A Letter to My Daughter

Posted in Dear Lala, Motherhood with tags , , on June 5, 2012 by Farrah Haidar

Dear Lala,

I think it is inevitable that, one day, you will look at me say – why didn’t you do more with your life? After all, I did that to my mother.  “We would have been fine,” I said. “You should have made yourself happy.” Youth has a way of looking at things with more enthusiasm than empathy.

You may not realize this but there was a time when I was not your mother; when I was young and accomplished; when I still believed in the myth of the supermom (CEO by day; Betty Crocker by evening; and siren at night); when what I did mattered more than how I could manage to do it; when I was impulsive, fierce and carefree.

To have you, I rearranged things. It wasn’t that I stopped building my career. It was that flexibility often trumped interest. Things like benefits, sick days and childcare became important. I struck out on my own in an effort to own my time and therefore manage you better.  I told myself that this would be temporary.

And now that temporary time has officially come to an end.  I find myself scanning job descriptions; wondering if I am still relevant despite the work I have done; if I am going to be able to keep up with it all; if I should just stay as a I am – a half breed of stay-at-home-mom and independent professional.

If I choose to go back into the thick of things, I think about all the things you will miss out on. I think about you in five years – an after-school program instead of the swimming classes you really wanted; in ten years, a young teenager coming home to an empty house.

And I think about me too. I think about all the things that I will miss out on. I think about all the times when I would want to be there and I can’t. I think about how many hours there are in the day and how little will be left over for me.

If I stay in this half-half state, I think about how it will affect us financially. I think about how I may never have the career I dreamed of.  I think about how I can teach you to pursue your dreams if I have abandoned mine. I wonder if you will look at me and say, like I did to my mom, “You should have done it.”

But, the moment that really haunts me is the day you walk out the door to college. I look around – and what will there be?

I’ve asked around too. From women who gave up everything and regretted it to women who kept their careers and wished it was different to women who the combination of career and kids cost them their marriage, and maybe more. In the end, the message is clear – something or someone has got to give. And I fear that, given the financial realities of our lives and society’s expectations, that person, by default, is me.

I can’t write this without thinking about all the mothers who don’t have the luxury of this decision. And it is a luxury. But, it’s also a curse. There’s no getting away from this one. The full burden of this decision and its consequences fall solely on me. And I have to walk the fine line of choosing who or what to sacrifice. The truth is that no matter what I choose, I will feel like I have failed. And that is the hardest thing for me to accept.

The other day, someone asked me to imagine myself 20 years from now, having lived a fulfilled life.  Then, they said, “Look back on the last 20 years, what do you see?” I saw work. I saw accomplishment. I saw hectic, crazy days but, most of all, I saw you. I saw lots and lots of you.

Change is Afoot

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2012 by Farrah Haidar

When I first started this blog, I was searching for something. Probably something that couldn’t be found in a blog.  I wrote about drifting, cocooning, fighting.

Recently, it feels like a slow awakening. You know that moment when you open your eyes after a deep sleep and you just want to hang out for a while watching the sun stream through your window? Right in that moment, the day seems hopeful and possible.

Like the title states, change is afoot. And I am sure those changes will be reflected in my posts. Stay tuned.

To my daughter, on love

Posted in Dear Lala on February 24, 2012 by Farrah Haidar

The romantic will tell you that love is instantaneous passion and undying devotion.
The cynic will tell you that love is nothing beyond a chemical reaction in your brain.
The disillusioned will tell you that it never lasts.

Don’t believe them.

The romantic degrades himself and his lover with his fearful need for perfection.
The cynic denies his soul.
And the disillusioned is merely feasting on his bitterness.

I will tell you that love is endurance. It’s seeds sometimes taking root in the most inhospitable soils.  The secret is not in the first sprout or the flowering. That is the merely beginning, an almost inevitable completion of a cycle that, once started, propels itself forward.

