x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Numbers of working mothers in Oman leap fourfold

32,000 Omani women have children and jobs today, up from just 8,000 in 1985, as old attitudes change. and parents shed their views that daughters' roles are limited to getting married and raising children.

MUSCAT // Twenty-five years ago, Suhaila Al Marhoobi left her husband after he prevented her from returning to work after their first child was born.

"He married me when I was already working for a year, but he didn't like it so he was looking for an excuse to stop me. He found a perfect one after the delivery of our daughter saying that I needed to look after her. I wouldn't have any of that and I left him in 1985 instead of leaving the job I loved," Ms Marhoobi said.

Ms Marhoobi, 48, married again three years later but made it clear to her new husband that she would continue with her work as a banker.

As attitudes have changed, the number of working Omani mothers has quadrupled since 1985. There are about 32,000 working Omani mother today, up from 8,000 in 1985, according to the manpower and civil service ministries. Women make up about 51 per cent of the Omani population.

Yasmeen Al Harthy, a social worker and former head of the women affairs section at the ministry of social development, said: "Parents now encourage their daughters to go all the way in education. Once they are married, they are determined to keep on working since they prefer to be financially independent instead of depending on their husbands.

"But the most important thing is that now their husbands do not ask them to quit their jobs after having babies as old attitudes change."

Parents, particularly from rural areas, have shed their views that daughters' roles were limited to getting married and raising children.

Suhaila Darwish, a member of the state-run Oman Women Association, said: "The attitude that women should do what they are told is fast disappearing in Oman. Some of them make it as a condition to the proposing men that they are free to continue working after marriage.

"That's why we see many of them successfully raising children and continuing with their careers."

For Nasra Al Hooti, 26, an IT specialist, staying at home after the delivery of her first baby five months ago was not an option.

"It is definitely a matter of economy than anything else. We have a mortgage and ageing parents to look after," she said. "My husband's income is not enough."

Nasser Al Shidi, an engineer at the ministry of defence, said financial concerns as well as the changing role of women in society were reasons he expected his wife to go back to her teaching job after she gave birth to their daughter in April.

"I have a daughter and I have to show an example for her to follow. Besides, we would not afford to build our house with one income," Mr Al Shidi said.

Not all Omani men are OK with their wives working after their first baby is born. "I would not have my children raised by foreign nannies so they can pick up strange habits. Young children need their mothers at home all the time to make sure they are properly looked after," said Rashid Bahrami, 32, a salesman.

Child psychologists say that working mothers can still be close to their children. "Working mothers can easily make up time for their children after office time," said Rawya Al Suleimany, a psychologist at the ministry of health.

salshaibany@thenational.ae