In her 25th – and last – account of the ups and downs of balancing work with parenting, Marisa looks back on the key experiences that she has shared during this fascinating series.

Five years ago, I started looking for work in the Netherlands and writing Career.Move. for Amsterdam Mamas. I had been in the Netherlands and a SAHM for three years, and I was ready to branch out and find my way back into the working world. I thought it would be fun to share my experiences with others and what a journey it’s been!

I started school and tried networking, transitioned to a new job far away and with no flexibility, searched for balance, struggled and failed and then quit. Then, I had another kid (making my crew a total of three!), ended up right back where I started, searched for myself some more, decided to go with the flow, struggled for balance again, and then found a new job.

Which brings me to where I am today – still relatively new but somewhat settled into a job that FINALLY seems like a good fit. By now I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been around the block quite a few times since moving to the Netherlands, and let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy. But it has been worth it.

If you’ve read any of my stories, you might also have come across the one where I described myself like a Kermit the Frog surrounded by a sea of Big Birds. I wrote it when I was new to my first office job in the Netherlands and the only foreigner, celebrating Christmas in Antwerp, feeling totally awkward and out of place. It was a rough weekend but an enlightening experience, where I realized that I still had a lot of growing to do to fit in.

So ironically, I’m writing my last Career.Move. having just come back from yet another company Christmas party in Antwerp. For the second time, I was there celebrating with a new colleagues, having just started yet another job. On the face of things, it might sound like I’m in the same situation all over again, but this time, things are totally different.

Try as I might, unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever much taller or blonder than I am now. So I’m still a Kermit the Frog in a sea of Big Birds. Also – I’m definitely a newbie to this job and still getting to know my surroundings and colleagues. So that is similar.

It seems basic, actually, just find a good job and settle in.

But this time, I’m working in an international environment, instead of a solely Dutch one and I am much more fluent in the language, so I can keep up with all of the conversations around me, not just the English ones. So when it was time to go, I took my (duffle) bag with me, socialized with strangers and left feeling happy that my new colleagues were a little less foreign than they had been when I arrived. I was able to just relax into this recent Antwerp Christmas party and enjoy myself without feeling totally displaced.

It seems basic, actually, just find a good job and settle in. But I believe that the source of my feelings go much deeper:

But I’m no longer as green as I was. I’ve been in the Netherlands for over six years now. I’ve finished that degree, the language comes out fluently now, and I found a manager who is flexible and enables me to be both an employee and a mother at the same time. And most importantly, I’ve got three amazing Dutch kids: Little Man, Lady Bug and Baby Boy, all of whom are bigger than I can believe and teach me something new about my Dutch life every day.

I’ve come a long way.

If I’m totally honest, I’m still not 100% integrated into this country and I don’t know if I’ll ever be. Somedays I still can’t believe how surreal my life is. Other days, I’m so frustrated that I just want to run away. But I think that’s just life, certainly life as an expat. What matters is that I didn’t quit. I stuck around and got through the really rough patches.

I no longer spend a lot of time struggling to get through the day, feeling isolated in an office, or questioning my life decisions.

I no longer spend a lot of time struggling to get through the day, feeling isolated in an office, or questioning my life decisions. I am where I am, I am who I am and I am finally happy in my own space. And that’s that. I’m a Kermit, but not as green anymore. Or as he once put it: “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.”

So this is where my Career.Move. story ends, or at least this chapter.

For sure, my career will have many more evolutions before I’m ready to retire. And who knows how long I’ll live in the Netherlands before deciding that it’s time to move on to new adventures. My life, like everyone’s, is still a novel full of undiscovered stories and anecdotes. And perhaps I’ll tell those as well when the times comes.

But in the meantime, thank you for reading these and sharing in my Career.Move. journey as it unfolded. I hope that I was able to entertain and inspire you, as you try to work out your own working/parenting/expat/adventure.

photo credit: Pixabay

Marisa Rijpkema

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.