Humans of Motherhood

In honor of Mother's Day month, we wanted to do something special to acknowledge the collective & individual efforts of mothers around the world to raise good people. Given that we are both huge Humans of New York fans (see here and here), we could think of no better tribute than to take a page from that project--except wordier because we're writers--and present some Humans of Motherhood (HOM).

Because we are. Humans and human. Sometimes we forget to give ourselves--or others--that margin. There really should be a secret handshake, a wink and a fist bump that says "hey, I think you're a great parent, despite your utter conviction some days to the contrary. Despite whatever rotten mistakes your kids make along the way. Despite the shambles of the day around your ankles. Things are going to work out. We're all in this together." (This, by the way, is taken directly from a conversation with Sarah last week.)

Here's to the circle-the-wagons, we're-all-in-this-together club of mothers around the world.

I first met Khuld Alsayyad in junior high in Logan, Utah. Her family moved there for a few years from Iraq while her father earned his master's degree in Engineering from Utah State University. She moved away and I never heard from her again until the magic of Facebook brought us together again early this year and we've resumed our friendship. Trained as an engineer, Khuld now works as a Field Coordinator for the United Nations World Food Programme in Iraq, where she lives with her family. We were chatting yesterday and I couldn't resist asking her for permission to introduce her to you in our Humans of Motherhood series. 


Tell us about your kids. You have two girls, right?

Masar is 10--she's bright and creative. She is the smile of the house; she is our butterfly. She likes building things, doing things from nothing, from carton boxes. Kade is my older girl. She's 18 and is an angel. She's a smart, quiet person who loves music and speaks English fluently. She's fond of Korean culture--Kpop, movies episodes. I installed a satellite dish so she could see South Korean stations. Now she can talk continuously in Korean at home and can text Korean on her mobile, self taught.

What do you love about being a mom? What are your greatest challenges?

I feel so blessed--I want nothing from life, only to see them happy. They are good, obedient girls and have tolerated my not easy job where I travelled continuously from one place to another. At first I took them with me and they changed schools and friends each year. I was blessed by this job but I knew I had to sacrifice stability; my children and my man have accepted this fact and stood by me, never complained. My mother and father and siblings helped constantly. When my husband went out of the country to get a MSc in Biology, we were three years on our own. My brother came every night at 11 p.m. to sleep on our couch so we wouldn't be alone. (It's customary in our culture to not leave the women alone at night. At first I refused the idea but they said we don't want to let people think you're alone.) I am so grateful to them. They are in every breath. We're very close and now they are with me, step by step, cheering me, advising me, daily calls and visits to know how we are doing. I hope I can be a good parent like my mom and dad.

So your biggest challenge is balancing your family and your profession?

Yes, exactly. I'm also very lucky that my husband is very flexible and supportive. When I got this job, some people refused the idea, "working with foreigners" and this kind of talk. But then they saw that their kids were getting school snacks, widows getting help unemployed and displaced people were getting assistance, emergency operations launched as war fired up. I've been able to be a part of that, "an ambassador of assistance in my country," as our country director tells us. I've been very blessed and lucky with my job.  I cannot deny my man's role in all of this. He might just tell me sit home and be satisfied, I'll  bring home the bread. But instead, when I got promoted to a team leading another province, he encouraged me and said "don't refuse a promotion." He was right. I took it.

You sound like a good team. What is your family life like right now?

I've been busy working in another province, it's about 300 miles from home, giving assistance to displaced people from a province where fighting is taking place and flood affected their area. I'm home now with my kids. Masar is taking final exams now and doing excellent (I'm blessed) and Kade is preparing for her final big exams in June. She is studying continuously from morning til night with lunch and dinner breaks (God help her). She is exhausted but this is normal for good students in this grade in Iraq as exams are extremely difficult and the points she gets determine her future. So I'm praying that all this hard work from her won't go in vain. She's a good obedient smart girl. I took a leave from work to stay with her in this difficult time. She called me and said she needs me near so I'm back home cheering her up til she finishes her exams.

Passing exams is not difficult here but making an A is. You must get a 95% to make pharmacy, 96% medical, 90% engineering. To teach her at this stage at school is not good enough for her to make an A so I've been saving for some time. I sold my gold, which Iraqi women must have, to pay for her teachers. It's the least I can do. I wish there is more.

Isn't she remarkable? Thanks, Khuld, for sharing a bit of your life and heart with us. 

We're collecting photos and interviews for some more Humans of Motherhood posts. We've got some good candidates and if you have someone you'd like to nominate or hear about, drop us a line!