A celebration of full time motherhood: Running the house is rocking fun!

By Sikhonzile Ndlovu

Sikhonzile or Skhoe to family and friends found her bliss taking a break from humanitarian work to being a full-time mom and wife. There’s fun and joy doing it!

3 March 2017 saw me leave the house at 5 am and head to Target stores in Gaithersburg, Maryland to wait in the line for the new Nintendo Switch in sub-zero degree temperatures.

This was such a proud moment in my life because I have never been clearer on what makes me happy and my purpose in life. I was one of two women in the line.

The few men around me asked if I was a gamer. I told them I was buying it for my 15-year old son. One of the guys said ‘Wow! He must really be a good boy.’ I said my children are boss!

It has been a year since I took this giant leap of faith! May not sound so big to someone else but to me it certainly has been life changing. I resigned from my job after nine straight years as a women’s empowerment advocate, packed the family’s bags and got on a plane to start a new life in the so called ‘land of opportunities’ the USA. One thing I was certain about as I got on that plane was that I wanted to dedicate time to my family, rest, and just enjoy life whatever that means. I have not regretted this decision.

I remember telling a friend of mine that I was finally going to be a woman of leisure. She could not hide her shock! She said ‘Skhoe you are so young, you should find something to do’. I am just surprised that our society doesn’t seem to appreciate that one can be something without necessarily having a full-time job. Have we become a people that define people’s worth based on professional engagement? Just asking!

Isn’t it a joy raising future leaders of the world? Who can argue and win with Sikhonzile on this? Yes, it is!

Just the other day a fellow church mate asked me what I do and I proudly said ‘I work for my family. I am a wife and a mother’. I could see the baffled look on her face! I then explained that I support my family and cater for their every need. Then the next question was, ‘so what exactly do you do?’

I used to be of that mindset too in the past. I never understood the great role that mothers play in this modern capitalist world. I thought all they ever do is sit and tweak their fingers the whole day, eat, sleep and let their brains rot! I have always viewed high sounding job titles as a measure of self -actualization.  But my experiences in the past year, have changed my thinking. I feel that most of us mothers don’t realise how much we are contributing to this world by just being there for these future leaders.

When one moves to a new place there are obvious adjustments for the whole family. Imagine your children coming from school to an empty house, in a new city, with no friends or family around. Who do they share their fears, successes and everyday experiences with? With the neighbor who will need ten minutes to just understand what they are saying?

My family will never forget how our son missed the school bus on his first day of school. Initially we got out of the house ahead of schedule, then the driver told us she was going to drive around and come back. Being a mother I then told my son to go back into the house and have his breakfast. When we came out the bus was gone. I had to ‘make a plan’ of course. If I wasn’t there who was going to make the plan?

You still can find use of those rock-killer heels … and get a wow from your children.

A few days ago I drove to three shopping malls in different parts of Maryland just because my son wanted a particular brand of sneakers. When I eventually found them, you should have seen the happy look on his face. So tell me, do I need to find something to do?

And the occasional trips to meet the counselors and teachers to just try and understand the curriculum. And the awards ceremonies and talent shows of course. These are a highlight because I dress up with my rock killer heels. The look on my daughter’s face when I walked into a talent show rehearsal at her school was priceless. She was beaming from ear to ear! She thinks we are friends… (rolling my eyes).

And guess what! I have learnt to braid her hair. When I told one of my sisters, she said ‘since when Skhoe?’ I may sound like a cheap skate, but do you want me to pay $200 for her braids and miss out on a bonding moment? When I say, ‘a daughter is a baby who grows up to be a friend’ I mean it. In the past I was too busy and missed out on opportunities to talk, laugh and just let life be. I am however, often subjected to those stories about her ‘on, off, on, off and on again’ friends.

In her book, ‘Mom and Me and Mom’ Maya Angelou recalls how during a difficult time in her life she called on her mom to fly from San Francisco to Stockholm just to support her. She says, “This is the role of the mother. Not just because she feeds, loves and cuddles a child…but because in an interesting and eerie way, she stands in the gap. She stands between the known and the unknown.” Sounds familiar?

Being head of the Spousal Unit is mastering the job of a one-woman team. It’s a great skill to learn.

Besides being a mother, am also a wife! Just the other day I was telling my husband that I should add ‘Head of the Spousal Unit’ to my name. He asked how many people are in my unit. It doesn’t matter, the important thing is that I am the head!

My job description includes being a ‘wardrobe consultant, psychologist, massage therapist, meal planner, sounding board and my favourite editor in chief’ among many others. I am also a partner when my husband needs to think things through or someone to give him perspective. And yes, I joyfully run to and from the dry cleaners every so often before and after major trips and engagements.

