Social, Women

Who says I have to be a working woman?

I don’t think I will ever be a ‘career woman,’ in the sense we know; I won’t ever be a working powerhouse that takes joy and pride in my work, and brings home the turkey bacon. (#KeepingItHalal.) But you know—I’m ok with that. Completely. Alhamdulillah. (I mean, there are other ways to fill up one’s time and effort, and other ways one can help her family out, besides earning a steady paycheck.)
The reason why I don’t think I will ever be such a woman is because I don’t really want to, and I don’t really think I can, anyway.
The reason why I don’t want to work a full-time job is because I don’t want such a big chunk of my time to be spent working. I’d rather be working on my debut book (I’m an aspiring writer), volunteering in my community (kind of like now—I volunteer one hour a week tutoring elementary-schoolers, these days), raising my kids (bi idhn illahi), being a student of this deen (studying Qur’anic studies, the Seerah of our prophet p.b.u.h., Hadith studies, etc., and hopefully imparting that knowledge unto others), or doing any of the other tasks of life that are important and productive.
And, the reason why a full time job might not be the best scenario for me, anyway (i.e., the reason why I would probably struggle a lot with such an undertaking) is mainly because of my mental illnesses. These often make it really hard to ‘hold down’ a job, as we say in colloquial terms. (I tried to hold down a part-time job, once. It really was hard.)
But…do I really have to have a full-time job? Even a part-time job? I mean, Islamically, I don’t (it is one of the teachings of our religion that a Muslimah isn’t obligated to work, to provide for her family)—but what about people? You know—those judgmental folks you always happen to meet after you make a socially unpopular decision (like deciding to not go to college right after high school, or even at all…Which I personally think is fine, by the way. Everyone’s path is different. So why judge anyone for what they do, really?). But, as I was saying; what kinds of faces will people make when I tell them I don’t have a steady job? That I don’t really plan on that, either?
But on the flip side—in my defense—why are we, as people, so defined by what we do? Why is our worth measured by our work? It seems kind of funny that how we happen to make money becomes such an important factor in who we are. In reality, many of us don’t like what we do (but are of course forced to do it for money), we don’t have steady jobs, at all (we are homemakers, freelancers, temporary job holders, or other titles that aren’t traditional jobs), or would otherwise prefer to not be defined by our occupations.
But, similar to many other problems in the world, I blame capitalism for this equating work with worth. It is capitalism after all that has led to collective beliefs of ‘money guarantees happiness,’ ‘the more money you’ve made, the harder you’ve worked,’ and etc. (All those ideas are complete nonsense, anyway. How many wealthy people are unhappy and spiritually depraved, after all? How many people do we know of—indeed, how many billions of people are there—who work really hard, but who can never make ends meet?) Anyways; it is capitalism, I think (and capitalist theories that were around before modern-day capitalism) that have created these societal feelings of work—of money—being the most important things in life. “The more ‘higher-up’ your job is, the more money you can make. And the more money you make, the happier you’ll be.” Quite a harsh and heartless formula, really; this equation doesn’t factor in any illnesses, disabilities or life events (that make it difficult or impossible to work), lack of desire to not work most of your waking hours, etc…it doesn’t leave room for life, really. And the truth is; life, with all its occurrences, circumstances, joys and sorrows, spiritual growth, beauty—doesn’t really go with capitalism. The two are really distance, actually.
In a similar vein (I could go on about all the weird rules of our world forever); I’ve always thought it is a bit weird that a regular work week in these societies of ours is 40 hours long. I mean, that’s kind of a lot, isn’t it? 20 hours a week should have been the regular work week, to me. And speaking of weird economic systems, I don’t really know why we don’t have a universal basic income anywhere that I know of (like in my home country of Sudan, or my current residence—the U.S.). That would have made things better, to say the least. Like; what if someone—a man or a woman—suffers from severe mental illness, or another kind of disability, for example? I.e., what if regular work is something beyond their ability? Do they just struggle with money their whole lives? End up homeless? When they physically or mentally can’t work? Or maybe—best case scenario—such people live with family, when they want to be independent? All this while their governments (which could be providing them with basic income) squander money on crazy things (like waging unnecessary wars, or looking for aliens)?
Anyone who runs a home—even for the duration of one week—will know very well the amount of work it takes to do so. Dishes, laundry, cooking, sweeping and mopping floors, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting, wiping tabletops, keeping rooms tidy…these tasks don’t just get done by themselves (though it may seem like that to a person who doesn’t do those jobs). And anyone who is a student of this deen knows how hard the task is (and how hard it is to perfect all the obligations of Islam, for that matter). But, it is essential. And anyone who is a volunteer worker in their community will tell you that it’s not necessarily easy work, yet it is crucial. Volunteers are crucial in any community. The truth is; there is important and noble work to be done, in the world—work that pays nothing. So don’t let anyone tell you that ‘jobs’—the ones that pay—are the only (or even the most important) productive tasks, in life. Or that your job (the one that makes you money) defines your worth, in any way. All of that is simply not true.
In addition to being a homemaker, a volunteer in my community, a mother, and a student of this deen (as aforementioned at the beginning of this essay), I actually do want to do some ‘professional work,’ in the sense; I want to be a freelance graphic designer, and writer. Right now, I’m completing a B.A. in graphic design to help me achieve this goal. (And I’ve done many elective classes in English and creative writing as well, in terms of being prepared for a writing career.)
But with the kind of life that I choose—with wanting to be a homemaker, mother, a community volunteer, a student of Islam, and a freelancer, I know there will be intermittent times in my life when I obtain no money for what I do. But, alhamdulillah; it’s all good. Since when did working a nine-to-five, and the cash-flow that comes out of that—since when did that become the most important thing in life, anyway?

Ethar Hamid is an aspiring writer, with her sights on becoming an essayist, poet, and memoirist. A goal she would like to accomplish through her writing is addressing the subject of mental illness. After suffering from depression and comorbid disorders, Ethar saw the importance of having support from others in the fight to attain mental health. So today, she tries to reach others who suffer from mental disorders with the message that there is as much hope (and happiness) for them as there is for anyone else. Ethar is Sudanese-American, and is the youngest in her family. She is an undergrad, studying creative writing. writing portfolio:

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