Since a long time, I have been wanting to write about this topic. We mothers we know as no one else how it is to be mama and also having to work. Now, you can say that it is my own choice…and yes…that is partly true. However, here the choices are fewer than in the Netherlands where I envisioned my life many years ago. All in all, finding a balance in work and being mama is challenging. Luckily, there are factors which make it easier like having a car (with a driver), having that washing machine after eight years being without, having a more or less flexible job and most of all having a committed dada.
Years ago in the Netherlands
When I started my professional career at age 22, I was thinking of a life in which I would be having a 9 to 5 job with many off-days a year, marry early, have kids and then only work three days a week. I got that job at the National Institute of Public Health where it seemed to be generally accepted that civil servants really leave the office at 5 and in which I probably had 11 weeks of holiday a year. When I started my 2nd MSc degree, I could easily negotiate to have a day off per week. So I knew, that it would be easy to change it when there would be children. Also, I knew that a Dutch papa could take his papa-day each week or two-weeks. But things turned out so different…
Now in Tanzania
Here I am, having two children and a Tanzanian baba. The school is about 10km away from home and work. Besides the fact that part-time jobs don’t exist as such, we simply need to work fulltime to sustain our family. The Tanzanian baba is hard-working which means he is often not around and if he would be around, he would have fun with the kids, but that’s really it. The culture here is just different. So, I have to find the balance between the work and being mama. Sometimes I sneak out from the office to attend functions (at school) of the kids, but then I have to compensate to get the work finished by staying late (Let’s hope my boss won’t read this ;-)). In the weekends and holidays, I try to spend my time fully with the kids, but even that is not always possible after a busy week.
A working mama day
So how does that look like? Dada is of great help I have to say. When I wake up and get ready for breakfast, I normally find the kids have already had their bread with nutella and dressed up. Dada is doing the hair of our daughter who normally wakes up with one huge rasta-spiderweb on her head. Anti-tangle spray is a must. The kids go with our driver to school, while I drive or bike to work, depending on the season. After one hour, I rush to school for a function, like School chapel or presentations. With great joy, we watch the kids, but then I rush back to work. In the afternoon, I may receive a message from dada asking ‘what can I cook?’. I give her instructions. Around 1pm, I have a lunch of chipsi mayai (chips-omelet) or kuku choma (BBQ-chicken) or nothing. Somewhere between 5pm and 6pm, I drive down to town to pick up our daughter who had a play-date with her best friend. When we come home around 6:30pm, the food is almost ready. We eat, the kids bath and they go to bed. If baba is home, we have long conversations, but if not, I watch some series and fall asleep.
A working mama day looks busy and I sometimes feel like it is too much. But I do not see myself sitting at home without work. On the other side, I also do not see myself as a career guru without kids. And despite the Tanzanian baba being a Tanzanian baba, I cannot complain as he is a great baba to the kids and he is working hard for our family. And yes, having a driver and a dada make things a lot easier. I wouldn’t want to change the life that I have now.