The Life Of Working Mothers In Pakistan Social Work Essay

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Purpose: This study explored the experiences of mid-career professional working mothers exercising integration between work, family and selves in the context of the city of Faisalabad, Pakistan. It has been examined that how the family systems included joint and nuclear, affected them and their careers.

Findings: The study showed that the professional working mothers are responsible for performing their domestic and professional roles, besides self-care. The proper incorporation of both roles is plausible with the stipulation of flexibility from both, work and family system, both, joint and nuclear family system. All women had intense feeling of motherhood; their career was also of high importance for them as they find their values and purpose. They wanted to achieve the objectives of their lives and self-fulfillment. Now they were better able to balance their family, work and individual self in comparative to start of their careers.

Research Limitations: The response rate from the audience was low, but, through in-depth, rich and contextual information, which was received during interviews, tried to overcome these flaws. The females from the targeted population became very anxious and some were refused to give audiotaped interviews.

Originality/Value: This paper contributes in the work-life integration for professional working mothers. The study explored that what type of hindrance or support a working mother living acquired form the family system and from the workplace and how they integrate the both. Kaleidoscope career model was used for this purpose.

Keywords: Professional working mothers, mid-career, joint family system, nuclear family system, work, Faisalabad

Paper Type: Research Paper

The proportions of women make up an increase in full-time workforce (Metz, 2005), especially in the professional and managerial fields around the world (Cabrera, 2007). Pakistan is in the phase of transition (Raza & Murad, 2010), since July 2009 women employment is increased by 1.7% (Labour Force Survey, 2010). The increased proportion of women in labor force creates bigger challenges for women in the incorporation of roles and responsibilities and managing time accompanied with child bearing and child rearing years (Grady & McCarthy, 2008). These challenges stimulated scientists to create a link between work, family and self (Valimaki, Lamsa & Hiillos, 2009). As a result pressure on organizations to respond towards employee’s family responsibilities has been increasing (Goodstein, 1994). Additionally the challenge for the organization to find out the adequately integration between domestic and work life by work -family (WF) arrangements (Peeters, Wattez, Demerouti & Regt, 2009), by providing equality policies, statutory entitlement, maternity leave, carer’s leave, parental leave, and non statutory arrangements like flextime, e-working, job sharing, term-time working (Glass & Estes, 1997, Grady & McCarthy, 2008).

The increasing number of working mothers, over past years, has increased pressures for them as they confront meaning in work, family and personal life (Grady & McCarthy, 2008). Work-life integration seems to be difficult for professional mothers due to increased pressures. They not only need to create meaning in their work, family, personal life by selves but they also need support at work place by the employer. The support by the employer at work place towards integration of work, family and self leads towards self-fulfillment and satisfaction which have positive outcome for them and ultimately for employer (Auster, 2001). The absence of the support by the employer may lead to the difficulties for the professional mothers. The work intensification and long hours, coupled with child rearing demands result in stress and labor turn over (Jones & McKenna, 2002).

The purpose of this study is to explore the issues, problems and experiences of mid-career professional mothers regarding work-life integration in Faisalabad, Pakistan. How the most prevailing family systems in Pakistan, joint and nuclear (Ahamad, 2002), affect them. The study examines what type of hindrance they face and what type of support they need at work place as well as from the family. Now in Pakistan, vast segment of the society based on women cannot be denied the women’s status, autonomy and equality in playing a role in social, economic opportunities and nation building (Amir, 2004, conference paper). Concerns about the economy and as well due to the changes occurred in woman’s aspirations has increased the women as work force as never before (Ahamad, 2002). According to labor force survey 2010, women’s employment rate increased by 1.7% as mentioned above. The focus is on mid-career professional working mothers because they are in the stage of career when a lot of attention is required by their family and as well for building their professional career. Professional working mothers are defined as those mothers, who manage, develop and invest their professional career throughout the period of rearing their family (Grady & McCarthy, 2008).

