As I find my way between my career and parenting, I try to make the fewest mistakes possible. It’s not that mistakes aren’t good sometimes – I just try not to go beyond the useful ones.
Fortunately, I am good at observing, analyzing and indulging myself in learning. The moment I became a mother, I realized that motherhood is not something you take for granted. Indeed, parenting is hard work. I am not even talking about the early hardships: the feeding, cleaning, and staying awake at nights. As tough these aspects of parenting can be, what comes later is much more challenging, and requires a great deal of awareness.
It is more important – and so much more difficult – to work on values, principles, education and maintaining a good connection with your children. It also requires more work to prepare your kids for the outside world. Sometimes it seems that we as parents will be working on that forever.
The hands-on experience I had gained as a parent, along with reading continuously helped me all the time. Having empathy for other parents who might eventually go through the same parenting struggles I had experienced, I decided to dive into the world of raising awareness. Here’s why:
- Like all parents, I experienced various difficulties and challenges at each stage of my children’s development. Thus, as part of my social responsibility, I decided I should share what I am learning to raise the collective awareness of parents around me. My goal is to help other parents out there, and also to help each child I can to live his childhood in a better way whenever possible. As Robert Ingersoll once said, “We rise by lifting others.”
- I love sharing knowledge and raising awareness. Giving lectures and running courses has always been my thing, so why not? I could still remember the fun I had reading a novel, and going to work the next day to narrate it to my colleagues in my own style. They looked forward to hearing it and I enjoyed sharing it.
- We became parents between two different generations. Before us came a generation that mostly believed in a strict, authoritarian parenting style. After us came a generation that is overwhelmed by the modern, hectic life, and trying to find a balance. I have been there, and if I can help one parent increase their awareness and manage that period with less stress then I had, I would willingly do it.
- I love children and I want to give them better life opportunities. This has always been a reason that does not need any justification.
Specializing on issues related to parenting and childhood are not enough to make you go further into the awareness spectrum. You need the passion in order to take this road.
What do you think?
Gender inequality is a sensitive, yet significant issue. Gender inequality (i.e. discrimination) against women and girls affects their education opportunities, choice of career and even their economic advancement.
Gender discrimination is so embedded in many cultures that it has become normalized, people perceive it as being acceptable. Hence, trying to discuss gender inequality can result in extreme responses such as anger, or maybe denial. It is also common to receive responses of pure surprise from both genders, as if it is an issue that does not exist.
I will try here to my observations of gender discrimination that can be encountered in Oman, keeping in mind that this is not a study. Omani culture is diverse, and is not homogenous.
In my experience, gender discrimination usually starts from day one of a child’s life. Many Omanis still celebrate the birth of a boy more than they celebrate the birth of a girl. You see, a boy carries the tribe’s family name, and thus keeps it going while the girl will be married one day, and her children will take their father’s name.
Until recently (and still today, with many families) an educated woman was considered a person who deserves less respect than an educated man. I believe this was the case worldwide at some point and time, which is why many female intellectuals throughout history used male pen names to publish their work. This is exactly why we did not have many female contributors in science, politics, etc, as this was totally unacceptable in many cultures. Historically, girls were given fewer opportunities to advance in their studies, resulting in much higher illiteracy amongst girls and women. I still hear many men (and women alike) insisting that a woman’s place is the home and that this should be her only choice.
Many universities in this part of the world have colleges that accept men only. I personally graduated from school during a time when the college of engineering in one of Oman’s universities accepted only men. Luckily, this has since changed, and both men and women are accepted.
Moreover, there is obvious discrimination in salaries, allowances, and career development opportunities in many countries in my region. Luckily, this is not true in Oman now. Although, at the time I graduated from university, I had to attain higher grades for my scholarship, compared to the boys who applied at the time. Fortunately this has also changed now, and discrimination in the opportunities given to men and women is much less obvious. However, some discrimination is still institutionalized. For example, if an Omani woman marries a non-Omani man, then she cannot pass her Omani citizenship to her children. At the same time, an Omani man can pass his Omani citizenship to his kids, regardless of his wife’s nationality.
Career choices are also subject to gender discrimination, and men can also suffer from that. I can still remember the comments I heard about men who opted to study nursing. Nursing was seen as a career for women, and men working as nurses received continuous sarcasm.
Women were once only allowed to study education, as a teaching job effectively kept women segregated from men. Studying medicine, for example, was once frowned upon for women. This has changed dramatically, but female doctors are still not widely accepted. Discrimination is obvious even in recreation, as some hobbies are still only acceptable for men.
Discrimination is also common in our daily language. Until recently (and even today, with many families), a man saying the name of one of his female family members in front of other men is considered shameful. Moreover, disrespectful phrases like “don’t be such a woman” are still commonly heard. Furthermore, there are many societal codes forcing specific looks, hairstyles and clothing on women. Any woman refusing to comply with these societal expectations is usually seen as disrespectful. Meanwhile, men are allowed to dress as they please.
In Oman, the tribal system is highly regarded, which means you belong to a huge family and carry their name. If a girl does something unacceptable (say she married without her family’s consent or did something unacceptable in the society), then she brings disgrace the entire tribe. However, if a boy does the same, then he carries his “shame” alone. In other words, women carry the dignity of the whole tribe on their backs. This is more common in rural areas, and less in big cities.
In Oman, women are commonly held responsible for the misbehaviour of men. For example, if a man harasses a woman, the woman will likely be blamed for it. She will be accused of provoking the harassment by wearing something indecent, for instance. Else, she will be blamed for being attractive, walking in the wrong place, talking in the wrong way, etcetera. Of course, the man is excused for whatever he does and is never held responsible. Fortunately, Oman has a strong law now against such behaviour, therefore, this is no longer a common issue here. However, it is unfortunately a critical issue in many countries.
The pressure women suffer to appear, behave, talk, and act in a certain way is huge. As such, the cosmetic surgery businesses are profiting with the active programming of girls to believe that the way you look is more important than anything else. Moreover, marriage is an integral part of our culture, and a lot of men look for beauty above all else, thus putting extra pressure on women. Of course, household chores and raising children are considered a woman’s job only in most houses.
One of the most common ways of discriminating against women is treating them as objects. Many people in this part of the world are aware of the different literature that describes women as jewels, diamonds, or pearls in a shell. This may sound poetic and beautiful, but to many, it is just a way to describe women as fragile, delicate, objects to be owned.
Due to their reduced autonomy, women in Oman are less able to manage daily activities that many women in other countries take for granted. For example, I know many women cannot even go shopping by themselves, nor are they allowed to conduct simple bank transactions. This makes them more vulnerable, and prone to exploitation.
While gender inequality is officially reduced at organizational and political levels, it still continues within the society. It is more difficult to eliminate the discrimination in areas where the law cannot interfere that much. At this point, only raising awareness can help.
These are just few of the points about this critical issue. My aim is not to degrade one part for the sake of the other, because I believe each human being deserves equal opportunity. Moreover, gender discrimination has caused more than enough damage. These days, many households are being run by women. In many cases, women are the sole breadwinners for their families. Women are the ones who raise the kids, help them with their homework, and put food on the table. Reducing women’s opportunities to proper education, careers and treatment affects the whole society. Empowering women in every way possible brings positive change in the economic situation of any country. Many women are not even aware of their rights. They have been raised to believe that they are less than men, and thus deserve less. The vicious cycle continuous and we need to break it. Awareness is one way. I was luckier than my mother and I want my daughters to be happier than me. The fight continues!
Are you aware of any gender inequality where you live right now? What can be done to change it?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Ibtisam Alwardi of Oman. Photo courtesy of the author.
The moment I saw the title of the book, I knew what the author meant. It was as if it was written for me. Black Milk by Elif Shafak, renowned novelist from Turkey, is a memoir described as ‘a thoughtful and incisive meditation on literature, motherhood, and spiritual well-being.’
Although I enjoy reading, I am not good at writing book reviews. As a lover of books, I can talk about what I read with friends, who, like me, are still amazed by the creativity of authors. I find it easy to talk about my favorite books, and the stories that stick with me, ones that I will never forget. However, writing an objective book review is something I find very challenging. Yet with Black Milk, I believe I owe mothers out there. I owe them sharing what I gleaned from reading this groundbreaking book.
Shafak wrote about herself – but it could have been about me. Me, a mother who experienced postpartum depression; a new mother who felt at a loss, and who thought that she should not feel this way; a woman who stopped doing things for herself and thought that motherhood should be more than enough; a mother who experienced fluctuations in her feelings 100 times a day; a woman who did not really understand what was going on.
Black Milk describes those ups and downs encountered by many new mothers, especially those experiencing anxiety about the huge change they’ve embarked upon – those mothers who overthink things and believe that they should be able to control the world, and not stop and ‘relax’ for a moment and ‘blend’ with the world.
In the book, Shafak has many inner conversations with her ‘Thumbelinas,’ who each represent aspect of herself. These tiny ladies are constantly fighting, trying to overcome one another to be the dominant part of her personality. Shafak is very objective in writing about them, and instead of hating them, you feel the opposite. In writing about the competing characteristics within, she seeks to find some kind of unifying identity for herself.
