Sarwat N. Shah
A lawyer by qualification, the multi-tasking mum, Sarwat, put her career on a back seat when her second child was born as a premature baby at 30 weeks. “I had a very traumatic delivery and he required a lot of care from me and my attention all the time. That’s when I decided to leave my work as a lawyer and opt for something that allows me to have flexible hours,” she explains. Currently, Sarwat is running a real estate consultancy in partnership with her husband, as a trained psychotherapist. She is also the author of the Smart Parents’ Handbook. With so much happening on her professional front, she is a mother of two children and her third one is on its way.
Turning challenges into opportunities is Sarwat’s innate strength. “I have not allowed the difficulties coming my way to pull me down or hold me back. Letting go of my profession as a lawyer was a tough decision to make but I had to forgo it because of the demands motherhood had of me. In our society there is not concept of counselling or seeking professional help, therefore, to decipher between right and wrong was all on my shoulders. I knew that if I take a long break, then it will be difficult to put my corporate career back on track later. At that time, I was not sure of my decision but I am thankful that everything turned out for the best,” maintains Sarwat.
Sarwat acknowledges that with her first pregnancy, a woman feels overwhelmed but after having raised two children, she does not consider her third pregnancy is as testing. This time around, she is happy that she has flexible hours and her consultancy has crossed the stage of infancy. “The baby can accompany me everywhere I go and in everything I do!” she says with a laugh. She believes that this sort of an independent thinking is very important for any woman who aspires to be successful. “In our society, women are always viewed as a dependant, first on their fathers and later on their husbands. A woman must always aspire to be financially and emotionally independent with whatever level of education she is able to pursue.” Working allows a woman to be confident and meeting new people everyday broadens her horizon. The workplace is a teaching ground and according to Sarwat, sets you apart from the rest of the crowd that does not have that sort of exposure.
As the author of a book on parenting, she has a few messages to give to new parents. “Before getting into a career, we go through 4-5 years of specialized education. At work itself, we go through a probation period and several trainings and only then we embark on a path to success. When we become parents, however, we do not prepare ourselves, which takes a toll on the mother not just physically and emotionally but also affects the relationship of the couple. “Prepare yourselves, talk about the challenges, the emotional changes, the relationship changes for an easier transition from being jut a married couple to parents. Resolving issues beforehand always help. If the mother has to quit her job, discuss what options she has and how the finances of the household will be handled. If she plans to continue working, what sort of support will the couple require? Discuss where the family can chip in. Of course, parenthood brings with it various challenges which you simply cannot predict, but the ones that you can foresee, should always be discussed and sorted before the baby arrives,” advises Sarwat.
Sarwat feels strongly about the scale of gender inequality prevalent in Pakistan. “I was raised with three brothers so I was always the privileged one in my family. Gender inequality really became a reality for me when I went for an ultra sound while expecting my first baby. Before telling me the sex of my child, the doctor asked the level of my education and whether my husband wants a boy or a girl. When I inquired why I am being asked so many questions, the doctor revealed that many couples, on finding out that they are expecting a baby girl, have their foetuses aborted. That was extremely upsetting for me,” Sarwat relates.
Sarwat’s Miracle Moment was when she had the realization that switching from a full time career as a lawyer to starting her own consultancy and writing a book on parenting turned out to be the right decision for her, she felt a great sense of joy. Changing her career path for her children, in the midst was a decision filled with uncertainty and a hint of despair but it fortunately led Sarwat to even more exciting destinations. Her journey bears testament to the fact that sometimes when you fall, you fly.