Life of a working married woman

Live with Gul Zaib Shakeel


Gul Zaib has done her Bachelors in Media Sciences majoring in Film and TV Production. She started her career as an Assistant Director working on a film and TVCs before transitioning to a desk job. She is currently working as a screenwriter for a production house – Geo Films.

Gul Zaib met Shoaib during a shoot and they have been married for a little over a year.

  • So Gul Zaib tell us a little more about your career aspirations…have you always wanted to be a working woman, did you get inspired by your mum who works or something else?

To be honest, I never registered the desire to be a working woman. I always thought that was a given.My mother was a practicing doctor when I was a kid, but she had a long spell of being a homemaker when my brother was born; she resumed work years later when my brother was a teenager. And it wasn’t just my mother. My father always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do.

I always wanted to be a writer. Growing up, the farthest my imagination went was to be the editor of a magazine or a newspaper. When I was growing up, Pakistani cinema wasn’t something you wanted to be a part of. It was after I completed my A Levels that I discovered Film being taught in Pakistan.

Today, the idea of belonging to the media industry is quite tolerable. A couple of years ago, people had to be convinced that what you are doing had a scope and was ‘safe’ to be a part of. My doctor mother and engineer father had a couple of questions but never any reservations as to the path I had chosen.

  • Living in a Pakistani society where families have high expectations from “the wife”, “the daughter-in-law” –how difficult do you find striking a balance between work and home?

Days when my work and home butt heads are rare. But if and when such a clash happens, my mother-in-law and I work out a plan to overcome the hiccups. She has never suggested skipping work or leaving work early.

I was given the chance to direct telefilms for Eid last year. In an ideal world, a shoot day is 12 hours long. In most cases, it can be anywhere from 14 to 18 hours. It can start at 3 am or end at 3 am. You don’t necessarily shoot in neighborhoods that are a 20-minute ride away. My parents-in-law did not see this as an anomaly. Or if they did, they never complained about it. A shout out to my husband as well who never once objected to the shooting schedule. If my shoot didn’t finish on time (which was every day) he would patiently wait for pack up. I think what is important to communicate is that a woman’s work life is just as important as a man’s.

  • What about your husband and in-laws are they supportive enough or are you expected to get home and rush into the kitchen to help with dinner?

I’m a screenwriter married to a photographer. Some might say I’m lucky to be married to a person who belongs to the same industry. Perhaps it does. But I’d like to add that my husband and my mother-in-law (also a practicing doctor) are incredibly supportive. I don’t have to worry about the kitchen situation because we employ help for that. My participation usually involves minimal supervision. The rare days that I mentioned earlier are the days when the help is on leave. My mother-in-law takes over then and I become her sous chef.

The only time I dreaded kitchen duty was during Ramadan. My office timings were horrible, my sleep cycle was ruined and kitchen participation was necessary. I would come back home 30-45 minutes before preparation for Iftar was supposed to start. This will make me sound like a brat but I could get away with not helping out in the kitchen back at my mum’s place. This was the only time post-marriage that I felt I had to make an effort to balance work and home. Although to be fair, my mother-in-law did not ask me to wake up for Sehri on days when I wasn’t supposed to fast. In fact, on my first day when I did wake up, she told me I could go back to bed. I think the fact that she is a working woman herself has helped me out immensely. She has never raised an objection to my work, my work hours or last minute meetings that pop up.

And it’s not just my family who has accommodated my work life. Last year, I was required to travel for work for an outstation meeting that had been delayed for months. My flight was scheduled on the day of my first anniversary. I debated with myself whether to reschedule the family dinner or risk messing up the meeting if I reschedule my flight. I was willing to fly out right after my dinner in my sari if that was the solution! But I spoke at work and asked if my flight could be arranged for the following day. And it all worked out. Had a lovely dinner with family and a successful meeting. Folks at work aren’t as mean and tough as most people think they are. I used to believe that if I would mention family being the reason because of which I was unavailable for work, I would come across as distracted or someone who wasn’t willing to put in the extra effort. But if you don’t let your work suffer, there is no reason why your family life has to suffer and vice versa.

(Wow, I am kind of impressed with your mother-in-law Gul. Kind of reminds me how accommodating my mother-in-law was during my first Ramadan after I got married. Well that was the only Ramadan I got to spend with her)

  • What would you say are the 5 must-dos to achieve a balance between work and family life
    • Be fair to the life at home. Never hide behind work to skip responsibility at home;
    • Do not let work rule you. If something at home requires your attention/presence and your work is taking you away from that, voice your concern. I’ve noticed that people at work aren’t as judgmental or aggressive as I thought they would be when it comes to family matters;
    • Be organized. Be punctual. Keeps things from getting messy;
    • Keep your mother-in-law in the loop and share with her. If she has a clearer picture of what you do at work or how demanding your work is, she’ll understand the days when your balance tips towards the work side; and
    • Ask her about her day even if she is a homemaker. Managing and maintaining a home doesn’t mean she is ‘not working.’

