TEXAS, USA: Mixed Messages

TEXAS, USA: Mixed Messages

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The past few months, I have been listening to a few songs which have really “spoken” to me. The first one is Katy Perry’s “Roar”. It just makes me want to stand up and really tell people what I really think instead of what I think is the polite thing to say. The second song, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, says so eloquently what my inner self has been whispering to me for years…“I just want to see you be brave.”

Growing up, I went to Catholic school, and I was always taught to not draw too much attention to myself, and to always make everyone feel welcome. I always remember feeling that I should agree with what the majority said because my own ideas weren’t as good as the others. After all, who would want to listen to a gawky junior high girl?

As I got older, those traits seemed to stay with me to the point that I think I would go out of my way to please others because the thought of someone being upset with something I had said or done was too much for me to handle. I started to feel like no one really knew who I was because I had built up so much of a false identity trying to make other people happy when deep down I was unhappy because I was too afraid to be true to myself and tell others what I was really thinking.

In the last few years, I have started to realize I do have my own voice and my own opinions to share with others and my fear of disappointing or making others upset is dissipating. That may sound silly to someone who has never had any trouble speaking her mind, but for me, it is a huge deal.

Now that I have my own children, I often wonder if messages I am giving them (sometimes unintended) could cause them to feel the same way. I find myself telling them that they don’t have to be just like everyone else, but when we have friends over for dinner with their children and the kids have a disagreement with a friend over what to play together, I tell them that they should play what the other friend wants and then try to take turns.

Often times, we will go to another friends’ home and the children in that home are allowed to do many things that my children are not allowed to do. I find them coming to me and whispering to me about things that are happening, and I can only tell them that it is not acceptable for them to do those things. They observe the other parent saying nothing to their child. I know they don’t quite understand how I have one standard for them and another for other children.

I have always told my children not to tell a lie. So, when my daughter opened her present from a friend at a third birthday party and declared in front of everyone that she didn’t like it, I should have been proud, right? Or when my son told my Father-in-Law he was “fat”, I should have been proud of him for not lying, right? Embarrassed was more the feeling that was engulfing me at that moment. Cue the talk about the “little white lie” to my children so that we don’t hurt another person’s feelings with words we may say to them.

Are these “mixed messages” going to cause my own children to be afraid to speak their own minds and afraid to stand up to what they see is wrong? I guess only time will tell. I just keep hearing the words from Katy Perry’s song in my head, “I stood for nothing so I fell for everything.” I look back at my own life and how I am just now seeing how important it is to stand up for yourself. I guess it is all a learning experience. Along the way, we have to decipher the mixed messages until we come to our own conclusions of what is wrong or right from what we have been taught along the way.

I wish I could make it so simple for my children and tell them that when they speak their own mind and are true to themselves that they will always be accepted no matter what. But the truth is, they may not be accepted. And, isn’t that what true bravery is? Bravery to stand up for what they believe in is really what I want for my children. Being brave and true to oneself is what leads to ultimate happiness. I hope it won’t take them as long to figure out not to be scared of what others may think, but if it does that’s fine, too. My hope for them is that they do figure it out because it would be such a shame for the world not to know the bright, kind and brave souls that they truly are.

How do you teach your children to stand up for what they think?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can read more about her life as an expat in Nigeria and her transition back at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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ISRAEL: Part III of IV: Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

ISRAEL: Part III of IV: Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Neta sat down with World Mom contributor, Susie Newday in Israel to talk about living her life with metastasis breast cancer.

Neta sat down with World Mom contributor, Susie Newday in Israel to talk about living her life with metastatic breast cancer.

This is part three of our contributor and cancer nurse, Susie Newday’s, moving and in-depth interview on breast cancer with her close friend. Grab a cup of something warm, and come be a fly on the wall with us, as two friends discuss living with metastatic breast cancer. There is something for us all to learn. (Click to catch up and read Part I and Part II.)

Susie: Your diagnosis changed your life. How did it change your life in practical terms?

Neta: When I was first diagnosed, it almost didn’t change my life at all. I had very few side effects from the treatment, and I continued to work. It was a total of nine months with surgery in the middle of those months. I had chemo, surgery and radiation. I started the treatments from a place of strength. I think that, strengthwise, I’m a strong person. I was almost never sick. I had a body image of a healthy, strong person.

