When I was a little girl, I loved coloring books and could spend hours with my crayons, meticulously coloring between the lines. It didn´t require much thinking. The assignment was clear and I got the job done. If I simply stayed within those lines, all turned out well. Lately however, life is not as simple as coloring within the lines.
At this point, I can firmly say that I am done with COVID. But that shouldn’t be news to you, right?
EVERYONE. IS. DONE. WITH. COVID.
I think I can safely assume that we all agree on this one.
Currently in the Netherlands, 86.2% of the population is vaccinated.
A large group declines from taking the vaccine. It is a diverse group of people that have different reasons for not taking the vaccine. Tensions between the vaccinated and unvaccinated are growing. Now that flu season has kicked off numbers are spiking again and the government has issued a series of new measures to try and control the virus. The most important measures: keeping 1,5 meters distance (6 ft ); face masks in public buildings, schools and stores; the government strongly advises us to work from home and non-essential stores, gyms, theaters etc. close at 17.00 (5 pm). There has been growing unrest as some take their grievances to the streets and clash with the police in violent encounters.
Enough is enough!
Oddly, it is not the virus that makes me weary.
It is the people that I’m fed up with.
I don’t think I have ever experienced this much negativity and madness in my life. I have never seen more distrust. And I certainly know that I am privileged to be able to say so. I’m done with seeing how we treat one another. I don’t think I have ever seen my country this divided.
So here is what I am going to do to get through this crisis.
I’m going to respect other opinions. Even if I don’t agree with them. Even if their choices make me angry and I inwardly need to restrain myself from slapping that person in the face. I‘m going to respect them and assume the best. I will presume that we all are trying our very best to survive in the best way we think we can.
I’m going to assume that we are the same. That we’re trying to live by our beliefs and make the best possible choices for ourselves and our families. I’m going to believe that we still have much in common. I am not going to lose friends over this. I will keep my eye on the bigger picture. When this is all behind us, I want to be able to talk about what we went through with my neighbors and friends. We should be able to grieve and celebrate in unity.
I wasn’t going to write about this.
I was going to write about coloring books.
About how I used to love picking up a good box of crayons and coloring between the lines and how everything was clear and structured that way. Lately it feels like I am back in kindergarten, sitting nicely at a table with my coloring book and box of crayons and all the other kids are going NUTS. The teacher left the room and some of them started scratching across the coloring pages, others are scribbling on the table or doodling on the walls and some are just running around in circles stabbing each other with their pencils.
I just want to yell at them to CALM THE HECK DOWN.
But I realize that we are all different and we all deal with crisis in our own way. And that people need to do whatever it is that they need to do before the teacher shows up again.
In whatever way, they are coping.
When this is all over, I just want to be able to sit with my friends, at the same table, with our boxes of crayons.
Tell me, how are you (still) coping with COVID?How do you deal with vastly different opinions?
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.
In addition to WMN Founder, Jennifer Burden, many of our Senior Editors have been with World Moms since almost its inception. Our Managing Editor, Kyla P’an was among our first World Moms. She joined in 2011. Here’s her story and what makes her a World Mom:
Where do you live?
I live in the lovely coastal town of Parede, Portugal almost halfway between Lisbon and Cascais. We’ve been living here since August 2019 and we were lucky enough to be “stuck” here during COVID too. Living in Portugal was supposed to be just a 2-year, expat assignment but we all love it here so much we plan to stay.
Where are you from?
I was born in the Philadelphia suburbs but spent much more of my life in New England. Before moving to Portugal in 2019, I lived outside of Boston, Massachusetts for the past two decades and before that, Japan for a few years.
What languages do you speak?
I speak English and pretty basic Japanese and Portuguese at this point. I used to speak Japanese pretty fluently but when I moved back to the US from Japan in 1998, met and married a Chinese-American and forced two kids to attend Sunday Chinese School for 10 years, my Japanese got pretty rusty.
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have two ‘Muses,” Ella, 15, and Parker, 12. They were my inspiration for getting into the blogosphere in 2010 with Growing Muses and also for my involvement with the amazing, global-minded and multi-cultural company, Barefoot Books.
In 2020, during the Summer of COVID, I taught my teenage daughter how to build a basic blog and we documented our road trip from Portugal to Paris from a mother/daughter perspective, resulting in our joint blog: Muses Where We Go. Aside from parenting, blogging with my child was one of the most full-circle activities I have done.
How did you connect with World Moms Network?
In 2011, Jennifer Burden did a search on global blogs and parenting and came across my blog post about Barefoot Books. I quickly got involved with World Moms Blog and before I knew it, Jennifer took a three-month maternity leave and asked me to step in as Managing Editor. She handed me this “baby” so she could be more present for her own.
