Working nine to five

Afsheen Omar June 10, 2010
Working nine to five,

What a way to make a living.

Barely getting by,

It’s all taking and no giving.

(Dolly Parton, 1980)

Growing up in the 90s meant watching some of the most popular American sitcoms on STN. ‘Nine to five’ happened to be one of my favourite shows back then; the plot revolved around women working. And I had always been intrigued with the way they worked and managed their social lives; I used to secretly hope that one day I turn out to be as successful as one of the girls in the show, so that everyone around me could look up to me the same way as I did to them.

Now that I think back upon it, I wonder, were those girls really that happy working? Maybe they had a lot of help at home? Or maybe I was too young to understand the dynamics of handling it all?

I work a nine to five job, and I am married; which means I have to manage my own household affairs. Waking up every morning in a fury of lateness has become a bit of a habit now; and I blame it wholly on the snooze button that they have invented on these alarm clocks. I tumble out of my bed and straight into the kitchen, to make breakfast and iron my clothes. After practically running through the shower, trying to wake up my husband and making the bed, I frantically search for the house keys, which never happen to be in their place. Ever.

And it just does not stop there; the minute I get to work, I am welcomed with a pile of work on my table, from the day before. While at work, I can’t seem to stop thinking about maid issues, and what I should cook for dinner; and the minute I get home, I somehow leave my mind at work, and that is all I think or speak about. A messy situation on a whole, and quite debatable.

Most working women go through the same routine everyday. And vast majorities have children to manage as well. Our society fails to recognise the role that us working women play; to balance between work and home, is by far the most difficult things to achieve, honestly (because I used to think O-levels are!).  Working women have always been judged; families, in-laws, even your closest friends (who are not working). Most families in Pakistan do not believe in a girl working after she gets married, so that she handles the responsibilities of marriage well.

Coming from a traditional Baloch family, I was also told the same things; one day I shall get married, have children, and mange my own home affairs. I grew up  to be the black sheep here, got married but chose to maintain my career. I firmly believed that I could defy all odds, and prove that you can succeed both at home and work. People fail to recognise the fact that women who work are not doing it just to kill time, before they get married, or for the money, but also, to make a career, and achieve a certain goal in their lives.

Upon questioning, I discovered that more than 65% of women who are working, and are single, are doing so till they get married. One of my own friends says ‘I’ll stop working the minute I get to know that I’m getting married. I honestly am doing this, to kill time’.

Then there are women, who are married; out of which a very small minority work for the money, most married working women now, seem to be working because they want a career. One of my colleagues, has been working for almost ten years, and has two children; ‘I need to pave a certain path for myself, my children might be young right now, but eventually when they grow up, I don’t want to be the mother sitting at home, cribbing. I think my husband will get sick of me as well. Women, who leave work after they have kids, need to realize that at one point you will miss this, once your children are going to school, and your husband’s busy with his work. It is very difficult initially, but with some will power and family support, I think anyone can pull it off’.

This is where I thought of all the women who work, with no help from their in-laws or parents. I’d recently met a girl, who is working at a well-known textile firm, and she told me about her experience, ‘I’ve been married for 6 years now. I was still studying at that time, and after getting a degree I chose to work. Although I live with my in-laws, I am expected to come home from work everyday, and make dinner for the family. It is very difficult to put a smile on your face and do so, because you come home for some mental peace, whereas, I go home, only to do some more chores. I wish everyone would understand how difficult it is’. I completely empathised with her, knowing for a fact that, no matter how bad your day goes, you need to be smiling, and getting your job done at home as well.

It is only when you start working that the phrase ‘a woman’s job is never done’ can be realised. One of my closest friend’s, some times has to work for more than 10 hours, as she’s an architect; and she feels the same way. ‘No matter what you do, you get home, and you’re rushing to get work done. And you sleep, thinking that I have to get up the next morning, running around, trying to get the same things done again’.

Although women working in corporate positions and at full time jobs have become a common notion, families and friends fail to acknowledge and respect the amount of effort it takes to balance life on both sides. Education seems to be widespread in a certain social class now, but it is the same people that expect women to pull off the entire act alone, and to do a good job at it.
Afsheen Omar Afsheen Omar, is a full time textile designer. She spends her leisure time writing and sketching comics.
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