MASSACHUSETTS, USA:  Promoting the Inner “Bossy”

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Promoting the Inner “Bossy”

bossyFrom almost the moment our daughter came onto the scene eight years ago, we knew she had a strong personality. She was one of those incredibly alert and determined babies; the type you could tell was processing her surroundings and trying to figure out what to do about them.

While many babies and toddlers her age were delighted to be pushed in a swing, my daughter would have nothing to do with swings until she was old enough to figure out what made them go. She had no desire to be the passive recipient of being pushed, instead she wanted to be in control; she wanted to conquer it. She took the same approach with toys, puzzles and games. She was an early walker, a determined eater, and an all-around intense little thing.

My husband and I frequently got comments like: “boy, you’ve got your hands full with that one,” or “she’s going to keep you on your toes.”

As our daughter grew, by far her favorite activities involved sorting, organizing and problem solving. I have one vivid memory of her toddler music class, when she was just two years old. About three-quarters of the way through the class, the teacher put out a basket of instruments for the children to choose from and play along with. Our daughter, who was particularly fond of the little plastic eggs filled with beans—which she called shake-a’s—was determined to collect as many of them as possible. Driven by this singular motive, she went around the room delivering alternate instruments to fellow toddlers and parents alike. Anytime she encountered an individual who already had a shake-a, she’d attempt to persuade them with an alternate instrument in exchange until she had gathered a significant cache.

During these displays of self-assured behavior and go-get-‘em spirit, I often found myself shrinking into the background, hoping other parents wouldn’t fault me for having such a pushy, precocious child. At this particular music class, however, a parent approached me afterwards and commended me for having such a “strong child with clear leadership potential.” With her few words of encouragement, this parent liberated me from my deep mommy guilt about having a child with drive.

I was in constant conflict because, even though I am a child of the 70’s—a time when many of our mothers here in the US were breaking down stereotypes and entering the workforce en masse—I was raised by my father, who came from an old-world upbringing and had old-fashioned views of how boys and girls should behave.

I am reluctant to admit that, rather than celebrating my daughter’s inherent leadership qualities, I labeled her as “bossy” and occasionally even criticized her for being too demonstrative.

Bossy, a word inferring that someone is behaving “boss-like,” should be a compliment heralding someone’s leadership skills but ironically, instead it criticizes her for it. It’s a label reserved primarily for girls. You rarely hear it applied to boys. A little girl on the playground, organizing kids into teams and assigning them roles will quickly be knocked down a few rungs by calling her “bossy,”  whereas a little boy taking the same actions might be respected and followed.

I’m ashamed to admit, even I supported this stereotype. I was concerned my daughter was too confident interacting with adults, leading activities and organizing groups. I was concerned she wasn’t “girly” enough, lacked empathy and a gentle, nurturing-side. As a modern, liberated and independent woman myself, I still didn’t want her peers to ostracize her or put her down.

Why was I struggling between nurturing and diminishing my daughter’s inner boss? Why was I uncomfortable with her being a leader, or overly-confident or intensely goal oriented? What could I do to help raise this new generation of girl-leaders?

Two weeks ago I got some reassuring answers. They were in the Wall Street Journal, on a full-page, front-of-section article titled, “Don’t Call Us Bossy.” And the women giving the encouragement were the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, and the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts, USA, Anna Maria Chavez.

Sandberg and Chavez’s goal is to redirect our thinking about the way girls lead. To relabel our vocabulary about girls’ take-charge behavior. Instead of bossy behavior, recognize it as executive leadership potential, like CBS television anchor, Norah O’Donnell does. Instead of discouraging ambitious goals, support girls to recognize their inherent ability to achieve whatever goal they set out for.

I think the world would be a very different—and frankly far more pleasant—place to live in if there were more “bossy” women in charge.

Let’s take a stand to have more female bosses in the workplace; Here’s to raising our girls to be the leaders they are capable of being, not the followers our lexicon makes them feel they are supposed to be!

Did anyone ever call you “bossy” growing up? Do you see these qualities in your own child? How do you feel about assertive and confident girls?

For ways to encourage leadership in girls, visit and BanBossy two of the movements supported by Sheryl Sandberg, Ana Maria Chavez and Girl Scouts, USA.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to Pat Moore. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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A Ugandan Water Story for #WorldWaterDay

A Ugandan Water Story for #WorldWaterDay

“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” 

Growing up only a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, I have always felt a large connection with water.  I spent my time growing up splashing in the waves, even skipping high school to ride my bike and bodyboard down to the beach to catch some waves.  The ocean was always my place to go to de-stress, whether it was running the boardwalk in high school cross country practices, walking the boardwalk while talking with my mom, or running on the beach to feel alive.

I’ve always lived where there was plenty of fresh water to drink and bathe in, too, but can you imagine not having enough desalinated water to drink? Or no access to a toilet?  This is the reality for so many of us across the planet. Did you know that 2.5 billion, or 1 in 3 people in the world do not have access to a toilet according to CNN?

When I was in Uganda with the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign in October 2012, I witnessed many people walking on the roads long distances with large yellow water jugs to collect clean water for their homes.

