Dalal and her family.
Before I had my daughter, my idea of motherhood was a mix of other people's opinions and stories. It was memories of my own childhood and half-recalled promises about what I'd do differently. It was assumptions and judgements. It wasn't real.
Then, Zeina was born and suddenly it was.
And it's so much more than I ever imagined: more challenging, more rewarding, more consuming, more exhausting and more beautiful.
Motherhood is not all-defining, but it does change your identity.
And while being a mother looks different for my mom in Palestine, for the mothers I have the privilege of working with in Ecuador and Kenya, and for me in Canada, motherhood is universal. One simple fact unites us.
We all want what's best for our children. We all want our kids to be compassionate and kind. We want them to live in a better world—one that gives them more opportunity, more access and more choice than we have.
On Mother's Day, let's remember that all parents and caregivers have dreams for their children that help make the world a better place.
When I found out I was going to be a mom, I was overcome by a hurricane of questions about whether I was ready. When I held my daughter for the first time, I was humbled by the weight of my new responsibility in the seven pounds and 15 ounces in my hands. And when I'd wake in the middle of the night to listen to her heartbeat and feel her breath, I felt the anxiety wash away.
Mothers are bound to each other—in humility, in doubt and in triumph. More than anything, we share the nagging hope that we are doing a good job.
My mother lived with that doubt and hope while raising four children in Kuwait and later in Gaza. When she had a chance to go to Lebanon to take a course in early childhood education to further her career, she turned it down, sacrificing an opportunity in her life so we had more in ours. And when she encouraged me to be one of the few girls to leave our community and study abroad, her strength helped me defy the odds—even when it hurt her to see me go.
I see that same strength in my friend Monica Chebbet, or "Momma Monica" as she's known in her community in Kenya. A councilwoman—and the only woman on the Narok County Assembly—when Monica speaks she commands attention and shows young women they have a voice. Unlike so many mothers I know, she doesn't feel pressure to do it all or have it all. She's not worried about the Instagram images of other mothers glowing through pre-natal yoga. She stands at the head of her community, championing women's education and financial literacy because she knows that her daughter's future lies in these issues.
A mother's dream of a better future for her children is what makes moms around the world such a powerful force for good. It's part of what motivates me in my work. It's what motivated my mom when she helped me cut my own path. It's what motivates Monica as a councilwoman in Kenya. It's what motivates moms around the world, fighting to have a choice and chart their own path.
In my two years as a mom, I've felt overwhelmed and excited at times, and doubtful and frustrated at others. Like all moms, I've had moments of embarrassment and I've felt judged for my choices. I've gained a new appreciation for my own mother and I've learned lessons from my own daughter.
More than anything, I've come to appreciate what unites all mothers around the world. It doesn't matter if we're called um or mama. In Arabic, Swahili or English, Mom means the strength and persistent force to provide a better life for our children.
Time—there is never enough of it. Moms understand this better than anyone. What if you were given a slice of time back in your day? Rose, a single mom in Kenya, is living her dream to play football with the time she’s earned back by partnering with WE. Watch her children surprise her with a thank you for all the time she’s devoted to them.