How many years have you been a part of World Moms Network?
I joined in 2011 and worked as Managing Editor until I stepped down in 2016 to homeschool my daughter. I didn’t get back in the saddle again until the Pandemic, when Jennifer Burden reached out to World Moms around the globe and got us reunited and re-engaged; so six, non-consecutive years. I’m honored and thrilled to be back in my original role as Managing Editor. I love the team of editors and contributors I have the pleasure of working with and knowing.
How has your life changed since you joined World Moms Network?
Oh boy, how has my life changed? Well, for one, I live in Europe now and am raising my kids in a foreign culture. I also no longer do as much freelance writing as I used to but I think that’s about to change. In the parenting world, a lot changes in a decade. My kids have gone from being young kids to teenagers. I have a lot more gray hair but also a lot more amazing memories.
What is your occupation?
I’m a journalist and copy editor. I did a lot of projects with the Smithsonian Institution and other museums and academic institutions before moving to Portugal. Now that we have decided to settle here permanently, I plan to dust off my keyboard and do more of what I love most…traveling and writing about it.
What did you want to be as a kid?
Truthfully? The President of the United States. But now that I’m older and wiser, and see how complicated and inauthentic the job is, I’m glad I didn’t pursue that dream. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a diplomat. Now I am a mom and raising my own Global Citizens. Living abroad, I get to connect and coordinate with other international moms on a daily basis. So, I guess, to some degree, I am living out my diplomacy dream.
What are your top 5 places on your travel wish list?
Camino de Santiago (by bike)
Machu Picchu (by foot)
Book, Movie or Show you recommend?
Book: The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown (also author of The Boys in the Boat). Not only is this a true and remarkable tale of the mysterious outcome of a group of Pioneers traveling west in late-1800 America, it also reminds me to be deeply humbled and thankful for the comforts and ease of modern day travel. It puts into perspective how minor all of the COVID swabs and complications I had to put up with in order to travel during the pandemic were in comparison with the trials and hardships the Donner Party endured.
What brings you joy?
Open-air food markets wherever I go. I love seeing what the locals eat, how they shop and interact with one another and the vibrance of smells and colors. If I can’t find an open-air market, I will happily default to a grocery store. Even in my home country I can get lost in a good grocery store. I find the aisles full fo choices and ingredients so hopeful and inspiring. When I see new and unfamiliar products, sometimes I’ll wait to see someone buy it and then try to ask them, or the shop owner, how they cook with it.
Here in Portugal, they do an amazing amount of things with three main ingredients: laurel, garlic and olive oil. And most Portuguese deserts also consist of three main ingredients: egg yolks, sugar and cream. It reminds me how important having good building blocks are and the value of 3.
This is an original writer’s interview for World Moms Networkwith our Managing Editor and Editor of the European Region, Kyla P’an in Portugal. The photographs used in this post are credited to her.
World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.
Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms
Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.
I said it. It was not easy but I needed to let emotions go and tell the truth. I didn’t know it but I had hit parental burnout. It did not come out of nowhere but I had kept the situation at a distance for some time. I did not want to show my weaknesses. I did not want people to see this side of me.
For months and months I kept repeating to myself that I could manage, that some other women had more than one kid, some had more issues, illness, parents to deal with and they could make it work at the end of the day. Therefore, I could too.
The breaking point
Then, one day, I found myself locked in the bathroom, crying. Tears were heavy and on the other side of the door was my kid but I could not come out; I could not find the strength to make a step towards him; I could not get past my anger and pain—like I had many times in the past—and give him a hug.
I was not myself anymore. In addition, after every crisis, I hated myself. I was afraid of my violence, of the words, of what my own body and mind were able to do towards the most precious person of my life. I even asked myself at some stage if I really loved my son and if it would not be better to let him go live with other people. Home wasn’t safe. Family life felt like hell.
I was so ashamed I could not tell other mums or even family or friends. How can one say “I don’t like being with my child?” I was thinking that if I tell, Social Services would take my child away from me; or worse, give him to his dad. I could not imagine this.
I kept smiling outside, and the worst is that people told me I was a good mum. They didn’t know how awful these words made me feel, even guiltier than I felt already!
I kept crying indoors. I thought about my son, the one who helped me get away from an abusive marriage. And, here I was, making a mess of his life.
I cried for a long time this day and when I got out, I made myself only one promise: ask for help.
Asking for help
A week later, I was spilling my guts in front of a psychologist. I told her all the things I could not tell myself. I said out loud that I was scared to go home, that I was scared to cause harm to my son, that I could not go on like this, exhausted, feeling empty and mentally absent. I told her I was just surviving, doing the things that needed to be done.
