What’s wrong with being good at working? In her penultimate episode, Marisa explains why she is not happy for this to be her super power.

Learning the Job

I’ve had my new job for a couple of months now and everything is going relatively well. I know that the first few months of any new role are always tough and every time I get confused or exhausted, I try to remind myself that I’m still adjusting. The truth is that I’m right in the middle of a very steep learning-curve and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m putting in a lot of time and energy to get past this phase and settle in.

Some days I put in too much time and energy. I see that now, but I didn’t at the beginning.

Dutchie was the first to point it out. About a month in, he casually mentioned that I “seem obsessed” with my new job and naturally, I immediately disagreed. I acknowledged that I was working hard, but I would not concede to being obsessed.

The Wrong Super Powers

A few days after that conversation, I was talking to my Little Man (who is now six years old!) and Lady Bug (my four-year-old!) about super powers. It’s no surprise that the subject came up – we’re big into super heroes of all sorts these days. Even Baby Boy can identify Spiderman, Superman, Batman and Captain America by name.

We were discussing which super power belongs to which hero. So we went through the list, and then I asked them, “What are your super powers?” Little Man confidentially stated that his super powers are “running really fast” and “being strong.” They also include “playing football”, “doing math” and “being a good swimmer”. Then Lady Bug chimed in that her super powers are also being “really strong”, being “a good dancer”, “playing really well” and “singing”. All in all, it was an excellent and diverse list of super powers for my kids to have. It made me feel really good to hear them talk about the activities and skills they are proud of.

Unfortunately, those positive feelings only lasted for a couple of minutes, because then it was my turn to list my super powers. I hesitated and then bounced the question back to them. But before I had finished asking them what my super powers were, Little Man said: “That you are a really good worker.”


Out of all the things that I could be and all the super powers I could have, the first that he associated with me was working. Never mind all the energy and dedication that goes into being a mom. You know what I’m talking about – that never-ending list of tasks that I have been doing day in, day out since they were born – with (mostly) no complaining and zero recognition. If they had even picked just ONE thing on that list, I would have been satisfied. Instead, they focused on something I had been doing for just a few months and has nothing to do with my parenting skills.

Family First

I got the message, loud and clear.  

If I’m completely honest, this wasn’t the first time that my kids sent me that message since I started this new job, but I hadn’t added it all up until that moment. Looking back, I realized that there was another instance when Lady Bug and I were arguing and she said to me: “Mama, if I don’t listen to you, will you leave and go to work?” That broke my heart. And sometimes, Baby Boy says goodbye to me with such ease in the mornings that I wonder if he even cares that I’m leaving.

By now, every single person in my family has sent me the same message and I’m upset and embarrassed that it’s taken me so long to hear it. I don’t know why I didn’t pay attention, but if I had to guess, I’d say that I was probably too busy working.


The thing is, my family is most important to me and no matter how ambitious I am, I would quit all this in an instance if they needed me to. No doubt, I like working and having a career, but it will always be less important than my family. So when I think about my kids (and husband), I want them to remember that I was a good mother first and foremost and only then a good worker. NOT the other way around.

In all fairness, as long as I am employed, I will work hard. That’s part of my personality for better or for worse. But when I don’t need to be working, I shouldn’t. I really do need to be available for my family. And I need to work hard to make sure that becomes my new super power.

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.