Keep the mysterious and weird journey of working mothers in mind!

Perpetually mysterious, weird, and profound is motherhood to me. As a mother to four children, there are times when I feel like I know what I am doing. Times when I say stop, they actually listen and stop. Times when I try again, and it falls on deaf ears. That the role is constantly defined and undefined is part of the mystery. Nothing ever seems as it should. One minute a child might be crying for his drums or music instrument that you took away from him. The next minute he is perfectly serene playing with a party hat for example, while the drum and music instrument he just cried profusely for, sits quietly next to him. It’s this mystery that I want to keep like a third eye. Not to resolve it, but to stay vigilant to its gifts, to unravel its ways. It’s weirdness too is freedom especially when transformed to higher realities. For what is motherhood without an awakening of its many weird ways, an awakening of its wonder, even an awakening to the tyranny of descriptions that has plagued for centuries what it truly means to be good or bad. Like a third eye now, being a mother is forever mysterious, forever changing too, forever patient, forever being misunderstood, but forever full of possibilities.

This beautiful illustration by Ekene Kokelu personifies the mystery and weirdness of work and motherhood. Like a third eye, I am now awakened to all my possibilities, what lies hidden, underneath and along the margins.

Even in the middle of chaos, the patience through which we make sense of the chaos cannot be completely unraveled. What keeps this aspect of our lives interesting is that some of us, myself included, expect the chaos, as weird as it may seem. We widen out due to it, like a ripple in a river. We even learn to thrive with noise in the background. And the noise of a crying toddler can be huge. Life changing even when they attempt to cry and talk at the same time. But because life as a mother is fluid, I have no choice but to expect chaos whether from a 3 year old whose only recourse is to cry when things seem impossible or from a new baby whose happy place is to be tucked in your arms for all eternity. How then are we expected to work? Yet we do and do it to the best of our abilities. This is why the mystery of this phase continues to slowly occupy my reality. Slowly keep me vigilant to all its possibilities, it’s richness, it’s fullness, even what lies hidden, between, underneath, along the margins of life as a mother and life as an academic researcher.

I can be in the middle of a crazy crying spell that may last for one hour, trying to appease or please, or trying to be stern and unyielding. By the next hour, I am writing a near stellar specific aims page for a new grant. I maybe making plans for movie night, even spending an hour and 30 minutes watching Lorax for example with my children. The next hour, I am reviewing grants, exceptionally beautiful ones, for example, from impressive scholars focused on using geospatial science and machine learning to construct predictive models for disease outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa. This mystery, it’s possibilities, it’s richness and hidden dimensions are profound to me.

Enter, freedom. One thing that keeps this mystery going these days is freedom, both with my imaginations and my dreams and this blog full of what to keep. I am free to go anywhere and everywhere, and keep anything from my experience because of my children. They help set in motion my time for example, its limits and abundance. For when there is silence, time is abundant and I am free to do as I please. They also help frame my destiny. All the spectrum of chaos I encounter with them, helps me set in motion what matters, including how I hope to shape the world for them. For it is always about them, whether from the beginning or in the end. They are the touchbears of my legacy. The ones to tell the stories of who I was to the next generations and beyond. The ones to sustain the stories of my silence, my survival. And for that story to thrive, for the next generation to hear of it’s beginning, it’s resolution, it’s connections, it’s essence and become defined or not defined by it, keeps me alert.

The continents inside of mothers, the possibilities that resonate, even the chaos that abound along the endless journeys we take remains a weird mystery to me. Though we may have fixed perceptions of what this experience entails, even my life story is more mysterious to me with each passing day. My goal with each keep is to widen this mystery and embrace its weirdness. Not so you understand it as it can never be fully understood like with multiplications or divisions. Though many have outlined what they know in their heart motherhood entails, and I have no doubt that many resonate to their ideas. My goal with this keeplist is to push the boundary a bit more. To redraw the outlines, to probe a bit, or create tensions, all along the spectrum of weird. For isn’t this mystery with motherhood weird afterall, especially for us working mothers. That there might be good aspects to being weird mothers who work or even negative ones along a spectrum, is compelling to me. The steps I take along this journey, with all its mysterious weird ways, is freedom to me. So keep this mysterious and weird journey of working mothers in mind.

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