Free to be

Apologies are in order for not having made an appearance in your inboxes for such a looong time. I’m embarrassed to count or type the figure. So do forgive me and allow me to jump right back into the waters. I have the honor of being a mommy to a now 14month old girl. Yeah 14 months. Only parents, especially new ones, count in months as opposed to years. Being a parent changes a lot in one’s life and as your child grows you also learn so much and grow exponentially. My greatest lesson so far is that I/we need to allow ourselves to be. I remember once reading somewhere that we are human beings not human doings. Too often we get so caught up in activities, in busyness and at the end of the day we don’t have time to be. Change diapers, feed baby, put baby to sleep, chore after chore. Then when you get back to work add to the previous list the long things to do list at the office. Check things off only to have them back the next day, if not more. Then days begin to blur and mesh together and before you know it months have gone by. Slowly you begin to think “there’s got to be more to life than this”. You start to see how others seem to be doing better and by that yardstick (usually very skewed) you see yourself as falling short. We are not being fair to ourselves when we think or live like this. In fact this is not really living but existing, getting by. In Kenya many use the expression “Kung’ang’ana tu” (just struggling, getting by, hustling) in response to how are they doing.

I want more than to ng’ang’ana (get by) in life. I want to enjoy life. There are two ways I have observed to be key ingredients of this enjoyment. The first is deciding what matters and making time and room for it. The second is not comparing myself to others and simply embracing and cherishing me for me (and by extension not comparing others to others and embracing them).

As a result of this realization I have begun a journey. A journey of self exploration about my values, my principles, my dreams and goals. Yes, I have given it some thought before but not as vigorously as I am doing now. I think it has to do with becoming a parent. Suddenly this little person depends on you to meet their needs, looks up to you and learns what is important from observing you. To a large extent her future is influenced by my present actions and the kind of environment I provide for her to grow up in. If that is not an impetus to reach higher then I don’t know what is. In parenting class (yes we took classes. If we can go to class to learn to be better managers or professionals, how much more do we need it for such an important job as being parents)… I digress. In parenting class we learned that we ought to strive to be the kind of person/adult we would like our kids to become when they grow up. If your kid ends up being like you would you be happy or sad? Would you consider yourself as having done a great job of parenting if they turned out like you are today?

We all get 24hours each day. For some of us we have more day left than things to fill it with while others wish we had 40hour days to accomplish all the stuff we want to do. We can’t do everything. Duh! The sky is blue. But to a perfectionist (I still maintain that I am in recovery from perfectionism though I do relapse) working mom that can be our downfall: trying to do everything. Having multiple balls and keeping them all in the air. I’ve had quite a year since the birth of my little girl. Being a full time wife, full time mom, full time daughter (to aging frailish folks), full time employee with travel time thrown in there and a student. “How do you do it?” Is a question I get a lot. Sometimes I don’t do it. I lose track of a ball here or there and sometimes I catch it before it hits the ground but other times I lose it. Usually something’s gotta give.

Three things in my case have “given” – one of them is less time out with friends. I hang out less since I want to spend quality time with my daughter and hubby. When I do the math of how much time I have left for family after I minus work hours and my commute (Nairobi has legendary traffic jams) I feel like an absentee parent and wife. They get the leftovers of my time and energy on weekdays. And I theirs. The other thing that I cut out was tv. I probably watch an hour or two of tv a week. I want uninterrupted time with family. It’s not much in terms of quantity so I try to ensure its’s quality time. We eat together, catch up on the day, I give my little girl a bath and get her ready for bed.. Tv is a great distraction so we keep it off most nights. Except for important soccer matches. Lol! I don’t recall the last time I watched a series and watching the news gets me so irate and morose that I keep that to a minimum too. And you know what? I don’t miss it all. The third ball that fell was my me-time. This is not a good thing. When you get caught up in caring for others and doing stuff that you don’t have time to care for you it gets dangerous. Neglecting yourself leads to burn out, resentment, unhappiness and even depression. If you don’t care for you then at some point you’re no good to anyone. I am thankful for my husband who has kept me sane . Sometimes he’d leave me to my own stubborn devices but I’ve lost track of the times he’d remind me that I can’t and don’t have to do it all. He’d take a shift with our princess so I could get some sleep – a very valuable commodity in a household with a newborn and especially for mommy. He’d stay home with her so I could get away to the salon or do something just for me. I’ve had to look at my life and really reconsider what my priorities are and how I can design my life to reflect that. I am working towards deliberately spending most of my time and other resources in more meaningful ways: Doing what I love at work and complaining less (workplaces are rarely if ever perfect), spending time with people I love doing things I enjoy.

As for learning not to compare myself with others and accepting me for me, I’d say that watching kids grow is a great reminder of this. I have two friends who had babies the same week I did. We have been each other’s support through sleepless nights, teething, and all other a baby drama but also we’ve watched our kids grow and had play dates. We decided that they are BFFs from birth. All three are girls but it has been clear from the get go how so similar they are yet so glaringly different. One grew teeth way before the other two. When one was walking the other was still crawling. My daughter doesn’t warm up to strangers easily while one of the other girls walks up to shake hands.. These are just a glimpse of the differences. Sometimes as parents we get all stressed out that our babies are not like other babies. But why should they be? Each is created unique. And of each God says they are beautifully and wonderfully made in his own image and likeness. Baby literature that shares on milestones at various stages from birth to toddlerhood usually includes a reminder that each child develops at their own rate. It’s not a competition. We each have different passions, talents, physical features, paths in life, strengths and weaknesses….and you know what? It’s perfectly ok. Let’s learn to appreciate that and embrace it. Only then can we be the best versions of ourselves and make the impact that only we can make in the world. So I’m determined not live in anyone’s shadow nor to pursue the “greener grass” in another’s yard. Instead I intend to weed and water my yard as I sow all the stuff I want to reap in my future.

I’d love to hear from you. What keeps you from being you? Identify it then kick its butt out of your life.


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