When I was 15, I had my whole life mapped out.
I’d be married by 25. Within a couple of years, I’d have a daughter, and then a son.
When I hit 30, I’d go back to school to get my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. By then, I should have already gotten enough writing experience, and gone through enough life experiences, for me to be able to fully appreciate the program. Then I’d go on to publish my first novel before hitting 40.
I was a little girl with big dreams who grew into a teenager with a plan.
In a few days, I will turn 33.
True to my expectation, I have indeed gotten married, but that didn’t happen until I was 28. The baby came first, when I was 23. And I had a son. I have no daughter, but that’s fine. I’m enjoying being mom to a boy.
My pot of life experiences is filling up fast, which is great because that means that life has been great. My writing resume isn’t too shabby. I know for sure that I’d be able to appreciate the Creative Writing Master’s program that I’m gunning for, if only I could afford it.
One thing that I failed to consider when I was 15 was how much it would actually cost to send a child to school, and how expensive a Master’s Education can be.
And then, there are all of these other things.
At 15, I had no idea how hard it was to be married. I didn’t know what it meant to meet halfway. I thought that there would always be a clear winner in each argument. I didn’t think that not going to bed angry could mean tearful discussions that would last until 3:00 in the morning.
I didn’t have a clue that parenting would be as challenging as I now know it to be. I thought that it would be so cute to have two children who are close in age, just like my brother and I. I didn’t realize that having one child is challenging enough already. I had no idea that I would someday find myself at the receiving end of eye-rolling and snide remarks that just happen to sound a whole lot like my 10-year old self.
I believed back then that if you were good at something it wouldn’t be difficult to find a job in your desired field. I never thought about how much of success comes from actual hard work, that luck actually plays a huge part in it all, and that being easy to work with sometimes matters more than what you can actually do.
I went from being a naïve teenager with a plan to becoming an adult with (at least a little bit of) wisdom.
I’ve learned a lot about life in between my 15th and 33rd birthdays.
I know that you should always expect the unexpected. And I mean, always. Life is full of curve balls and somewhere along the way things won’t go as planned.
I believe that the trick is to keep moving forward, and to always look on the bright side of life even when there seems to be no bright side. I understand now that the tough times are there to make the good ones shine even brighter.
Our hearts can handle infinite amounts of heartache brought about by people whom we truly care about. I know this for sure. I also know that these same people, if they love us as much as we love them, will be the same ones to mend those little breaks in our hearts.
I may have proven my teenage-self wrong on many different counts, but I do still believe in dreaming big dreams and planning for the life that we want for ourselves.
We may not be able to accomplish all that we want to do within the deadlines we set for ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Things may not happen the way we want them to all the time, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop working on becoming the person we’ve always known we could be.
In spite of it all, and despite life’s struggles, the one thing that we ought to do is never give up on ourselves.
Based on the plan I had set for myself all those years ago, I still have seven years to get that book out. How that will go remains to be seen…!
How has your expectation differed from your reality? Are you close to where you thought you would be at this time of your life?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Mrs. P. Cuyugan. Photo credit: Jurgen P. Appelo. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
On my way to work this morning, the song “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield played on the radio. I’ve heard the song many times before. This morning, I really paid attention to the lyrics for the first time, and reflected upon my own goals.
Many of us feel trapped in the routine of our daily life. We’ve all said at some point that we don’t have enough time. I’ve been using this excuse for two important goals in my life: decluttering my home, and writing my novel. These are things that I know will make me feel happy and proud of having accomplished them. The truth is that none of us “have” time, we “make” time to do what we really want to do. So I must ask myself the question, “Why have I not made time for the two goals that I’d most like to accomplish?”
The clutter in my home is complicated, as much of it was inherited from my husband’s family. For that reason, I feel that my husband must make the decision regarding what to keep and what to sell. Of course, there is no excuse for me not to get rid of my own clutter!
I know that my almost pathological fear of giving things away stems from my childhood. My parents were terrible at managing our family finances, and in our house, it was feast or famine. When my parents had money, they’d literally buy champagne and caviar. When they had none, we had to make do with “mystery” tins (we had a box of tins without labels). I guess it’s the fear of being without that holds me back from doing what I should in this regard. The ultimate irony is that I usually can’t find what I need, when I need it, anyway!
