Torn Between Worlds

Shayma Evren Paris

In a few hours, I am heading to my other home, Washington, DC, where my family lives. My parents spend the long, winter months in Lahore, where it is warmer and you can sit in the garden during the day, feasting on dried apricots and walnuts from the Hunza valley alongside cups of hot tea. My mother and father return to DC when the cherry blossoms start to bloom and cyclists with their toddlers in bike trailers in tow, start to flood the C&O Canal trail near our home.  While in DC, I like to laze at home with my father and eat slices of Copperthite Pie Company’s salty, flaky, buttery crust filled with cinnamon-spiced apples, his favourite. I love going shopping with my mother and sisters, because they are the only ones who will tell me that my bum looks too big in those inky-blue jeans, which I am determined to waste $200 on. In the evenings, my brother-in-law and I talk ad nauseum about the merits of Hendricks vs. Bombay Sapphire. I personally think he only likes Hendrick’s for their apothecary-inspired bottles, but he will never admit that.

What I am looking forward to the most is being able to spend time with my little boy, as he runs around in his Baby Gap monster-themed PJs at night with S, my four-year-old niece, asking for chocolate (we have introduced him to 80% dark and created a monster), singing Roly Poly on cue. His favourite word these days is “Nass” (nice). Nass Shoes, Nass Chocolate, Nass Jeans. And though I chose to go back to work after a year of maternity leave (Bless Canada), and am a proud civil servant, there are times, sometimes every day, sometimes every other day, when I am torn and want to be at home with my little boy, instead of at work. I grew up in a home where my mother was a homemaker and I didn’t have to become a mother to realise everything she did for us, I knew it all along – from the warm meals she had ready for us every evening to the after-school shoe store excursions to buy patent leather sandals she treated me to. Many a time I wish I could do the same for my son, and these thoughts come to me when I am at the office. The daycare playground is clearly visible from our boardroom, and after each meeting, I pause and stand at the window, looking towards the playground at the small, indistinguishable heads bobbing up and down in the distance.  My thoughts turn towards my son, and that’s where I want to be, with him, watching him slather blueberry Greek yoghurt all over his face, his favourite these days.

There are plenty of articles on the internets about the working mother and whether “women can have it all”. I don’t care for such labels. For me, “having it all” has very different connotations and is something very visceral and personal. There are also, apparently, two camps – “working women” and the “stay-at-home moms”, always pitted against each other (aren’t both “working mothers”?). And where does that place me – a mother who is torn between wanting to go to work and wanting to stay at home? In neither camp, it seems. It will always be a mental struggle for me, my brain is wonderfully stretched and pushed at work, and yet, my heart is with my son. There are moments which always remind me why I work where I do, after all, as an economist, I chose to work for the public versus private sector, but the best part of my day is when I walk towards the daycare to bring my little boy home. Sometimes he runs to greet me and other times, he wants to continue playing and I have to force him into the pram, kicking and screaming. Then there are some days when we get home and he asks for dinner, and we enjoy a beautiful meal together as he dives his spoon into a bowl of clove- and cinnamon-spiced lamb pilaf with creamy Greek yoghurt. Then there are other days when I prepare a spaghettini with roasted sweet potato, cream and pecorino and he dumps it out of the bowl, onto the floor. Hot, silent, tears ensue (mine). On those particular days, the rest of the evening continues with the same sort of mood and once he is asleep, I plonk myself down onto my bed, totally spent, waiting for my husband to come home and take over household duties and I look forward to going to work the next morning.

But when morning comes, after having his breakfast with my husband, this little boy comes into my room to wake me up and says, “Mamma, coffee?”. Then he takes me into the kitchen, drags the foot stool to the counter, climbs up on it, and pushes the buttons on my Nespresso machine to make an espresso for me. And it is difficult, yet again, to go to the office.

Enjoy your time with your loved ones. Happy almost-Easter, everyone.



  1. This is so beautifully written. Very “nass”!

  2. BEAUTIFUL !! Although not a mother, I can picture clearly your emotional struggle. And what a darling lovely boy, he would tempt anyone to want to stay home and play. God bless 🙂

  3. A lovely post, Shayma, as always, expressing feelings that so many of us have. Enjoy every minute of this special “free” time in DC with your family and your beautiful son!

  4. Such a difficult choice….with a baby as adorable as him no one would want to go to work! Happy almost- Easter to you too Shayma!

  5. Firstly, how gorgeous is he? Secondly, you know you’ve embraced motherhood when you’re pretty much permanently guilty! On the upside, you can really appreciate the moments you have with him, while being paid to have regular and useful breaks 😉

    Happy Easter.

    • M, You always have a unique and beautiful angle when it comes to these things. I remember when I was going back to work after my maternity leave, you wrote me this amazing email and inspired me. Thank you a million times. Muah, lovely lady x s

  6. Oh Shayma. You know your words have a voice in my head and I haven’t ever heard your voice.

    I wasn’t that enthused by little ones a few years ago. I was an ambitious, middle-manager for telco, loved travelling, food writing, gym.. Then I become a mum and a lioness. I was made redundant before having my boy and he’s now two and I haven’t gone back.
    I’m torn too. I love watching him grow, learn, shower me with love, talking to him. I don’t want to be struggling for money when he’s flown away and neither do I want to feel empty and redundant in a different way.
    Much love x

    • D, Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. “Lioness” – I love that. We are, aren’t we? Or rather, we have to be…Everyone always says that it gets worse when they start speaking and beg you not to go to work! It is hard, and D, if you ever want to talk about it, lemme know. Much love back to you, S

  7. A truly touching piece by a mom balancing child rearing and a profession. I can understand the pull of a child and the push of a job…this is modern living! Yet, the dilemma is there. So look it this way….the absence from the kid while in daycare…. enhances your yearning and the joy. Have a great Easter and continue posting wonderful pieces on your blogs.

  8. “Nass”ly written S! That’s the story of many mums like us. We all go through that dilema. No choice is the right choice and no label can ever define us.

  9. Lovely piece Shayma, I think every mom feels guilty, whether she is working or staying at home.
    On another note(!) I love how you mix your Indian jewellery with your Western clothes!

    • Thank you so much, Farah. I see your point, but I do have a lot of friends who truly do enjoy one or the other – working or staying at home. I suppose it is something very personal. Thanks for the kind words, but all my jewellery is from Pakistan 🙂

  10. so true – and so hard to explain to those that are squarely in one camp or the other. The conflict is constant, the guilt permanent and the joyful moments with kids fleeting.

  11. beautifully written….JTM nass! clearly, he is one of us. 🙂

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