When we moved to the ME almost 8 years ago, we were planning to invest three years of our life into my husband's career for a chance to set enough aside for that much sought-after investment: Freedom 55, aka 'easy, early retirement'.
What we didn't count on was that I would land a great job and that Smilin' Vic would be offered a contract extension that would entice us to stay an extra three years. We decided that the extra three years would be a good opportunity to invest in Kiddo's early education, and enrolled her in a top-notch school with a reputation not only for developing young minds, but also for instilling core values into every aspect of campus life.
We certainly didn't count on sticking around beyond that initial six years. But when the time came, we asked ourselves 'Why not take the opportunity to stick around a bit longer to indulge in the great opportunities to travel from this part of the world. Let's invest in adventure. At the same time Kiddo loves her school, and she's getting a great education. And we've got good jobs. And Canada will still be there when we get back ... so why not stay a few more years?''
And so it's gone ... one investment in time leading to another ... not an uncommon tale for many long-time Doha expats.
And while all those investments are great, over time I've found myself investing less and less in 'Me'. I keep on putting off that annual check-up at the doctor's; I push back getting my roots dyed by a week and then two, thinking I may as well wait 'til they're really grey and it's really worth it; I delay hitting the gym or getting on the treadmill because I should probably be spending more time at work or with Kiddo; I deny myself sleep because there are dishes to clean or blog posts to write or chores to do.
Like many a mom and a wife in Doha and around the world, I find myself pushing aside things that would make me feel so much better about myself, opting instead for something I figure will make everyone else happy but won't really.
Little things like private bathroom time; why is it that every time I step into the shower I hear a piercing 'Maman!!!!!!!!!' calling me from downstairs? When did I start letting that happen? I don't think I've ever once said 'Bathroom time is my time; don't call out to me unless the house is on fire'. The one place that was a bastion of privacy before giving birth has now become the one place everyone knows they can grab my undivided attention.
Or telephone time. Every. single. time. You can be guaranteed that the moment I start getting engaged in a phone conversation with a sister or a friend is the very moment Smilin' Vic will start waving his arms desperately in the air to signal something 'I just can't miss' on TV, or perhaps a missing set of keys that he needs 'right now'.
When exactly did I give up those little moments? What I know is that it is in fact 'Me' who gave them up. No one took them from me; I just gave them, and realised a little too late that I wanted them back.
Don't get me wrong; I'm proud I've invested time into my family, and I don't regret a single minute. But through no one's fault but my own, over time I've stopped investing in things that are 'just for me'.
So this summer, I decided to put a little thought into my investments. What small investments could I make that would be all about me? And I actually came up with a few. They may seem silly, but they've completely changed my outlook. They make me selfishly happy. And usually, when Maman's happy, everyone's happy!
So what have I invested in?
- Novolash individual lash extensions. While on the surface these may seem purely indulgent and nothing more than an expat woman's vanity at play, they were actually a last-ditch attempt to remedy an issue I've been dealing with since THIS. If you've read my May 2013 post about my battle with conjunctivitis and seen the picture of the resulting 'lashlessness', you may understand my plight a bit better. You see, that bout of conjunctivitis resulted in subsequent issues and extreme eye sensitivity (common in the desert) that would cause me to rub my eyes constantly over the last year, leading to recurrent infections, resulting in sporadic lash loss, and so on and so on. So I invested in the lashes as a way to stop myself from rubbing my eyes. Kind of the way some people get false nails to stop chewing their own nails. And lo and behold, I've not rubbed my eyes in six weeks, and other than a small scare during week 1, it appears my eyes are healthy once again. No more sudden burning or tearing up, no more swelling, no more Klingon forehead. Maman's happy.
- MacAir laptop. Yes, we had MacPro for the family (that crashed in December of last year and has never worked properly since), and I had an iPad (that Kiddo had jammed full of Toca games and Barbie Design apps), but I didn't have a proper writing tool I could use comfortably, without fear of losing everything or feeling like I was cutting in on someone's air time. Writing my blog has since become fun again. Maman's happy.
- Personal trainer. By far my greatest investment in me in the last five years. Once an avid daily runner, the last few years in Doha have seen me deteriorate both physically and mentally. Shingles, sciatica, piriformis syndrome, pre-menopause (gasp!), quitting one job, starting another, the loss of my Dad ... all these contributed to a growing lethargy and sense of hopelessness of ever regaining control of my mental and physical health. After several failed attempts at getting back on track, I finally took the plunge and decided to put my money where my mouth is. About a dollar a 'gym minute' gets me 3 gruelling workouts a week, a meal plan, a non-gym-day schedule, aching muscles, hope, and a whole lot of motivation. Maman's sore, but Maman's happy.
- Imported organic vegetables from MegaMart. Spending a little more on novelty imported produce like Kale and blueberries has us back to juicing daily and feeling a whole lot more energised and satisfied. Sometimes the taste-bud pleasure really is worth the extra money. Maman's happy.
- A really happy confident kid. This came unexpectedly. I enrolled Kiddo in a Yoga Warrior Summer Camp focused on mindfulness, creativity and fun. For four weeks she was coached in yoga, kick boxing, capoeira, zumba, acro-yoga, drama, chess, art, music. Her confidence and her abilities have gone through the roof! Gone is the insecure Kiddo who still couldn't do a cartwheel after four years of gymnastics. Thanks to the amazing leaders and coaches at the Yama Yoga Studios Summer Camp, Kiddo now rushes through the door every day showing us her new-found skills. ''No Papa, you can't move your bishop that way.'' ''Listen guys'', as she plays 'Don't stop believin' by Journey on the piano. ''Look Maman'', she cries out proudly as she balances on her hands, practicing her 'crow' pose. No insecurities, no drama, just excitement and belief in what she's able to do, and more importantly in what she's able to try. Kiddo's happy. Maman's happy.
- An extremely relaxed and easy-going husband. Bonus perk. Because frankly, if Maman's happy, Papa's happy. And Maman's happy!
So remember to invest wisely when you're investing, whether it's money or time. Think about the payoff in the long-run. Sometimes investments are too far spread out and it's good to refocus a bit. An hour or a dollar well-spent on yourself and your own needs may end up being much more rewarding than weeks spent thinking about how to come up with more hours in your day. Even just an hour-long walk in the morning can sometimes give you an entirely different outlook for the entire day. Think about it.
What have you invested in yourself lately?