I moved to Abu Dhabi, after spending a year searching and applying for jobs, because back home in Jordan the UAE is known as the land of opportunity. I came here to forge a career that would pay for the shoes and books I love, as well as provide me with financial independence. Now that I am married, that really hasn't changed much; I still care about pursuing a career that I enjoy, excel in and affords me the money needed not only to live, but to enjoy some luxuries as well.
Which is why it baffles me that people have assumed I would "retire" from working full time. It was a question I heard often in the days leading up to my marriage. "Oh, you're getting married! So when's your last day at work?" I understand, of course, that when it comes to work versus romance, men have traditionally put a premium on career goals while women focus more on home and family, or so I heard the situation used to be, back in the 13th century. I am not one to say whether that is right or wrong, and it is certainly ideal for many, but for me it is a stereotype I have striven to avoid. Both my parents are career-minded, valuing hard work and a solid education above all else. Sacrifices were made to get me to where I am today, and as they've often told me, no matter what else, I will always have the ability to work and support myself. Pursuing writing in the Middle East defines part of who I am. What would we talk about, I wondered, if I couldn't share with my husband the anecdotes of my job and listen to the challenges of his?
My drive to achieve my dreams and ambitions, my wild elation time and again at a piece of published work, are some of the things he loves about me. How pleasant a person would I be to live with if I no longer had these things? A friend back in Canada had just such a dilemma. Her wedding was just around the corner, and her decision to quit her job and become a stay-at-home wife and mother was gnawing at her insides. Would she be ridiculed for her decision, which many might view as backward? Will her career-driven parents be disappointed, scolding her for throwing away a degree and a career she has worked hard for? Will she be judged?
Of course she will. People can't help but be judgmental. Ignore them, I told her, and do what feels right for you. Mr T quickly showed me where he stood on the matter. "What? You want to quit? And do what?" he asked, attempting and failing to mask his panic. "I don't want to quit, that's what I'm telling you. I'm just surprised that some young and successful career women would still hold such an old-fashioned viewpoint."
A short silence. "So do you think your parents would want you to quit and stay at home and stop working after marriage, and expect me to support us both?" The panic in his voice was not subsiding. "Are you kidding me? My parents would probably beat both of us up and fly over here and drag me back to work if they knew I'd left my job." He sighed with relief, slumped back on the couch and grinned at me. "I really love your parents," he said.