I read once that as working men and women, we risk defining ourselves by our jobs. When we lose a job, we lose sense of who we are.  I was very conscious of the fact, and held on to who I was despite positions I held over the years.  However, when it came to my “job” or role as a mother, the change took me by surprise.

Tala's move into her Freshman Dormroom

It did not occur to me that it would be so difficult when the change in role came about.  Here I was getting ready to send off my first born to University. I felt proud of her accomplishments, of what she has become as a balanced young adult, of how independent she has grown to be.  The day she moved into the dorms, it hit me, like a ton of bricks! We pulled up into the line of cars waiting to unload eager freshmen and all their belongings into their dorms; me, my brother Omar, Aboudi and Tala sat in the car waiting. I felt a lump in my throat, I couldn’t contribute to their light-hearted conversation. I was overcome with a heavy feeling, one that I couldn’t understand. It felt like years of holding back emotions. I felt overwhelmed, afraid, sad; a sense of loss that I couldn’t explain.  Here I should be happy for Tala entering a new chapter. Instead, all I could think of is, I’m alone..and I don’t know what I am to do or be next!

My life since I turned 23 has been defined by my two blessings, Tala & Aboudi.  I made career choices based on what was good for them at the time. My choice of where to live, who to befriend, our activities, travels, food, weekend pass times and so much more were selected by what the kids liked or what was good for them.  This was the case despite having to work extra hard to make these decisions and choices after Emad and I divorced, since he did what suited him, and one of us had to make certain sacrifices.

And so with Tala moving into her new life, and Aboudi getting ready to follow next year, I must move into mine. One that is defined by what I want to do. Do I know what I want to do? Do I know who I am aside from being a mom? If I chose to work in the UAE to be with the kids, does it make sense for me to remain there when they’re gone? Where would I want to live? Do I follow them everywhere they go? What if Aboudi chooses a University in a different city?

I am certain I’m not the only parent out there who is going through these feelings. The combination of being alone, without a partner, living in the UAE to bring the kids closer to their father, but having no real other reason to remain there, having lost the family hub in DC and spending my last 18 years arranging my life according to the children’s needs makes it seem a bit unique.