Here is an example of people near Queen Elizabeth National Park in Fort Portal, Uganda using the lake to wash their clothes.  Mind you, it is a crocodile-ridden lake, so their safety was at risk.

Washing Clothes in River

Another two-some carried water in the yellow jugs from the lake to their homes.

Carrying River Water

Also, here is a water pump that was installed at a boarding school we visited in western Uganda. The school installed a rain collection system on the roofs of all of the buildings, which fed into this water pump because there is no running water there.

Water Pump Uganda

At Railway Children Primary School in Kampala, we found an example of a water tower.  The cachement area for this school are the capital’s slums, and it is highly funded by UNICEF Uganda.  This water tower makes it possible for the children to wash their hands after they use the toilets, which were then just newly installed.

Water Tower to Wash Hands Kampala

Here is the area for the toilets:

School Toilets Railway Children Primary School Kampala

Today, March 22nd, 2014, is World Water Day. Water is a basic need, a human right. There are organizations, such as Wateraid, working year-round to help provide toilets and clean water to people around the globe.  Think of them next time you donate.  And think of the people at this very moment who are looking for a place to “go.”

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by founder, Jennifer Burden, in New Jersey, USA. 
Photo credits to the author.  

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,, 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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CALIFORNIA, USA: Time flies by so fast; Let’s cherish what’s NOW

CALIFORNIA, USA: Time flies by so fast; Let’s cherish what’s NOW

with tali-1All parents agree, once their first child came into their lives, everything changed. Our life routine changed, some of our friends changed, our clean house no longer stayed clean, the term “empty laundry basket” became an abstract thing, our plans for the future changed…even some of our dreams. We no longer sleep, we no longer eat, we no longer have the time to take care of ourselves as much as we wish. Eating at a dining table is a privilege, at least in my house, because most of my meals are consumed on the run, and my kids are not even in school yet!

I go to mom’s groups, family gatherings, coffee with friends, and I hear the same thing over, and over again: “It will all pass faster than you expect, and you’ll become free again.” No more dirty diapers, no more wiping floors and ceilings after each meal, no more sleepless nights, no more this, and no more that…

And I’m thinking, is it really all that bad…having young children around? Is it really that hard? Yes, it is hard, but it will become harder. Sleepless nights, because the baby is hungry, or because she needs a new diaper will change to sleepless nights because my daughters are out on a date, or on a road trip across the country, and I’m left with all the visions in my head about what may go wrong out there. (more…)

Ewa Samples

Ewa was born, and raised in Poland. She graduated University with a master's degree in Mass-Media Education. This daring mom hitchhiked from Berlin, Germany through Switzerland and France to Barcelona, Spain and back again! She left Poland to become an Au Pair in California and looked after twins of gay parents for almost 2 years. There, she met her future husband through Couch Surfing, an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals. Today she enjoys her life one picture at a time. She runs a photography business in sunny California and document her daughters life one picture at a time. You can find this artistic mom on her blog, Ewa Samples Photography, on Twitter @EwaSamples or on Facebook!

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Philippines: Life Detox

Philippines: Life Detox

Today, for the first time in a long time, I said no to a work project. See, last year was difficult for our family, with my husband being out of work for some months. I had to assume the role of breadwinner while still functioning as mommy, wife, and woman. I know a lot of you know how that feels. I knew that I wasn’t completely alone, though, and that my husband was always around, ready to help. But that didn’t stop me from feeling the pressure that came with bills, tuition and car payments and other expenses that came knocking on my door each month.

I accepted every work opportunity that came my way, and turned over a lot of my home responsibilities to my husband. For a while, the pressure caused me to forget how it was to live. It made me lose sight of what I had set as my purpose a couple of years ago when I chose to work from home – to focus on my family. The stress that I was putting on myself made me cranky and moody. It also caused me to doubt my abilities and question if what I was doing was right. Worst of all, it nearly made me lose faith that things would work out.

Life was, basically, not nice, and it took a lot for optimistic me to see the sweet side of every day. But, as life teaches us, there is always a rainbow after the rain, and the sun always rises after a long dark night. And today, as I said no to that project, I felt the sun shine down on me, and saw that beautiful colorful rainbow. I’m glad that I am now out of that funk.

This post may just be simple, short and sweet, but it goes out to each one of you. I want to remind you today to love yourself, and that means making time for yourself amidst all the chaos that you might be facing. I want for each of you to stop and cherish the moment you are in right now, to hug your husband and inhale his scent, to play with your child and take in all the giggles.

We all have our long days, long weeks, in my case, one long year, and all it takes is a few seconds in the middle of all that to stop and remember what you really are living for. Remember your purpose, and live it out. And before you know it, you’ll begin to feel the warm sun shine down on you, too.

How easy or difficult is it for you to say ‘No’ to something?

This is an original post by our contributor Mrs. P. Cuyugan from Philippines. Photo credit to the author.


Patricia Cuyugan (Philippines)

Patricia Cuyugan is a wife, mom, cat momma, and a hands-on homemaker from Manila, whose greatest achievement is her pork adobo. She has been writing about parenting for about as long as she’s been a parent, which is just a little over a decade. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her reading a book, binge-watching a K-drama series, or folding laundry. She really should be writing, though! Follow her homemaking adventures on Instagram at @patriciacuyugs. 