The secret, my daughter, is in surviving the winter.  In knowing what it is to stand proud and full, a blooming product of tending and care and, then, to be stripped down to your bare essentials; to be a mere shell of what previously was.  To stand defiant, refusing to surrender to the cold bereavement of times past.

Then, to promise to flower again.  To do that, not once, but many times over. Each time bringing with it a change in your colors, regardless of what you dreamed your colors will be.

To know that it is all just a cycle.
To know that you can endure.
To know that is to love.


Life and Death

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2011 by Farrah Haidar

It’s my back that feels the worst. Hovering over Lara’s table, I feel like I went one to one with a mugger and came out the loser.

On Tuesday, a friend surrendered to the reality that there is no cure for her cancer.
On Wednesday, another friend gave birth to her second child.
On Friday, my friend lost her battle with cancer.

Lara looks at me and says, “Mommy tired?”

“Yes, baby, Mommy’s tired.”

I thread my fingers through Lala’s locks, thinking about all the moments one friend will miss; about all the moments the other has to discover.

Life and death. Joy and pain.

“Mommy hurt?” Lara says, pointing at a scratch on my hand. The scratch is nothing but my skin feels itchy and raw.

“No, honey.  I am fine. And you – you’re just perfect.” I flood her face with kisses, holding on to her as best I can.

The Talk That Never Was

Posted in Uncategorized on May 24, 2011 by Farrah Haidar

I had marked it on my calendar, set up the reminders and convinced Abdo that we could bring Lala. (After all, we haven’t trained our new babysitter yet.) Wael Ghonim, the man who helped start an inspiring revolution, was coming to Boston and I wanted to hear him speak.

Entering the hushed and crowded room filled with eager minds and bright ideas brings a moment of clarity. What was I thinking bringing an active toddler to this?  Blaming sleep deprivation, Abdo and I debate our options.

“Stay, it seems you are interested in this,” he says while holding a squirming Lala in his arms.

I am tempted to take him up on the offer.  My mind flies back to the past weekend – nephew’s graduation and family in town; the weekend before – two work engagements; the week nights in between – blogging, working, catching up and an illness; and Abdo and Lala – there and always waiting. She smiles, innocent and trusting that I will make the right decision.

I shake my head and start pushing the stroller back to the car.

Winding my way through traffic, I couldn’t help but think how different this decision would have been a mere few years ago. We would have attended the talk, chatted with acquaintances and friends, maybe grabbed a quick bite to eat at one of our local haunts recounting what we had heard, swapping ideas and laughing. Urban chic at its finest.

Instead, we head home and my night begins to unfold – pull together dinner, answer Lala’s excited demands, pick up the house, wash dishes, talk to my nephew, get her into bed. Suburban geek on an urban chic backdrop.

I find myself wallowing in memories of what was, remembering when things were simpler if not exactly carefree.  Compared to then, the precarious balance my life seems both miraculous and explosive. I bite my tongue against a sudden flow of resentment.

Will balancing the complicated facets of my life ever get easier?  When does self-care turn selfish? And how can I know that I am making the right decisions?

I don’t want to have to choose what matters most anymore. I just want it to be simpler. Easier. Straightforward.

But, it’s not. I kiss Lala’s face and tuck her in.

I’ve got to train that babysitter.

I Became a Mom, not Brain-Dead

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2011 by Farrah Haidar

Recently, Sheryl Crow revealed that rock legend Stevie Nicks advised her “not to have babies, ’cause you’ll never write a great song again.”

Yesterday, Zuhairah Scott wrote an article in Forbes where she responds to an article from an angel investor stating, “A pregnant woman is going to fail her company.”

As I read through the comments (read Jessica Jackley’s response to Paige – it’s excellent), there are a couple things that strike me.

  1. Many of the responders aren’t parents. They have a presumption of what parenthood is like (just like I did) but no real idea.  They see only the negative, not the positive.
  2. Women bear the brunt of the generalization disproportionately.
  3. Finally, it’s about more than just being a parent. It’s about how much of your private life you’re willing to turn over to your business.