Week after week I let go, I told her the chaos, my violent outbursts that I could not control, the fear in my son’s eyes when I was shouting and knocking on the walls, my wish, many times, to kill myself as it was becoming too hard and harmful for both of us. I was losing confidence as a mother, as a woman, as an individual. My life was slipping out of control.
This is called parental burnout. It refers to a prolonged situation of emotional imbalance, where the burdens of stress overcome personal resources to deal with life as it is. It can be compared to post-partum depression but it’s mostly linked to one’s parenting role and tasks.
Asking for help saved my family. I started writing at the same time, sharing my story with others, as guilt and shame were slowly fading. It’s not something I like to remember but I know that personal experiences can be of help. When facing such hardships in one’s life, loneliness is a killer.
We should all be strong together, being able to listen, without judgement, but with an attitude that will help women to open up before it’s too late. Parental burnout is a real and scary reality for many parents, especially single moms.
Have you heard about parental burnout before? Have you been there or do you know someone living such an experience?
Marie is from France and is living near Paris, after spending 6 years in Irlande. She is a single mum of one, sharing her time between work, family life and writing, her passion. She already wrote 6 books in her native langage.
She loves reading, photography, meeting friends and sharing life experiences. She blogs about domestic abuse, parenting and poetry @https://mahshiandmarshmallow.wordpress.com
When I was a new mother and both of my kids were “littles” (under the age of 5), I spent a lot of time chasing them around, picking up after them and carting them to copious kiddie activities. My mother-in-law liked to refer to that phase of parenting as being “deep in the weeds.” What I understood her analogy to mean was that life with pre-elementary-school-aged kids is like working in a garden perpetually choked by weeds, no matter how much you want to enjoy the flowers, there are always weeds slowing things down.
A friend interprets this same idiom as a golf reference: when you hit a ball into the rough (weeds) and it takes a lot longer to get back onto the fairway and into the good part of the game.
And yet another friend believes this idiom refers to fishing and how always casting out into the weeds, where you have to struggle to free your hook and make a catch,
Regardless of whether you interpret this saying in reference to gardening, fishing or playing golf, being in the weeds is a tough place to find yourself and it slows you down. The phrase has stuck with us through the years and my husband and I use it still when describing the life stages of friends and family.
They don’t go away, they just get taller
At the other end of the spectrum, once my youngest entered kindergarten and I suddenly had loads of productive time on my hands, my mother-in-law congratulated me for getting “out of the weeds.” And I thought that was the extent of it, that the next phases of parenthood might bring their own ups and downs, highs and lows but that the toughest part was behind me…boy was I WRONG!
Now that my kids are teenagers, they need me in different ways. The demands have gone from being physical to intellectual. My pockets of productive time still exist but the times and ways they need me now are much more intense. They no longer need me to sort their LEGO, or chaperone their bubble baths; now they need me to help tend their academic orchards, nurture their emotional gardens and pull weeds out of their social flower beds.
Before, tears were over spilled juice or a skinned knee; now they’re over spilled gossip and broken hearts.
Your garden doesn’t have to be perfect
The saying also goes: “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” but sometimes when you get to the other side, you realize how good you had it where you were.
When my kids were younger and needed more of my constant attention, I envied parents with older kids, who could let them bike to friend’s houses on their own, set up their own social calendars and manage their school work. I couldn’t wait for the day my kids would be independent enough not to need me for such tasks.
But now my kids manage their entire lives online, out of parental view and input. Sometimes I don’t even know the names of all of the kids in their classes. They take the train to social engagements and address their own academic hardships with their teachers on Teams.
I witness my younger siblings raising their own littles, being thick in their own weeds and I ENVY them. I miss being needed in simple and manageable ways. Being required to do things I was capable of doing and the sense of accomplishment I got from tedious but rewarding tasks like making homemade Valentine’s cards.
What I’ve learned: Don’t fight the weeds, struggle makes us stronger. No matter what stage your kids are in, the most important task as a parent is to nurture the garden, regardless of the growing season.
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
Yes, you read that right: “Something WORTH doing is worth doing BADLY.” When I first read that sentence in an email from one of my mentors, I thought that he had made a typo. Surely anything worth doing is worth doing WELL I thought. In his email, he went on to explain that people like us (perfectionists) tend to put off doing something—or don’t attempt it at all—due to our fear of not doing it WELL enough.
That really hit home for me. I have a very large number of examples from my own life of when I have done just that. The one I am sharing with you is something that has been stuck in my craw for most of my life.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to write a book. Since then, I have spent more money than I care to admit on writing courses and programs like Scrivener. I have started (and abandoned) numerous manuscripts. I let my personal blog die from neglect. I have made friends with a lot of people who have had books published (some of whom are probably reading this with some compassion…. at least I hope it’s compassion!). I read and watch everything I can about how to become a published author. I am doing everything… except actually writing! I am doing everything EXCEPT the only thing that truly matters, if I genuinely want to achieve my goal.