Work-life integration

Work and non-work are interdependent and the individuals have to play roles simultaneously or to switch frequently from one role to the other (Wilson et al., 2004). Work role is the professional duties assigned by the organization and non work includes family or domestic duties have to perform for family. Central idea of this research paper is work life integration. Work-life integration is defined that how professional workers incorporate the duties at work place accompanied with the domestic duties along self demands. This belief gained a lot of attraction in the past decade (Metz, 2005, Grady & McCarthy, 2008, Valimaki, Lamsa & Hiillos, 2009, Peeters, Wattez, Demerouti & Regt, 2009, Goodstein, 1994, Glass & Estes, 1997, Auster, 2001, Jones & McKenna, 2002, Karatepe, 2009, Wilson et al., 2004 & Burke, 2004). With rise of industrialization, the agrarian model is now replaced, the conventional role of women expected to take care of the children and men as bread winner is going to be changed (Valimaki, Lamsa & Hiillos, 2009, Grady & McCarthy). Employees need to confront the work and non-work roles corresponding. Dissolution, interference and conflict between the roles may lead to disorder, burn out, emotional exhaustion (Grady & McCarthy, 2008 & Peeters, Wattez, Demerouti & Regt, 2009), negative health outcome dissatisfaction and emotional dissonance (Karatepe, 2009). “The work-family conflict is considered bi-directional (Cohen, 2009, p. 814)”. Managing multiple tasks at a time may lead towards conflicts from work to family life and from family to work life (Kirrane & Monks, 2004). Sense of equilibrium may create by positive spillover, enrichment and facilitation (Glass & Estes, 1997, Valimaki, Lamsa & Hiillos, 2009). On the other hand women entrance in workforce in last two decades at an precedent pace (Auster,2001), resulted dual-earner and in low gap between male and female (Ahamad, 2002). Females need support from family system and spouse to make an appropriate assimilation (Valimaki, Lamsa & Hiillos, 2009).

The family system and work-life integration for mid-career women

It has been proposed that a professional women’s career is difficult to be examined without examining her non-work life – family system and spouse (Powell & Mainiero, 1992). Family, a smallest unit of a society composed of two or more people who are interconnected by marriage, blood or adoption, live together from an economic unit, has basic features of sharing and togetherness (Ahamad, 2002). Two types of household systems, dominant in Pakistan, joint family system, in which women with her husband and children lives with in-laws, and the nuclear family system, in which a woman separately lives with her husband and children (Amir, 2004). A newly married working woman prefers to live in nuclear family system but in child bearing stage this system jeopardizes her life (Aamir, 2004). Due to the lack of day care centers and unreliable servants and maids may make it difficult for the working professional mothers to take care of their dependent children particular in mid-career. In such case joint family system becomes the heart favorite of working professional mothers (Aamir, 2004), which may facilitate and may take care of their children, in their working hours. “Woman marries the whole family and she is answerable to other family members”(Ahamad,2004), tough responsibilities are on her shoulders, specifically in joint system, leads towards heavy burden when woman is working as professional and as well as an economic hand of her partner. In such case woman may feel dissonance and may prefer nuclear system where number of dependents are less, she needs support from her spouse and work place to continue her professional career.

Modern life is leading towards change in roles of women and men due to continuous changes in economic and demographic trends (Ahamad, 2002) The percentage of married couples increased in previous decades, in which both spouses worked full time, a spouse or a partner can provide basic support, include sharing home, parenting responsibilities, encouraging career development, interpersonal support needed by working women (Gordon & Whelan-Berrry, 2004). After passing day long activity at workplace may make a working women exhausted and make it thorny for her to take care of children along household duties. In such case professional working women particular in mid-career, where family demands with child rearing are increasing accompanied with career growth. It may become difficult to incorporate both without support from family and work place. In some cases, family and spouse do not facilitate working women but sometimes do really support (Karatepe, 2009). Working professional mother may be from Joint family system or nuclear family system, necessitate ample support. It may affect in work-life integration. By sharing common interests a flexible spouse enables working woman to manage their career and integrate work and family lives successfully (Valimaki, Lamsa & Hiillos, 2009), especially in mid-career where career has already established and women are beyond the parenting of infants and toddlers, finding new challenges in work and personal interest (Gordon & Whelan-Berrry, 2004 & Grady & McCarthy, 2008).

Thus, literature indicates when women are in their mid-career, face challenges regarding work-life integration while experiencing new opportunities in advancement of their career, they need to be supported by work place and family system, either joint or nuclear family system. Professional working mothers strive to integrate across the domains and to minimize the gap. This research paper aims to explore the gap that how professional working mothers create balance concerning work, family and individual selves; and how family system affects this integration? The following section indicates research methods used in the current study to address these research questions.


Qualitative in-depth interviews were carried out with 22 professional working mid-career mothers. The criteria determination for the participants was

Professional mid-career working mothers, who joint parenting role along with career advancement

Age between 33 to 48, most agreed aged for mid-career in Pakistan

With children, at least one dependent child, less than 18 years

The sample was chosen by considering convenience and snow-ball sampling. The professional working mothers to whom authors met were asked for further contacts. The sample size of 22 professional working mothers is adequate representation of population of working professional mothers particular in mid-career in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Interviews were based upon 90 to 120 minutes and were audio-taped. Authors transliterated interviews. Table1 presents the sample questions which were asked for exploration.


