On Saturday, August 14, 2021, while drinking coffee and scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a few alarming posts about an earthquake in Haiti.
I immediately posted on my page, asking for confirmation.
Within minutes, my DMs & WhatsApp messages were blowing up. Friends and family members were reaching out, recounting the horrible moment.
I sat there in shock, reading the messages, watching the videos, checking the photos coming in at a rapid pace.
My oldest daughter, Kayla, heard snippets of my phone conversations and asked what was going on. So, we watched the online news together, heartbroken by the harsh reality of the situation. Haiti has gone through so much already. Why this!?
We wondered about the extent of the damage, the resources available to provide immediate help. We thought about those still stuck under the rubble and prayed someone would find them, alive. Our emotions were all over the place: shock, sadness, disbelief, worry…
I began to share updates on my social media pages, listing trusted organizations and reposting info from various sources to keep everyone in the loop.
Sleep eluded me as I stayed up late checking for updates, feeling compelled to keep abreast of it all.
As the days went by, the requests for help kept pouring in. Each story, more devastating than the previous one. People needed help; they needed tarps, tents, food, clean water, basic supplies. Many were left homeless, the clothes on their back, their sole possession.
A few friends and I began brainstorming about the best way to offer support.
Making the Tragedy Human
Then on August 17, I received a video from a contact in Jeremie. The footage came from an artisan in the area who noticed the victim’s wound while walking around.
Though not her personal friend, she wanted to assist her in finding help.
The video recounted the ordeal of an older victim of the earthquake. She was seeking assistance as her family had lost it all. She wounded her head and her leg while running to escape the sudden shaking.
The leg was swollen, poorly bandaged and she had no pain medication.
Roselene Dorsa is a mom of 8. She lives in the Abricots area—a commune of Jeremie—with her husband, three of her children, and three grandchildren. Prior to the earthquake, Roselene did housekeeping work in the city to provide for her family.
With over 50% of the area either damaged or destroyed, her chances of returning to work or finding a new job are slim. Yet, there are mouths to feed, including her grandbabies.
I watched her video several times, listening to her recounting the ordeal, noticing her surroundings, and my heart broke for her and her family.
The Power of Sisterhood
As a mom, the well-being of my family is my priority. It gives me joy to see my children happy, to provide for their needs and to know they have all they need.
Roselene and hundreds of moms in Southern Haiti right now are not even able to provide for themselves, let alone their children. The earthquake devastated their neighborhoods, destroyed their homes, took away their jobs, and left them wounded physically and mentally.
As caretakers, we provide comfort and relief when others are in pain. We nurture our loved ones.
Quite often, we forgo our own needs to make sure everyone else is taken care of.
Though there is pain in this story, I choose to focus on what struck me the most: the power of sisterhood. The woman who shared the footage is dealing with her own challenges. Her home was damaged during the earthquake, and her own children have pressing needs. Yet, her spirit rose above it, and she reached to advocate for a sister in need. She saw an urgent need and took action.
My hope is that sisters around the world will rally and help lighten the load of Roselene and the victims of this terrible disaster. Though we may come from various backgrounds & countries, we are all women. We are sisters. We know the pain of our fellow sisters. Together, we can ease that pain and bring back their smiles.
How You Can Help
If you’d like to assist in any way, please let me know. With the help of a small team, I am providing direct help to selected families. Many belong to an artisan community with whom I’ve collaborated for the last ten years. Please send me a DM if you’d like to help in any way.
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If you ask about the glue that keeps our blended family together, I could reply with classics like ‘unconditional love’, ‘reciprocal respect’ or ‘bonding through fun’. All those are indeed values we hold high in our family of two plus two plus two.
But the special superglue which makes us a family are definitely our family rituals and routines.
In our family, each Thursday is Ice Cream Day. Not just because we all like ice cream, but because on Thursday we celebrate being a family of six again.
