What is your story of strength?
My story of strength started at the age of 19. I got married when I was a freshman in college and soon after, I had three children back-to-back. Two girls and a boy. Within a few years, we had the opportunity to move to the US. This was very hard for me because my husband had to stay in Jordan for work. I moved to a new country, where I didn’t know the language and I didn’t understand the culture. I also had very little support in this foreign country. Life was so different there from what I was used to. It was so difficult, especially at first and I had many fears – How do I start this new life? Where would I even begin?
Despite all these struggles, I was so happy that my children had this opportunity to live in the US. To me, it was the most progressive and developed country in the world. I knew my kids were smart and that they would learn and grow to be great and would come back to their country and do great things. My main focus was on their education. I put them in excellent schools and watched them closely. What also helped me was taking them to Church and Sunday School every week. This helped me raise them, teach them good manners, and keep them on the right track. With time, my kids were able to adapt and I decided to focus on myself and go back to school to continue to develop my language and professional skills. This was important for me to feel good about myself.
After a few years, we came back home to Jordan. I realized there was a whole new set of struggles I had to face. I had another daughter, and my other kids could not acclimate back to society, they had completely forgotten their native language, and they resisted their new lives. All of this strained them psychologically, so helping them with the transition was a new hurdle I had to deal with, which was even more difficult than what I faced in the US.
During my entire life as a mother, my goal was to give my kids the education that I couldn’t have. I pushed them and empowered them to achieve this. Now I am reaping what I sowed because they have achieved so much, and they now empower me! This is why I feel successful and strong.
Can you tell me about a woman in your life that embodies strength?
There are many women in my life who are so strong and inspiring. I believe people who are positive and ambitious can get anywhere they want in life despite the obstacles they face. A friend of mine is a mother of three boys, one of them with special needs. This boy needed her so much throughout his life and she dedicated her life to caring for him, until he got to an age where he can care for himself. At 51, she decided to focus on herself more. She is very intelligent and had an amazing opportunity to go back to school. She started Law school a few years ago, is now in her senior year and has the top score in her class. She is also planning to finish her PhD in the future. To me this is so inspiring.
This teaches me that life consists of stages; during some stages you may have to care for others so they can fulfill their goals and during other stages you have the opportunity to focus on yourself and fulfill your goals.
Another one of my close friends whom I’ve known for more than 30 years recently found out she has stage 3 pancreatic cancer. It has been tough for her, yet this woman is always positive and telling me that she will be cured and she will live a long life with her kids and grandkids. Every time I see her, her health is improving. I can see that she is fighting her disease with her positivity and a bright attitude and with her love of life.
Can you tell me about a time you failed or disappointed yourself?
I’ve always wanted to start my own business. It was a lifelong dream for me, but because of how life panned out – constantly moving and dealing with transitions – I could not fulfill this dream. I had to prioritize my family and had to postpone my plans. Now, seeing my children grow into their own, I am empowered to do what I’ve always wanted and to satisfy my business aspirations, inshallah.
How can women better support each other?
Women should definitely help other women. We shouldn’t judge each other, rather we should support each other and share our experiences. For example, women like myself should share our lessons and experiences with younger women so that they do not face the same problems we did. Women in my age should start groups and organizations where we can support other women who may not have strong female figures in their lives or who may live far from their family and friends – like myself when I lived in the US – and help them through the different stages in their lives.