‘I’m worried I’m not supporting my child enough‘
‘What on earth are you doing?’
The words echoed through my head as if someone had actually said them out loud. I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the street while looking around me.
It was a warm night in the summer of 2016 and there was no one to be seen anywhere around me. Just the late night humming of Beirut, and the streetlights as silent witnesses casting a new light on my life. I looked at the laptop under my arm while crossing the street. Shit. Forgot I my charger.
It was three o’clock and I was on my way from home to my sixteen-year-old son who had been receiving treatment at the hospital for the past two days.
Just before that, I had been working at home on a project proposal with a deadline. My husband was asleep and my son, in the hospital, was too. A good opportunity to use the silence of the night to finish my work. Not long after that, I noticed on my phone that my son was online.
I closed my laptop, put it under my arm and grabbed my handbag off the couch while calling him to tell him I’d swing by for a nightly party with chocolate croissants. Chocolate croissants: not really a restore-your-health-meal, but a wonderful mother-heart-is-on-her-way-with-something-tasty choice.’
I entered the silent hospital after passing the night porter and got into the elevator where The Beatles sung to me for the hundredth time in the past three days: ‘yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…’ Really?! Based on the light that shone from under the door of his room, I could tell his laptop was on.
He probably couldn’t sleep because of physical discomfort and had decided to indulge in online gaming. He clicked his mouse frantically to escape some impending doom on his screen, while moaning in agony because of the physical pain the movement caused.
Ten minutes later and after we finished the croissants, we were both hacking away on our laptops in the dark: my son slaying dragons, me slaying a deadline.
When I walked back home later that night however, the voice that I heard in my head earlier that night on that empty street was just as present. What on earth are you doing? Suddenly the tears of emotional release, built up from years of stress, streamed down my cheeks.
When I arrived home I poured myself a big glass of red wine that I drank on the balcony while dawn coloured the horizon.
Of course I knew that that question had been buried deep inside of me for quite a while.
Maybe even since the day my son was born: The never ending feeling of guilt of a working mom.
For years I felt like I was running back and forth between all these important things in my life while never being present enough towards any of them. The long workdays, that continued over the weekends, drained all my energy for years.
Waking up in the morning was always accompanied by stomach aches and late nights were for quick relaxation paired with a few glasses of wine, resulting in me getting into bed late and exhausted while my husband was already sound asleep.
My dear Mohamad, coping with just as much work stress and who knew by now that waiting for me was of no use.
I knew this much was true: I wasn’t the only one. I saw them everywhere; women with demanding careers being confronted with similar feelings towards their families, getting caught up in a huge internal conflict.
The high expectations we have of ourselves as moms, as professionals, as partners, as friends, as sisters and daughters, while work engulfs the hours of the day, the week and the year.
No wonder so many women end up in some sort of crisis management: putting out fires before they grow into something we can’t control, running back and forth trying to be everywhere and doing everything ‘right’, swinging by your child’s play at school between two work meetings, endless to do lists, the looming feeling of burnout, etc.
And while we are trying to keep all the balls in the air, we feel like we’re falling short continuously and stress runs through our body, day in day out.’
Create Healthy Boundaries
with Minou Hexspoor Coaching
That night on the balcony, in the light of dawn, with an almost empty bottle of wine and a pack of cigarettes I ‘secretly’ bought on my way back from the hospital, I let my emotions run free and I realized I wasn’t sure anymore of the purpose of it all.
After the tears, perhaps far beyond the feeling of exhaustion, came salvation: while the sun was rising above the mountains, setting the sky on fire while I drank my last bit of wine, I decided it was time: time to change course.’