This brings me to my unwritten novel, which I have dreamt of writing for as long as I can remember. A couple of years ago, I signed up to NaNoWriMo, and started to work on my goal in earnest. Then I was diagnosed with lupus and psoriasis – two severe autoimmune diseases that have since wrecked havoc on my life. I was unable to type due to numbness and pain in my arms and hands. Since then, I have abandoned my goal of writing my novel. While my health challenges are certainly a handicap, I suspect that the real obstacle isn’t lack of time or my health, it’s fear. As long as my novel remains unwritten, it can’t be rejected. I can hold on to my dream of being an author “one day”, whereas if I write it and it’s not good enough, I would have to give up on the dream.
You would think that, given the above insights, I’d be able to overcome my psychological hurdles and get on with it. I’m happy to be able to confirm that I’ve started taking baby steps in the right direction. I have given away two large bags full of clothes I no longer wear, and I’ve started writing for World Moms Network again.
To paraphrase Unwritten: each day we get a brand new chance to “begin our book.” No one else can do or say what we are meant to do and say. We’re all unique, and therefore uniquely qualified for whatever it is that we’re meant to accomplish in our lifetimes.
What goals do you have, but “don’t have time” for? If you have already published a book, do you have any advice for us aspirant authors?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Mama Simona from Cape Town, South Africa.
Photo credit: Caleb Roenigk / Flickr.
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
My name is Coretta Vermeulen. I am a 1970’s child, the daughter of my 81 year old mom and my dad who would have turned 88 today. I’m the mother of three kids by birth, bonus mom of two, and spare grandmom of one.
I was born and raised in the Netherlands. Now, this is not a big country, but I took a giant leap of faith moving from a small town in the North to the big city of Amsterdam. Oh, I can tell you stories about that!!! And I will, in time.
What language(s) do you speak?
My native tongue is Dutch, but I also read, write and speak English and German. In Dutch high schools, learning foreign languages is mandatory. Whoo, lucky me!
When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
I became a mom at age 27. I was drawn to the man who fathered my oldest son (oh, I can tell you stories about that!!!) because of his interaction with his then 4-year-old daughter. I actually never wanted kids before, not because I didn’t love kids (I did), but because of the whole lifetime relationship with someone who claimed to be the dad. I really hadn’t had the best example, daddy-wise. It freaked me out. But this man was so sweet with his daughter, giving her attention, revolving his whole life around her. So I thought: what the heck, let’s just go for it. As days became weeks (yeah, that fast!) I noticed the psychiatric imbalances in him: it ruined a perfectly good man with a good heart. But by then I was already pregnant, and I decided to just make the best out of everything. Who knows how far I could come with him? After all, my love for him would cure him, right? And then there was his daughter, who was depending on me too. So, we gave it a shot.
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
I’ve been working on and off since I became a mother. I had my teaching diploma, but there was little work in schools for young teachers. Fortunately, my then husband had been putting up a remedial program for dyslexic kids, and they could use me in it. So we worked both half a week, bringing our son to his grandparents once a week. It was the perfect balance. Until it all blew up in my face.
After my divorce and move to Amsterdam, I had a 40 hour work week at a school with lots of different ethnicities, young kids aged 4 to 6/7 years old. I took my son to school with me. After a while, I could ask some parents to babysit while I was having conferences, meetings, and the like. I remember this time as one of my strongest periods. I was so proud that I did this, all alone, recovering from an abusive marriage, recovering from very strong and powerful family ties, having a 40 hour job that I loved. I lived the insecure life of illegal sublet housing before I got my own place, redone and redecorated just by me, the handy-gal. I was a single mom in a strange city, and even considered having a second child by myself.
A series of incidents made me realize that although I AM a teacher, I cannot be bound by rules and regulations that I don’t support, and that do not support teachers or students. As my life took a turn to the worse, I gave up on teaching and haven’t been working since. I met my current husband, married and moved again. We had two children, and I stayed at home.
That’s going to end though, but I will tell that some other time, too.
Why do you blog/write?
I have always loved writing, but I am a little shy. At 46, I recognize that every artist is unsure about his or her own talent, even when someone performs daily over a period of years. So the writing thing (singing thing, creating thing, painting thing) never really left the building, except sometimes on Facebook or Google-Blogger. I do get nice responses, but I tend to think people are “just saying that to not make me feel too bad”. I recently auditioned to be a singer in a band nearby, but I’ve not heard from them. I guess the singing thing will stay at home with me, but I hope I will do a better job at the writing thing.
We have a very different family, which you all will definitely come to know. Writing about the things we experience daily helps me in a lot of ways, and I think maybe other people might benefit from it, if I can make someone smile or see things in another perspective, like it does to me.
