Someone asked me the other day, how are you keeping yourself intellectually stimulated since you have become a full-time mum? The question took me by surprise because I don’t think I have ever felt a lack of intellectual stimulation at any point, quite the opposite.
Throughout pregnancy, at least your first, you are constantly reading, researching and discovering the state that you are in. The moment the baby is born, you are juggling sleep deprivation, overwhelming emotions of worry, happiness and doubt not to mention guilt. Human basics like sleeping and eating and having a shower become a mammoth task if not neon impossible! This is only the beginning!
Having been raised by a single mum, who is fiercely independent, there was never any pressure to get married or even have kids. So this was not a life long dream of mine, and never did I imagine being home all day and swapping recipes with other mums. I would have laughed at this idea 5 years ago, with my career focused endeavours as a lawyer in law firms in Tanzania and South Africa and England. When my mother in-law once said, ‘give me a boy until he is five and I will give you a man’ I was daunted by the idea that she thought my place was in the house looking after the children. But that is what I am doing now. ‘Ama de Casa’ is the status here in the Dominican Republic, meaning housewife, a title that is printed on your identity card.
Since coming to the Dominican Republic and becoming a new mum I have found a ‘tribe’ of women who are in more or less the same boat, that is, professionals who have now found themselves taking on the job of being a stay at home mum while our husbands work. It is challenging to say the least, especially in this ‘day and age’ to have such ‘traditional’ roles as a man and woman. Lawyers, Sleep Therapists, Flight Attendants, Social Workers, Teachers, Translators, Professional Care Givers, Nurses, Agriculturalists, Conflict Managers, now find themselves so far removed from their original ‘career path’. Conversations have changed, introductions have changed, now its ‘what does your husband do?’ ‘how many times did you wake up last night?’. Is your child allergic to nuts, dairy or anything?’ ‘how best can you brush your toddlers teeth?’.
I love every second of it and begrudge no one or nothing. That doesn’t mean I don’t get tired or anxious or need help and a support group. This is what our group provides outside of our family unit. They are an army of mums with different strengths and opinions that help each of us to strive to our fullest potential. Naturally we all have other interests as well, and though everyday is a tornado of events, between playdates, sleep routines, dealing with ailments and all the while trying to stimulate our children, some mums still find the time for creative expression in the madness. Often people ask, how do you find the time? Well, in my case, I strive to have an early night so I can wake up at 5 am and enjoy an hour of me time to either paint, do yoga or simply read (or write a blog). Its the art of juggling and balancing but also being ok with dropping all the balls and picking them up again later.
But through it all, its important to find the time to be breathe and be yourself, and for some mums, this is through creative expression.
I have been sketching Oliver since he was born and have enjoyed the quick sketches I managed to get in at playdates before they all started walking and running in opposite directions. So the creative process has changed, whilst, I used to sit with a coffee while he napped in a cafe sketching the world go by, now I teach art class and find time to paint commissions.
The mums in our group have a myriad of different interests and careers, and below, is some insight into how mums find their creative space amidst life happening. Not waiting for a time when they would seemingly be free, rather doing it as life happens.
Roxy, mother of two, Jack who is 3 and Elena who is 1 is a Certified Physician Assistant. She finds creative expression in photography and takes credit for the photo on the header image. When I asked her how she finds time, she said she take photos with Jack and Elena in tow, as she puts it they are her best subjects!
Eileen finds the time once a week to come to watercolour class for three hours. Sometimes when her sitter is not available she brings Daniel with her and though she will tell you that her focus changes when he is around, three hours of trying is better than to leave it for yet another week. You acquire the skill of making do with the time presented. Before becoming a full time mum Eileen worked as a flight attendant. A job that demands a lot of time away from home, trotting across the globe from one timezone to the other. Now she enjoys taking care of Daniel’s needs.
Thuy, mother of three, Makai who is 6, Zayli, who is 5 and Indigo who is 19 months just finished her Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. She is continues to study and is doing a certificate program in nonviolence studies. Her creative outlet is writing about self and life reflection pieces. She finds the time to do so either when all kids are at school or in the mix with all of them around as you can see from the picture below. I admire watching her juggle her three kids and she does it with such grace. She is full of wisdom when it comes to raising kids, having had her first born in Botswana, and raised the first two in Tanzania and now living in the Dominican Republic. Thuy is truly an expat mum.
Laura has been sewing for over 20 years and she hasn’t stopped since Elliot her one year old arrived. She continues with sewing projects and finds the time to this either when Elliot is napping or with him watching. Laura is an agriculturist who has had interesting projects in Afghanistan, Canada and Brazil. Laura is also one of those ladies, who bakes her own bread and makes fantastic cakes.
Jessica is an Industrial Engineer with a Masters in Quality Assurance and a degree in Logistics. She has worked 10 years in Supply Chain with companies like Kelloggs, Pepsico and Shell Gas Oil. She quit her job two months before Santiago was born and since then has enjoyed being a full time mummy. In her free time she is learning photography, training for a half marathon and hoping to improve on her knitting.