Mum first, wife second, always going to be working in some role or the other because, for me, it just adds a tremendous amount of richness in my life. To separate my roles as a professional and a mother would be very difficult. They go hand in hand. Without either one I would be completely incomplete.” Been married for 17 years and being a mother of 3 has not stopped Maheen from pursuing her passion. In 2009, she became CEO at IGI funds. Currently, she is the Head of Asset Management at Bank Alfalah.
According to Maheen, every woman who chooses to work after getting married and becoming a mother faces constant struggle. “When I had my first child, I took two years off, with second, I took 3 months off and with my third I took 3 weeks off. Nobody forced me but by the third one I was just so used to being in that cycle that I wanted to run back. Weakness comes when your children are young and physically there’s a lot of demand from you. I think the breaking point is when you start wondering whether or not it’s really worth it,” she explains.
Maheen’s friends and family, especially her mother, have been incredibly supportive. From baby-sitting to picking and dropping, they had her back at all times. This support led her to believe that pursuing her career and raising a family can be done simultaneously. It was a challenging period, however, “work is work. You have to do whatever is required like taking a trip or working long hours. It’s a need of the organization, industry and unless you do a good job, how will you get ahead? It’s a balance you have to maintain”. Maintaining this balance is easier in Pakistan than abroad, she feels. Here, the more senior you are, the more you are in control of your time schedule. Maheen’s bosses and mentors have also been very understanding. Likewise, she has never given anyone a chance to complain. However, she does feel that flexible hours and day cares for a specific period while the children are very young would be helpful for mothers who are trying to juggle the entire logistics of child rearing along with working and the need for such elements decreases as the children get older. If companies understood that, it would work not just in the favour of female employees but also for the employers. She also believes that when a woman is financially independent, she will automatically be better off emotionally and will have more self-esteem. Emotional independence is harder, it’s difficult to say if anyone actually ever achieves it. “Emotions make you connect with people, and those connections enrich your life,” says Maheen.
“Do I attend a meeting or pick up children from school or fly to Lahore to meet a client?” These are the sort of decisions Miracle Woman, Maheen has to make every day. Children or work - choosing one does not mean the other is being neglected. “Perhaps at that point in time, what they need me for is less important than a commitment at work,” says Maheen. When she get homes after work, she is phone free for an hour. Her kids have imposed this rule on her. This way she can switch off her work mode, unwind and spend time with them, especially during weekends. During the day, she takes a break to pick at least one child from school. “How do you manage?” people ask Maheen all the time. She advices, “Be focused on where you want to go, if you enjoy where you are, then don’t quit. I’ve seen a lot of young girls run away at the first sign of a husband, mother in law, child. If that’s where they want to be in life, then great. If they want to be in the work place then find a way to be there and keep at it.” Of course, to learn some tips on multitasking, Maheen would be the best teacher!
Recently, Maheen’s daughter came up to her and asked her, “Why don’t other mothers work?” She told Maheen how she likes that her mother works and she likes to hear about her work. Her daughter’s appreciation and respect for her being a professional is Maheen’s Miracle Moment. Here she was, thinking she was a terrible mother, but it turns out her children appreciate what all she’s doing. She’s a great role model for her children and for all those working women out there who feel being a working mother will most definitely make them a bad mother. Maheen Rahman’s journey teaches us that don’t let ambition take the back seat, embrace them. When you are determined, striking the crucial work-life balance is possible. Women must not let anyone tell them otherwise.