DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, USA: Five Rules About Running a Business…or Raising a Baby

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, USA: Five Rules About Running a Business…or Raising a Baby

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Since my son turned two, I have been getting questions about when another baby might be on the way. But the fact is that I have already have a second baby….my start up. And I’m just barely kidding. My business demands only marginally less time than a baby and gets talked about only a little less than baby number 1 on my Facebook page.

However, I will say that this first business of mine is, as my second child, benefiting from my experience with baby number 1. What I knew about starting a business could have fit on a postage stamp when I began.  But I had at least a modestly sized pamphlet’s worth on being a mother.

I have been expanding both knowledge bases as my two babies have grown and I’ve noticed a substantial amount of cross over. Here are my five rules about running a business….or raising a baby…whichever. (more…)

Natalia Rankine-Galloway (Morocco)

Natalia was born a stone's throw from the Queen's racetrack in Ascot, UK and has been trying to get a ticket to the races and a fabulous hat to go with it ever since. She was born to a Peruvian mother and an Irish father who kept her on her toes, moving her to Spain, Ireland and back to the UK before settling her in New York for the length of middle and high school. She is still uncertain of what she did to deserve that. She fled to Boston for college and then Washington, D.C. to marry her wonderful husband, who she met in her freshman year at college. As a military man, he was able to keep her in the migratory lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. Within 5 months of marriage, they were off to Japan where they stayed for a wonderful 2 and one half years before coming home to roost. Baby Xavier was born in New York in 2011 and has not slept since. A joy and an inspiration, it was Xavier who moved Natalia to entrepreneurship and the launch of CultureBaby. She has loved forging her own path and is excited for the next step for her family and CultureBaby. Natalia believes in the potential for peace that all children carry within them and the importance of raising them as global citizens. She loves language, history, art and culture as well as Vietnamese Pho, Argentinian Malbec, English winters, Spanish summers and Japanese department stores...and she still hopes one day to catch the number 9 race with Queen Liz. You can find her personal blog, The Culture Mum Chronicles.

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Japan: Ceremoniously Yours

Japan: Ceremoniously Yours

A Work in Progress

A Work in Progress

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Japan, standing as I did in many a cold gym on a drafty stage being stared at by bored students, is that in Japan even small changes are deemed deserving of a ceremony of some sort. I worked as an assistant language teacher dispatched by the board of education to seven different junior high schools. On my first day at each and every one of those schools, an assembly was held to welcome me. The principal gave a little speech. I gave a little speech. The head English teacher and a student representative gave a little speech, too.

On my last day, a very similar ceremony was held. Except that this time I got flowers. Seven bouquets of flowers and me trying to leave town…. I tried at other jobs, when other coworkers were leaving, to explain that these giant bouquets, while beautiful, were actually not desirable for someone who was (more often than not) preparing to leave the country.

“The flowers,” I was told, “Are not for the person leaving. They are for the people staying behind.”

Now that I’m a mom, I’ve noticed that Japanese school children’s lives are chock-full of ceremonies. It starts with preschool, when they have an entrance ceremony. Then a closing-of-first-term ceremony, an opening-of-second-term ceremony, then closing-of-second-term ceremony. It seems endless. But for the preschooler, it culminates in graduation and the send-off to end all send-offs, the “Wakare-kai,” a kind of Sayonara Party.

Now I don’t know about where you are from, but I have no memory whatsoever of having a preschool graduation, much less an after party. My parents may have privately celebrated my ascension into free (!) public schooling after I’d gone to bed at night, but I don’t think there was much to it.

Here?

(Hold on a second while I get a cold compress for my splitting headache….)

At my daughter’s preschool, it’s a huge deal. And it’s all put on by the moms. I don’t think this experience is rare for a Japanese preschool, but to me it feels totally over the top.

