Anders and Chase's Mom
Throughout my life my identity has evolved. I have grown from daughter, to friend, to student, to ad gal, to wife, to executive, to mother, to - hold up. That last one. The M-O-M one. That is a BIG one. It deserves a pause. A moment of silence and respect. It’s a whopper.
But now my latest transition has been a pretty big one too. The transition to: expat.
Part of the largest adjustment to this new title was the shift from full-time working mother to full-time mom. My days are now filled with spending lots (and lots and lots) of time with my boys, having the opportunity to be involved in their lives on a whole new level and taking on new duties as Bertling Household CEO. I identify as the Secretary of the PTA, a planner of playdates and the maker of breakfast, snacks, lunch, more snacks, dinner and then after dinner snacks.
Since moving here, I haven’t been shy about voicing my longing for my past-work self. I always say I miss the camaraderie, the feeling of leading and those creative boosts. But not until a few days ago, did I realize I was also missing something else.
This past week, I raised my hand to be cast in a TripAdvisor spot that was filming here in Tokyo. A Sydney agency was sending out a crew to capture content and was looking to cast talent. A friend shared the opportunity on Facebook, I said YES and was selected. A few days later I opened up my email to find a call sheet and man, I loved seeing that document. I Googled the agency involved and went deep into their website, watching their branding work, content creation capabilities and digging into their “About Us” page. I was so looking forward to being back on set, connecting with the crew and name dropping my past agency experience to gain some street cred.
The day of the shoot came and as I arrived on set I headed straight to the crew to chat them up. Quickly, I was brushed aside and realized that I needed to understand my place and went to introduce myself to the talent, with my tail between my legs. In time, I started to connect with my fellow cast mates and all of a sudden I was part of a world that felt wildly foreign to me. Only one was a parent, only two had partners and all were expats with the most interesting backgrounds. Talk was of our travels, our work and where we grew up. We traded favorite vacation stories, favorite restaurant recommendations and favorite spots to see in Tokyo. I didn’t mention my kids much. Not because they aren’t a huge part of me, but because it felt nice to tap into the other dimensions of myself too.
The spot they were shooting was to feature us driving MariKarts around city landmarks such as Tokyo Tower and Shibuya Crossing. After seven hours of shooting and bonding, I found myself in a go kart, going 80kmph, on a highway, over the Rainbow Bridge, at night, with no helmet on - like a total asshole. In that moment, I was no longer just Anders and Chase’s mom, I was Melissa. I was once again, me.
And damn, I didn’t realize how much I had missed my whole self until that moment. That shot was not just for the spot, but also for me. A chance for reflection and a chance for me to realize that, just as I hadn’t seen my friends back in the states since last spring, I hadn’t seen parts of myself either. It was like reconnecting with an old bestie.
This day was a gift to me, not because I was back in a world that felt familiar because I was on set. But back in a world that felt familiar because as a working mother, I always loved that during my day, I was my whole self - not only mom.
I’m obsessed with my community here and although we spend time together away from our children, I hadn’t realized how so much of our identity is wrapped up in these little people outside of ourselves. And while I feel incredibly grateful to be so deeply entwined in my boys’ lives, it hadn’t registered how long I spent not tapping into the other special parts of me too.
I love Anders and Chase with all of my being. And am so grateful for this experience. Not only because I get the gift of intense time with them but because I am also being given the gift of perspective. The understanding that my identity is not just that of an expat. And not just that of a mom. But also a daughter, a friend, a student, an ad gal, a wife, an executive and the list goes on and on...