I was always athletic and strong. I never felt weak. And suddenly you change from the healthiest person in your mind to the sickest person, who is getting chemo that weakens you. And you get shots and blood and everything else that’s involved. I continued to work during that whole period.

The principal in my school said to me that she had never seen anything like this, someone going through such strong chemo who continues to function like this.

I would miss work for the day of treatment and the day after, and then I would work the next two weeks until the next treatment. Also during the six weeks of radiation, I would do it after work in the afternoon. The work kept me going.  I would be very tired in the evening, but I continued to function more or less like normal. I worked a few less hours at work and managed to keep the house running more or less like normal. I did go to bed very early about 8 pm.

The only trauma was the hair loss. The kids took it very hard. They were very embarrassed for me to go around bald. All the kids, even the young ones, wanted me to wear some type of head covering. I had a wig.

I went to work with a wig, and whoever didn’t know about the cancer, didn’t realize. I was diagnosed over summer vacation, and I came back to work in September with a wig already. I didn’t hide it, but it took some people time to find out.

So, during the first bout of cancer I had a lot of energy, and I was lucky to have very few side effects.

S: Did you have nausea during your pregnancies? There seems to be a correlation between people who have nausea during pregnancy and nausea during chemo.

N: No I didn’t, and my doctor also said there is a correlation. I had very little nausea, if at all. As far as other side effects, I hated wearing the wig. It really itched me and was uncomfortable. The minute I was able to, I took it off and wore a head scarf.

S: Your trauma about the hair loss was because your kids took it hard, or was it something you yourself took hard?

N: It was also because of the kids and also because you don’t want anyone to know you are sick. I didn’t like the way I looked when I looked in the mirror, but I understood that it was something temporary, that it would grow back.

It was very hard for the kids. They didn’t want their friends to see me without a head covering. At home I didn’t wear a wig only a head scarf.

I only wore the wig to work and to special events. I think if it wasn’t for the kids asking me not to go without a head covering, I probably would have gone without anything.

S: When the cancer came back, how did you feel?

N: It was very hard. When it came back there were already metastases all over my bones. I had really bad back pain. I received radiation to my neck, but it didn’t help right away. It took time. In the beginning I had to wear a neck brace; initially, only for car rides; but then I had to wear it all the time. I was in terrible pain. For a few months I spent almost all day in bed, I couldn’t move. I could barely get up to go to the bathroom. It took a long time until I found the right pain medication regimen. So yes, things were different. I was in bed and everyone came to me.

S: How did you cope with such bad pain?

N: I remember I was in shock from the pain. I don’t know if I’m someone who doesn’t do the self-pity thing, but I do pity myself sometimes. The pain was so bad sometimes that I physically couldn’t do things, but I don’t remember having a feeling of being depressed.

Once again I summoned the energy. I had no choice. In my way of thinking, I had no choice. I have four children, and I can’t give up or take a time out from this world.

S: You did and do have a choice. You choose.

N: In my mindset, I have no choice. I have to cope, and I have for what to cope. I had to be strong because I have children and they need me, so I cope. My choice is to be here.

S: There is a lot of strength in knowing that you choose and that you are in the driver’s seat.

N: Even if it is a choice, it’s an automatic choice for me. I don’t stop to think, what am I going to do now?

S: That’s your mindset because your family and your kids are important to you.

N: I know that when some mothers are sick, thinking about the children and what will be with them can be depressing. For me, thinking about my children gives me a lot of strength because I want to be there for them. I want them to see that I can cope and that I can be there with them. Even when I was in bed all the time, the kids came to lay in bed next to me, and I read them books.

The kids are very important to me and they give me a lot of strength. They are what gives me the most strength. I love a lot of people in this world, friends and parents and family, but no one comes close to my kids in regards to their meaning in my life, in regards to my love for them, in regards to my commitment to them. The kids are just different. I choose to be there for them because I want what is best for them.

Because they give me so much strength, even when I was stuck lying in bed and not moving, I didn’t sink into a depression. I knew I had to fight. Maybe I am just a doing, practical type of person. I say to myself, this is what I have  to do now, and these are my priorities and that’s what I do. I do think about things. I do understand the significance. I choose my priorities and what’s most important, what’s worth fighting for and what I will invest my energy in. What’s less important will wait.