(good advice Gul)

  • Five years from now, do you think you’d still be working or do you think you’ve had enough of managing the house and work?

I read this question out loud to my husband and he replied, snapping his fingers, that I will be working. I think it’s safe to say my husband won’t get tired of my work and demand that I stay at home. I admit the thought of raising children and working at the same time scares me. But I know for a fact my mother and mother-in-law will always be there to help me out.

(Ah, Gul Zaib lucky you! I wish I was near my mother and mother-in-law too…it’s hard managing a kid and job here)

  • What message do you have for all the women who are torn between the society’s pressure to get married and at their fear of not being able to pursue their dreams after marriage

Marry when you are ready for marriage. If your parents don’t understand why at the age of 22 (or 25 or 28 or 35)  you aren’t ready to say “Qubool hai”, don’t be mad. Make a plan of what you want to do before marriage and talk to them.

My boss once said this (and I summarize): Girls are no longer considering marriage to be their ultimate goal. They are considering marriage as one of the stops on their journey. Therefore, do not take marriage as a threat to your career. Your career is a by-product of your effort and the support of immediate family. Take them on board.

Marry the person you want to marry. Even if your parents are choosing your life partner for you, you still have a say. Please don’t forget this. Share what you aspire to do and what you are afraid of with your significant other. In present times where life is competitive and things are coming with a bigger price tag, they might appreciate a helping hand at home.

(Thanks so much for the wise words Gul)

Please note:

  • All questions have been answered by Gul in her personal capacity and will have no impact on the organisation she works for;
  • Please do not spam Gul with personal questions, she has answered the questions in good faith to help girls and woman stuck between the society’s demands and their own wishes. If you have any questions for Gul or me, feel free to comment below and we will try and answer them. 


Up next:

Interview with Hassaan Hamid, Finance Manager at ACWA Power, Dubai

When: 14 May 2016

Don’t forget to do any of the following in order to get notified when the interview gets published:


26 thoughts on “Live with Gul Zaib Shakeel

  1. It was great reading this interview of Gul Zaib. I feel so good when I read about the working women from our country. The society there is more difficult to deal with compared to the West. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours. Well done girl!

    Fatima |

    1. You’re very right. And it shows up when people ask girls about to get married whether they would continue to work after marriage.

      Thank you so much for your appreciation, Fatima!

  2. So nice to hear for once how a mother in law is so supportive of a working daughter in law. I still hear so many stories of dominant mother in laws who just want their daughter in laws to cook, clean and have children.

    But I think times are changing for the better, albeit slowly.

    Good on her and her family support!

    1. For the longest time I didn’t want to get married because of all the dominant mother-in-law anecdotes. Parents and parents-in-law need to realize that after marriage, certain decisions should always be taken by the couple who is directly affected by them – especially the decision to have children.

      It’s wonderful to note that times are changing. Our kids will have it better for sure!

      Thank you for your kind words!

  3. I think what this interview demonstrates nicely is having supportive people around you boosts your confidence and abilities even further. The circle around you is so important as a woman who wants to succeed and has ambitions.

    Great read!

  4. There’s so many things I love about this interview. So lovely to hear that kind of relationship between a mother and daughter in law – it’s really refreshing to hear 🙂 I love that change in society how women are starting to see marriage as one beautiful part of their life journey and not the sole purpose of their life. It’s really inspiring mashaAllah 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Umme Hafsa. I am sure Gul Zaib would be delighted to hear it too 🙂

    2. Thanks, Umme, for your wonderful feedback! I just took a screenshot of this and sent it to my mother-in-law. 🙂

    1. Yup that is very important! It’s impossible to achieve a work-life balance without that in fact its hard to accomplish anything without that

    2. Hey, Iqra. We’d like to believe we’re adventurous too, haha.
      You’re so right and Hina really hits the nail on the head. Family support is so integral to avoid friction.

  5. You’re mother in law seems so nice Gul ! and yeah I do believe that you’re lucky to have a husband that works in the same filed. I feel like everyone in the desi world is either a doctor or an engineer or expect their children to be, it’s nice that your parents let you followed your passion 🙂

    1. Oh, you have no idea how thankful I am that my doctor mother and engineer father were completely cool with me taking up something as radical as filmmaking!

      Thank you for taking out time to read, Maryam 🙂

  6. Well, Hina, thanks for the interview of the great lady GUL ZAIB.
    She seems to be quite lucky as far as in-laws are concerned. People are changing their minds and behavior towards the Helping/ working Bahu’s but remember the real support comes from the husband as if he is FINE with the working stuff then all will run smoothly and Happily.
    Keep Rocking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *