Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Surprisingly Good One from Arab News

Think of the stereotypes of how Women in the Arab world are treated and you'd be surprised that someone made the following point in the Arab Media - but it was made and lo and behold, its a decent read.

Stay-at-Home Moms: Are They Asset or Liability?
Fatin Yousef Bundagji,

As I flipped through the pages of Ann Crittendon’s recent book, “The Price of Motherhood”, I could not help but think of the truth behind her argument. Not only are women a marginalized entity in the social order, but they are also made to pay the price for performing the most challenging yet rewarding task, one that has been responsible for the continuing of human life on planet Earth. In her book, Ann asserts that the most important job in the world has been the least valued. Despite the controversial acclaim for her book, her central message left me with much food for thought.

As a former reporter with The New York Times, who quit her professional career for a life of motherhood, Ann goes on to highlight the economic value of mothers who choose to stay at home to raise a family, because these “stay-at-home moms” are a nation’s “invisible” and “unpaid” laborers, whose work has so far been underestimated and not formally recognized. The long hours and weekend-less months spent in nurturing and developing the citizens of the future ought to be recognized and formally supported by social and governmental institutions because of their critical contribution to the welfare of society as well as the advancement of a nation’s economy. As I pondered some of these statements, I wondered how long it will take for society to actually value the contribution made by selfless stay-at-home moms who engage in their people-building activity.

The challenges facing this segment of society are many, but the ones that top the list are illustrated by the overwhelming sense of seclusion and low self-esteem some of these women feel when asked what kind of work they do. The marginalizing effect of the social stigma attached to the idea of “staying at home” has left a tragic mark on mothers and homemakers. I say this out of experience, I still witness it being practiced by many, and I can physically feel the pain and sense of “missing out” on worldly events most of these women experience: Stay-at-home moms are made to believe that their contribution to the collective social and economic order of things is minimal, menial and not worthy of notice. This is truly a tragic misconception.

The truth however is enlightening and the future is bright. The social value and economic contribution of staying at home to nurture and develop future generations of leaders, inventors, artists, technocrats, politicians, and in the same vein, criminals, delinquents, and charlatans tops any or all forms of professional duties. It cannot be overlooked or underestimated. If we want to support stay-at-home moms in building a future generation, we must engage as a nation in the campaign to reclaim the scope and honor of this mandate. We must work at shedding the layers of negative stereotypical associations that have for years labeled homemakers as people of simple intellect who are professionally challenged and socially inept — all because the fruits of their hard labor could never be measured by monetary value or immediate social contribution.

We all remember the stereotypical remark that Hilary Rodham Clinton made during her husband’s political campaign before his presidency? The fact that she was glad to have a professional career instead of sitting idly at home to “bake cookies” clearly makes my point. Investing time and money in our children’s lives is no less important than investing time and money in our business or professional life. For some reason or other, we have threatened the core existence of the single most stabilizing social institution — that of the family unit: It is the basis upon which a culture of harmony and stability flourishes and it is the enabler that promotes the concept of communal life in which future generations are nurtured and trained. Engaging in a campaign to revive the positive image of homemakers is not in itself sufficient to bring about positive change.

Support from governmental institutions by the drafting of policies to support and financially sustain stay-at-home moms as they choose to engage in the process of nation building is the key. Stay-at-home moms need the same empowerment measures that others in various professions get. I ask, what harm would come if these caregivers were given the same rights provided to formal workers? What harm could come if full-time mothers were allowed to collect social security benefits for the years spent working at home? Further, shouldn’t companies be mandated by law to allow longer maternity leaves since, after all, child bearing and rearing is the only guarantee that we have for the creation of a future labor pool and the subsequent growth of our economy?

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