That’s something that has guided me this whole period. The strength is finding the things that give you strength, to understand what they are, to stick with them. If for me what’s important is that my children have a normal childhood without major traumas (as much as I am able to control), if that’s what’s close to my heart, I will fight for it. If it means that in order for that to happen that I have to do something like asking for help even if asking for help is not easy for me, I will do it.

I remember in the beginning how hard it was for me to ask for help. You find yourself in a place of weakness and no one wants to feel weak, and pathetic and in need of help. It’s a lot easier to be the one giving help. Once upon a time I didn’t understand how hard it is to ask for and receive help. Healthy people generally don’t ask for help. I have been helped so much that I feel like I want to give back to people what I can. If I hear someone needs something that I can help with, I try to help.

Even though receiving help is hard, when the other choice is not receiving the help and having my children hurt by that I take the help because I need my children to have the most normal life that they can. What keeps me going is trying to figure out how to create the most normal surroundings for my children. I’ve done everything I can to make things easier on my children. My community is amazing. We’ve had unbelievable generous help from our friends and community, and I’m not sure that is something that can be found everywhere. People cooked for us for months, and even now if I need help taking the kids anywhere or to run errands they help me. Now that my husband is sick as well, when he doesn’t feel well we need more help as well because all of a sudden everything falls on me.

S: Have you thought about hiring someone to help you?

N: I have thought about it. We had someone for a while but it’s not easy bringing someone else into the home. I have been trying to refrain from that. If I see that I have no choice, that’s what I’ll do.

S: Do you find that it’s taking a physical toll on you doing it all by yourself?

N: I’m tired all the time but that’s not something new. Actually when I know that I have to rise to the challenge for a few days, I surprise myself and have found the strength. I’m tired but I manage and I feel good that I was able to manage. It also keeps the stability of the dynamics in the house. I choose to function. I’m trying to keep things as normal as possible. It doesn’t do good when people are coming in and out all the time. It hurts the household routine.

If I need to bring in help I will. The kids also understand that if I bring someone in to help that means that my husband and I are not functioning anymore and it stresses them out. They ask “What? You can’t do it by yourself?”

Tune in soon for Part IV of this IV part “World Mom to World Mom” series on living with metastatic breast cancer.

Cancer can happen to everyone. Listen to your body, treat it well and educate yourself about cancer symptoms. Learn not just about breast cancer symptoms (which are varied) but also the symptoms of ovarian cancerGI cancerlung cancerpancreatic cancer and all the other cancers out there. Ask your parents about your family medical history. Do the recommended screening tests that are available to you because early detection of any cancer makes a hell of a difference.

Most of all enjoy every minute of your life because there are people out there who are dying for more time.

(For the full series: click here to read Part Iclick here to read Part IIclick here to read Part III and click here to read Part IV.)

This is an original post by World Moms Blog Africa & Middle East Regional Editor, Susie Newday in Israel. 

Photo credit to the author. 

 

Susie Newday (Israel)

Susie Newday is a happily-married American-born Israeli mother of five. She is an oncology nurse, blogger and avid amateur photographer. Most importantly, Susie is a happily married mother of five amazing kids from age 8-24 and soon to be a mother in law. (Which also makes her a chef, maid, tutor, chauffeur, launderer...) Susie's blog, New Day, New Lesson, is her attempt to help others and herself view the lessons life hands all of us in a positive light. She will also be the first to admit that blogging is great free therapy as well. Susie's hope for the world? Increasing kindness, tolerance and love. You can also follow her Facebook page New Day, New Lesson where she posts her unique photos with quotes as well as gift ideas.

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World Moms Blog a Finalist for the 2013 Bloganthropy Award

World Moms Blog a Finalist for the 2013 Bloganthropy Award

Bloganthropy

Exciting news!!!  World Moms Blog is a finalist for this year’s Bloganthropy Award, which “aims to recognize bloggers who have made a difference by using social media to effectively promote a good cause”, and we’re sooo excited!!

The award was created by Debbie Bookstaber and Candace Lindemann in 2010, and the amazing women who have been awarded include Katherine Stone (2010) of Post Partum Progress, the late Susan Niebur (2011) of Toddler Planet, Devan McGuinness (2012) of Unspoken Grief and Kristine Brite McCormick (special achievement award) of Cora’s Story.

This year’s finalists are invited to attend the Champions for Kids conference in Arkansas, USA, where the final award will be presented on Thursday, November 21st, 2013. Wish us luck!!

