Freelancing Full-time as a Single Mom While Running a Creative Startup – The Story of a Modern Pakistani WomanApril 5 2018
Karachi, Pakistan’s economic hub and the world’s third largest city, runs high with hopes, dreams, aspirations and daily struggles for a better life. In the midst of the chaos and humdrum, middle-class Pakistani women are trying to pay bills, follow their passion and break the stereotypical culture of male dominance.
Today, we speak to Sana Khan, a well-educated woman who held a lucrative career as a digital specialist and later became a stay-at-home, single mom all while holding a remote job and also managing a creative startup.
Sana is your ordinary Karachiite who is a single mom, a freelancer and an entrepreneur all in one go. She currently juggles an 8-hour work from home schedule along with meeting the demands of a 3-year old son. She is also the founder of a creative startup, where she creates home decor items made to order.
With this juggling of a career, a young child and an entrepreneurial initiative, what are some of the challenges and struggles a woman like Sana faces? Here’s what she tells us.
1. Managing Time Fairly Between Work and a Young Son
This is perhaps the toughest challenge for moms who have a home-based career. It’s difficult to create a balance between work and a child’s needs and for someone who doesn’t have the help of a nanny, it becomes a daily challenge. Sana says, “There are days when it’s difficult to manage time with a 3-year old who constantly demands your attention. My parents are my biggest support. They usually take care of my kid when I have urgent/unavoidable work to do. Otherwise I have to mostly manage time between his nap and activity hours. During daytime I am juggling between spending time with him and working. At times when he wants to do quiet activities I let him sit beside me while I work.”
2. Dealing with Loadshedding and Internet Issues
Although Karachi is a metropolitan city, it has its fair share of electricity and Internet issues. There are some parts of it where you could be without electricity for 8 hours a day at various intervals; add to this an Internet service that keeps failing and you have a disaster. One has to spend additional money in getting a generator or back-up electrical service and regularly change their Internet service providers to get the one that runs without frequent hiccups.
3. No Availability of Working Space
Pakistan is a family-oriented culture. Everyone lives together and there is no concept of a separate, isolated space. So when you’re working at home, you have the guests popping by, the family coming in for random chats, the quick trips to go get groceries and the TV, the kid, all happening at once. Despite all this, you’ll still find plenty of Pakistani women making a lucrative online career without complaining. This depicts the innate resilience in Pakistani women, one which enables them to handle life’s toughest challenges with hope and positivity.
4. The Cultural Prejudice Against a Work From Home Career
Karachi is Pakistan’s tech hub and you would expect people to be understanding of a work from home career, but sadly that’s not the case. People would not take your career seriously if you were not in an office box working a fixed 9 to 5 schedule with benefits and perks to boast of. This is why, women who work from home actually find their social standing disturbed, their pay rate affected and their experience invalidated. It takes a lot of explaining and a fight against cultural norms to be accepted in this capacity.
5. Juggling a Creative Business along with a Kid and a Career
Sana initiated her creative venture as a therapeutic escape. Her paintings help her deal with the stress and anxiety of daily life, and the regular exhibitions she holds to sell her products encourages her to turn a passion project into a business. However, as her child and her career takes more of her time, she is now limited to just the weekends where she can spend 3 to 4 hours painting her favorite landscapes and finally exhibiting them in art markets thrice a year. But Sana says she’s alright with the limited time she gives her art business because she doesn’t have the leverage to take time off from full time work. At the end of the day, she’s happy that she’s still able to do what she loves no matter how limited the time she has for it.
Women in Pakistan have a number of challenges to overcome and those could range from social restrictions to cultural expectations, from lack of support to lack of opportunities, from juggling 3 things at a time to fighting all kinds of external problems in achieving their goals. Yet, these women are resilient and are determined to achieve their goals come what may. For a modern Pakistani woman, juggling a career, a passion and motherhood is just a regular part of life and one that they manage efficiently.