(I’m passing on the prompts “startup” and “web tool”. I really wouldn’t know what to say in those categories.)
The best learning experience of 2009 – what a wonderful prompt for the holy evening (as you might know, we celebrate Christmas on December 24 over here).
2009 was full of learning experiences, as is every year, really. Whether it is a new recipe, major behavioural changes, a new language or a new way to fold your shirts – each and every one of us is constantly learning. I think we often don’t even notice it anymore, since the human brain is so used to learning “on the go” that it only consciously perceives the really hard lessons. Like, say, learning Arabic, or, in my case, learning to accept that I cannot do it all by myself, and that this is not, in fact, a weakness, but an asset.
Much of this has to do with becoming a mother. Having two children under 3 has taught me many things, like patience, the importance of a sense of humour, and how to see my own parents in a different light, but most importantly, it taught me that I am not capable of doing it all, and doing it all alone. The lesson “You are enough” was very, very hard for me, and I am in no way finished with it, but will most likely struggle with this for the rest of my life. However, 2009 has brought some sort of breakthrough, or rather: many small reassuring instances on my way to being instead of doing.
The roots of this, of course, do not lie in 2009, but in 2007, the year my son was born. His birth, together with the impending end of my PhD and the pressure connected to it, brought me to my knees more literally than I’d like to admit.
Prior to becoming a mom for the first time, I’d had concentrated on doing it all by myself, on being independent from outside help, and on doing it all – life, generally – as perfectly as humanely possible. My brain was the dominant decision maker in my world at the time: I had acquired two degrees, was working as a researcher, and was on the verge of finishing my PhD. I relied heavily on this way of being.
Then my son came, and as I welcomed him with all my heart, I entirely unexpectedly came entirely undone. That thing I had built my life on, that thing which I was relying on for basically everything – my brain – was of hardly any use for me as a mother, since caring for children, newborns in particular, requires trust in your gut feeling, not rational analysis. At the same time, I was trying to finish my PhD, which I had written with my heart’s blood, so to speak, and which required alert thinking and analysis. Needless to say, I was nearly torn apart between these diametrically opposed poles of my life. And I’m not even talking about that whole “working mum – early childcare – judgments and guilt”- debacle and numerous other issues that come with becoming a parent for the first time.
So there I was, wanting to do it all perfectly, and, of course, failing miserably. Or at least: feeling like it. I could never do enough, work enough, be enough. Not from my point of view.
It took the better part of Jakob’s first year for me to painfully realise that I could let go of my perfectionism without losing faith in my life and myself. That I could accept help, even ask for it, without feeling guilty, or weak, or stupid. That in fact, letting others be part of my struggles opens up a whole new level of friendship, of togetherness.
It was a hard lesson to learn, and I am in no way finished with it, but two years later, with my son being this delightful little boy, my PhD finished and a whole new chance to just be there with my newborn daughter, there are moments when I can believe that I will actually get there.
This may sound small, but to me, it means the world.