Who am I? I am every woman

I was recently invited to do a talk at a women's day breakfast celebration at a branch of one of the financial institutions in KwaZulu Natal (KZN). Being women's month, I decided to focus the talk on the different stages of being a woman, by looking at some key events in my life over the past 18 years. What I wanted to convey in my story, however, is not only the fears, apprehensions, challenges and reality of being a woman, but also the resilience and inner-strength we have to overcome any situation. 

During the RenewYou workshop, the consistent feedback I receive is that as women, we think that the issues / challenges that we experience are unique to us. Yet, once the women start sharing their stories, they realise that they are, in many instances, facing similar issues. So, if you can relate to any of the stages below, take comfort in knowing that a) you are not the only one who feels this way, b) you are stronger and more resourceful than you think you are, and c) "this too shall pass."

(As an aside: I decided to be a little unconventional, and used spoken word poetry to convey my message.)  

Who am I? I am every woman

I am the new employee, 
recently capped, excited and nervous to start her career;
overwhelmed by the vastness of the walls within, feeling insignificant and wondering
whether a small-town girl like me, will manage to succeed
in a sea of thousands, just like me,
entering the rat-race that is called work.

I am the 'seasoned' employee.
Late nights, early mornings, burning the candle at both ends.
Recognised and rewarded - a promotion, more work, more exposure.
Waiting for the day they'll find me out: an impostor .. always anxious 
And always achieving, as "good girls" should, yet never quite reaching my own high standards -
the bar always moving higher and higher,
As I move higher and higher, up towards the ivory tower.
But, not quite getting there: the mixed messages and my own self-limiting beliefs,
are hurdles too high to overcome.

I am the young wife, newly married, giddy with love for this man.
My one true love. My prince charming.
Poring over cook books, paging through recipes, hoping that I'll not disappoint.
Annoyed and anxious as I try to prepare for the week's meals ahead, justa like his mama;
But never eating dinner before 8pm – the life of a working woman.
Aspiring to be the perfect wife for him …it's what our cultures and society expect from me.

I am the soon-to-be-mom, tummy swollen with the hope of the new life within. 
But not, it seems, at 8 weeks being told it isn't a viable pregnancy.
Confused, heart-broken, and tears, so many tears … is this how adulting is meant to be?
"So, when are you having a baby?" they always ask, while I die inside a little every time -
… my burden to carry, not his.

I am a new mom.
10 little fingers, 10 little toes, a beautiful face and a small button nose … gurgles, and smiles
And strawberry kisses; and two-hourly feeds, and sore, cracked nipples.
And mushy poop, and silent reflux, and baby doesn't nap for longer than 30-minutes!
Why didn't anyone warn me…?
'It's the best thing ever, you'll see!"
It doesn't always feel that way to me.
Perhaps the next one will be easier? 
Well, we'll find out sooner than later it seems.

I am mom, moommmmy, muuuummmmmyyyy, 24/7, relentlessly.
Rushing, always rushing to get things done:
Rushing to drop-off, rushing to pick-up, rushing through bath-time, and meal-time,
story-time and bed-time.
And wiping noses, and little bums, and catching puke from upset tums …
without flinching.
And disrupted sleep and hospital vigils, and soothing nightmares and night terrors. 
Cheering from the side-line at soccer matches, and building LEGO houses, and playing catches.
Embraced by little arms, and smothered with kisses and "I love yous" and lots of tickles!
And let's not forget the tantrums!
And still working at night when they're finally asleep … when no-one notices the effort ...
Except me.
Burnt out - eventually.
Self-care? A "selfish act", not a priority.

I am the feminist, striving to create a world where both my sons and daughter
Can and will be all they want to be … not limited by society's stereotypes.
No longer a complacent bystander; a catalyst for change.
Empowering women, to be the best that they can be, to rise off the "sticky floor".
Striving to degender outdated workplace practices, turning the focus to merit, 
the way it's meant to be.

I am every woman trying to integrate all the parts of who I am,
the parts of
Career woman
And finding the time for the me before all of them.
Like the pieces of a well-designed puzzle, not knowing where the one piece starts
And the other piece ends.
Yet, it's not so seamless – this "mom-wife-work-life" juggle
But I am a woman – and like all women – resilient, purposeful, powerful,
Maya Angelou's phenomenal woman,
I will prevail … phenomenally!

Happy Women's Month (what's left of it :)) to all you powerful, purposeful, phenomenal women!

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