It starts off in October (a full six months before The Day), with each mother being assigned to a committee. And I do mean everyone, including, for example, my friend who has three kids under six and another on the way. There are a host of different committees, the lunch committee, the keeping-children-in-line committee, the video committee, the slide show committee, the teacher’s present committee, etc. I’m on the decoration committee.

It seems like it would be simple enough. Maybe some paper chains and balloons? But no. There will be a balloon archway for the teachers to walk through. We will decorate the back wall with scenes (we have to draw) of the momentous events that have transpired in our 6-year-olds lives at preschool. (I’m in charge of drawing a poster for sports day and the yearly school play.) There will be a podium decorated with paper mâché animals, mobiles hanging from the ceilings (no clue how we are supposed to get those up there,) flowers and tinsel on the walls, etc., etc., etc.

I’ve already spent hours in meetings that I feel we’re pretty pointless, not to mention hours on actual decorations, and I’m sure there will be an hour or two on the day for decorating and cleaning up.

I’m having a hard time thinking of any of this as being more than wasted time. But I have to wonder if,  like the flowers being given to the leaving teacher, the send-off party is not actually for the children at all.

What kind of ceremonies are held at schools in your country? To what extent are parents involved?

This is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Melanie Oda in Japan, of Hamakko Mommy

Photo credit to the author.

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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Israel: Why Do You Love Me?

Israel: Why Do You Love Me?

*I wrote this a while back when I was on the verge of losing my mind because of all the thoughts and doubts in my head. On an emotional level, I was living in a state of survival. I felt uptight and tense all the time and I was barely keeping it together. To the world none of that was apparent. I was functioning, maybe even too well. After a lot of hard work, I am not in that place anymore, which is why I guess I feel it is safe to share this now. Sure I still have my self doubts and difficulties, we all do, but these days I don’t feel like I’m living every day in survival mode.

Holding hands Our lives are full of people. Unless we live like a hermit shut away from human interaction, we have no choice but to engage in human contact, both physical and verbal, numerous times on a daily basis. There are all kinds of people out there. There are those we like more, there are those we like less. There are people we despise or maybe we just think we do. And, because we are lucky there are also people whom we love.

Since I know there is someone in your life you love, I want you to close your eyes and take a moment to think about them. If you want, it can be someone you just like or admire not necessarily love. Have you pictured them well? Do you have a smile on your face?

 Now comes the hard part.  Why do you feel that way about them?

That question came out of my desire to understand why someone would love or like me. What is it about me or what I am doing that would cause someone to stop and say, hey I like her.  And I don’t know if the answer that came to me is the truth and whether it my way of trying to explain away something that can’t be quantified and explained.

Simply put, I think people like/love/admire us for the things we do for them and for others. They like us because of the way we make them feel about themselves. Why do we love our children from the moment we set eyes on them after they’ve been born? Because just by being born they have done something for us. They have given us a new job, a new purpose, new meaning in our lives.

We all want to feel loved. We all want to have the security and comfort of knowing there is someone we can lean on. I’m saying we can’t be loved if we don’t love. We won’t have someone to lean on unless we are there for others. We all want to feel taken care of yet we won’t have that unless we take care of others.

Sometimes it feels like love is tiring. You have to do all the time. Love is work. And I wonder, if I stop, will I still be loved?

Would you still love me
If I had nothing left to give,
If I had no energy to take care of you
If I had nothing you really needed?

Would you still love me
If I didn’t feed you or clean up,
If I didn’t offer my help
If I didn’t seem to care?

Would you still love me
If my mind wasn’t quite as sharp
If  I embarrassed you
With my confusion or bursts of anger?

Would you still love me
If my smile left my face forever
If my words went mute
And the music in my soul faded?

Would you still love me
Because of all I once was,
Even if now there was nothing recognizable
About the person sitting before you?

Would everything I have done until now
Be enough for you to still love me?
Love, the age old question
Pondered while hovering over the the precipice of self doubt.

