Everywhere else, it’s called discrimination
In Saudi Arabia, it’s called Saudization
I am talking about taking Vitamin D drops daily while living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Here is the blunt reality. Although KSA gets a lot of sun but it’s inhabitants don’t. The reason is the extreme weather here. People tend to stay indoors. Most of the businesses stay closed during the day. In fact, all or most malls open after 4pm except on weekends. There is nothing much to do activity-wise except to be indoors. On top of that, the women-friendly (you know I am being sarcastic) policy of not letting them drive, prohibits them from a fantastic opportunity to get some sun.
Private homes in KSA mostly have small windows with opaque glass. Compounds like ours where there is zero privacy in our back yard with all houses having one common open shared space further limits people to get any sun. Vitamin D deficiency is a common theme in KSA. Depression, where some statistics suggest it be hovering around 40% of the population, is a very common phenomenon as well. Guess what – they two are linked. If you don’t have enough Vitamin D in your system, you will get depressed. Just be careful though – just as we had the pharmaceutical companies’ paid
stooges Psychiatrists in the US trying to prescribe you an anti-depressant at any given opportunity, we have the Saudi every-western-medicine-is-great-and-we-need-to-stuff-people-with-them doctors over here too, who instead of finding the fundamental reason for depression will bombard you with unneeded medicines. KSA has huge consumptions of Accutane – a very dangerous medicine used for treating acne and other common anti-depressants.
So yes, take that daily walk in the sun and remember to take those Vitamin D drops with an average daily need of 400IUs.
For those who want to know, here is what happened. I took the baby to work for a week for a few hours every day and then brought work home. I had given the application to be able to work from home for two months. The application got rejected because there is no provision for work from home and plus, no one would like to set a precedent for other new mothers-to-be. Next went in the application to get a single room for a while so that I could take the baby to work and nurse her in privacy. There is a shortage of offices so that couldn’t be arranged. Then, went in the application to work half-time for a while – a provision that exists in our hospital system but only for Saudi women (having gone through childbirth). Well, that got rejected as well. I thought for a while about the issue of discrimination against expat women but then I realized that in USA, people who are on non-immigrant visas have to work full-time as well to preserve their statuses. In the end, having no other choice, I have taken an unpaid leave for two further months.
The issue of work-life balance is a huge issue especially for women. I know a few ladies – namely physicians – that have dropped working since they couldn’t manage work and kids. Personally, I think if you a physician, it’s perhaps easier to pair up with a woman in the same discipline such as Internal Medicine or OB/GYN or Dentistry and open a practice. I have seen that happening on a few occasions in US but not in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. It’s more difficult to pair up with a fellow female engineer or researcher to do a job.
Organizations talk about work-life balances and retaining employees but when time comes to match actions with words, nothing happens. Women employees are different than men employees and do need more provisions than the maternity leave. Is it unprofessional to talk about this stuff? I don’t think so. Mothers to a large extent and fathers to a smaller extent (depending upon what sort of system exists in one’s home) are responsible for children. Now, if I were a physician like my husband or a nurse and was responsible for looking after patients coming to a hospital, I couldn’t do the work from home for two months. But with my current situation where our lab in our new organization is not completed and my work is mostly limited to doing research, writing papers or grants or the occasional experiments in ICUs- I could do the work from home for a while and come to the office for the rest. The employer is afraid of setting up a precedent but the thing is that there are already employees who because of the lack of office space, are operating from home. Oh well, I tried and at least I have a story to tell to M5 – your mama sacrificed her work and salary for you :)
Being a mother, I am partial to people who try to achieve the balance between their personal lives and professional lives. I am not impressed with people who sell the pitch to their bosses – I can work from 8 to 6, I can work on weekends, I have all the time for this job – But what about their parents, their kids, their spouses? Are they giving them attention too? If a person is not responsible in their personal facets, how can they be admired overall?
Anyway, back to the work-life balance thing, we need to make it work for people who want to do it all. I don’t mind working part-time so don’t create obstacles in my way and don’t judge me irresponsible when in fact I take responsibility for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE I am responsible for.
After attending AISR’s international festival and a round of other functions, I am starting to think that perhaps Saudi Arabia is the new melting pot. My kids’ school has kids from Philippines, India, Pakistan, USA, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, United Kingdom, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia and many others. I didn’t really think of this way before but where else could a kid get exposed to so many cultures, races and religions? Masha’Allah! The other day, my daughters related me a story that just warmed my heart and made me chuckle. There is a white Christian teenager in their school who was born in Saudi Arabia and has lived here his entire life. His family is from the southern part of USA. When asked that when he visits back home with his parents, does he relate to USA as his home or to Saudi Arabia, his answer was ——- Saudi Arabia. Now, that my friend is diversity when people’s personal identity depends upon where the heart is regardless of the color of their skin or the religion of their forefathers.
After attending the AISR International Festival, we headed to Jarir Bookstore (in our festive Pakistani clothes) to get some supplies for M2. Here are some pictures!
PS. And to think that in this day and age, there are still people who think that everyone lives in tents and rides camels in Saudi Arabia.