceilings she has to shatter in her future? But how do I do that while I'm at home myself, apparently doing nothing more than making Mac & Cheese for the 100th time? Encouraging girls to be 'just' a mummy in 2020 seems outdated or old fashioned. Right?
I realize some of the doubt comes from my own experiences. My journey to accept that my self-worth isn't connected to the pay check I do NOT bring home has taken a while. I've been a SAHM (stay-at-home mum) for 7 years now and there have been many times where I've had to justify 'what I do all day’ to people who shouldn't be questioning it. I understand that at first glance I'm an average SAHM, the homemaker, the administrator. There is no glory in changing diapers, no one writes accolades for my potty-training successes and I certainly won't be crowned Woman of the Year by any lifestyle magazines for getting my son to school on time!
All about choices
However, true feminism asks you to respect a woman’s ‘choice’. And I made my choice to be a SAHM. I weighed the pros and cons, I made sense of what my heart was most happy and content doing and I wholeheartedly chose to be where I am. And I have no regrets! This ‘job’ is fulfilling in all ways possible for ME and I can wholeheartedly respect it if it may not be enough for you. That's the beauty of choice and when you have the opportunity and freedom to make one that suits you, it's beautiful! (I don't mean to sound privileged and tone-deaf; I recognize that having this choice isn't a viable option for a lot of women). I've also learnt that I must not downplay my own life while harboring hopes and dreams for my daughter.
There's this popular quote that makes its way on the web that I will paraphrase for you: “Perhaps your biggest contribution to the world may not be what you do, but rather who you raise.”
I stand behind that 100%.
SAHM doesn’t mean uneducated
There's also this misconception that educated women shouldn't WANT to stay at home. I disagree. I think my Business degree and my experiences while studying and working, have shaped me to a better mother today than if I was a high school grad. I know how to question age-old traditions because my brain has been trained to question, I have the presence of mind to research what I should be doing to parent better and my experiences have widened my horizons enough to be prepared for the future as my littles grow up.
Where the heart finds peace
So if ‘respecting choice’ is what I’m teaching my daughter, then should I be worried about her idolizing my life choices? No. I should be proud of the job I’m doing because clearly, my daughter thinks I’m all that!
As Amelia grows up, I will of course tell her all about the wonderful achievements of women in the past and present. Her namesake Amelia Earhart is already spoken of fondly! I will give her all the opportunities to the best of my ability to be whoever or whatever she wishes to be. I want to raise Amelia to be someone who can climb Everest if she wishes, or make soup for her sick child on a weekday while juggling housework if that's where her heart finds peace. I want her to be able to dream and then achieve those dreams without societal labels hindering her desires. I want her to recognize the sacrifices women make every day, whether they work out of home or in their homes. Above all, I want Amelia to honour that ALL women give up the best of their years raising their children for the betterment of their future. It certainly doesn't matter whether we did so from the couch at home or from a desk at work.
And I just can’t wait to see who she is when she grows up.
American-Pakistani Faiza Ali is a Dubai-based mum and Instagrammer (Faizaali) who has been in the UAE for 6 years. “We moved to Abu Dhabi with our 2 year old son Asher from Charlotte, NC, USA for 'just a few years' and have been living here for 6 years now! My husband works in Private Equity and it's his career that brought us here. We lived in Abu Dhabi for four years and have been in Dubai for the past two years. Looking forward to seeing where our adventure takes us next” Follow her on Instagram @Faizaali to learn more of her expat motherhood journey