My life as a mother and as a working woman

— Aquila Jabbar

“Welcome to O’Hare International Airport. Hope you had a pleasant flight.” That was August 14, 2008. My first international flight from Mumbai, India. Our family was migrating to America – the land of Disney, beaches, fashion, cars and fast-food. Somewhere in the middle of all that, was a social system that I was hoping to blend in with ease. Nervous energy, anyone?

The transition from the warm tropical climate of Mumbai to the windy city of Chicago gave me the heebie-jeebies. We, as a family not only experienced a cultural upheaval but also a major challenge in adapting to the gusty winter. The mere thought of flurries, brisk air, slushes, snowflakes, icy ponds and long chilly nights for almost half of the year was scary and intimidating.

More importantly, my life from a ‘stay-home’ mom to a ‘working’ mom was about to unfold…
My life in Mumbai was focused with family as the core. This is what family meant to me (and still means to me)

F-fun loving people
A-always there for each other
M- Motivate each other
I-instrumental in exchanging thoughts and ideas
Y- Yippee! Youthful always

I believed that the early innocent years of infancy and childhood are the most crucial for the basics to be inculcated in children. So spending time with the kids was the top most priority and therefore decided to accept motherhood as a career.

We were and are close knit family of five. Dining together, praying together, celebrating together and vacationing together. Amidst all this was a strong desire to impart some good values- Conservation and Respect are the two most important ones amongst the others that catche my eye in today’s society and I think I have done my best to communicate these to them.

The most painful sight is when you see plates of food (full or partial) being pitched in the garbage at schools, restaurants, homes and at parties. My mind wants to cry out loud “DON’T!! That could have been a poor man’s meal for a day! You are snatching away food from the hungry!” Can we change our perspective and habits to prevent wastage? Can we be conservative and take as much as we need rather than how much we want? It is like wasting God’s resources by careless purchase, use and storage of food. Secondly, the level of respect shown by the youth towards our elders is disappointing. They are so engrossed with their cell phones, T.V and other electronic gadgets that they fail to see what is going on around them. No doubt, technology is a boon to our society but there is a fine line between use, abuse and over indulgence that can lead to abnormal conduct. I have strongly believed that the kids should show some decency and respect to the ones talking to them by looking them in the eye and having a heart to heart conversation. Neglecting a person, especially parents and seniors often implies rude behavior and an ongoing degradation of the value system in our society and can be hurtful.

I am glad that those ten long years of my motherhood in India along with the constant help of my husband has reaped good harvest! Respect, love, discipline, confidence, encouragement and emotional support are a few of the bye-products of our healthy family. My husband and I were fortunate enough to imbibe these qualities when we were kids and now as parents, we see these special qualities in our children. This is like a chain reaction that passes from one generation to the next. We as parents were cognizant that children learn and emulate their parents and therefore always kept our indifferences private.

When we landed in Chicago, the key feature of our itinerary was to get admissions for our kids for the fall term. On the first day of school, I kissed them on their forehead and said, “Be the champ that you all are. You may look different from the rest, but don’t let that distract you. Do your best.” With this pep-talk, they set out to conquer the world or at least the local schools. The only thing we as parents could ask them was to excel in school and they did. They never disappointed us by the grace of God.

The mere thought of status change from a “home-maker” to a “bread earner” was uneasy and nerve wrecking for me. I worked for almost a year in the retail industry and finally succeeded in getting a job in a reputed bank. I learnt the art of striking a balance beautifully between household chores, children’s academics and my work and married life. No guilt whatsoever as it kept me in the game career wise, well connected to the larger world, kids were old enough, independent and managed their studies well and we still enjoyed home-cooked dinners! Life was fast paced and exciting with new experiences.

My role as a mother and a working woman was never put to test simultaneously. I was fortunate enough to impart my unconditional love to my kids when they needed the most as I did not have to share it with the trials of a working woman in me.

One of the major challenges that we all faced in the beginning was “Clashes of the accents”. We were all fluent with the Queen’s English but the students, teachers and colleagues here spoke American. In retrospect, it was comedy central. We were living in a dynamic country with people from diverse backgrounds-cultures, languages and ways of expression, but it became very difficult, when you don’t understand the conversation even when you are speaking the same language!

Now, if I think about it, after 7 years, it puts a smile on my face. It has been an interesting journey. American accents are good fun too-from the relaxed and easy-going Southern accent to the intense and fast talking New Yorkers!

So how do you break this same- language barrier? Well it was not easy for us!
Did we have to do a lot of home-work? Yes, of course!
Did we manage to change? Yes, somewhat!
Did we get there? May be!

I realized that to improve, I had to be proactive and change. I cannot change others, but I can definitely challenge myself to change, keeping in mind that it will get easier over time!

From the complacent, homely mom to a dynamic multi-faceted career woman, life was gratifying until one day, I was diagnosed with neck tumor. Two serious surgeries of the spinal cord and numerous hospital and rehab institute’s visits, medications, CT scans, MRIs, and mounting healthcare bills sagged my spirits and changed my status again from a full timer to a part-timer at work.

Encouragement at home, constant support from my family and relatives and the gradual acceptance of my own self with the limited physical abilities helped me regain my confidence. “Veni Vidi Vici”. With honesty, love, respect, hard work, commitment, perseverance and gratitude, I made the transition to this great country with new statuses. I now manage work, other outdoor errands, household chores and my family with ease of a (wo)man on a mission.

Well, motherhood does not end here, it only gets different and may be more challenging with age and time. The woman has the option of terminating her “career-woman” status but the “motherhood” position goes on and on.

I am a better person now and proud of my accomplishments.

About the Author
Aquila Jabbar is a Bsc (textiles) graduate from Mumbai university, worked with an American garment export company while in Mumbai and now working as a Customer Support Specialist in a reputed bank in Chicago.

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