Both my kids and my husband’s daughters return from their time with their other parents on Thursday. In the early days of being a blended family, Thursdays would sometimes be filled with tears, silence or just general awkwardness, so we looked for ways to ease the transition. Hence, Ice Cream Day came into being!
Many years later, we feel they don’t really ‘need’ Ice Cream Day anymore, but it still feels appropriate to celebrate being a family on a weekly basis. Besides, who wouldn’t cherish a fixed day to indulge in ice cream!
The Importance of Rituals
Personally, I feel rituals like Ice Cream Day help our kids experience our family home, and by extension, the world, as a predictable, safe place. It gives them something to hold on to.
Especially during the ongoing, turbulent times. Ice Cream Day and other rituals continued to give them a sense of security and comfort. A few months ago, one of our girls casually remarked—halfway through her Thursday Cornetto—that ‘Coronavirus cancelled a lot of things, but not Ice Cream Day!’
Other rituals we have as a family, are less thought through in advance, but became an important aspect of our family identity almost by accident.
When we hear the theme song from Frozen in the kid’s playlist, we need to yell ‘Kasteel!’ at the exact moment in the song when Elsa would build her ice castle in the movie. Just imagine the bewildered looks from bystanders when they hear the six of us in our car yelling ‘Kasteel!’ from the top of our lungs through the open windows, seemingly out of nowhere. We giggle, discuss who’s the winner – the one who was not too early and not too late – and proceed with waiting for our cue to loudly sing ‘Mosterd! Mosterd!’ when Master of Puppets is on. In our family, this song is about mustard. And occasionally about ketchup.
Building Family Security
Our family rituals are a bit like inside jokes. They have a special meaning to us as a family exclusively, and some of them even express our family values in a fun way.
On top of that, they provide the kids with a sense of identity as a member of our family. Especially in a blended family as ours, these casual instances of ‘belonging’ seem truly valuable.
By holding on to our rituals, I also aspire to instill some loving, fun memories in the kids. While slowly but loudly repeating the same mantra of six goodnight phrases when going down the stairs after tucking them in, I secretly hope they will pass this ceremony on to their own kids, one day.
‘Slaapwel. Zoete dromen. Welterusten. Hou van je. Tot morgen. Dikke kus.’
‘Sleep tight. Sweet dreams. Nighty night. Love you. See you tomorrow. Big kiss.’
Each their favorite good night phrase.
Each their daily reminder of security, identity and loving care.
All bundled up in one twenty-second-ritual.
I’m sure you all have some rituals in your families, maybe even without realizing their value. I would love to hear about them, big and small!
This is an original post to World Moms Network by our contributor from BelgiumKatinka Wouters from Belgium. The image used in this post is credited to Kenta Kikuchi from the open shared site, unsplash.com.
If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...
“Why aren’t babies born with their own unique manuals?!” used to be my constant refrain during the growing-up years of Abhishek, my science-loving, planet-conscious geeky son. As infancy, toddlerhood, childhood and the pre-teens of this bursting-with-energy boy, gave way to the tumultuous teenage years, I kept marvelling at the continual learning involved in being a parent – no sooner did I master a technique, Abhishek’s next stage of growth arrived!
Parenting over long distances, when Abhi left for his four years of undergraduate engineering studies for another city, became even more challenging – the added dimensions of missing one’s child, maternal anxiety, and little ‘gaps’ in communication, made parenting seem suddenly more complex. And, as if these were not tough enough, the pandemic has added an extra dimension of complication to the simplest of interactions and decisions.
“Have things really changed greatly?” I found myself wondering recently, after finishing a 15-minute video call with my son, who is currently studying for his Masters’ degree in the Netherlands. I live in Mumbai, India. Google helpfully informs me that the distance between his city and mine is 4276 miles or 6882 kilometres. My head may not quite grasp those numbers, but my heart recognizes the challenge of every little bit of millimetre. As it remembers every day since August 24, 2020, when, mask and gloves in place, this lanky boy-man, weighed down with heavy suitcases, waved goodbye to his father and me at Mumbai airport, to leave for the next phase of his learning.