In addition to World Moms Blog, there are 2 other amazing finalists! Social Media Moms/New Jersey Digital Moms for their #JerseyLove campaign to help bring tourism back to the state of New Jersey in the USA after Superstorm Sandy and Denisse Montalvan of The Orphaned Earring for her creative idea to raise money for global orphanages by reengineering orphaned earrings are, both, also up for the Bloganthropy award.  We are pleased to be in the company of a strong group of fellow finalists utilizing social media for social good!

Check out the full Bloganthropy Finalists 2013 press release.

And thank you to all of our contributors, editors and readers around the globe who have supported our social good initiatives, such as the #Moms4MDGs campaign to raise awareness for the UN’s goals to end extreme poverty, our World Voice column, GAVI Global Tea Parties to raise awareness for the importance of and access to life-saving immunizations for children in the developing world, fundraisers for CleanBirth.org and Shot@Life and for participating in the annual Social Good Summit and UN General Assembly festivities in New York City this year.  And to our core, our World Moms who share their stories every week about what it’s like to be a mother around the world in good times and in tough times and who have jumped out of their comfort zones to report first-hand on events in their home country.  Here’s to promoting understanding and tolerance by providing the world a window into the life and thoughts of a World Mom. And here’s to being a Bloganthropy award finalist!! Congrats to the World Moms Blog team!

Follow our Twitter Feed (@WorldMomsBlog) on Thursday, November 21st, 2013 for updates from the Champions for Kids conference!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by founder, Jennifer Burden of the USA. 

Photo credit to Bloganthropy. 

 

 

 

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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WORLD VOICE: South Korea’s Exam Suicides

WORLD VOICE: South Korea’s Exam Suicides

Photo Credit : Mafuyou/Flicker Creative Commons

Photo Credit : Mafuyou/Flicker Creative Commons

Last week over 650,000 South Korean students took their college entrance exams. To give you an idea of how important this day is to Korean families, consider the following: banks and government offices open late, air traffic is rerouted, extra metro trains and buses are added to the schedule, and police officers are deployed to ensure that students arrive on time for the exam. In addition to this many of the parents of these students spend the 100 days leading up to the exam fervently praying at temple, performing 3,000 bows for good luck.

What is perhaps most striking about this yearly ritual, as an outsider looking in, is how everyone in the country sees it as their duty to ensure that these students make it on time and do well on their exams. The amount of pressure to succeed academically is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed.

South Korea does indeed lead the world in measurable academic success. They have one of the highest rates of literacy in the world, in addition to scoring very high on international standardized tests, especially when compared to Western nations. Unfortunately, South Korea also leads in the world in another unfortunate and surprisingly related area: suicide.

As of 2011, suicide is the leading cause of death among South Koreans under the age of 40. In the age group from 15-24, worry over academic performance is cited as the reason. Every year after the exams there are reports of these “Exam Suicides”.

Suicide affects every culture, not just this one, but it is deeply troubling to observe just how widespread it is here, not only among young people, but within the general population as well. Long seen as a private and personal issue, the government has finally taken steps in recent years to stem the tide. There are call centers and prevention groups receiving government funding, as well as dedicated employees who search the internet and social media for suicide-related posts. Within the last few months a specific type of pesticide was banned, as it had been commonly used in suicides.

Preventing access to means and providing support will be effective up to a point, but perhaps a closer look must be taken at the cultural obsession with academic success. I was thinking of all those kids taking the test last week, wondering how it must feel to know that the entire country is invested in how you do on this test. Such immense pressure! I can’t even imagine.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, South Korea is at a very interesting point culturally. It has rapidly modernized and continues to do so while still having deep roots to the Confucian principles that have guided society for generations.

It is the intersection of new economic realities and globalization with older traditions of filial piety and family honor that seem to be most challenging to navigate.

As long as suicide is seen as an honorable exit because of failure to live up to expectations or, in the case of older people, to unburden the family from the need to provide for aging relatives, the numbers will at the very least remain somewhat steady. As the culture changes, so too will the rates of suicide, I suspect.

But how many people’s children will die in the meantime?

The results of the exams will be announced on November 27th. Until then, we all wait, hope, and pray.

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by S. Korean Contributor Ms. V.

Do you think it is possible to have such academic success without all the pressure?