I’m afraid to stop doing, to stop caring, to change the rules that have been golden up until now. I’m afraid to sway the balance of love and acceptance. I’m afraid if I do that I won’t be loved.

I yearn for unconditional love, to be able to give with truly no strings attached and to know that I am loved without having to do anything at all, just because I am a person who has a heart full of love. Is unconditional love just a fantasy residing in empty words or are we really capable of pure love? I wish I really knew.

What I do know, is that first of all I have to love myself, no strings attached. And when I feel like withdrawing, I need to love more.

Why do you think you love and are loved?

This is an original post by World Moms Blog Africa & Middle East Regional Editor, Susie Newday in Israel. You can also find her on her blog New Day New Lesson.

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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CANADA: Mental Illness – Let’s Talk

CANADA: Mental Illness – Let’s Talk

bell_lavieWhen I was a teenager, I suffered from teen depression. When I tried to talk to someone about it, I was told to “pull myself together”. I didn’t mention it again, because I didn’t think it was OK to talk about it.

When I was in my early 20’s, my life fell apart. I managed to pick up the pieces, but I also picked up anxiety, PTSD and an eating disorder to go along with the depression. I didn’t talk about it, because I felt that my own bad decisions had led to the state I was in. In other words, it was my own fault, therefore I didn’t deserve to be helped.

After the birth of my second child, I found myself drowning in postpartum depression. I didn’t talk about that either, because I was so ashamed. How could I possibly be feeling so bleak – suicidal, even – when I had two beautiful children? What kind of horrible person was I, that I would even think about leaving my sons without a mother?

For pretty much all of my teen and adult life, I have dealt with mental health problems that I haven’t wanted to talk about. I struggled alone with the fallout from the crisis in my early adulthood for a full twenty years – twenty years – before I sought professional help.

Sadly, I am not alone.

The Toronto-based Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) reports that in any given year, one in five Canadians suffers from a mental health problem.

We lose about eleven Canadians a day to suicide, with women being three to four times more likely to attempt it than men. The human, social and economic costs of mental illness are immense.

And yet people don’t want to talk about it – especially moms, who are so adept at tucking away their problems so they can take care of the people around them. People who suffer from mental illness tend to have this weird idea that it’s their fault, and that it’s a stigma that shouldn’t be spoken about. They fear that if their mental illness is known, it will hurt them socially and career-wise.

It is an unfortunate reality that stigmas surrounding mental illness do exist. According to CAMH, 55% of Canadians would hesitate to enter into a relationship with someone who has mental illness, and almost half of the population believes that mental illness is an “excuse”. All of this perpetuates the notion that mental illness is something to be ashamed of. And that in turn results in tragic loss of life and all kinds of trauma for those left behind.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As moms, we are great influencers of the generation we are raising. I believe it is within our power to greatly reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. If we instil in our kids the idea that it’s OK to talk about mental health issues, they will grow up to be more accepting of those who have problems, and they will have the freedom to talk about their own experiences.

If people talk more about their mental illnesses, and if they feel that it’s all right for them to seek help, how many lives could be saved? How many tragedies could be averted? How many children would be saved the sadness of losing a parent, a friend or a sibling?

Today is a special day in Canada, as one of the biggest companies sponsors a mental health awareness campaign. Today is Bell Let’s Talk day. For every tweet sent using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag, and for every Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk image, Bell Canada will donate another five cents to mental health initiatives.

Let’s do our part, to raise awareness and let people know that there is support for them. Let’s send a positive message to our children and create a newer, brighter future for those with mental illness issues.

Let’s talk.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto for World Moms Blog. Kirsten can be found at her blog, Running for Autism, or on Twitter @running4autism.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook and on Twitter @running4autism. Be sure to check out her personal blog, Running for Autism!

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BELGIUM:  What If Your Boss Is the Bully?

BELGIUM: What If Your Boss Is the Bully?