Subject matter

Sample questions


Responsibilities/dependent care you and your family

Tell about yourself, your responsibilities at work place and self demand?

How does every day job look like?


Amalgamating work and family life

Do you find it easy or difficult to manage work, family, school etc at morning?

Did you ever feel frustration and think to stay at home full time?


The work place-flextime, support, enrichment

Is your work place family-friendly for you?

Have you availability of any flextime?


Career development and promotion-support or barrier

Are you on the right path of your career, you ever thought?

How did you manage during child rearing?


Self-fulfillment and satisfaction

Did you approach your value or purpose of mid-career?

Do you consider satisfied yourself?


Family system

Who does take care of your dependents while your working hours?

What type of family system may support more mid-career women?

Opt out from child day care center, house maid or relatives for your child-care?


Other issues

Has the study enabled you to think in a different way about your?


Demographic data

Source: Work-life integration: Experiences of mid career professional working mothers (Grady & McCarthy, 2008)

The content analysis was the approach used to analyze the data (Bryman & Bell, 2003). The qualitative responses were collected, grouped and the concept was examined through the organized analysis of the record. The figure below presents the content analysis framework that was derived. Framework led four subject matters along with four research questions. Further integration of work is illustrated by incorporating values and essence of balance. Final column indicates the responses of the participants towards questions




Construct of work-life integration

Respondent’s reference to theme


Self-perception in relation to work and family roles

Children are a working mother’s number one priority.

When there was a clear conflict between work and children, participants made choices and children became the priority.

Sense of self

(assess values, beliefs and purposes)


Work and career is very important

Career is important for participant they seem stimulation, challenges and enrichment



Work-related factors

Flexibility is two-way

When flexibility is experienced at work it supports commitment and increased productivity in the in the work place in addition to integrating work and family life


Changing attitudinal, and social context

The changing attitudes and culture in the work place and the social and legislative changes have improved the situation for working mothers

Work itself

(paid and unpaid)


Responsible for one’s own career

Working mothers took responsibility for their own career at all stages and more particularly now as mature members of the workforce and at mid-career they assess that it is up to them to create their own future direction



Merge work &

Family system

Whether joint system help professional mothers for working?

Joint family including husband’s parents,sisters and brothers are helpful for working mother

Sense of balance

Choices about time in each sphere


Whether Nuclear system help professional mothers for working?

Nuclear system excludes members of family except husband,wife and their children is more beneficial or provide support to working woman.



Proper Integration

Self suffers when work and family become dominant

Integrating work and family was a key priority throughout the years with little time for self, but participants found significance in this integration.

Integration and balance across work, family and self= work-life integration


Paradigm is shifting and needs are changing

Merging work and family is getting easier, children are getting older, seaking more time for self- meaning of integration is changing



Demographic information and career profile

The participants in this study were 22 women in number aged from 33 to 48, fall in mid-career, who endured full time job accompanied with family rearing years. All infatuated nationality of Pakistan. All participants in this paper were interviewed, indicated their marital status as married, with at least one dependent child.

Three of the participants had four children; nine of the females accompanied three kids and eight of the respondents possessed two children and two females had 1 child. Seven of the females were living in joint-family system, three of which lived with just mother-in law and father-in law, and other four were living with other relatives as well. Fifteen of the participants lived in nuclear system. One of the females had infants and the children of other women were school-aged or above but at least had one independent child. The women possessed work experience between 8 to 22 years. The targeted sectors were medical, education, makeup industry, telecommunication, nursing and research officers including both public, private and semi-government organizations along with self-employment. Four targeted interviewees were doctors had specialization in different fields, work experience fall from 9 to 20 years. Two of the participants were Ph.D. doctors, fell under the category of research officers; eight of the respondents were from education field were working as teachers, generally owned master’s degree, as well had some completed short-courses relevant to the fields. Three of the contestants were selected from telecommuting, two from banks and one from beauty salon, preserved 10 to 18 years’ experience and possessed different relevant short courses. Nine of the women included, were form private organizations, five were from government or public organizations, five were from semi-government and three were the self-employed. One of the respondents, had the nationality of Pakistan but lived 10 years in Madinah, Saudi Arabia and worked as lecturer in the Madinah University, Saudi Arabia for ten years, and shifted to Faisalabad for last five years and running her own school.

