This post was originally posted in Maha’s Noor Elahi blog “A Saudi Women’s Voice“.
Life_ in general_ is a challenge. For women, it is even more challenging; for Saudi women, it is mission impossible!
Yet, we as Saudi women, are living the impossible and in fact, we are making it possible!
To be more specific & to avoid generalizations, I am going to take my readers today on a journey to a typical day of my life: the life of a 40 year old Saudi wife, mother, & working woman…Don’t expect deep secrets though 😉
Like all responsible women, who don’t belong to the royal/velvet class in Saudi Arabia, my life is one huge roller coaster!
Once that iPhone alarm starts doing its thing at 5:30 in the morning, I wake up and start waking up my three kids for school. After they have their breakfast and go to school, I start getting ready for work. My work place is about 30 minutes away from home…that’s the supposed time…but in reality and due to the dreadful, hideous, and poor traffic in Jeddah, it takes me over 50 minutes to reach work!
So…that’s over 100 minutes (1 hour and 40 minutes) lost on the road…or actually stuck in traffic…and that happens daily!
Once I reach work, I do nothing but work of course…Working in a private sector with high standards is very demanding, time and energy-consuming…all for the good of the society indeed. As an English language instructor and co-editor and translator, I have to keep up with everything new in the field…I have to always be creative and think of new ways to make life easier for my students, who come with minimum study and language skills and aim at learning English, so they can be up to Dar Al-Hekma’s requirements. At Dar Al-Hekma things don’t work as in most educational institutions in Saudi Arabia; there is no such thing as lecturing and then asking students to memorize and do well in tests. It’s the responsibility of the instructor to implant skills and values in students and to make sure they are strong enough to survive in the real world, to find their roles in life, and to succeed in their careers. Of course, I am not the only one responsible for this, but it’s my mission as a member of a great team.
During the non-stop, long work day, I always squeeze 30 to 45 minutes to go to the gym that the college provides for its staff and students. Why on Earth do I go to the gym if I have loads of work?
Well…that’s the other side of the story…I’m woman in a world full of beauties everywhere (TV, magazine, streets..well yes even thought they wear Abayas they’re still gorgeous)…I am woman and I want to be pretty and fit…In fact, I am expected to be fit…there are no excuses for being overweight in a world that has increasing awareness about health and exercise. No matter how many times Oprah says “we must love our bodies and accept ourselves the way we are”, there is this urge in every woman, I assume, to be beautiful and sexy regardless of her age. Don’t get a wrong idea now…I’m not a model! I just try my best to lead a healthy life in good shape, and that, I believe, contributes to my success as a working woman, wife and mother. No one really wants a mom, wife, or employee who has health issues! It’s harsh and sad..but true!
Back to my day…Around 4 pm, I go back home…and on my way home, I go to the supermarket to buy some groceries and necessary stuff for dinner. My kids reach home an hour before me…Of course, if I were allowed to drive, I would have reached home earlier, but I have to wait for the driver to take them home and then return to me (their schools are next to my house). Once I’m at home, I start preparing for a rather late dinner (around 6:30).
Now…most Saudi women have their maids cook for them…my husband doesn’t really mind, but I cannot think of a woman, who is a total stranger to cook for me and my family! Besides, I’m an excellent cook and I’m a really picky eater. I want my husband and kids to eat clean, tasty, and healthy food. I don’t want to be under the control of a maid, who might decide to leave all of a sudden and who is basically not a trained cook nor a professional house manager; she is just a helper at home. It’s my house and my family, and I’m responsible for them. And after all, cooking is not that big a deal!
Once we finish dinner, I stay with my kids to help them with their studies, especially the youngest one, and then the youngest goes to sleep, and I stay for a while with my husband if he hadn’t fallen asleep. By now, there are about three to four hours before I go to sleep. During those few hours, I read, prepare for work, correct papers, write/translate articles, and spend some time with my two eldest kids and with my husband. I forgot to say that I do all those things while I’m extremely exhausted, but I struggle to stay alert and awake (thanks to vitamins!)
I sleep at around 11 to 12 pm to get ready for a new day.
And now it’s time for Mr. Weekend!! And boy that poor weekend is stuffed with millions of things! My weekends, are divided among my kids, parents, in-laws, beauty salons to take care of my skin and hair, spring cleaning a specified room in the house, doctors’ appointments, and three quality hours on Friday for me and my husband alone.
And as you might have noticed, there’s no place in my life for phone calls, chit chats, hanging out with friends, or socializing and visiting family members and attending wedding parties. The only parties that I attend are the parties that my kids are invited to; I always go with them, especially the young one.
I’m trying to be a good mom, an attractive and loving wife, and a productive employee …and I try my best to do all that with a smile on my face…My mission in life, I have come to believe, is to help others and inspire them to get out the best of themselves.
Life is becoming difficult every day. As women, we have to prove ourselves in the workplace and at home, and as for me, I can never be but a giver and a person who inspires those who need to dig deep into their souls.
I could have taken the easier path as many Saudi women do; eat, drink, spend all my time chatting or hanging out with friends, spend a lot of money on trivia, and be a completely dependent woman on the maid(s), but that’s not me! It’s much easier to be this spoiled woman, who sleeps all day and has others do things for her and at the end of the day complains about not getting a Fendi bag from her husband!
But such a life is just a pity in my opinion. Life with all its challenges, difficulties, and obstacles is much more beautiful and meaningful than just a life of “taking or waiting to see what others offer me!”
Of course, nothing comes easily…I gave up on a lot of things in order to fulfill my main roles in life. I’ve set my priorities and made my choices …and took the road “less traveled by” as the amazing Robert Frost puts it.
If we don’t face life’s challenges, it will hit us on the face!
If you’re like me, be happy that you have the gift of working and giving others instead of just taking. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and your beauty, take breaks, have fun, and be prepared for life’s surprises; the pleasant and the unpleasant ones….And of course, always be proud because you are a giving woman!
But I’m not the only one…..I am sure and I know there are many amazing women out there, who have even more demanding and challenging lives…and the least I say to them is that “You make us all proud!”
Responsible and reliable Saudi women rock!!