Ms. V. (South Korea)

Ms. V returned from a 3-year stint in Seoul, South Korea and is now living in the US in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, their two kids, three ferocious felines, and a dog named Avon Barksdale. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast, but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home.” Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50 states. Ms. V is contemplative and sacred activist, exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism and social change. She is the co-director and co-founder of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a non-profit yoga studio and the spiritual director for Hab Community. While not marveling at her beautiful children, she enjoys reading, cooking, and has dreams of one day sleeping again.

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USA: Differences in Education Systems, France v. US

USA: Differences in Education Systems, France v. US

differencesThe day I gave birth to my son, HJ, is a day I’ll never forget. Induction nightmare? Check. Post baby snuggles? Check. September 3rd birth date? Check.

Little did I know at the time how much my son’s birthday would impact his development and education but flash forward to 2013 and here I sit, faced with the first of many educational concerns.

Living in Paris meant that on September 4th, 2012, my son formally entered the French education system. At just three years old, he was invited to attend nursery school, or maternelle, which comprises the first three years of schooling. Due to his inability to speak French, my son was invited to attend school four mornings per week from 8:30 a.m. until 11:40 a.m. As he began to thrive in school, his teacher gently suggested that I begin leaving him for one full-day per week after the holiday break in December. By late-January, he was attending school all day until 4:15 p.m., eating French catered lunch in the cantine (cafeteria), enjoying rest time, and thriving.

Combining his easy going attitude and tall stature (95% percentile for height), most parents thought my son was one of the older kids in the class. In order to start school in September, children must turn three by December 31st, and with a September 3rd birthday, my son was one of the younger students. When I would share this with the parents, they’d say, “Wow, but he is so tall!”

Our plans for HJ’s education were that he would be in French school until we moved home, and at that point he’d transition into kindergarten at the local school. When our contract ended sooner than expected, I began the joyous task of figuring out what options we had to continue HJ’s formal education, and the results were shocking.

HJ misses the US cut-off for kindergarten by two days. This means that he has to wait until he is six to enter kindergarten! I neatly placed that reality aside and instead focused on what education he could receive now, at four years old.

My choices floored me.

Option A) the public school offers a “lottery” for kids ages 3-4 for preschool, and the schedule only allows kids to get one of three spots: two mornings from 8-11, three mornings, four afternoons, or five mornings. And all this for the staggering price of more than $6,000.

Option B) the local Montessori school, which has no openings until September of 2014, and again runs mornings only. Did I mention that they also refused to reveal the actual cost of the program?

And finally, Option C) a local Catholic school that offers five all-day classes for  around $7,000.

So what’s the big deal?!

Children in France have access to all-day education beginning at age three for FREE, with master’s degree trained teachers. While every school isn’t as amazing as the one my son attends, the French may be on to something. For two working parents, morning-only, formal education settings are an inconvenience, and for single-income families, shelling out over $6,000 for a few hours a day may be too much.

All around the United States, parents are struggling with making hard financial decisions and I wonder if it seems fair that we have to do so when it comes to our children’s educations?

For us, having HJ evaluated and exploring how he measures up to his peers is one solution. How he falls in the range of social and emotional intelligence will give us a window into how he may fair in kindergarten and will be necessary if we plan on fighting the school district for a spot in kindergarten if it seems logical and appropriate for our son.

The second option is to just ride the wave and instead allow our six year old to join his peers, perhaps giving him a leg up on his classmates. Then I question, “Will he be bored?” “Too big?” At this point I’m just not sure which choice is best for our little guy but it did get my wheels moving, wondering about the significant differences in how each country approaches education. What is it like for children in Germany, or Canada? Do parents struggle with similar issues in Sydney, Australia?

So please, World Moms Blog readers, share your location/country’s educational process! When does school begin? When did your children start school? Anything you wish you could change about your child’s educational experiences?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from Jacki, mother of one now living in XXX but formerly blogging from Paris, France.

hjunderway

Jacki, or “MommaExpat,” as she’s known in the Internet community, is a former family therapist turned stay-at-home mom in Paris, France. Jacki is passionate about issues as they relate to mothers and children on both domestic and international scenes, and is a Volunteer Ambassador for the Fistula Foundation. In addition to training for her first half marathon, Jacki can be found learning French in Paris and researching her next big trip. Jacki blogs at H J Underway, a chronicle of her daily life as a non-French speaking mom in France.

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