One of the fascinating things about parenthood is how it makes you reflect about your own life journey. It is like you are going through life for a second time through your children, and naturally the second time around you want to make it even more fulfilling and worthwhile. You don’t want your children to miss out on things that now in retrospect you wish you had experienced yourself but didn’t. And this reflection process can sometimes steer your own journey to a different path, which is what happened to me.
Over the past five years I have been reading a lot about child psychology and development. I have also been intrigued by cultures and how people from different cultures behave differently, since I am raising my daughters in a culture that is different from my own. Through my readings I learned how childhood is a huge determinant of the rest of one’s life and that human behavior (both good and bad) can almost always be traced back to one’s childhood and upbringing. This is both enthralling and terrifying. It is a huge responsibility, especially when there are so many factors that are out of one’s control.
Having lived most of my life in Egypt – where millions live in poverty, are illiterate, and have no access to adequate health services – I always knew I was extremely lucky to be part of the upper middle class, where my parents could afford to send me to a private school and we could pay to be treated in private clinics and hospitals when needed. After living in Zurich – one of the cities with the highest standards of living worldwide – over the last 10 years, that feeling of luck has taken on a whole new level. Every personal experience reminds me yet again how fortunate we are.
Perhaps the first of those experiences was during my pregnancy with Giggles and Cuddles. As I started the sixth month, I was at a risk of premature delivery and had to spend the last three months of my pregnancy at the University Hospital in Zurich. Thankfully my pregnancy reached full term and my twin daughters were born perfectly healthy. The quality of health care that I received, as well as the emotional and psychological support at such a public hospital, were unmatched, even when compared to private hospitals in the developing world. That experience left me wondering about the fate of similar pregnancies for mothers in developing countries and for babies that are born prematurely and the consequences that this would have for the rest of their lives. In my last post I wrote about another experience with the public education system here in Switzerland.
My experiences in Egypt led me to pursue a degree in economics followed by a career spent working for regional and international organizations whose ultimate goal is poverty reduction through the production and dissemination of policy relevant research. This was motivated by the plight of those less fortunate and whom I have personally witnessed through voluntary activities during my academic life and thereafter. Having Giggles and Cuddles and experiencing their childhood in Switzerland, realizing how formative the childhood years are and yet knowing that millions of children all over the world still struggle to survive, to get educated and have access to adequate health care, have led me to a new path. I now wish to narrow down my career in development and poverty reduction into a focus on children, so I have enrolled in a masters program on children’s rights.
I am excited and motivated yet I am anxious. I don’t know how I will manage studying while attending to the twins but I remind myself with poet/philosopher Rumi’s words: “Although the road is never ending, take a step and keep walking, do not look fearfully into the distance. On this path let the heart be your guide, for the body is hesitant and full of fear.”
By Didi in Zurich
Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.
Illustration by Lara Friedrich
Lara has been a freelance illustrator for Mothering Matters since early 2013. She is in her third year of University (majoring in Psychology) where she’s currently working as an assistant in a research project in pedagogy. Lara is also an assistant translator from German to English for various fiction books, and also works as a demo singer for the songwriter Kate Northrop.