Germany used to be split into two parts. Many people know this, but not everyone knows how it could affect daily life in the East of Germany. For some people, it meant that they weren’t allowed to graduate high school.
Not because they weren’t smart enough but because they weren’t political enough.
My mum was one of these people. She’s one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet but she only graduated high school by starting over in the west. This meant that she had to fight her way up, one step at a time.
Part of her journey was building her own business. She made the business so successful that she would later go on to sell it. As a child, I thought there was nothing she couldn’t do.
As an adult I realise that her never-ending drive and the constant desire to do more than should be possible come with the flipside of being incredibly impatient. It’s something I’ve inherited from her; we can find solutions and organise things out of thin air but put us in front of an excel list and we’re stumped.
Why should we spend time explaining our decisions in spreadsheets when there’s more work to be done?
My mum hates doing things that don’t have any immediate effect. She likes to organise and make the impossible possible, roadblocks like forms that need to be filled out or invoices that need to be sent out kill her creativity.
My dad doesn’t always share my mum’s entrepreneurial spirit. He’s calmer; the rock that holds our family together. The one who smiles and says that everything will be alright.
He’s so incredibly patient that he will sit at his desk for what feels like forever, doing things like applying for visas for our entire family when we travel.
When my mum had to let her secretary go, he stepped in. He answers her E-mails, helps her keep her calendar straight, bills her clients and even accompanies her on business trips sometimes.
He’s the perfect secretary in every possible way.
My mum will tell him so, jokingly referring to him by the secretary name he uses to make fun of himself sometimes.
While both of them joke about him being her secretary, there was never any doubt as to why he became her secretary next to his full-time job. She doesn’t do well with repetitive tasks that stop her from embracing her true strengths, he’s patient enough to complete them.
Being her secretary was never his dream job, but he does it anyway, because his goal is to help her in any way possible.
Helping each other, to them, never falls into neat little boxes because our life and their roles in our family are not like that.
My dad is the secretary, my mum is the cook. My mum is tough, my dad is gentler. My mum is the realist, my dad the die-hard romantic.
He cries in any movie that involves romance or dogs. When we first watched Marlie and Me he tried to hide his tears a little, but now he cries openly because “it’s just so sad”.
He believes in romance in a way that would make most people, including my mum, shake their head. For him there are only three things that matter in life: love, having a home, and his family.
When my brother was born, my dad stayed home with him. For a year we’d watch him build the Benjy blog, posting little updates on how our baby was growing. There was my dad, fully embracing his dad humour by adding witty comments to each photo as he shared their journey.
My mum was the one who would come home in a blazer and sometimes rush off to business meetings in foreign countries. She’s the one who became a manager and used her knowledge to do mock interviews with me before my first job interviews.
She’d show up at my school in her work attire and question the teachers who were not supporting me enough, making sure I had everything I needed both at school and at home.
It could sound like my mum is the career woman and my dad is the one who keeps our home running, but nothing could be further from the truth. My dad supports my mum in building her career because she does the same for him.
They’re a team in the sense that everything is divided by strengths; my mum does the laundry and asks us about our day, while he empties the dishwasher and helps with homework.
The only thing that differentiates my dad’s job as a secretary from the other ways he helps my mum is that it defies gender stereotypes a little more.
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