WHILE most modern women seek to be well educated and obtain degrees, entering the workforce is not a natural progression for many.
Many opt to become homemakers after marrying and having children, while those who do enter the workforce may not remain there for long.
One of the key findings from a recent study, titled "Retaining women in the workforce" and conducted by TalentCorp and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, revealed that 65 per cent of women were, in fact, leaving the workforce to manage their families.
Malaysian representative to the Asean Commission of Women and Children Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng said this was especially prevalent among senior women.
"Women who have reached managerial levels or seniority in their professions are leaving the workforce to become homemakers."
One such person was Wan Rahiza Wan Zainuddin, 42, who gave up her job as an electrical engineer after giving birth to her second child. She said returning to work had never crossed her mind.
"It is quite a challenge being at home and doing housework. You must be mentally strong and have a firm belief in yourself in order to be a good housewife," said the mother of six from Seremban.
"My happiness comes from my family. If you are not happy to stay at home, you can never make your family happy."
She also believed that it was untrue that full-time homemakers managed their families better than women who had to work, a sentiment echoed by Dr Chiam.
"It is not only about parents being constantly present, but also how they treat their children and what sort of values are taught to them."
For single mother Wan Azieda Abdul Rahim, 51, spending time with her children was a major motivation.
"It was never an option to leave my children in childcare centres or with other family members.
Single mother Wan Azieda Abdul Rahim enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, Maya Suraya Faliq and Seth Emaad Faliq, just like she did with her children. Pix by Surianie Mohd Hanif
"I felt they should be able to wake up in their own home every day," said the mother of two, who divorced her late former husband after several years of marriage.
She was never interested in a full-time career or accumulating wealth because providing a good upbringing to her children was the main aim in her life.
"My advice to mothers who chose to work part-time is to dedicate not more than five hours per day to work," said Wan Azieda, who earns a living as an independent beauty consultant now.
Additionally, the increase in the number of Internet-savvy women had undoubtedly given rise to homemakers who are able to generate income from home through online businesses and teleworking.
TalentCorp chief executive officer Johan Mahmood Merican said today's advanced technology and fast Internet connection allowed women to work from home at "flexi-hours".
This, according to former women, family and community development minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, had provided women with more opportunities beyond the general perception of homemakers.
"A woman, whether educated or otherwise, should not be made to choose between family and work. She should have both," said Shahrizat.
Capital FM general manager Lynette Ow added that as long as women were taking an "active role" in society, it did not matter if they decided to work or be full-time homemakers.
The radio station, with its tagline, "Women, the new capital", worked towards helping women to expand their circle of influence, she said.
"The more active a role women take in society, the more influential and powerful they become."
New Straits Times Opinion Letters-to-the-editor 25 Mac 2013