Shafak writes about western female writers as well, including Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, and Alice Walker. She explores their lives, the way they found balance between being writers and mothers, or the way some of them chose one role over the other. In these women’s lives, Shafak seeks balance between her life as an artist, and her new life as a mother.
Being a mother and a writer means seeking some sense of self, besides the role of motherhood. The same applies to any personal career or decision a mother takes. Such a choice was not common in the West until recently, and it is still not acceptable in many eastern societies to this day. Thus this subject, though some might consider it a personal issue, is more of a political one that is affected by patriarchal societies. Elif Shafak does not make judgements, and why should she – this is a subject that has no right or wrong to it. The ability to choose and be respected for whatever choices you make should be totally acceptable.
Shafek’s book touched me, as a mother, a writer, and a woman. I really identified with her struggle, her experience with postpartum depression, and her personal crisis as she adapted to motherhood.
How do you find balance between your own personal well-being and the demands of motherhood? What books have inspired you on your journey?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Ibtisam Alwardi of Oman.
Photo courtesy of Raúl Hernández González / Flickr.
Being a bookworm myself, reading has been an issue of interest for me for ages. I believe reading is what made me the person I am today and surely will keep adding more to my personality as I grow older.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin
Reading has been a crucial part of my life. As a speech and language therapist, I have used story books with my patients to work on speech, language and social skills. I have used them to break the ice and make the children at ease. I have also used story books while working on imaginative play, and more. Reading is essential for my work with children at my private business, and it is invaluable in my voluntary work with children in different settings. My son reads a great deal each day, and I read to my daughters almost daily as well. It is quite an integral part of my daily life, and that of my children as well.
This is all normal and would normally be nothing worthy of noting. However, in the region of the Middle East, it is an issue that has been of alarm. A study done by Arab Thought Foundation in 2012 revealed that Arabs read only an average of 6 minutes a year!
I am not exactly sure of the reasons that lead to such a lack of reading in our culture. In my personal experience, I found that many Omani families do not read to their children. Some do not even know why reading aloud to children is important, and very few are willing to spend the money to buy children’s story books. I remember a few parents asking me to provide literacy work (counting, alphabets, etc.) for their children instead of story books because the former will help with school while the latter is a waste of time and money. The number of women I met personally during my life in Oman who read for leisure are so few I can name them. Reading is almost completely unheard of.
I think this is an important subject to target in the next few years. There are some wonderful initiatives that focus on encouraging reading among children, like the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Reading Initiative, which encourages students across the Arab world to read more. Academics have begun researching this topic as well, examining the lack of reading culture and the benefits that would be gained in developing such culture.
What do you think about this reading dilemma? Is reading to children a part of your culture?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Ibtisam Alwardi from Oman.
Photo courtesy of Rosmarie Voegtli / Flickr.
Is it possible to raise children to be global citizens in a conservative society?
Is it possible to bring the ideas of globalization in a culture that might reject anything new?
Is it possible to raise children as global citizens, yet respect their own culture?
These are the questions that we as parents, caregivers or educators should be aware of, when raising/educating children in the current global world. For me, as a mother of three children in a conservative society, I believe it is not only possible but a necessity.
Extremism in any culture, I think, is partly a result of isolating a society from the world to the extend it rejects and fights anything that differs from them regardless of the reasons.
Therefore, some effort is needed. Our children are not only influenced by us as parents. They are influenced by all the other constituents of the society they evolve in especially.
As parents, we may start with ourselves. We may be culturally-sensitive, non-judgmental and educated to the differences around us. We may be very careful to what we say in front of children when they ask questions related to different cultures and ethnicity. We, ourselves, can be judgmental unfortunately sometimes towards a specific culture and may be careful with any words we utter in the presence of our children.
The other thing that I believe is crucial are resources. Books, television, internet programs, and after-school activities could be diverse. We are lucky to have diverse and a rich market that allows us to learn everything about anything. Travelling allows us more exposure to different cultures and learning opportunities.
I think that learning English (or any other language) at a young age provides more contact to different “diverse” materials. We do have more diverse materials in English than , say, in Arabic.
Charity works wonders in an interesting way too. You may involve your children in a charitable action into giving to others who are in another country or culture. This provides a learning opportunity, empathy towards others and a responsible child who believes he/she can make a change.
Preparing children to be global citizens is a must at the present. We will not be present at every step they take in their lives, but at least prepare them to manage better in a fast growing world.
What are your ideas to raise a global citizen?
This is an original post from our #WorldMom, Ibtisam from Oman for World Moms Blog.
Picture Credit to the author.
You can find more of her wonderful perspective on her blog: ibtisammusings.com.