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: It’s Not Censorship, It’s a Teaching Moment

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: It’s Not Censorship, It’s a Teaching Moment

Censorship UAEI always swore I would never home-school my children.  I know many people do, and do it quite successfully, but I’m awfully fond of the quiet that descends on my house after they’ve tromped off to school.  If that tromping were only happening from the bedroom to, say, the kitchen table, I think I might simply lock myself in the bathroom and never come out.

But as so often happens, my vow has collided with reality and I have found myself, in recent weeks, trolling home-schooling websites in search of teaching resources.   My kids are now 9 (nine and a half, he would say indignantly) and 13; they go to a British school here in Abu Dhabi.  That means they’ve spent a lot of time learning various English kings and queens, although they can’t recite them all in order. They study “maths,” and do prep rather than homework; they study English history and geography; they read mostly English writers in their literature classes.  In addition to all those Anglo studies, they take Arabic language classes four days a week and once-weekly class called “Islamic Studies.” The Arabic classes are mandated by ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) and I have to say, I’m much more interested in my kids learning Arabic than I am in their ability to name all the English kings and queens.

Having the boys be in an English system has been a learning curve for all of us. We’re learning two languages, actually, Arabic and, well, English: the boys now live in a world where things are “grey,” luggage goes in the “boot,” and we put garbage in the “bin.”

I’m not considering a dabble in the home-schooling system in order to beef up my boys’ appreciation of the Queen’s English, however.  My kids, like every schoolchild in the country, have a curriculum that is at least in part determined by the UAE government, and that means there are things that aren’t supposed to be taught.  I live in a place where censorship happens and where, unlike the States, the policies cannot be overtly challenged in the courts.  So, for instance, in the States if you live in a town where they want to ban the Harry Potter books, you can take the school district to court. Not here.

We had to sign a permission slip so that our older son could get the science textbook that included the chapter on reproduction (with pictures of, you know, the embarrassing bits); his Latin class translates vinum as … grape, not wine.  These are relatively small annoyances, although of course they are far from ideal.

There are, however, more serious concerns in terms of what shouldn’t be included in history courses and literature courses, and that’s where I find myself trolling the home-schooling sites for resources.  The Holocaust can’t be taught here; Israel and Judaism are not supposed to be mentioned here; communism isn’t supposed to be discussed; evolution isn’t supposed to be taught; and the list goes on. Sometimes it feels as if we’re living in some kind of Bible-thumping town in the rural U.S and I realize, yet again, that fundamentalism can be seen as a global phenomenon that differs only in the nature of its prohibitions: the fear that motivates the prohibitions stays constant.

Before you leap to any conclusions,  please know that the Muslim families I know are as frustrated by these government-issued edicts as are the non-Muslim families and many of us have talked together about what we can do to help our children gain a full picture of the world, regardless of what the government says. So it is that what in some contexts (living in Manhattan, for instance) would be a purely theoretical discussion has become in our household, a very pragmatic series of conversations.

Think about it: how would you talk to your kids about censorship?  Is censorship always bad?  Think about your children, if you have them, and the internet: are there sites you say they can’t see, or have you put a filter or something on your computer to prevent certain kinds of access?  Do we agree that there is such a thing as “good” censorship?  (Because of that whole teenage-boy-surfing-the-internet thing, I see a (slight) upside to living in a “nanny state.” I am fairly sure that if he wanted to look, my son wouldn’t be able to find basic porn–not to say that if he really wanted to dig around he couldn’t elude the censors, but at this point, I think his porn-directed vocabulary is still too limited to get around the government blocks.  I guess we file that under “thank goodness for small favors,” right? )

My husband and I are both professors, and so we are able to bolster and supplement what isn’t happening in school, but we are also having a lot of conversations with our kids about censorship, politics, and the necessity of thinking about things in ways that are different from how we might think about them.  We point out that the UAE isn’t Saudi Arabia; there is no Taliban here; the country is not governed by a theocracy of any sort.  We know Jewish families who live here; I know gay couples who live here; a Mormon family lives next door to us. I see people on the beach in the scantiest of scanty bathing suits.

Living here means coming to term with nuance, with ambiguity, with living in a world that is organized around “both/and,” rather than “either/or.”  The country is progressive and conservative; censorship is a problem that has a context; learning happens as much from what is not there as it does from what is there.  It’s complicated and let’s be honest — no nine year old, no thirteen year old—and very few adults—really likes ambiguity.  After all, if there is no “in-between” answer, life becomes much easier, doesn’t it?

No, of course I’m not happy that my kids have a biology textbook with the word “pig” marked out.  Of course, I’m also not pleased that the Anglo-centric curriculum also neglects things like the US Civil War, other than in the most general sense.  But I will say that I think it is, and will continue to be, a powerful learning experience for my children (and us) to have to confront and think about what it means to live in a place where the government attempts to exert such extensive control.  I like to think that, paradoxically, these attempts at censorship will make my children more open-minded adults.

Have you ever been confronted with censorship? How have you dealt with it?

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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