We live in the world when many things seem to be upside down. More often than not we tend to judge and look at each other through lenses of a professional occupation and achievement. We tend to label people as successful or not successful by their vocation, job function, often neglecting who they really are beyond that. We value only what´s visible, not considering what really makes that 1/10 of the iceberg float.
One of the labels that I often hear from my expat friends and clients when asked about their occupation is – “Oh I am not doing anything at the moment… (slight sigh)…I am just a mum”. Like it´s written somewhere in life´s manual that being a mum is not enough or not really important, and that mums need to have a career in order to be rated as successful. And to minimize the criticism from others they usually need to add “just”, so it sounds even more insignificant.
Why is being a mum and raising the most magnificent beings – our children – so low valued, being almost taken for granted?
In the beginning of our expat journey 6 years ago, l used to repeat that corny phrase too. But it turned out that being “just” a mum has been the most beautiful experience of my life. I could not have even imagined that having a break from my 9 to 6 job would have given me such a luxury and a joy of finally “being a mum” to my now 9-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy. I could finally see them and be with them, instead of “doing” something with them, picking them up at my parents´ house around 6, taking them to activities, preparing food, washing and putting them to sleep. And doing that every single day. Compared to that old story, life as an expat mum gave me an opportunity to be a mum in its full sense like a new fresh experience.
But coming back to that 9/10 of “being a mum” iceberg that we do not see, what lies there under the water?
At times I am a pro bono CEO, a CFO, working 24/7, 7 days a week, 720 hours per month, 365 days a year, without vacation, being officer, cleaning lady, looking for an always disappearing sock, cooking like a famous chef and as true clumsy beginner, being sensitive, but also solid like a rock, being a taxi driver, a leader, a follower, a daughter, a student, a teacher, a mentor, a coach, a wife, a loving partner, an angry beast, a volcano, feeling lost and found again, an improvisor, having strong sense of direction, not knowing where to go next, feeling blue, red, not belonging, being a stillness and a calmness that walks and speaks….. Feel free to add yours to the list__________, _____________, _________.
Oh boy what a long description…. and is it really worth of saying I am “just”.
And no matter how many times I read that beautiful Kahlil Gibran´s poem about parents and children, it always touches me differently but deeply. That´s why I had to steal it and share it here.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
Being a parent is an amazingly rewarding experience. It´s an enormous responsibility, but also the endless joy as well. Responsibility like the most stable bow, but also flexibility and softness like the finest and most profound silky fiber. Ambiguity at work. Despite all the challenges we encounter as parents, at the end of the day all of that usually disappears in a blink of an eye. Like it has never existed before. And what emerges to stay is the unconditional, endless love.
I am still a sailor on that mum journey, but now proudly acknowledging its real value and beauty, without that sticky, persistent “just”.
Our most magnificent crew members, our children, sail toward their own horizons every single day, and our courses cross and might go separate ways. But our ships are always here to support them on their journey of Life.
So, next time when you wish to say I am “just a mum”, or “just a dad” or “just …(you name it)”, you might think deeper and notice that there is no room for “just”, only for greatness, importance and pride to say out loud who you really are.
It´s not about a job that can be found and lost, it´s something beyond, bigger than us. It´s a unique bond, interconnectedness of moment-to-moment designed to last forever!
P.S. Fathers, please be patient, your day will come very soon in June 😊