This, then, is a little “slice of life” glimpse of my parenting story, about the changing equations of long-distance parenting in the pandemic…
Me to Abhi (WhatsApp): Abhi dear, we need to discuss the schedule for payment of your fees. What’s a good time to talk for 15 minutes? I can work with either 7 pm IST or 9 pm IST. Alternatively, let me know your preferred time-slots.
Abhi: *silence for 2 days*
Me: Abhi, hope all is well. I tried reaching you but didn’t get through.
Abhi: *silence for another 3 days*
Me: (Wondering what to do) Abhi, we are beginning to get worried. Please message or call back.
Abhi: (out of nowhere, on Whatsapp) I am fine, don’t worry. The phone was on silent for long durations / I was resting when you had called / I was out when you had called / There was a group meeting when you had called…*insert sheepish and semi-apologetic emoji*
Me: (a bit annoyed – now on a call) You still need to send a message you’re doing OK. After all, there is a pandemic going on. Are you eating and exercising properly? Are you using a face-mask in crowded places in public?
Abhi: Relax Ma, I am almost 23, not 3!
Me: Can we switch to a video call? Haven’t seen you for such a long while! (Mothers, please note – your child may baulk at any expression of sentimentality. Mine does. Any statement of “I am missing you, and it’s been a year since we met” is met with a truly bewildered response of “But I am fine and we are regularly interacting on the phone and over WhatsApp!”)
Abhi: (reluctantly) O.K. if you insist
Me: (after talking for 5 minutes, suspiciously) Abhi, why aren’t you moving the phone to a more comfortable position? Why do I only see a close-up of your face?
Abhi: (grinning, tilts the phone around – the room is in happy chaos and he’s only partially clothed) I didn’t want to scare you!
Me: Abhiiii! Are you 23 or 3 years of age?! Haven’t I succeeded in teaching you anything?! (In high-context cultures like India, parents, particularly moms, are held accountable by society for their children’s quirks, tastes and anything the child does that might be even a little different from the norm. Yes, I know – it’s peculiar.)
Abhi: (laughing) I am 3, I am 3! Who said I was 23?
Me: On a more serious note, won’t it help you to organise your things? And maybe you could wear a vest or a light T-shirt even though it is hot…
Abhi: (sighing) Ma, I need my own space. Don’t worry, I’ll manage. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?
(Undeniably strong cue for me to drop my current line of conversation – I quickly switch tacks.)
Me: No worries. How have you been enjoying your Teaching Assistant work? Are you learning interesting things?
Abhi: (in a more interested tone of voice) Yes! It’s good and I am reading up on sustainability, in order to answer the questions of other students in the online teaching forum…
As Abhi continued this conversation, I found myself quickly mentally switching from the “classical mother” role to the “friendly parent / peers exchanging updates / teacher learning from a ‘student’” mode. I’ve realised that the classical motherhood tropes that my generation grew up with in India (“Did you eat your food?” “Why are looking so thin?” “Are you studying hard and scoring good grades?”) are almost completely redundant. Our children would rather discuss an interesting video they saw, a meme they chuckled over (Abhi and I regularly swap laugh-out-loud memes on Instagram), or why they think we need to conserve our resources on a war footing. Pandemic or not, daily reminders for careful living will boomerang. And yes, we cannot presume to claim their time, only on account of being their parent – we approach them for a slice of their day with the same courtesy we have for a non-familial, professional interaction – something that amazes the grandparents of our family!
Generation-Z shrugs off the use of labels of age and hierarchy, is unapologetically individualistic, unflinching in its gaze towards the truth of the planet in which we live, and more than willing to take a collaborative stance towards solutions. But provided the older generations are willing to speak in a peer-to-peer voice. With ample space for individual quirks and choices, and mutual respect for all, irrespective of the presence or absence of maternal or filial ties.
