Superwomen vs yummy mummies

Rasha al Raisi – Last week marked five years of my grandmother, Ammah’s, passing away. Like many of her contemporaries, Ammah’s childhood was far from easy. She was born in a village and orphaned at a very young age. She had a step mother, who wasn’t really kind to her or to the other four siblings. Yet when Ammah spoke of her distant childhood, she did it with such fondness that made you think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
She remembered the village school where she learned how to read Quran and the donkey rides she had to share with her brothers. She remembered her dad, who she called, el wakeel, as he was the supervisor of the many farms owned by rich families in Muscat. She even took pride in calling herself, the daughter of the wakeel. But like her mom, her dad died a few years later.
At the age of thirteen, she was married off to my grandfather — a widower who’d lost his wife and only child. Ammah had her first son at the age of fourteen followed by eight other children. The names of my uncles and aunts varied from historical figures, poets and names that my grandmother heard on the radio and liked.
Ammah’s life journey started with her travelling with my grandfather to Dubai in the late forties to settling in Bahrain in the fifties for twenty-one years.
At that time, the Gulf states were filled with Omanis working in different jobs. Being a self-educated man with a good level of English, my grandfather secured a full-time job in the British consulate. The stories that I heard from my mom regarding this period of time always filled me with awe.
Ammah not only took care of her growing family, but was in charge of all house chores. Just like a domestic superwoman, she cooked, cleaned, sewed clothes, grew vegetables, kept animals, sat with the children while they did their homework — they realised much later that her literacy level was much lower than theirs — visited her neighbours, cooked and cleaned for neighbours who were sick or in the hospital delivering babies. Nevertheless, she had time for social visits and to watch Hindi movies at the cinema.
Of course, this was the norm for all women of that generation and thankfully they passed their superwomen genes to their daughters (many moms of my friends after coming back from work would start cooking, cleaning and fixing things around the house. And never missed a social gathering!).
Unfortunately, those genes were not passed to us the granddaughters. Many women of my generation — the generation of yummy mommies as they call themselves — puff and complain about how hard it is to juggle a full-time job and two children — with the support of their husbands, mothers and maids.
Such complains make me raise my brows and recall one of my mom’s childhood memories. In this memory, Ammah lifts a huge carpet by herself, handwash it, hang it to dry and order the dog Aa’ntar to keep an eye on it, while she goes away to continue the rest of the chores.
God bless the soul of Ammah and her generation of superwomen — who despite their illiteracy and poverty — raised a new generation of educated men and women. This generation would later help in building and developing modern Oman, that we live in and feel proud of today.
The best way to end this article is with Ahmed Shawqi’s — the Prince of Poets in the Arab world — famous verse, that says: Mothers are schools that when brought up well, brings up a good nation.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.