Self-perception in relation to work and family roles

The findings point out that when the family roles as well as work roles spill over each other, the number one priority professional working mothers gave to their children. It is evident from the interviews that females were very disturbed and stressed at their work, regarding their children. Women miss their children at workplace. All women became very emotional when they talked about their children. They are not ready to do compromise over their children. The working mothers focused on giving a quality time to their children. The following statements are the evident of the way of thinking of mothers:

Being a mother, my children are my number one priority. I will never let my children neglected due to my career. I have a wish to pursue my career along with performing the duties related to my children as a mother.

As a mother, my kids were my main concern. I always tried to give them a quality time rather than a quantity time.

Self employed respondents were flexible in their working conditions. They were not bound for any one’s order. Such women indicated that the reason for their being self employed was their children. They said that it was difficult for them to give an appropriate time to their children.

I am self-employed and running my own school. I rare feel to make an adjustment difficult between children and my career. In case of any accident or sickness of child it is easy for me to take a leave.

All women had intense feeling of motherhood. But some women responded that their work as a stimulating factor for them. Females pointed out themselves much active due to their jobs and considered them as idle without job. They had more challenges in their lives so they worked hard and struggled more to accomplish. They identified them as more creative in contrast to non-professional women.

In the start of my career, I found it hard to create a balance between work and family. But now I feel myself incomplete without my job. In off days I feel myself very lazy and idle. I even don’t wash my face and take bath as I don’t have to go at work. My work creates charm in my life.

Work related factors:

Two-way flexibility is very crucial issue in business organizations. If employers give flexibility to the employees working in an organization, the employees also put more commitment over there. Parental leaves, maternity leaves, flexible working hours, carer’s leave, job-sharing, may fall under the category of flexible related factors.

Flexibility is very important. I am here; the reason is the cooperation from my colleagues at workplace. As yesterday, I had to attend mother’s meeting of my younger child. My employer let me to go. As a result, today I am putting my maximum contribution.

I am a doctor but instead of doing practice I am teaching at medical college and I got flexibility from the organization to pick my children from their school. My children are quite happy and I am also contented due to that flexibility.

Some women pointed out that they had to suffer a lot because of inflexibility of the organization; sometimes it became so difficult for them to run their career during child bearing period.

I am an employee of a private organization. During my career I thought many times to leave the job due to inflexibility from my organization specifically during my child bearing stage, I ever got unpaid maternity leaves for only one month. At that stage I became so frustrated due to my child care and had wished to shoot the employer.

From previous decade the working trend of the women is increasing and as a result, social, behavioral and attitudinal changes are also emerging. In Pakistan, it was considered strange for the women to go out of their homes for the sake of earning beside their husbands. Now-a-days male colleagues share the responsibilities and contribute to the work with their female colleagues instead of competing with them.

I have been working from eighteen years. At start of my career, my neighbors, relatives, and my male colleagues watched me in an unsophisticated way, but now at the stage of my mid-career my peer group specifically included men are very cooperative towards me. Without participation of women, it’s not easy to bear financial expenses only by male. Now society is more civilized and it is accepting this reality.

Women only considered them responsible for their career. They often had to ignore many opportunities just due to their family and child related problems. Women were not willing to leave the city due to their family and spouse.

I received much flexibility from my previous organization at Lahore. I was at the promotional stage in that unit of organization. But in case of my husband’s promotion in Faisalabad I had to compromise and to leave that unit of organization and made it possible my transfer in other unit of that specific organization in Faisalabad. Now I have to deviate from my smooth career path.

I have left many opportunities offered by organization. I don’t want to become as part of top management because I don’t want to bear burden of work more it may cause to disturb my family.

Merging work and family system:

As research evidence showed that professional working mothers have much feelings of motherhood and as well they had identified the need to come in professional fields. Women have to leave the job due to negative spillover of work and family roles; they have to leave their jobs (Glass & Estes, 1997). There is high importance for them to merge work within their family systems. As indicated before that two most prevalent family systems are joint and nuclear. Professional working females, as part of joint system, pointed that this type of family system showed cooperation with them in their career path.

I have been working from fourteen years. I have never felt any type of problem regarding my child care. I leave my children at home and their grandmother takes care of them in a best manner. My children are more confident and bold as compared to my relatives whose mothers are not working. Whenever I go home after completion of job, the happy faces of my children make me fresh. All credit goes to my mother-in-law. I love her.

I don’t have any problem regarding my children care. I never felt any need of child care center here because our joint family system is the best alternative of such day care centers. I may never feel confidence over the servants and maids as I have trust in my in-laws.