What makes you unique as a mother?
I don’t consider myself special or unique. I am just a girl who gave birth to some live dolls. I act out like a little girl all the time. But that’s just a phase I’m in right now.
I think that my YOUNIQUENESS lies in being authentic. Although I try to hide my bad moods and not project my problems/emotions onto my family members, I really can’t. So yeah, sometimes I shout and yell and curse, but mostly that is pure and utter frustration from my side, after having said something for the @#$%&*! time, or tripping over shoes in front of the doorway, or picking up laundry from all over the house. I am consequently inconsequential, and that is a good thing, because I am flexible like that. I am NOT a hover-mom: my 9 year old daughter cycles to school on her own, facing traffic and traffic rules and teenagers blocking her way and what not. I haven’t seen the inside of her school for months now. I let her walk our big dog, because I trust them both. I let her go shopping for me and smile and praise her when she’s done her best finding the right groceries but ending up with completely different stuff than I asked for.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
Although there is a lot going on in the world, and it seems like the worst time to grow up, I don’t consider that being a parent is very difficult at all. From the births of my children, I have watched them grow just on their own. I could look at them for hours! How they discovered their hands, their feet, getting a reaction from repeatedly taking off their socks, being completely startled when first rolling over or standing up, and then the smile of triumph. All you have to do is put some food, love and trust in them, and the rest comes naturally. I believe in raising our kids authentically, with common sense, trusting their innate qualities and abilities, following some simple guidelines, parenting out of love and not fear, nurturing body, mind and heart. We need to set our own boundaries in which children can grow and discover safely. Above all, I want my children to be genuine, true to themselves, believing in themselves, being able to trust themselves as much as others.
How did you find World Moms Blog?
I’ve been reading World Moms Blog for quite some time now, as I am Facebook friends with other bloggers. I love reading about the interaction with our sprouts, the dos and dont’s, the similarities and the differences across the world, in different cultures. As a child, I always thought that my mother knew exactly what she was doing and why. After being a mom for almost 19 years now, I still don’t have a clue, and sometimes I’m even scared of being caught at it, so people can see: See, she acted like she knows everything about it, but look at her! I recently learned there’s a term for that, the “imposter syndrome”
But I’ve come to terms with just doing what I do and hope for the best. Up to now, I think we have managed just fine.
Photo credit: Coretta Vermeulen.
A Chinese publisher is hiring me to write a biography for a well-known Chinese American doctor and politician. They wanted 300,000 words by the end of this year. I made it clear that it’s not possible. Considering the long-term contracts I already have, my family situation and my daily schedule, the earliest time I can finish the big book will be next May.
They offered me a $3,000 bonus if I could finish the writing the book on their timeline. Wow, $3,000!
I told them, “I’ll think about it.”
That night for some reason my little one was unusually fussy and insisted to sleep with his mommy. I squeezed myself into his toddler bed and accompanied him. After two bed time stories he fell asleep peacefully. I lay there, staring at the ceiling.
Once again I strongly felt how children can slow a mother down on her career progress. If it was three years ago, before we had a kid, producing 300,000 words within ten months would not be a problem for me at all. I am not boasting it, but hey, they didn’t call me “kuài shǒu” (the fast writer) for nothing!
But now, with a little child, if I want to finish 300,000 words in a year, either I’ll be drained or my child will be ignored.
Women certainly have a different work-life balance than men. Several years ago there was a white paper on the Position of Women in Science in Spain that concluded a man with children is four times more likely to become a full professor than a woman with children is.
The white paper emphasized that women who have children are discriminated against simply because they are mothers and not because their job performance is actually different.
Based on my own experience, I believe that is true. I was harassed by my supervisor for pumping at work. Still, there is a lot we can do to fight back when facing discrimination. We can advocate for equal working rights, we can urge our law makers to pass bills that end discrimination against working mothers, we can file law suits against our discriminating employers. I, for one example, took my previous company to court and was happy about the result.
But we cannot fight nature. The nature rule is that women have to spend more time on their children. Mothers have greater childcare responsibilities than fathers. It’s the mother, not the father, that carries the baby for months, is in labor for hours and breastfeeds for months, or even years. And while some may hope for a different division of labor some day, these work-life realities do contribute to the reason why women who are mothers are on slower career tracks than men.
In this case, if I can’t earn that $3,000 bonus, that’s simply because I need to spend time on my child, not at all because I am discriminated against.
