‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” ~ The Velveteen Rabbit
On a random day last week, I had a moment. I was battling a severe bout of gastro. My baby had bronchiolitis and had not slept in 2 or 3 nights ergo I had not slept for 2 or 3 nights. When he was awake, the baby was breathing shallowly, barely eating and wanted to be held by his mummy all the time. One of my projects at work had imploded so completely the only way to describe it would be to say that the proverbial house was on fire. My e-mail box was sitting at 3245 unread emails. On top of all that, my assignment for the HR course I am currently studying was due at 11pm that night.
I did my best. I really did. Somewhere around 10pm after finally settling the baby down as comfortably as possible, I opened my online classroom and I saw that the estimated time on both assignments was 150mins+ and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. There was not a shred of superwoman left in me. A part of me wanted to give up on studying altogether right there and then. Most of me wanted to just curl up and give up on all of it to be honest. I knew that if 11pm came and went and I had not submitted anything, I would automatically fail the module but I didn’t have it in me to take one more step.
So I closed my laptop, switched off the light and lay down. I was ready to give up.
As I lay quietly in the dark listening to my poor baby’s uncomfortable breathing and the dull ache in my stomach, I thought about all those mothers with incomplete Masters Degrees under their belts. I thought about the mothers with great business ideas that they start but do not follow through on. I thought about the mums tearing through the mall after work, right before closing time, putting together a costume for “this or that” day at school tomorrow. I thought about the mums whose progress at work slows to a crawl after they have a baby because they just can’t put in the same amount of work. I thought about every working parent trying so hard to be here, there and everywhere.
I thought about the grand-canyon-size-gap between the aspiration and the reality of what is required to get there and I felt tired. I completely understood how easy it would be to just lay the mantle down… to pause to catch one’s breath and just stay at that little rest stop for life. I understood it and I didn’t judge it. In fact, I wanted to embrace it with both arms. I needed it.
But then, from somewhere behind the cloud of feeling so completely overwhelmed, a little voice reminded me of my why. Why am I doing this? What are we trying to build? What do I want for my little human? What do I want for me? It didn’t say much really.
All it said was, it’s ok to be tired. It’s ok to not be able to take one more step. It’s ok to say ‘I can’t be superwoman today.’ It’s ok to say ‘not today, I must rest.’ Just don’t give up altogether.
So at a quarter to 11pm, I re-opened my laptop, opened an email and wrote an honest e-mail to my lecturer:
I am one of your students in the HRM Course. While I am thoroughly enjoying the course, this week has overwhelmed me completely because my one-year-old son has bronchiolitis, I have gastro and I am over-extended at work. As a result, I have not been able to meet the academic requirements of the courses within the specified time. I would hate to compromise my grades by submitting poor work for the sake of ticking the box. On the other hand, I feel overwhelmed and I am contemplating withdrawing from or deferring the course. Is there any way you can assist me with an extension or an adjustment to my deadline. I desperately need to catch my breath.
After I sent it, I lay down and I rested. The journey will continue…just not today.
5 Comments Add yours
Thank you once again for telling the story on behalf of countless women. Those days we realize we are less than superhuman can be crushing but we can’t be all things at all times for all people and grasping that wisdom is the beginning of so many victories and some disappointments. I hope your professor replied positively 🙂
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Now there is bravery
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Omg thank you, i am one of the mothers who have put their MBA studies on hold , was really feeling overwhelmed , jus needed to rest. I hope it went well with the professor.
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I thought about this comment a lot these past few weeks and when I heard Dr Puleng Makhoalibe being interviewed on radio I knew I had to tell you about her. Now a superstar in her field with an MBA etc, one would never guess that it took her 7 years to do her degree while she was raising her babies and trying to be there for them. Her journey to her qualification was slow but when I checked every single one of her bios online, noone is talking about that. They talk about where she arrived. So do what you need to do at a pace that works for you and you will get there in your own time and it will be perfect.