I chuckled when my ruminations made me realise there’s just one alphabet differentiating “mother” from “smother”! So now, I simply send a “Are you healthy and happy?” message, whenever there is silence for a while. And he replies with a “Yes” and a smiley emoji. And we both try not to think about when we will meet in person.
Perhaps, the secret to successful parenting over long distances, especially in this global pandemic, is to recognize our shared as well as distinct journeys, laugh over what we don’t control, build our tomorrows on hope, and allow sweet spaces to be interwoven through our conversations and hence, our lives. We live in trust, faith and hope and the acknowledgement of a shared vulnerability. And yes, sometimes, the far-away child will be “3” and sometimes “23” 😊
This was an original post for World Mom by contributor, Piya Mukherjee(India). Photo credit to the Author.
What has your parenting experience been during the pandemic?
No matter what is going on all around us, we need food. Too often lack of food is what is going on in certain parts of the world, while where there is plenty, we might enjoy a morsel on our own or with our neighbors, family, or friends.
I would like to ask you: what tools do you use to cook? Is it a kerosene or gas stove? Charcoal or electricity? A combination? If there was a way to cook your food using less energy, would you want to know about it? This post is all about that, so you are in the right place!
Bibi Saleha (Sally) Qazi is a Tanzanian woman who came up with a brilliant idea. We call her Bibi, a title of respect that means “grandmother”. Bibi Sally is my mother, which might make one question whether I am biased, but once you read on I believe you will see that it makes good sense.
The idea is the Wonder Basket.
So what is it?
The Wonder Basket is a cooking tool that is made with all* recycled materials. Use of the Wonder Basket helps with busy and lazy schedules, as you can use your stove of choice for a short time and turn it off (or use it for other foods). You then transfer your pot to the Wonder Basket to continue cooking without additional energy, using only the heat it has already gathered. The Wonder Basket saves energy, which is good for the planet, people, and the pocket.
Where may one find one of these amazing Baskets, and is the answer Africa? Well, as much as you are welcome to visit Tanzania (as you should) and attend a training session with Mama Sally, you can make a Wonder Basket on your own!
Speaking of bias, I’ll be honest… as her daughter and a woman who has always wanted to be financially independent, the fact that my mom freely shares this information sometimes bothers me Why? Because through this knowledge she could provide for herself, which is something that is needed. However, as a human being I am so thankful, humbled, and proud that she does freely share, and I hope that this universe will continue to provide for her all that she needs and more. My mom rocks as a human, as a woman and as a mom!
How Bibi Sally makes the Wonder Basket
The Wonder Basket is made using ten items: 1) A basket or large wooden box 2) Nylon sheeting large enough for two linings 3) Thin sponge mattress for insulation or enough large wood shavings for lining 4) A piece of sturdy cotton cloth to cover the nylon 5) A nylon bag for a cushion lid 6) Sponge for the lid 7) A pillow slip for cushion lid 8) Some string and big needle 9) A pair of scissors 10) A small square of cardboard to put under the pot in the basket
How to make it
Take a large basket or box (around 50cm x 50cm x 50cm). Line it with the nylon sheet to insulate it. Create a base 3–4 cm wide at the bottom. Apply the second sheet of nylon to cover the base , and fill in the space between two nylon sheets to create a wall inside the basket or box, either with wood shavings or the sponge mattress. Seal the wall which is 3-4 cm wide by folding the nylon sheet overlap. Cover with the strong cotton cloth. I used a large pair of skintight pants as the elastic waist band covers the nylon wall perfectly and the legs can be folded into the central well. The cloth can be arranged to cover the inside of the basket and overlap over the basket walls. Give it a shape with the scissors or tuck it in and stitch with the string to hold it all together. The pillow must not be rigid. Fill the nylon bag with wood shavings or sponge; give it a shape to fit snugly into the well in the basket. Cover it with the pillow or cushion slip and stitch it shut.
How to use the Wonder Basket
All cereals/grains and most foods cooked in water can be cooked in the basket!
