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H. Al-Bayati: Women and Family

Statement at the UN International Day of Families Symposium “Women and Family”
United Nations Headquarters, New York, May 18, 2009

The family is a haven of intimacy, love, and trust, providing fulfillment. It is a mother who brings warmth, tenderness, and understanding to homes. The mother provides a nurturing atmosphere to raise children as long as there is love, “quality time” spent with children, emotional support, and a stable economic environment.

In recent history, the gender roles of women have changed greatly. Women are involved in domestic tasks emphasizing child care while economic necessity compelled them to seek employment outside the home. The occupations that were available to women were, however, lower in pay than those available to men.

In Iraq, for example, married women who worked in government jobs were getting the salaries of single people during Saddam’s regime, unlike the men. However, the new laws after Saddam’s regime fell in 2003 changed the situation. Today mothers delve more into their respective careers. Clad in their scarves, moms in suits are taking their stride in the corporate world; it is sad, but it is a bit different from the picture of a plump lady beside the oven, baking delicious cookies.

Various movements advocate equality of opportunity for both sexes and equal rights irrespective of gender. Through a combination of economic changes, women in most societies now have access to careers.

Statistics from 2008

- There are 2 billion mothers in the World (82.5 million in the U.S.)
- First-time Moms: Average age of new moms is 25 (1970: new moms at the age of 21)
- Kids: Modern moms average 2 kids (1950s: 3.5 kids; 1700s: 7-10 kids)
- 4.3 babies are born each second
- 72% of moms with children over 1 year old work — about the same percentage as childless women (vs. 39% in 1976)
- 55% of moms with a child under 1 year old work (vs. 31% in 1976)
- Moms with a full-time job spend 13 hours working at the office or at home on family chores
- Giving Attention: A preschooler requires mom's attention once every 4 minutes or 210 times / day
- Taking Care: Moms of preschoolers spend 2.7 hrs / day on primary childcare, vs. 1.2 hours for dads
- Chores: Women average 2.2 hrs / day, vs. 1.3 hrs / day for men
- Laundry: 88% is done by moms, totaling 330 loads of laundry each year
- Least Favorite Chore: Vacuuming the stairs

The Prophet Mohammed said, “The best of you is the best for his family.” And he said, “Heaven is under the feet of the mothers.”

You know the common story about Eve and Adam and how Eve gave the apple to Adam which caused that God expelled them from heaven. The Qur'an does not say that Eve gave the apple to Adam but that both Adam and Eve ate the apple and God expelled them.

Desmond Tutu said this about the family: "You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." I say to my wife, "You are God Great Gift (GGG)."

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." - Washington Irving

"There was never a great man who had not a great mother - it is hardly an exaggeration." - Olive Schreiner

"A mother's arms are more comforting than anyone else's." - Diana, Princess of Wales

As George Washington noted, "My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”

The mother’s role in the family is truly irreplaceable — no matter how the world may change, no matter what the economy way dictate, no matter what social movements may try to implement.