Mother’s Day today – which to a four year old means very little. Thus, the day was spent like any other – hanging out with the elephant princess while squeezing in some productive work on the laptop. She is busy creating her own elephant sign language which keeps me on my toes considering I’m trying to find time to learn Dari and some basic human sign language.
Yet this Mother’s Day made me think about my role as mother, not because the Hallmark holiday hit me harder than other years, but this year Mother’s Day coincides with my return from 3 weeks working in Afghanistan. Being a single parent that shares custody of a child is difficult and frustrating. Decisions regarding what’s best for the child are shared, but shared with someone you’ve chosen to break ties with, and in many cases don’t like. In my particular case, the fact that I have chosen to make my work in Afghanistan is a sore point. To the extent that I am labeled a bad mother due to increased travel and the particular location I am now traveling to.
Yet I find myself pondering for the first time in my life, “if I was a man, this wouldn’t be an issue”. It wouldn’t. Fathers travel for work all the time. Fathers often make their careers the priority over family. My ex travelled extensively and for long periods of time from the moment our daughter entered our lives. This is forgotten four years on when I took my first extended trip away for work. Taking my second trip away was selfish and inconsiderate of my daughter’s well being. Nevermind that its my work. My life’s work no less. Because it was a choice, and because its something I love, it doesn’t count. Its not ‘work’. Its play, or its a selfish pursuit of one’s passion, or its simply a folly. Certainly not something worth taking time away from one’s child.
This coming from a father than has spent four weeks already this year on vacation away from the same child. This coming from the father that has another two week vacation coming up in a month’s time.
Yet, if only it were him that thought this way. I know that he’s not. I know that many will look at what I am doing, and where I am doing it, and consider me less of a mother. I, as a mother, am now not allowed to take risks apparently.
But where in the motherhood manual does one find these rules? Where does it say that I am not allowed to embrace my true path in life? Where does it state that the best role model you can be is to suppress who you are?
Those who know me well, see the opposite. That by carving my path I am doing my utmost to raise a daughter that will have the confidence in herself to find her own and courageously follow it to the bitter end. They know that my daughter is the prism in which I measure the risk and the time spent away. Her needs remain the priority and that tempers my choices. Putting her first in the heavy list of priorities doesn’t replace my needs, wants, desires – its simply bumps them down the list, not off the list entirely.
As a mother, my daughter comes first. As a woman, I must remain true to myself and the things that are important in my life. Let’s not forget that one must work in order to provide. Men continue to work, often times men we view as ‘heros’ are so at great sacrifice to their families. My own father owned his own business which meant long hours at the office and travel away from us. It wasn’t viewed as selfish. It was necessary. It was work. Why then the role reversal?
Why Afghanistan? Why take the risk? Because my daughter is born in a country that ensures her right to choose. She is insured an education. She is can ride a bike, ski, or simply walk down the street with little risk other than that which she causes herself with the genetic clumsiness she inherited from me. She can choose when, who, and if she wants to marry. She has every opportunity thanks to the genetic passport she was gifted at birth. I had and have those same rights and realize how lucky I am. Young girls in Afghanistan shouldn’t be afforded less opportunity just because of where they live. If there is anything I can do, I must. I can only hope my daughter feels the same way as she matures into the woman she chooses to become.
If that’s being a bad mother, I guess I’ll have to accept it and hope that my daughter forgives me.