Measure and clean the cereal/grain to be used, soak it until saturated. Put it in a pot without salt and with enough water to cover it completely with 1 cm of water above it. Bring it to a boil and stir. Cover and boil for one minute. Then transfer the pot to the insulated basket and cover it immediately with the cushion lid. Make sure no hot air comes out or cold air goes into the covered basket. The cooking time is the same as when you use the stove.
A note about rice
One cup of rice absorbs about two cups of water, sometimes a bit more for mature grains. Soak the clean rice for a few minutes. Then heat the necessary amount of water, salt it and bring to boil; you can put in some oil and spices if desired. When it boils, put in the strained rice, and stir. When it starts boiling properly, cover it and move the pan to the basket, and immediately put the cushion lid on.
Meat, potatoes, and cassava can be cut into inch-long pieces and cooked as desired. Then add a little boiling water, put the lidded pot in the basket, and cover instantly.
The basket will cook the food and keep it hot for a long time. You don’t need to watch it for fear that it may get burnt, as there is no flame or live fire. Don’t open the basket to check the food before passing the minimum cooking time has elapsed.
You cannot fry, grill or bake with this method. You can sterilize juice, food, and bottles in the basket. Take it on safari or picnic, or the office or the farm.
Bibi Sally has been an advocate for nutrition and nutrition education in her community for decades. She has always been passionate about women’s rights, human rights, children in poverty, self-reliance, and having a good hearty laugh! She is also a phenomenal translator, having translated many of the Baha’i Holy Writings from English to Kiswahili, as well as other independent translation assignments.
If you have any questions about the Wonder Basket, please do ask.
*all recycled materials: Sometimes you might have to buy the basket, box, or other materials.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by ThinkSayBe. Photo credit to the author.
I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!
I consider myself a highly sensitive person. Some might even call me too sensitive. I cry easily when I watch movies and get teary eyed when something moves me. If you would have asked me, I would have said, that I was totally in touch with my feelings
But it took a pandemic to realize that I wasn’t really processing my feelings: I was simply DEALING with them.
Oh, I was GOOD at dealing with my feelings.
I stomped around the house when I was angry, ranted about my grievances, had heart to heart talks ‘at’ my husband and retreated in my bedroom when I was feeling really sad. All of that for a brief moment, than I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and it was business as usual.
Because I was REALLY GOOD at dealing with my feelings, getting over ‘it’ and wiping my single tear away.
There was a lot tugging at those bootstraps, as I occasionally shoved a bag of chips down my throat before breakfast or decided to kill all my extra time, by binging Netflix series. Sometimes I felt an awkward lump in my throat or a heaviness in my step, but I just kept on stepping until I was, once again, OVER IT.
I was doing GREAT.
The pandemic gave me a new perspective on myself. My rollercoaster of a life came to a halt. I was in between jobs and stuck in a house with my family. And it was quiet. No job appointments, no social gatherings, no family outings. I had all the time in the world time to take care of myself. In the absence of all those demanding voices, I became aware of my own silent cry.
“You know that bad experience you had? You haven’t really processed that, you have just moved on. You’re still full of anger, frustration and grief and you are carrying it all around in your body. You smile but the corners of your mouth are getting heavy, like those bootstraps you keep pulling on.”
I started to listen to what my feelings were trying to tell me. I allowed sadness, discomfort and anger to show their faces. Now, it’s becoming okay to sit in the discomfort of negative feelings. I’m allowing them to exist.
I sit with my feelings, I process, I heal and then, when it’s time: I move on.
Let’s be real with each other: what are your healthy and/or unhealthy ways to deal with negative feelings? I would love to hear about it!
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Mirjam Rose of the Netherlands.
Photo credit to Sophie Burden. This photo was actually taken on a walking tour of Delft, Netherlands when World Moms, Mirjam Rose and Jennifer Burden, met with their children in 2018!
Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands.
She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life.
Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home.
She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera.
Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it.
She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways.
But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself.
You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.