Nadia Bukhari is the youngest female to become a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in the UK, an honour recognising her achievements and excellence in the pharmacy profession. She writes for Ink on having a successful career and being a family woman.
The majority of Asian career women of today have shown to be confident, enterprising, tenacious and career driven. But then they get married….. Should that be the end of the career path?
In a traditional Asian household, the woman knows what is expected of her – home is the real priority. However, her career seems to take a back seat either due to lack of support from the family or just simply being unable to maintain the work-life balance. This is anecdotally true in the most modern Asian households where the woman is subconsciously expected to conform to traditions whilst simultaneously running a successful home. Whatever the case, in both situations, the once hungry for success career woman, dies an unwilling death. Some feel the guilt that if they are career driven, their home or their children will bear the consequences. Is this really true? Is it not possible to strike a healthy work-life balance? If the mother is a career woman, does this mean children are subsequently neglected?
Based on my personal experiences, my answer to all of the above would be no. I have worked extremely hard to be where I am today. Without the backing of my family, my husband in particular, I would not be the career woman I am today.
I am a pharmacist and have had quite a varied career. I started my career in hospital, which was very challenging. The on-calls were exhausting and, with the demands of being newly married; I was ready to give it all up. It was at this point, I thought to myself that I need to achieve something in life. I wanted to be a good role model for my family, for my community, for females. Today’s women need to start adopting this mind-set. Women are an incredible species; they can achieve anything, if they put their mind to it.
My passion is helping people, one of the main reasons I did a course in counselling. I like to be of assistance to people wherever I can – I suppose this was the main driver that led me on my path. I was appointed the Head of Pastoral Care for School of Pharmacy which was a very fulfilling experience. I got to mentor, challenge, assist and coach my students on issues inside and outside their student life. That dovetailed quite nicely with my book series which I have 7 of now, concentrating on Pre-Registration examination and how to prepare for one of the most daunting exams in Pharmacy. You get 3 tries, and if you fail all 3 you have lost the chance of becoming a Pharmacist and with that, 6 years of your life. Naturally this exam comes with a great deal of anxiety for students and I get great satisfaction of helping them through this both with my books and the Royal Pharmaceutical Conferences which are mock days designed to sharpen students skills to pass the exam, now in its very successful fifth year.
One needs to become determined and persistent. I knew maintaining a healthy work-home balance would be a roller-coaster, it always is, but I also knew I had to keep going if I wanted to make something of myself. I completed three post graduate qualifications, whilst on two sets of maternity leave. I for sure was not in this to give up. I wanted to inspire my children and others around me that juggling family life with a career can be possible.
So the big question is – how am I managing it all? Support from family is one of the greatest factors. Not only having a supportive spouse, but extended family, helps tremendously. My children see how hard I work are ever so pleased with my achievements.
Unfortunately there is a stigma still attached with working mothers that by pursuing their careers they inadvertently ignore their families and something will suffer. I agree, something does suffer if you do not manage your time well. I have a strict timeline where I am home before my children are back from school and I am there before they go off to school. I have chosen to work part-time to ensure my children, home and other commitments are all met. I am fortunate to have my mother in law with us that allows a greater degree of flexibility in case the odd work related thing comes up and I need a hand. I think an open an honest conversation with your family is critical to ensure you achieve your dreams and can freely follow your career as without that it might be a challenge. Having a supportive family around you allows greater things to be achieved together.
The key to running a high functioning household well is to be exceedingly organised; pre- planning and having routine is paramount. It’s not at all easy to bring up a family, manage the house, cook, clean and nurture a career at the same time. One needs a very strong support network which can be relied upon to divide the workload.
I am very house proud and my house has to be immaculate at all times. I am fortunate that my husband shares the same sentiments as me. We work as a team to keep up with the household chores. Despite us both having high pressured and prominent careers, we synchronise our diaries together so that one parent is able to do the school run. This way the children are being greeted by one of us. Food plays a central role in my home and I take immense pride in cooking. I found cooking in advance helps immensely.
My family is one of my main drivers. I am extremely fortunate to have a fantastically supportive family – my husband, kids, parents and in-laws have been extremely encouraging about my career and have been keen for me to keep perusing more.
My parents have always had a great focus on education with all my siblings pursuing careers within medicine. My father has always been extremely proud of my achievements and that always pushed me to do more. I think that is very important to set the tone at a young age that women excelling in their careers are not something to be shy of. My kids are also very involved in what I do and take a keen interest in what mummy is up to now! I am very keen to ensure my daughter understands that having a career and aspirations can go hand and hand with successfully raising a family. I take great pride in the fact that I am my daughter’s role model and she tries to emulate me and talks about how she wants to do something important when she grows up. Without my husband rooting for me and enabling me, I would not have been able to achieve what I have today. My husband is a great believer in empowering women. He is of the thinking that it improves further generations and women in leadership positions are the sign of a forward thinking organization. He has been the driving force in my achievements – right from the beginning when I wanted to write my first book, he supported me and encouraged me to do more. He has always ensured that the kids are well looked after and on the very occasional times I have to work late, he manages everything for me.
I believe women should be allowed to achieve their fullest potential. Women are the cornerstone of the home and empowering women allows the future generation to be liberated from the shackles of a male dominated façade of the world. At the same time, I believe that women should not neglect some of the core values of home, child upbringing which are a highly rated point in the Asian community. A balance needs to be struck to ensure a harmonious achievement of goals.
I am not saying this model will work for all. But what I hope to achieve is to inspire the woman of today. Having a career and an active family life can work. You may need to sacrifice other smaller factors, but that is all based on personal preferences. You can be the best you can be, but only if you really want to.