Some women indicated that they had to suffer due to joint family system because of the burden of extra responsibilities and domestic duties.

Joint family system hinders smooth career path of professional working women. Due to a large amount of domestic responsibilities I lost many opportunities. Financial expenses also increases and I have to give a big portion of my salary to my in-laws.

Respondents who lived in nuclear family system mentioned a lot of problems regarding their work and family integration. They mentioned problems regarding their child care and to perform a lot of domestic duties by selves. Working women needed a cooperative spouse.

I have to ignore my children when I come to work. I forget work when I reach at home. I wish to have a joint family system at least my children may be in a position to get safety and security because I can’t rely on maids. My husband’s career is very important and he cannot take leave for children.

It is also evident that the working mothers, who lived in a nuclear system, didn’t compromise on their careers. They didn’t have any responsibilities and bounding from other family members. They indicated much satisfaction because they didn’t need to answer anybody.

I am thankful to God that I live in nuclear family system, I am very happy in my paradise where there is no interference from typical mother, father, sister and brother in-laws. I am not answerable in front of anybody regarding my actions except my cooperative husband.

Support from partner/ spouses were identified as a key element for professional working mothers. A researcher woman pointed that she was nothing without the support from her husband because a supportive husband shared the domestic roles as well.

Today I am here due to my husband’s support. During my child bearing period I did my Ph.D. related to my field. I did work at home and my husband made it possible to examine my work from my supervisor consecutively. My husband is very cooperative in building my career. Even he does cooking if I am not there.

It was reported by all participants that they may only continue their career if support from their families were there. Joint family system was supportive for family emergency time and children care. Research indicated those women who fell under the category of nuclear family system, pointed that they were nothing without their husband’s support. Because there was no one at home, work as helping hand in spite of their spouses.

Integration of work, family and personal self:

Increasing trend of working mothers from the last decade indicated that women were in their mid-career. There felt a need to manage work family and personal selves. But respondent showed that this stage of mid-career they fully focused towards family and work and had forgotten themselves, which is supported by following statement of a gynecologist;

Work and family come at first. My profession does not let me to ignore it. I have to remain alert at all times. In such case I find no time for myself. Last day I came to workplace and my coworkers pointed that I was wearing shirt from the wrong side.

The participant women showed that they are trying for their values in their lives because at this time of mid-career the financial issues were almost solved and compensation plans are not enough. Their children have also grown up and care for children become easier. The women at their mid-career seek purpose of their lives, their needs are changing. They mentioned that they had past a lot of time with their work and family now they feel need for self care. The following statement proves these views:

In the start, my husband’s salary was very low, unable to fulfill our financial expenses; I pursued myself towards my career as right hand of my husband. That was tough time when my children required time from my side. But now I have no problem regarding children care or any financial issue. It’s now time to focus on me.

In summarized form, it is proved from the findings of the whole study that working professional mothers interplay the roles of work and family along with individual selves. Family balance is achieved through the potential, appropriate plan, family system, and workplace flexibility and a network of support. Large proportion of respondents perceived that joint family system helped them for fulfilling career and a sense of achievement. In the start career the most portion of the time, they devoted for work and family. But now in mid-career, self-balance gained a lot of importance.

Discussion and conclusion

This study explored the experiences of mid-career professional working mothers constructing integration between work, family and selves in the context of Faisalabad, Pakistan. It is examined that how family systems included joint and nuclear, affect them and their career. How these professional working mothers made integration in spite of lot of challenges and what support they require from family system. The lives of professional working mothers are very crucial. They need to run their family and children as number one priority along with significant concern for their career. Mid-career professional working mothers experienced a long time period of time for their work. They created quality in their work, which motivated them for the self-fulfillment. According to Warner and Hausdorf (2009) work-family support negatively affects the individual’s stress and leads to satisfaction in different aspects of life, family as well as the job while enhancing more commitment towards their workplace. That’s why working professional mothers’ leads towards the sense of achievement. Now organizations are struggling to better understand the factors, affect the fulfillment of this ever-growing demographic type of mid-career who is filled with intelligence and experience (Ellen R. Auster and Karen L. Ekstein, 2004).

The existence of flexible working conditions and flexible working hours are reported as favorable for the working mothers. “Schedule flexibility is a boundary-spanning resource that helps workers accomplish both their work and family responsibilities” (Carlson, Grzywacz & Kacmar, 2010, p. 331). Organizational policies are required to include flex options, for professional working mothers. Women and men particularly who are married, as c

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