Dima ~ 12 Days of Moms ~ Day #10
Dima is my sister in every sense except biological. We’ve been friends since our mid 20’s; a time when I thought I never wanted children… like never ever. Dima however, was born wanting to be a mom. She comes from a long line of faithfully strong Syrian Mommas who raise their boys willful and their daughters fiercely resilient, all with a sprinkling of class and buckets of love; they really have mastered the recipe for a perfect human. She is the only mother in this series that was not a mother at the time of this interview (Baby Maya joined us earth-side 2 weeks ago) but I thought her perspective was interestingly reflective when I think back to the weeks before I had become a mother myself, and how profoundly much I changed when our daughter was born. Dima is grace in its truest sense and I’m beyond excited to have a front row seat to her journey into motherhood – she’s going to knock it out of the park.
Name, occupation, where you live
Dima Hausser, recovering professional, professional Hausfrau and soon to be mom to a little girl. I live in Frankfurt, Germany.
Who were you before you became a mom
I was working at a career – a career in what I’m not sure as it didn’t have much direction. The original set of hopes and dreams that I attempted to fulfill was in the non-profit world in New York, which turned out to be not as glamorous as I envisioned. Living in a city that has all the subtlety of a strobe light, living expenses that could rival anyone supporting a family of 5 with a well established career was great for a couple of years but not my forever home. This I found out after realizing the city brought out the worst in my personality when exposed for an extended period of time. Also begging for money (which is much of what one does when one works for a non-profit) loses its luster after a while. Being originally from Detroit, I moved back after the shine faded and the relationship that kept me in NY fell apart. After a few months of moving home, I kept telling myself that the job I found at an industrial real estate company would be great as soon as I figured it out. I didn’t figure it out before it made me start hating my own personality but in the mean time I had met the man who would become my husband and after 4 ½ years at that job, I moved to Germany to be with him.
Once I got here, it was a mixture of relief that I could start over coupled with anxiety and crippling guilt that I maybe didn’t want to work, but rather focus on having a family. It was a pretty big upheaval for me mentally and emotionally but after a few attempts at job hunting I figured I’d take the chance and focus on the family my husband and I wanted instead of what was expected of me/what I expected of myself.
The struggle came down to what to say when people asked me what I do with myself? I would often fumble at an answer, ‘oh I’m looking for a job’, but it sounded hollow even to my ears. The fact was, I have always wanted to be a mom and that was always the prize I had my eye on, even while building a career. Now that I’m about to be a mom for the first time at age 36, I find this struggle among many women my age. Family or job? Both are ultimately time-consuming and require a ton of energy, focus and one ultimately suffers if you focus on the other. The conclusion I have come to is this: no one wants to leave a job they have educated themselves for and worked towards. However, you can’t always have children. The longer you wait the more of a struggle it becomes. You can however, always work and it is possible to build your professional life back up and work back up to your desired position (before anyone points it out, I’m very aware that this is extremely nuanced and this answer will be different for different women/situations. I’m not here to debate that. What I am referring to here is simply how one comes to the decision of whether or not to let career take a backseat to having a family, even if for a short time). I will let you in on two little secrets: 1: I did not come to this realization easily and 2: I have to remind myself of this constantly. It’s easy to question oneself when I see my husband coming home exhausted or pacing around the house stressed – how can I alleviate his stress? How do I make it better? Which inevitably leads me to realize: What I do right now is not quantifiable with a salary or promotions so how do I determine the worth? I also know that for other women, the choice between having a family or a career is not as cut and dry. Some have to work and for some career is simply too important. For some who I envy, they are the Boss/President/CEO of their concern and its of course much harder to build back up to that.
For me, I always knew I would pick family at a certain point in my life. It was simply more important to me than any job or career that I had built so far. I wondered, even as I was going through my daily office life, if I wasn’t holding myself back because of that expectation- that I was reserving my energies for my family, my kids, my ‘real’ future as I saw it. I needed to work and I enjoyed parts of it, but I can’t say that being home with my kids when they are little feels like the wrong decision for me. Would it have been different if I had found a career path that was more fulfilling? Perhaps. That said, once my kids are independent, I don’t think I could simply stay home and be content. One thing I did always do was keep trying, keep reading, keep searching for answers whether it’s how to get through a current problem or the looming larger issue of what’s next in terms of a job or career path. I think that will serve me well. I may feel differently when our daughter (and hopefully subsequent babies) shows up but I think I would continue to push myself further and really find a career where I can give back as well as get something out of it.
How did you imagine yourself as a mom before you had kids?
