Are your kids thriving while you feel that you have slightly lost yourself after years of focusing on everyone else? If so, you're not alone. In this next instalment of Career.Move., Marisa decides it's time for a change - and she's starting with her hair.
It’s alright to let yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back - Mick Jagger
Crossing the Finishing Line
Two really interesting things happened to me this month that made me realize how much I’ve lost myself and how ready I am to find myself again.
Last week was Baby Boy’s first day in daycare. It was a big milestone naturally, and we marked it accordingly. But the week before that was my milestone: when I had my last day at home as a full-time caretaker of a baby.
The day started off pretty normally and we went straight into our routine of housework, playing, eating and napping. Then I decided that we should mark the day by doing something special, so Baby Boy and I went for a bike ride - to no particular destination - simply to enjoy the time out together. It was lovely, and I did enjoy his company. He is the light of my life. But what I didn’t do was feel sentimental. I thought that I would because, as much as I hate to admit it, it doesn’t take much for me to get emotional over how much my kids have grown or how far we’ve come as a family. But that day, instead of feeling sad that Baby Boy was leaving me for a few days each week, I felt excited and a bit relieved. I had made it to the full-time baby-care finish line! I could take time to focus on myself and rebuild my career again.
Who am I?
My lack of sentimentality surprised me, but I also took it as a signal of just how ready I am to move on to the next phase in my life. To celebrate, I decided that it was finally time for the much-needed haircut that I had been putting off. So I called my husband to ask if it would be OK for me to get my hair dyed. Let me repeat that for emphasis: I asked my husband for permission to get my hair dyed. In my mind at that moment, the rationale behind the question was the amount of time it takes to dye one’s hair and the required maintenance that goes with it. It’s not a one-time thing, it’s something that needs to be redone every couple of months. That means that every couple of months, I will need to go to the salon for a couple of hours and leave him behind watching the three kids. So I asked him if it was OK. Thankfully, Dutchie knows me well and is really awesome. After a short, stunned silence, he responded with: “You’re not really asking me this are you?”
Basically, he gave me the opportunity to realize what had just happened, so that I was able to backtrack and ‘inform’ him that I would be spending a few hours at the hair salon, rather than ‘asking’ him. We got off the phone, and I made the appointment. Done and done. Then came the epiphany: WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED??? When did I become the girl who asks for ‘permission’ to get their hair done?
My Hair Secrets
Most of my Amsterdam friends don’t know this about me, but I dye my hair. I have actually been doing it since I was 16 and decided that I wanted to go for a dark eggplant color (I’m a brunette naturally). Much to my mother’s chagrin, I didn’t ask for permission. My friend and I just bought the box and went for it. We did that a couple of times and then I started going to a hairdresser where I discovered the fun of blonde (and sometimes red) highlights.
For years - OK, I’ll admit it: it’s actually decades - I had no idea what my natural color even looked like. But then I moved to the Netherlands and started having kids and, all of a sudden, getting my hair done seemed more time-consuming than necessary, and it felt like more of a luxury than I could justify. So I dyed my hair back to my natural color and let the roots grow out. That was when I also found my first greys. I didn’t love it, but it was part of the mama-package that I had become.
I had let myself go and lost myself to the parenting gig.
Finding Myself Again
But the truth is, plain brown hair isn’t me. I had let myself go and lost myself to the parenting gig. I stopped investing in myself, and dedicated all of my available time and emotional resources to my babies. Now, Little Man is five with his own schedule and social agenda. Lady Bug is four and she’s got a mind and attitude all of her own. And Baby Boy is thriving and is really happy to be surrounded by all the kids and toys at daycare.
My family is complete. Everyone is busy, growing and happy. It was a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get to this point and I don’t regret a single minute. But now it’s time for me to reconnect with my authentic self. The one that existed before I became a mama, and the one that makes me the mama that I am. I’m getting myself back, and I’m starting by getting my hair done.
Marisa is a 'third culture kid,' and while she doesn't remember ever crossing into adulthood, she now finds herself trying to integrate into Dutch life, while mastering the delicate art of being a mother, and figuring out her career as she goes.