The other night I sat up past midnight because I had to prep my husband for a major US Congress testimony. After editing, I made the poor guy do the speech eight times. Literally! Call me queen of mean but when he came out of those Senate Chambers, he had a spring in his step! Keeps my brain active.

People who have worked in gender circles would ask why someone so committed to women’s empowerment would then leave their job and ‘give up their independence’. But nothing has been more fulfilling than hearing my children sing in the house, cheering them on, looking at their school reports, just sitting together every evening, telling jokes and laughing about everything and nothing.

The former FLOTUS Michelle Obama showed the world that playing that important role of mother and wife does not reduce one’s status in society.

 

Independence as a woman is enjoying the fulfillment in motherhood and in running a happy household. There are many ways to define it but for Sikhonzile, family comes first.

Sikhonzile is a gender, media and communications specialist, mother and wife. She is currently taking a break from full time work.

I am the first Yazidi actress to star in a lead role and my first reaction was “Oh, no way!”

Dejin’s dream found her; and never let her go until she said yes. Some girls are just born with their silver spoon waiting for them.

By Dejin Jamil

I smashed a glass ceiling. It felt very similar to breaking borders.

I should perhaps add, I raised the bar for Yazidi women when I said “yes” to star in a film. I did not even realize that the break handed to me on a silver platter can also open the door wide – and on screen, so to speak, for all the women in the world.

I am an aid worker for four years in Duhok, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, working in the camps for the internally displaced people coming from the conflict zones in northern Iraq. I run an education and protection project for children and youth.

This project always gives me mixed feelings. I am sad to see children, women and men of my country displaced by the war, in the process losing family members and relatives. This kind of sadness is painful and indescribable.

On the other hand, I feel happy when I go to the camps and see how strong and resilient the Iraqi families are. It gives me joy to provide support, share in their sad and happy moments. I love it when I go with the children as they gather around me. Many of them would say, “Hey, we saw you on TV! We are proud to see a Yazidi woman as an actress.”

My journey in doing movies began with a friend telling me that a Kurdish friend of hers who is a film director was looking for a woman to act in his film. They need someone who can speak both Kurdish “Badini” and English. She said, “I thought of you.”

Many girls dream of walking in the red carpet. Dejin proved it is possible to make that dream come true.

I immediately said, “Oh, no way!” This came out of my mouth without even weighing the merits of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was also certain that my parents would not allow me to join the film.

The Yazidi men are very conservative. Thinking they will be restricted to do what they want anyway, the women in turn have created their own barriers. But there are also other reasons for such concerns like fear for the safety of their lives and those of their daughters’.

Days after, I told my mom Fairoz, I added that I said no. Surprisingly she said, “Why not?” My mom then said, “I once dreamed to become an actress. At least you will make it come true.” My heart almost screamed. I cannot believe she wanted me to do it. I thought my mom would never support me.

My mom later told my father who never had any adverse reaction. I know he is more open-minded compared to her. The Kurdish fathers love to spoil their daughters.

My worries extended to what the bigger Yazidi and Kurdish community will think. I was concerned of talks about my reputation and that of my family’s. Working with too many men and being on screen are often frowned upon.

Nevertheless, when something is for you, it mysteriously finds a way. Visiting a neighbor, my parents learned that he knows the director and is a good friend. They discussed my refusal to star for the film and he told my parents to encourage me assuring that the director is a very good one and famous among Kurds.

Dejin with Mano Khalil, the first director who gave her a break in the film The Swallow.

My mom told me about the conversation in their visit. That gave me courage. I immediately contacted my friend who was also was having a small part in the movie to tell the director that I am interested. The director turned out to be Mano Khalil, a multi-awarded Kurdish-Syrian director whose documentary film The Beekeeper gained numerous acclaims.

My acceptance, I later learned, was a great news for the director and for the film crew as well, as they struggled to find someone who can match their requirements for the film. No many women are keen to do a movie because of family and traditional restrictions. I am fortunate my family is among those who are open-minded.

What happened next was almost surreal. My “yes” gave me two major roles in films by famous and well-respected directors.

In my first film by Kurdish Syrian director Mano Khalil The Swallow, I played a sister of a man on his 30th who falls in love with a half-Kurdish and half-Swiss girl who came to Kurdistan to look for her father.  During deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s time, her father was the reason why our own father got killed. My brother wanted to take revenge on her, but later falls for her.

My second was A Dream Before Dying (currently on post-production work) by acclaimed director Fekri Baroshi. My role was that of a Peshmerga soldier’s wife. While my husband was fighting the war, I was at home taking care of a sick father and son. This film shows how the dire conditions of the country and soldiers’ lives during the war. It also affirms the strength of Kurdish women left behind as their husbands serve the country, many of them becoming widows. My husband also dies in the movie.