I tossed and turned all night long. It’s not that I want the $3,000, but I really want to speed up my career progression, which has been slow ever since I had my child. But do I want to be drained? More than that, do I want to ignore my child for one whole year? Weighing these things in the balance, that $3,000 didn’t seem so important.
In the morning my little one opened his eyes and saw his mommy was still laying by his side. He giggled and touched my face. I made up my mind.
Working mothers probably will never have the perfect answer to work-life balance. It’s our paradox of choice. I just want to try to live more and regret less.
Have you struggled with juggling your career path and your role as a mother? How do you find a balance between work and home life?
This has been an exclusive post for World Moms Blog by To-wen Tseng. She can be found writing at her blog “I’d rather be breastfeeding” and on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo credit to the author.
Think your intellectual and creative juices take a dive when you become a stay-at-home parent? Think again.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post for World Moms Blog about my decision to become a stay-at-home parent. Prior to staying at home, I was a U.S. diplomat for nearly ten years. Resigning to stay at home was not part of my plans. I planned for a career in the Foreign Service and never really considered doing anything else. When my son was born, that all changed. I wasn’t ready to leave him, so I decided to stay at home. Fortunately, we were at a place financially where I could choose to do this.
While I was happy that I could stay at home with my son, there were times when I mourned the loss of my professional life. With the decision to stay at home, I thought that it was downhill professionally from that point; that I wasn’t really qualified to do anything else other than be a diplomat, and thus I would likely move on to lackluster opportunities when the kids started school (I have remained a stay-at-home mom after the birth of my two daughters, as well).
But here is the good news: I was wrong. Completely wrong. Leaving a career that I knew I could not easily go back to opened up a whole new set of opportunities for me. Ones that I was not previously able to explore because I had boxed myself in to a specific career path.
Ones that allowed me to stay at home with my children and continue to work at my own speed, on my own time, and discover new things about myself and my talents.
Shortly after I became a stay-at-home parent, I took up writing and started my own blog to preserve some of my sanity amidst the at-home chaos. The writing not only allowed me to let our family back home know what we were up to (we lived in Thailand at the time), but allowed me to continue to do something I loved. While I often wrote about adventures in parenting and travel, writing time was my time; my chance to unplug from parenthood, reflect, and continue to challenge myself creatively and intellectually. I began to write with a purpose to help families new to Thailand learn where to go and what to do. I learned that I could be a valuable resource to others while getting my “me” time. This was fulfilling and exciting, but became even more exciting when I got a call from Travel & Leisure Southeast Asia to write for their family travel issue. The thought of being a freelance writer had never occurred to me. I had resigned to be a stay-at-home mom, so you can imagine my surprise when I received a job offer for something for which I had never applied. I was up for the challenge, but also nervous about trying something completely new.
Luckily, my article was well-received and I began to write for T&L on a regular basis during our time in Thailand. The opportunity also encouraged me to test my talent. I reached out to other major online and print publications and, within the year, had written for the New York Times, CNN Travel, and others. Developing and pitching stories, writing for large audiences, and working with different editors was both challenging and exciting.
Each day I could give my undivided attention to my children, and each evening I learned something new about myself and abilities.
In addition to the freelancing work, reading to my children a good hour or two a day inspired me to delve into the world of children’s literature and pen my own draft of a children’s book. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and learned how to write for a young audience (note: writing for little ones is not as easy as it seems). I joined peer review groups, learned to give and take editorial criticism, and began the process of contacting publishing houses and sending my manuscript out for review. It was nerve-wracking to try something so new and unfamiliar, sure; but it was thrilling. Would I have ever done this had I not become a stay-at-home parent? Not a chance.
I began to challenge myself physically, as well. In addition to writing, running is another source of “me” time; one I use to recharge my batteries and reflect on my parenting, my relationships, and our transient lifestyle. After the birth of my third child in 2014, I trained for and ran two half-marathons. When arriving in Krakow this year, I formed a women’s running group. As soon as the kids start school full time, you can bet I’ll be training for my first full marathon.
All of these things – the freelancing, the children’s book, the running – they grew out of my decision to stay at home with my family. My assumption that becoming a full-time mom would inhibit me from succeeding professionally was false. On the contrary, letting go of my career and becoming a stay-at-home parent opened up new opportunities for me that I surely would not have explored otherwise.
Have you thought about what other talents and abilities you might possess? How does spending time with your children inspire you creatively and intellectually?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mom to three and writer in Poland, Loren Braunohler.
The images used in this post are attributed to the author.