Before Suhailah was three months old, I decided to return to working outside of the home. I was also a college student and was homeschooling my two daughters. I happened to also be attempting to potty train my son. There's no special tricks or super powers. I simply rely on having a system and good supports in place.
So I thought I would explain how I balance having a fairly large family, work and school; plus homeschooling. Partly to show that it can be done and partly to show it takes great sacrifice.
I have faith... All things are set in motion by the permission of Allah. I try to stay prayed up and in remembrance of Allah. I also believe what is meant for me will be for me.
I have a supportive husband... The most important piece of advice I can give to anyone contemplating having a career and a family is choose the right person to do it with. It takes two to tango, and the raising of a family should not just be the responsibility of the mother. I've experienced being a single parent and it was tough, to say the least. My husband and I are true helpers to one another. We have adjusted our schedules to manage work, school and family. When he's working, I'm home and when I'm working he's home. We take turns dropping the kids to Quran class and the library. We both oversee the homeschooling and we both have chores around the house. Although I do most of the cooking and cleaning, he will prepare meals from time to time and do his laundry.
I keep systems in place... I haven't ironed anything since 2003. I wash and hang my garments right away. I don't wear materials that are prone to wrinkles. All outfits are put out the night before. We buy meat packages and plan our meals. Chores are assigned to everyone. I deep clean and organized on Saturday mornings. For me "efficiency" is key.
I have flexible working hours... I never work more than 6 hrs per day or more than 30 hours per week. Which consist of one evening each week. This allows me to spend more time at home throughout the week. I never work weekends, unless I am at a conference or work event, which only happens a couple times per year.
I live near family... My parents live 5 minutes away. This is wonderful for my children – getting to see their grandparents often – but also extremely helpful to me. It's like they are co-parents to my children. My son is there two nights a week and the girls go on Thursday after they have finished their school work for the week. Friday's while I'm working they all go to the Masjid together, and later we eat dinner as a family. It comes with some drawbacks but on balance, having family nearby makes caring for children, and dealing with the chaos that comes about often, much easier.
I work incredibly hard... Choosing to work and go to school takes hard work and determination, but I've found that, if anything, motherhood has made me much more focused, and I take my goals more seriously: if I'm going to spend time away from the family, then every minute is generally filled up with trying to further myself. I function off of five hours of sleep... My nights are usually spent doing research and writing papers or rocking my baby. It is one thing to be busy and another to be productive. I calculate my productivity and remind myself that work is a worship. No matter what kind of work you are doing or where. As long as the work is halaal and prioritized.
There are only 24 hours in a day, and it's all my life. My worship is my life, my family is my life, my home is my life, my education is my life, my work is my life and my addiction to shopping online is also my life. A confluence of Allah's bounty, good choices, hard work, and support have meant that – whisper it – it's not terribly stressful to be an academic working mother, for me at least.