Here is an exchange I’m only gradually getting used to:
“What do you do?”
“I’m a stay at home mom.”
To be fair, this answer has its benefits, especially when it comes to getting security clearance in Israel. Terence and I must look like the least sketchy people on the planet, because we are constantly being fast tracked through security lines. When they find out I’m “just” a mom, the guards smile and wave me through.
Before we moved here, I was terrified of two things. The first, Terence nicknamed “Is/Pal all the time.” How would the political conflict (about which I had, and still have, so much to learn) dominate daily living? I wasn’t worried for my safety, but would anyone talk about anything else? My second fear was being a full-time mom after six years as a working parent. Although in theory I passionately wanted to spend this year with my girls before they really grew up, I freaked out about the reality of it. Where would I find the patience? How would losing my professional identity feel? Would I have anything to talk about, anyway?
The transition has been a mixed bag. Some days, just living here is so stimulating that I don’t feel like I stay-at-home mom, I feel like a discover-Jerusalem-woman (occasionally with kids in tow). But I’ve had several experiences lately of feeling…..Dumb? Inarticulate? Inferior? Like all I have to offer a conversation is stories about my kids, and what I know beyond that is not really relevant. No one here cares about educational leadership in Delaware.
So many people here have life and professional experiences I cannot even imagine. Take my new book group, a group of expatriate women. At one point in the last meeting, I realized that I was the only person who had neither lived in, nor considered moving to, Cairo. Or a dinner party we attended last week in which another guest was an extraordinary charismatic NGO leader from Gaza. In that company, I’m going to learn all I can…and keep quiet.
Maybe my two original fears are getting conflated. I’m unfamiliar with the world surrounding me, and my own role in it feels so shrunken. This isn’t exactly a bad feeling — I’m learning so much in each of these experiences — but I need to work on keeping my confidence, I think.