Ever since I became a mom, I have felt the subtle changes in friends, family and clients. The reactions have run the gamut from positive to insulting to presumptuous but always well intended. In response, I spent the first two yeras of my daughter’s life hitting insane goals just to prove I could still do it.  In that time, I quadrupled the donations of my non-profit client, took another client to winning the Small Business of New England ‘s Innovation Awards, took 2nd place in a story-telling contest, performed in a show about motherhood and taught a class on media relations – all on 30 hours of childcare.

Was it easy? No.  But, it was what I wanted to do.  So, I made it happen.

What enough mothers (and fathers) don’t get credit for is the laser focus that a child brings into your life.  There is no bigger trade-off than saying – I am not spending time with my child for this. Is it worth it?  If you are an entrepreneur who is dedicated to what you are doing and loves it, the answer will always be yes.

Asking myself that question has really made me look at my life and re-prioritize things.  I find myself picking and choosing projects more selectively, making sure to only work on projects that I have true passion for which, of course, raises the quality of the work I deliver and, subsequently, my happiness.

There is no denying that a child changes things but any good entrepreneur or professional plans for those changes. They make sure they a support system to help them through it.  I don’t see why professionals should be lost to the world the minute they become parents.  That would be detrimental to small businesses in particular and our society in general.

I also strongly feel that the new wave of “mom power” contributes to this problem.  Although I love how motherhood is celebrated, motherhood becomes your sole identity rather than one part of a much more complicated and nuanced person.  And that is where the danger lies.

As a final point, I think it’s important to draw the line on how much your business owns you.  Honestly, this is where a more feminine perspective is useful.  Yes, you should be dedicated to your business. But, are you a better founder when you don’t have a life? I have been surrounded by entrepreneurs my whole life and those that sacrificed everything for their business may or may not have been successful, but they were rarely happy.

And if it doesn’t bring you joy, what’s the point anyway?

Massmouth Finals

Posted in Celebrations, Writing on April 18, 2011 by Farrah Haidar

The lights are bright. I close my eyes, intent on gathering my thoughts and my energy as a tiny voice screams in my head, “Why in God’s name are you doing this?”

This is the massmouth semi-finals. I took part in my first slam a short month before as a creative outlet. When they told me I qualified for the semi-finals, I was like “semi-what?”

I never intended to get here. My only desire had been to share a story about my dual identity and how confusing it is to be from two places. But, I can’t help but soak it all in. Waiting in the wings while listening to the chatter of other tellers feels right, natural.

As my turn approaches, I stretch my neck and arms. I expected the butterflies to be worse but, as I walk out of the wings, the stage is like familiar ground. I refuse the microphone stand. I don’t want anything between the audience and me.

The timer starts. The hardest part of this whole affair has been cutting the story down from five minutes to three. You can’t just talk faster. Telling a story involves timing, pace, allowing the audience to absorb an emotion before you move on to the next segment. You must imagine that you are dragging them through the muck of your own experience. Too fast and they miss the sights. Too slow and you bore them. Do it right and they will come with you, willingly, joyfully.

Rehearsing pays off. I am able to put the time from my mind, as I know that my story will take me exactly ten seconds into my grace period.

The best part about telling a story is the audience’s reaction and this audience is wonderful. They listen intently allowing me to fill them with a little bit of my experience. And it pushes me to give them more of what is in my heart.

I can hear the applause as I walk off the stage. My fellow tellers are both supportive and encouraging. There is no competitiveness, despite it being a game. We are all in this together and you couldn’t ask for more graciousness.

When they announce my name as one of the four tellers to move on the finals, I am both humbled and ecstatic. I can’t imagine being a massmouth judge.

So, finals are now a short ten days away. For me, being in the competition is enough. But, if I am really honest, the week at a medieval Tuscan townhouse doesn’t sound too bad either.

After all, God knows I need a vacation.