Building a career and raising a family at the same time cannot be easy. For many working women, it is not a matter of letting go of their career to have children or compromise their children's upbringing for work. Rather, they try to strike a balance between the two, albeit by making sacrifices and a great deal of adjustment.
Sometimes they also face pressure from society and family to have children at the 'right time'. However, is there really a right time to start planning a family?
Often the question of right time also points at the biological age of mothers, as the general narrative is that having children after a certain age may be difficult.
Three individuals shared their journeys of having a career and raising children with us. One thing was apparent from their opinions: One does not need to give up work and there is never a perfect time to raise a family. Moreover, having a planned pregnancy and a supportive network of family members is also helpful.
The 'right time'
"The right time to start a family is only when you are convinced it is the right time. You need to be mentally, physically and financially ready before starting a family and not give into society's or family's pressure to do so," said Shararat Islam, communications analyst at UN Women Bangladesh.
Like Shararat, owner of the renowned jewellery brand 6 Yards Story, Zerin Tasnim Khan too feels there is nothing called the right time. It is about having the conviction that raising children is now possible. "If someone wants to have a baby early, she can and if she wants a later pregnancy, that too is fine," she opined.
A Senior Executive of International Trade and Sales and Corporate Access at Brac EPL Stock Brokerage Ltd, before getting pregnant, Riti Prova took into account several important factors like whether she could raise her child in a healthy environment and whether she and her husband were ready to raise a well-rounded child.
We asked, "What made you feel you should now have your daughter?"
"My husband was able to exhibit the trust and confidence I needed for him to become the father of our child," she answered, adding, "a gut feeling inside me felt that yes, this feels right, I should have a family of my own. I am enough; I am ready."
The right age
We asked Shararat, "Do 'younger' mothers have it easier?"
"No mother in this world can have it easy. We are programmed to think that a woman's ultimate achievement is motherhood. But it is a social construct that has been fed to us for years," she said.
She also believes motherhood is a choice. "It needs planning, preparation and it comes with a life-long responsibility. It changes your life, for the better of course," she added.
According to Zerin, if a woman wants to delay having children it is her choice and no one should have a say in it. However, she also thinks they ought to prepare beforehand accordingly.
She added that celebrities around the world have children much later in their lives and those work out just fine.
The right balance
It never occurred to Shararat that she had to quit her job after giving birth to her son Nawaf. Her husband shares all the responsibilities with her so each can give enough time to their child.
Her son Nawaf has always seen her working and he is used to it. She said, "He also respects what I do, which is very important as it will have an impact on his relationships in future."
"He needs to know that women can also have career and family, be ambitious and that is absolutely alright," she added.
After she had a miscarriage, Zerin told herself to take it easy and eventually had a relaxed pregnancy. She worked until her delivery and released three new jewellery collections while pregnant. But it was all planned beforehand so she was not too stressed out.
When you are pregnant or have a small child, you can miss out on better work opportunities. Zerin does not see a problem with this.
"When I was still breastfeeding my son Kayan, I was called for an interview at an office far away from home. I cancelled it because I knew it was going to be difficult to travel with a baby."
She also enthusiastically claimed that having a baby made her more motivated and more focused about her work. "My working hours changed of course but after I had him, I felt I had extra energy to pour into my business," she said.
Zerin and her husband look after the same business so they can easily decide who will stay home and when. Sometimes her mother-in-law also babysits. When she has a full day of photo shoots, she tries to take the next day off so she can spend time with Kayan.
Her son is four years old and understands that Ma is a working woman. "He appreciates my work and even helps me out when I get ready for office," she said.
Riti is currently on maternity leave and will soon join work.She believes leaving the baby at home will invariably make her more stressed at work. "This added stress can even make mothers quit work, but I have chosen to power through!" she laughed.
She is also a news presenter at ATN News. "Now I have to know the shooting schedule before I can come to the office, I can no longer respond to any random, last minute meetings," she added.
Other than Riti's in-laws, her husband and mother will also help her out with raising her daughter.
"I want my daughter to grow up around grandparents. Once I will be home from work, she will have all of my attention."
She also plans on putting her daughter Adhya into a day care centre when she is older so she feels more comfortable around strangers and becomes more open to learning new things.