Well, baby girl isn’t quite here yet but I have to say I’m hoping to wear the ‘grit and grace’ mantle proudly. Whatever I don’t have figured out I hope I have the fortitude to do so with the help of the good humans around me. I think everyone envisions that they know how to handle sleeplessness, tantrums and potty training with all the patience in the world but after reading and hearing about other people’s experiences, I know that no one has it figured out and that I won’t really know how I’m going to handle anything until I’m in the thick of a meltdown-in-public myself. The uncertainty grows as D Day gets closer- I’ll keep you posted…
Who are you a mom to?
TBD! We’re waiting to meet her before we give her a name. Right now she’s just a very active little fetus kicking away!
Waht is the biggest fear for yourself?
That I lose patience. That although I have looked forward to being a mom my whole life and have seen it as my above-all goal and purpose, I end up not loving it. That I realize I have no idea what I’m doing and no idea how to figure it out. That I end up loving it and wanting more kids than my partner does and feel like I’ve lost out. That once I figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I can’t handle having a job and caring for my family. That my parents won’t be around to help. That grit and grace are elusive more often than they are present.
What do you fear most for your child?
Judgement, impatience, hopelessness. The rest is far too scary to write out loud.
Who are you now as you’re knocking on the door to motherhood?
I am someone who values community and building up those around me. I think you get what you give and that has certainly been true of almost all of my relationships. I have definitely experienced it since I’ve been here in Germany for the last two and a half years. It truly was starting from scratch but I’ve gotten so much out of the friendships and relationships I’ve formed here in such a relatively short amount of time.
I’m someone who values making her own money and recognize that I maintain my sense of control that way. I’m someone who is better with a partner or among people I can count on than on my own. I’m someone who loves to learn and could be a professional student if I didn’t feel like it was so selfishly indulgent. I’m someone who gets a lot out of reaching out to people who needs someone to listen and to hear them. I’m someone who needs balance – I’m ok with things being hectic as long as there is also time to collect my thoughts. I’m crap at thinking on my feet and prefer a minute to reflect. I’m someone who is still kind of searching for what I’m supposed to be, so I really hope this mom thing works out. If so I’ll stick with that for a while…
How do you relax/treat yourself?
Go work out, which usually means either the gym or a yoga class. Cook while watching a show on BBC or Anthony Bourdain, get on the phone with my bff to just ask a ‘quick question’ but knowing we will inevitably end up down the rabbit hole for an hour and a half.
What do you love the most about your life right now?
Freedom, the choice to stay home and be with this thing I’m making and a partner that encourages me to do just that if it makes me happy and brings us balance as a family. A family that supports me from all corners of the world and an increasingly astounding community I get to be a part of here in Frankfurt. The thought that we can always go back ‘home’ to the States if we need to.
What do you hope your life will be like in 10 years?
A happy healthy chaotic (in a good way), well-traveled, close-knit family and a tight circle of A-listers I can count on and travel with. Much like what I have today. I don’t really care where in the world I am. I also hope, if all goes well, to have a little job that allows me to reach out to others and gives me a little independence.
What do you want for Mother’s Day?
A picture of my mother, mother in law, myself and my baby girl all together.
Epilogue: A letter from a 10 day old mother.
I’ve had my baby since I wrote the above post. It’s been about a week and a half and since I’m in the thick of the heady first time Mom-ness/recovery/hormones/reality of caring for a little vulnerable human I’ll try to stay away from all the clichés. Here’s what I do know so far:
This Mom thing is IT for me. As I had her I went from screaming my head off to calm- picked her up and laid her on my chest and that was it. No confusion about what needed to happen next. She barely cried- just a little to let us know she was here and ok, and then we just laid there for a bit and got to know each other, my husband looking on in awe.
Since bringing her home, We gently tussle over who’s belly she gets to sleep on and watch adoringly as she searches out a patch of skin to touch.
I can’t stop watching her face as she dreams. Seeing her smile in her sleep, even if it’s probably just gas at 10 days old, kind of gives me a sneak peek into what her real smile will be like.
The critical stare she inherited from her father makes me wonder what she’ll get up to and what her interests will be.
They say ‘you’ll get through it and once she’s here you’ll forget all about the pain’ but they don’t tell you that sitting for the first few days is a delicate art and nursing feels like a dominatrix has your nipples and you’ve forgotten the safe word.
They say it’s different when it’s your own but I never believed them. Not me, who nannied, who treats any kid as their own, who has been called a ‘mom who didn’t have kids yet’ according to a dear human of mine. But no matter how much I’ve loved anyone else’s kid, (including the blueberry eyed creature belonging to the originator of this very fine blog) this love is different: it has roots and stems and leaves and buds and blooms and pieces that die off so that other parts may grow. It has veins and arteries and a pulse and must be nourished and nurtured. It’s terrifying and rewarding, incredibly all-consuming and the strongest drug I’ve ever taken.
So much for staying away from the clichés. I blame it on this face: