I had the privilege to be born in Bahrain and imbibe the various cultures around me. Raised in a nuclear family, my parents tried to give my sister and me everything that a big, joint Indian family would provide for a proper balanced upbringing. That was a lot of expectations from one dad and one mum who worked almost 10 hours everyday to make a good living for their family.
Educated in a co-ed Indian School (boys and girls attend the same school) in Bahrain, and given the choice of subjects I wanted to pursue, I thought it was a privilege and responsibility. Having completed my Engineering degree, I, like any fresh graduate, wanted a chance to work at an IT firm in Bangalore. But dad wanted me to stay back in Bahrain. I didn’t have to struggle too hard to find my first job – selling software programs. However in their minds, I was supposed to be making them, and not selling them. Also, my parents had their own plans for me. All they wanted from me was to complete my Engineering studies and ‘settle down’.
This was when the first bubble of the ignorant started to burst.
The ignorant being ‘me’. And bubble? These are gigantic balls parents build around their child to protect them from the harsh realities of life. It was very easy for a child brought up in the Middle East to live in such a bubble for a very long time, at least in those times.
Lesson Learnt: My kids will have a choice on whether to marry/work/earn/live independently before ‘settling down’.
Soon, dad arranged for a meeting with the boy’s family. Dad was so excited to get me a salwar kameez of his favourite colour. I wore the yellow suit and smiled at all the family members sitting in front of me, hoping dad remembered the three important points I discussed with him:
I didn’t want to live in the Middle East. My preference was someone who was settled outside Kerala. Being the eldest I didn’t want to marry the eldest son of a family.
But of course, nothing I said was heard.
Lesson Learnt: Listen to your child. Is it that hard?
Should I be throwing a tantrum now? Or should I trust dad? Dad said that my life would begin after I got married and I could work like I wanted and everything would be okay. How far that was from the truth, neither he nor I knew.
Lesson Learnt: When you are not sure of something, don’t say it.
Newly married phase began.
I felt that if I told my life partner I wanted to work before we started a family he would understand. Luckily I found a job in a reputed university in Saudi Arabia. But then again, my partner was in a hurry to start a family and I had to quit my job before it started.
After my kiddo turned 1, I began working as a software developer. This was the only way I could sponsor my child in Bahrain. My husband decided this was best for the child and I couldn’t agree more. But for that to happen, I had to stay with my parents, and living with parents after marriage was a whole new ballgame.
Suddenly, financial balance became an important topic and mum felt I was not doing enough at home. I hired a helper and tried to assist financially. I never left my daughter home to socialize with friends. But then, dad had a problem if I came back home late with her. Mum reminded me that I should be staying with my husband. She said it was embarrassing to let her colleagues know that her daughter stayed with her after marriage. I didn’t know where I belonged.
Lesson Learnt: I would ensure that I made my child feel 'at home' when she was home. Home was the safest place for them, no matter what others say.
Work started taking up most of my time.
I worked hard, changed jobs, and was now responsible for the Information Technology Department. Big role, but dad and mum didn’t think much of it. Why? Because I was not earning in 4 digits in Bahrain.
Lesson Learnt: Any job, big or small, would be celebrated.
Once, Boss called at nine in the night and when I answered the call, dad reacted like there was nothing worse I could do. I calmly explained that Boss was travelling and wanted to know why he was unable to send out an important email, whether it was a server issue. But he didn’t care for my explanations. Nothing dad said made sense anymore.
After two years, husband successfully found a job in Bahrain. We shifted to our own place and everyone seemed very happy. I still worked till late evenings, and my husband came home earlier. He waited till I served dinner every night and reminded me that my primary job was at home. He informed me that soon he would sponsor our child and I should make arrangements for the transfer. Mother- in- law joined us and that made everyone in the house happier.
I worked for the same company for more than 3 years with no pay raise. Wanting to do more, I enrolled for a course to learn about web applications. I came home late after the course and worked hard to transfer the current website to a web application. That was a success after a few trials. But still no raise.
While we planned for our second child I decided to shift my career to something lighter. I resigned and took up a teaching job at a school. This gave me more time with my daughter and I made peace with it. Blessed with a son, our family was complete. I quit teaching and stayed with my children.
Lesson Learnt: If you did not have a proper support system, then it was impossible for a woman to have a good career and family together.
Faced with a similar situation, what would you have done differently?
This is an original guest post written for World Moms Network by Rashmi Roshan in Bahrain.
Author Bio: I am Rashmi Roshan - mum to two lovely children, juggling the roles of wife, daughter, sister, friend, computer science engineer and teacher. Born and raised in Bahrain and still here, I experienced different cultures and living styles here, which has helped me understand difficulties that children in the Middle East face. Having said that, there is still so much more for me to learn; and to be able to pen down my thoughts and share my perspective with my family and readers has helped me listen to the tiny voice inside, instead of letting it get lost. So, I'm thankful for this opportunity, and I hope to read and learn from the experiences shared by other mothers.