6 May 2013

Guest Post: A Congo Mama Retrospective

During our first week in Congo, my new neighbor, Marilyn Gorenflo stopped by to bring the most delicious "Welcome to the Neighborhood" chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. I'm sure they were excellent cookies in their own right, but after just touching down in Congo for the first time, nothing could have tasted better. Four years later, after Marilyn and her family left Congo, Jill moved into Marilyn's house. It's a small Congo Mama world!

Here Marilyn shares her perspective on living a "good enough"/great life. And raising great third culture kids
In a recent Friday List, Sarah mentioned that she was struck by the article, “Why Women Should Embrace a ‘Good-Enough’ Life” by Elsa Walsh. She then asked for perspective from those of us who were closer to the end of raising our children. I find it hard to believe that I fit into that category, but with three daughters in high school, it’s hard to deny.

Christiana, Sarah and Rachel. 2002

Every woman’s situation is unique. Our decisions about career, marriage, and children are influenced by the opinions of our parents, the financial and emotional support of our husbands, and the careers we choose. With that in mind, I can only reflect on what my life has been and cannot presume to make decisions for other women.

Let’s start with the fact that I never had aspirations to be the CEO of a major corporation. In fact, my dreams involved teaching, living overseas…and being a wife and mother.

At a time when women are encouraged to “lean in,” to focus on our careers, and put work before family, I recognize that I have consistently put family before work. For that, I have no regrets. My career has included a patchwork of part-time teaching jobs since our girls were born. I realize a bit wistfully that I will never achieve a doctorate and become the university professor I had sometimes dreamed of being. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed each job I’ve had and have felt that I was making a difference in people’s lives through my teaching. What a blessing!

If I had “leaned in” and kept my career on track for the last twenty years, working full time, pushing hard to get my doctorate and become a tenured professor, would we have had the freedom to pick up and move to England, then Quebec, then the Congo? Perhaps not. That would have been a huge regret! I treasure our years overseas, and the girls consider themselves world citizens, very grateful for their chance to live outside the USA, to travel, and to have friends from dozens of countries.

Do I have regrets about the path I’ve chosen? No, I don’t. Because of my choices, I am better able to be the anchor that keeps our family together, particularly important with a husband who travels frequently. Once again, I had choices that many women do not have. If I had had to work to provide for my family, my decisions would have been forcibly different.

All grown up.

For me, I look back on my twenty-four years of marriage and eighteen years of motherhood with no regrets. My favorite career so far is ending, though, and I will so miss these little girls who have grown up to be great friends.

We heard from several other moms who are "just ahead" of us in this raising children thing. We want to hear your perspective too! Email us at our fancy new address: blogmamacongo@gmail.com.

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