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Letting me be: how motherhood brought out my true nature

Are you making the most of your life? A question that makes most of us pause and contemplate whether we are, in fact, making our lives the best they can be or whether we are mindlessly caught up in the repetitive motions of our daily family routines. Or, whether we are hiding from ourselves and the big world out there. Elizabeth Kruempelmann, author of "The Global Citizen: A Guide to Creating an International Life and Career", shares her personal experience.

By Elizabeth Kruempelmann © 2004-2005

I’m a firm believer in living life to the fullest. I’ve gradually come to realize that this life is my one and only chance to make the most of my potential and God-given talents - whatever they might be. But how do you make the most of your life?

It is a good question – one that makes most of us pause and contemplate whether we are, in fact, making our lives the best they can be or whether we are mindlessly caught up in the repetitive motions of our daily family routines. Or, whether we are hiding from ourselves and the big world out there.

I fall into the latter category. I didn’t always live life to the fullest, that is, heartily embrace my passions to be all that I can be. That was something other people did, like actors, artists, politicians and CEOs. I was always searching for the “right” path, as humble as it might be. I had some interests and hobbies, like learning foreign languages, traveling and writing in my journal, but I wouldn’t have recognized a “real” passion if it hit me in the face.

For the last 15 years, I’ve led a transient lifestyle of job-hopping while country-hopping.  That lifestyle choice probably appeared to be a rather unsavory way to live - very unfocused and unstable. The problem is I like the constant variety of different jobs and the thrill of living spontaneously.  I like foreign countries, cultures and languages. Unfortunately, I let years go by without allowing myself to recognize, or even purely enjoy, (let alone make the most of) what I truly love deep inside.

Like many others who are searching for their true passion, I unconsciously allowed myself to feel plagued by guilt for not following the well-trodden path that so many others in my generation were seeking. Where I came from, people went to college, worked at good jobs, got married, bought a house and had kids. Travel, adventure and a life overseas wasn’t part of most people’s vision of what life was “supposed” to be like, as nice as it might have sounded.

Doing something different and out of the ordinary takes courage. And I wasn’t sure if I had that kind of courage – the kind it takes to completely accept and love yourself as you are, without molding your thoughts and dreams into someone else’s picture of the perfect life. I suppose in some dark corner of my mind I feared I would be rejected and not respected for doing something that other people didn’t value or even fully understand. If that wasn’t enough, I then felt guilty for feeling guilty. I’m “supposed” to be a confident woman of the (then) 90s. Why do I let self-doubt stand in the way?

So there I was, a young and adventurous twenty-something woman, traveling the world, learning foreign languages, meeting interesting people and torturing myself with a guilty conscience. Although I was enjoying myself to some extent, I certainly didn’t feel as if I was living life to the fullest. I was looking in all the wrong places for a passion, a focus and a life worth living. Little did I know at the time that everything I needed to be living up to my potential was right in front of me.

That stage continued for 5 years or so. During all that time I kept asking myself, “How can I live my life to the fullest? How can I live up to my potential?” I read self-help books, did career assessments and spent countless hours pondering the infinite possible answers to those pressing questions. The breakthrough finally came when I got pregnant with my first child. It was a wonderful moment, one that put goals, reality and all I took for granted into a much clearer perspective.

Having children was definitely in the plan for living a complete and fulfilling life. Now I could happily check off “starting a family” under my list of personal goals. With the exciting news that in less than eight short months I would be the brand new mother of a precious little child who would be completely dependent on his parents for guidance, came the sudden grounding realization that I needed to start practicing what I preach. If living up to my potential was something I value and want my children to value, then I need to be doing it.  Looking at the future through the eyes of a mother-to-be introduced a whole new sense of urgency to finally answer life’s big questions. The clock was ticking, life was moving forward and it was time once and for all to find my professional calling and start living it. But how?

I had spent several years dabbling with writing a book. In fact, I had written a book – a first draft, at least. I didn’t call it a book because I lacked a publisher and my 384 pages of unformatted babble certainly didn’t look in any way like a book. With the countdown to motherhood well underway, I knew I had to ask myself a few tough questions: First of all, can I finally accept myself the way I am? Can I come out of hiding and publish my words about my untraditional life? Can I make myself vulnerable to the opinions of others and survive criticism? Can I be persistent, determined and focused for as long as it takes to succeed at this new venture? After a few introspective days ruminating over these questions, which had been simmering in my subconscious for too many years, I finally confessed to myself that I never wanted the traditional path.  My global lifestyle is quite fulfilling for me. And that was OK.

Once I finally gave myself permission to admit that I love my life and I always have, the most wonderful things started to happen. The sweet little voice of reason appeared and proclaimed, “Permission Granted! You Can Do It! Go For It Before You Become a Busy Mother!” And so I did.

Now that my mind was set free from all of those imaginary “should do’s” and “suppose to’s”, it was like a clean slate ready to focus on what I wanted to do.  I found myself in a daily state of “flow” (almost like a natural “high”) and time passed without me noticing – good signs that I was finally on the right path to reaching my potential to leading a fuller life.

That one moment of unveering self-confidence, a big leap of faith and the news that our first baby would arrive in less than eight months, gave way to many intensely focused days and late nights of doing work that instilled in me pure joy. I felt driven and committed to following through with this long-held secret goal, not only for my own personal satisfaction, but more importantly now to be a role model for my children.

For me, writing a book involved so much more than recording my thoughts on paper. It was about mustering up the courage to candidly divulge my opinions, experiences, advice and adventures to an audience who I hoped to help and inspire in some sort of small way.  I felt like I was finally using my talents and unique overseas experience to make a contribution to the world, or at least to a few people. Most importantly, and spurred by the fact I was soon going to be a mother, it was about giving something of myself to my children – something about my life to leave behind for them one day.

My first pregnancy was spent pent up for twelve hours a day or more researching, writing, making connections in the publishing industry and whipping together my first manuscript – right alongside experiencing morning sickness, learning all about fetal developments, and preparing for the stages of what no doubt would be a long labor. A month after my beautiful little boy was born, I was offered a publishing contract which I excitedly accepted.

The next 18 months were then spent writing, editing, getting pregnant again, rewriting, formatting, developing a website, having a second baby, printing and finally getting the book on the market –  in that order. My book appeared in bookstores a month after my second beautiful son was born.

The coincidences that accompanied the birth of my children and simultaneously reaching major milestones in getting my first book published, leads me to believe that motherhood put me on the road to reaching my full potential – as a parent and a professional.

For me, transitioning from an adult woman to a mother has been like a right of passage. To be responsible for my children, I’ve learned to be responsible for my own life. To completely accept and love my children, I’ve learned to completely accept and love myself.

In this most unusual fashion I have come to cherish who I really am. I’ve been fortunate to be married to a great German guy who shares a passion for the world, whose job has allowed us to live and work overseas and whose unwavering support has helped me fulfill a dream.  Motherhood? I love being a mother and raising our two sons abroad. Our children have enriched my life and work more than I could have imagined. Through years of living in various countries, constant soul-searching and finally becoming a mother, an author, and most recently a life coach, I have come to realize my true nature.