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If you Google bullying, there is a whole plethora of websites to choose from. Most of them deal with how to prevent your kid from bullying, how to react when your kid is bullied/being a bully, how to talk to your child about bullying.

But what if it is you—a fully grown adult—who are being bullied and there is really nothing you can do about it because the bully is also an adult…and your boss? And you cannot afford to lose your job.

Here is the situation: years ago I worked for a small, family owned business (You will understand why I do not name any names). I can best describe my boss as the Belgian cousin of Miranda Priestly, the Devil-boss who wore Prada. Believe me she had her down pat. From the sneering “that’s all,”  the calls outside work hours, the berating because I could not divine her thoughts and causing her to suffer the indignity of having to actually tell me what was expected, the pout…

Oh yeah, they were related all right.

After little more than a six months, I was actively looking for another job. And then, a week before I planned to resign and tell her to go do something to herself, I found out I was pregnant. And the game and the world as a whole changed completely.

We had just started building our house, there was no way my husband’s salary would cover all the bills and finding a job while you are pregnant is not easy.

So I stayed on. But it was obvious right from the start that they did not like the idea of having a young mother as employee.

Since I was competent at my job they had no reason to fire me outright and because Belgian legislation is rather protective towards pregnant women in the workplace, it became almost impossible to fire me when I handed over the medical bill announcing my pregnancy.

And so the bullying started.

Little things at first. Saddling me with a huge amount of work half an hour before I was due to clock out. Making a mess of the client contact database, insisting it was my fault, even though there was actual proof that it wasn’t.

But when they noticed that I was relatively unaffected things got BAD. In capitals.

While the company was closed for the summer holidays I got a letter detailing every little thing that I had done wrong after I announced I was pregnant. And I really mean everything, like putting one (1!) sheet of paper for an invoice the wrong way up in the printer causing them the loss of a whole eurocent in paper because I had to reprint the page. After that it got even worse than you can imagine. Belittling me in front of clients, calls at all hours, at all times, screaming, yelling, throwing. One day I came into the office to find that my boss had emptied my trashcan all over my desk. Fun times… I can tell you.

You must wonder how I dealt with the situation. Well, I hate to disappoint you, but I did not deal with it.
No, that is wrong. I did deal with it, but not in the way you might imagine. I did nothing.

I showed up for work, I let them scream, I let them yell, I let them belittle me, when they called at 6am on a Sunday I answered the phone and made no complaint. Nothing. When I arrived at the office I did my job. Business as usual.

This was my defense strategy. I did my job and because I continued to do it well, they never had an excuse for firing me.

Yes, I could have filed a complaint for harassment and started a legal procedure. I even started collecting evidence in case I should one day be forced to do so. Chances are very good I would have won, since the evidence was pretty rock solid. Yet, this was never really my intention. I was 29 at the time and legal procedures in Belgium can take a looooooooooooooooooong time. Dragging my employer to court would take ages, it would cost a lot of money and it is the kind of thing which haunts you forever. I still had my way to make in the world, my career was just beginning. A court case was likely to follow me around for my whole life and I did not wish to bring this kind of baggage with me.

I collected—and still keep—the evidence just in case.

In retrospect, I should have gone to my doctor, explained the situation and asked him to declare me unfit for work. But I did not do that. As soon as it was legally possible I resigned and the happy dance I did on my last day of work might have come straight out of a Broadway musical. I never looked back.

Has this situation ever happened to you? What did/would you do?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Belium, Tinne of Tantrum and Tomatoes.

The image used in this post is credited to Elizabeth Atalay.

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes

Born in Belgium on the fourth of July in a time before the invention of the smart phone Tinne is a working mother of two adorably mischievous little girls, the wife of her high school sweetheart and the owner of a black cat called Atilla. Since she likes to cook her blog is mainly devoted to food and because she is Belgian she has an absurd sense of humour and is frequently snarky. When she is not devoting all her attention to the internet, she likes to read, write and eat chocolate. Her greatest nemesis is laundry.

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