The bliss of motherhood poses a big challenge for female athletes as they have to recover from the toll of giving birth, take care of a newborn, carry on their familial duties all the while doing rigorous training and competing at different competitions.
On the eve of International Women’s day, New Age talked to a number of female athletes in Bangladesh who are successfully balancing motherhood and their careers.
Roksana is an archer with the army team, who won a silver and two gold medals in the recently concluded Bangabandhu 12th National Archery Championship.
To take part in the event, which took place in Cox’s Bazar, Roksana had to leave her 18-month-old baby boy Miraj Islam Alif at home in Dhaka, which was a new experience for her.
‘As a mother, it was difficult to participate. My baby was out of my sight for the first time since his birth. I could not even imagine continuing my career without the support of my family members,’ Roksana said on her way back to Dhaka from Cox’s Bazar.
Roksana joined army archery team in 2014 and got married to businessman Motalib Hossain in 2016 after three years of courtship.
Roksana continued competing after marriage and won a gold medal in the 2nd ISSF International Solidarity Archery Championships in Dhaka in 2018.
But she is now unsure about how much longer she can continue in archery.
‘I can’t even fulfil half of my baby’s needs. My mother and husband support me to manage it. Let’s see how long I can manage.’
Farzana Sharmin Mitu
South Asian Games silver medalist and army team wrestler Mitu got married to Arshad Ali in 2011 and now is a mother of two boys’ – five-year-old Foysal Islam and two-year-old Fardin Al Ayat.
She stays with her two sons at Ghatail Cantonment in Tangail as her husband works for Grameen Bank in Sherpur district.
Mitu believes her natural multitasking ability as a woman helps her wear many hats simultaneously.
‘Maintaining a career in athletics while having a job, doing household chores and managing children simultaneously is really tough. But I think my inbuilt willpower drives me to overcome all hurdles,’ said Mitu, who won silver in the 2016 SA Games.
‘I think we women naturally can to fulfil different roles at the same time.’
Sonam Sultana Soma
Table tennis player Soma got married in 2004 to national female TT team coach Mohammad Ali and they have two sons – 13-year-old Abu Sufian Ivan and six-year-old Al Hares Ifaz.
Soma, who began her career in 1999-2000, has won two silver medals in the doubles event at the South Asian Games in 2010 and 2019.
The 34-year-old said that having a coach as a husband and the support from her mother has made her life in sports easier.
‘Honestly speaking, my mother mostly takes care of them [her kids] when I am busy in any competition. It keeps me tense free,’ Soma said.
‘My husband also helps me as a coach on the field. Without their support it would be impossible to continue my game, she added.
But having children to take care of has made her let go of some career opportunities.
‘As I have children, this year I had to refuse a chance to go to China for a two-year training programme offered by the federation.’
Army team Badminton player Elina got married to national team coach Enayet Ullah Khan in 2012 is currently seven-month pregnant with her second child.
During the birth of her daughter Ariskan in 2013, she missed almost two years of her career but after returning she won three bronze medals in the 2016 South Asian Games.
The 29-year-old feels her career would’ve soared higher had she not had a family to take care of.
‘Either my mother or father help me during my camp or competitions. I definitely would’ve done better if I didn’t have a family but family is a very important aspect in anyone’s life,’ said Elina, who will miss the Bangladesh games in April.
Ismat Ara Nishi
Handball and kabaddi player Ismatara Nishi got married to Biplob Hossain in 2017 and has a 15-month-old boy Imtiaz Hossain.
Nishi joined the Ansar handball team in 2008 and also represented the Bangladesh kabaddi team in 2010 Asian Kabaddi in China and the first women’s Kabaddi World Cup in 2012 in India, finishing third in both tournaments.
Nishi and Biplob are finding it difficult to take care of a child by themselves and she informed that her husband has already quit his job at a private company to take care of their son.
‘It’s really very tough for the two of us to take proper care of our child as no other family members are here with us. My husband has already left his job last month,’ said Nishe, who is currently living in a rented house near the Shafipur Ansar Academy.
Despite all the hurdles, Nishi hopes to continue her career.
‘I want to make come back in the upcoming Bangladesh Games and want to continue my career at least till I am 35,’ said the 28-year-old.