Being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) is one of the most rewarding experiences. But let’s be real, being a SAHM is also a huge sacrifice. Sometime back I was at the mall, introducing myself to the mothers of Manahil’s school friends and they were all so supremely talented! Gynecologists, engineers, business administrators, (artist!) you name it! And they were all putting their ambition and hard work aside and using their talent and intelligence to raise a first class next generation, which is a very noble thing of course! But you have to admit, that sometimes, in the midst of dirty diapers and sleepless nights, you do begin to feel a little lost. Time is speeding by and you’re simply drowning in laundry and spilt toys and you feel so far away from that person you were, who had dreams and ambitions. You can’t even remember what those dreams and ambitions were anymore! That’s how far away from reality they now seem.
When I was younger, my mother gave me a very good piece of advice. At that time, I didn’t even know it was such good advice. She said, keep learning. Learn wherever you are and whenever you are. Learn from the people and the places around you. Even if it’s something you never thought you wanted to learn, open your mind to it. Learn languages, skills, crafts, arts. Every place has something new to offer. Keep your experiences and your mind and your skills growing, and you’ll never despair.
Cutting back to my life two years ago, I was, literally, drowning amidst sleepless nights and dirty diapers. My face had become a sallow color out of sheer tiredness. My brain seemed to have stopped working. All I could think of was dragging my feet through the whole day with two hyper infants prancing around me at every turn. I would find myself getting exasperated at them as well! And then wallowing in the guilt of my unfair behavior. That’s when I recalled this advice. And it rang so true. Why was I behaving as though life and learning were so out of my reach? Why was I pretending that in a place like Jeddah (where women find it really difficult to get around) I could not continue to grow?
At that point, a friend of mine who used to practice beautiful calligraphy shared a link for online calligraphy classes with me. I went out and bought the bamboo pens, the cutters, the beautiful shiny bristol paper, the smooth, bright inks. It felt so surreal and yet so normal! Sure, I was a bit rusty, but finally there was something worthwhile with which to occupy my mind and hands, something to make me feel alive at the end of a long and tiring day. I found myself watching the downloaded lessons as the children played in the park, practicing my strokes as I put them to sleep.
And it was not easy. There were frustrating times and times I felt like giving up. But now, as the ink flows out of the bamboo pen in smooth curves as I write this Ayat, I’m really glad I found something to learn and persevered in learning it no matter how tired my mind and body felt.
Sometimes, caught up in the throes of life, we lose a chance to learn from all that is around us. We feel there is already so much on our plate, not realizing that learning can never be exhausting. We feel we know best and everyone around us is critical, not realizing that simply keeping our mind open will allow us to learn valuable lessons from the experiences of others. Even if, on the whole, we disagree with them. Even if, what they are saying makes us feel crushed and inadequate, confused and bewildered. We must keep our minds open and ready to learn.