In the film A Dream Before Dying, Dejin plays the role of a Kurdish woman married to a soldier fighting in the war in Iraq.

My first shooting of the first film was in April 2014 in Amedi district. The scene was welcoming my brother and meeting his Swiss girlfriend for the first time. Honestly, I was very nervous because that was my first time to stand in front a camera for a film. I once worked as a presenter in a TV channel but this was different.

The making of the second film is very emotional for me. The theme upholds the strength the Kurdish nation standing up to a group that is also a threat to the whole world. The films shows the sacrifice of men and women for the country and the people. I take pride in showing the courage and suffering of a Kurdish woman in this movie.

When I was around nine years old, I already dreamed of becoming a movie star. I would try to organize a movie shoot along with my younger sister Vajin, assigning my brother Danar as the camera operator. I would act as the director and at the same time take up the role of my father, hilariously imitating him. My parents found the short video we produced as very funny and shared it with my uncle in Germany.

My mom and I shared the same dream of becoming an actress. She did not have the chance. I almost buried mine without thinking. Looking back, I am so happy and proud that I took the challenge with the support of my parents. I take pleasure in the fact that I am sharing the achievement with my mother.

The highlight of these all was gracing the Solothurn Film Festival in Switzerland. I was nervous to be on the red carpet for the  first time in my life. It was also my first time to be in the country. So many strangers surrounded me but I did my best to be confident and show my best.

My parents and the whole family were very proud of me. While in the film festival in Switzerland, not many Yazidis and even Kurdish people got to know I was in a film. Most of the European audience were interested in the content of the film.

But when it was shown in Duhok Film Festival on September 2016, I got a lot of attention from media as a new Kurdish and the first Yazidi actress. For me that was an affirmation that my people are proud of me.

I have learned that I can lead the way for other women to achieve their dreams if I take the courage to say yes to an opportunity. In a way I am opening the door so others can follow. I should not be scared of what I want to do and always believe in myself. Belief in one’s self is very important. I finally realized a major lesson – that life is about taking chances; and taking the courage when daunting opportunities knock in our doors.

Dejin’s passion for her work and pursuit for her dreams is infectious. Crossing boundaries and breaking barriers must be in the to-do list of every woman. She has proven it can be done.

Dejin Jamil continues to work as World Vision’s Project Coordinator, Education and Protection Project for two Child Friendly Learning Spaces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

@ 52: Over to the next journey

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Before you scroll down the page, I advise you to read this old blog so you are properly warned.

I have something to tell you. When I got to my 30’s, I imagined it will be a downhill rollercoaster-ride. When they say life begins at 40, I felt that’s a bad joke to appease people getting there.

Today, I turn 52 but I feel like I am 22 and life has just began. Okay, that’s cheesy. Let’s try this – my life is going full circle and the best thing is, it’s going the way I wanted it to be.

Age is in the mind. I have a five-decade experience figuring that so you better believe me.

If you want to run the race and win it, it doesn’t really matter if you are 18 or 78. It’s what you think you can. For me, life got more exciting when I went past my 30’s. Honestly. The children grew – there was less baby-sitting to do.

Not perfect but they are nice kids. I could complain, and nag, but deep inside I tell myself I’m lucky. I started early at 18, and that gave me a wide head-start at being mom.

It was exhilarating to have landed a job in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq this year. I never even planned or much less imagined a tour of duty in the Middle East! Think of the wide-eyed reaction of people around me. They know better than to argue.

travelBut when I got the offer, I know I will go. Have you gone through a time when everyone disagreed with but you know you have to? (My kids would probably tell you, ‘You do it all the time, Mom!’)

I have this one nagging feeling that God’s promise of the best that is yet to come is a never-ending assignment. Fancy that!

I wanted 2015 to be more on giving back and enjoy what God wants me to do. He never fails to surprise.

When things get rough at times, our conversation would be – “Well, God, You’re preparing me for something bigger, don’t you?” All the time, He does.

Last Thursday on my way from Sulaymaniyah to Erbil, I was suddenly flushed with joy at the thought of how privileged I am to be entrusted with the stories of the Iraqi people. I can only salute their strength and endurance that’s so hard to match.

I am a thousand miles away coming from Asia to the Middle East and I was brought here. It is a special assignment delivered on a silver platter. You know it arrived the time I was doing round-the-clock media interviews for Typhoon Hagupit in the Philippines?

There must be a special reason why – and at 52 and onward – I intend to live it. If you know me quite well, you know I will.

Don’t dread getting into your 50’s. That’s when the real fun starts!

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