Pampers or Palm Pilots?

Pampers or Palm Pilots? Even though the world has moved into the 21st century, this question continues to face women. It is a hard question that has no perfect answer. In many ways, whether one can have both or just one is dependent on that individual’s circumstances. A choice may vary with time, but the sound of the biological clock is not necessarily the only reason to have children. And having children earlier does not necessarily mean pre-empting a satisfactory professional life.

When I was growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, the concept of “career” never entered my mind. From nursery (equivalent to kindergarten) through O Levels (equivalent of high school), my sole focus was to finish school. My future options were quite clear based upon what I saw other women doing. I had one of three choices, with all assuming marriage and children as the end goal. My options were based on these scenarios:

Most of my Muslim friends got married and started a family after high school or college. Most of my non-Muslim friends worked as secretaries or teachers.

My other “adventurous” non-Muslim friends became air hostesses (that’s what a flight attendant was called) if they could meet the age, weight, and height requirements. This job sounded glamorous, paid more than any local job, and one could potentially meet a “rich” husband!

Indeed, it seemed propitious when after I completed my O Levels, I got a job as a first-grade-class teacher. The principal told me that he had great trust that I would do a good job because I had done very well in my O Levels. I guess in a country where the majority of the population is illiterate, the fact that I had completed high school with outstanding grades was considered “prestigious.” With no formal teaching training, I undertook this job with great enthusiasm.

My life took a turn when fate took me to the United States. The moment I arrived, my brother insisted that I had to go to college. He told me that in the United States, one had to have a college education to succeed in a career. Career? A new word had entered my vocabulary. I was not sure what that meant then but figured one day it would “magically” dawn on me. I was fortunate to attend Scripps College, and after Scripps, I decided to get my master’s from Columbia University.

During my years in college and grad school, the concept of “career” kept rearing its head. Higher education in the U.S. had opened so many doors for me. Life was becoming more complex because there were so many choices available to me now versus the three options I thought I had when I was growing up. I made my choices as life unfolded. Following stints in the non-profit and information systems arena, I got a challenging job doing international marketing and sales for a medical device company in New York City.

This was a great job. In the name of business, I stayed at the top five-star hotels, ate at fancy restaurants, and traveled business class. All this changed when shortly after, I met my now husband; he proposed and also said he/we was/were moving to California.

“Oh, no!” I said to myself. I was enjoying my career and my single lifestyle. On second thought, I realized moving to California did not necessarily mean my life would come to a halt. I figured this was an opportunity for me to start a family as well as build my career. I could have both if I tried.

Following a few months of settling in California, I re-established my career in hi-tech marketing. And I now have two children, a three-year-old son and threemonth- old daughter… and a loving husband.

It is definitely not easy. After putting in a hard day at work, it would be nice to go home and curl up in bed. But now, I have to take care of my family. It is like a nonstop 24-hour workday. But for me, it is certainly worth the effort. I get great personal and professional satisfaction. At the same time, I acknowledge two other factors that allow me to achieve this satisfaction: a supportive husband who believes that I can have both and a wonderful family day care my children love going to.

I believe that the question of career or children is not black or white. It is grey, and whatever choice one makes is not right or wrong. It is the choice of the individual.