It’s Ok if it’s Not Perfect
I wanted to share this to encourage you NOT to be like me. DO the thing that you want to do because, odds are, people will admire your courage for trying, and NOBODY will judge you as harshly as you judge yourself.
This advice is as much for me as it is for you. A couple of years ago I attempted NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place annually in November. Of course I sabotaged myself and didn’t finish. Last time I told everyone that I was writing a nove, because I thought that it would keep me from chickening out but it didn’t. I don’t know if this is the year that I finally will get it done. What I do know is that nothing and nobody (apart from my own inner critic) is stopping me from doing it.
What is the one thing that you have always wanted to do but haven’t done out of fear of failure? What do you think would have to change in order for you to go for it?
This is an original post to World Moms Network from our contributor in Spain (formerly from South Africa), Mama Simona. The image used in this post is credited to Rebecca and used with permission from Creative Commons by Flickr.
Mamma Simona was born in Rome (Italy) but has lived in Cape Town (South Africa) since she was 8 years old. She studied French at school but says she’s forgotten most of it! She speaks Italian, English and Afrikaans. Even though Italian is the first language she learned, she considers English her "home" language as it's the language she's most comfortable in. She is happily married and the proud mother of 2 terrific teenagers! She also shares her home with 2 cats and 2 dogs ... all rescues.
Mamma Simona has worked in such diverse fields as Childcare, Tourism, Library Services, Optometry, Sales and Admin! (With stints of SAHM in-between). She’s really looking forward to the day she can give up her current Admin job and devote herself entirely to blogging and (eventually) being a full-time grandmother!
Have you ever found, or perhaps re-found, yourself in travel?
A few years ago, during an intense gym session in Krakow, Poland, my friend Paulina and I made a promise to each other, we were going to Norway; neither of us had ever been. We were going to hike (and push ourselves). We were going to do it on a budget (Norway is expensive). We were going to do all of the planning ourselves (because . . . budget).
And just by verbalizing it and making a promise to each other, we made it happen. We began planning in earnest four months in advance, each researching different parts of the trip and putting it all together when we’d meet up for coffee or a long run.
At the time, my kids were 3, 5 and 7. I felt like I had been a mom for so long now that planning a trip without my kids in the picture was a bit anxiety-inducing but also immensely exhilarating. Could I really plan a trip based on all of my interests? Could I choose to do something difficult, knowing that little legs would not have to keep up? Could I actually stay up as late as I wanted, steer clear of all kid-friendly restaurants AND spend uninterrupted time with a friend?
So Paulina and I did just that. We planned a five-day hiking trip to Norway, wearing all of our gear on our backs and staying in Norwegian public huts along the way (they are phenomenal, in case you are wondering), and hiked for hours and hours on all types of terrain through stunning Norwegian National Parks.
The trail and weather conditions changed daily between when we started to plan in February up until the day we left for Bergen, Norway in June. Some hikes were not yet passable due to the winter conditions, even in early June. The Norwegian Trekking Association gurus advised us to wait until arriving in Bergen to speak with local experts to determine safe hiking routes. Because I was so used to the down-to-the-detail style of traveling with kids, it felt unsettling to arrive in Norway with five days of gear, no reservations, and no idea of where we’d be heading, but it was also freeing.
Upon arrival in Bergen, we bought a (pricey, because it was Norway) hiking map and had extensive discussions with the Bergen Trekking Association staff about what we were hoping to do and what routes to hike. They advised us of two full-day hikes, one considered a “black” or expert-level hike from Sunndal to Fonnabu Hut at Folgefonna Glacier in Folgefonna Park, aptly called the “Fjord to Glacier” hike.
The hike was stunningly gorgeous and took us from a beautiful lush forest up to icy, snow-covered rocky peaks (something we were not expecting or fully prepared for in June) to the edge of Folgefonna Glacier. After nine hours of hiking we were exhausted, grateful to have arrived, and overwhelmed by the beauty, tranquility and other-worldliness of this spot that so few others have seen.
Our second hike, a “red,” was just as challenging—if not more so—due to weather. This one was an eight-hour hike from the town of Kinsarvik to Stavali Hut through Husedalen, the Valley of Four Waterfalls, in Hardarngervidda National Park. As the name implies, we hiked past four powerful, awe-inspiring waterfalls at different elevations along the journey. Once we scrambled up massive rock face and landed in the valley, fog started to set in and the trail, marked by stacked piles of rocks every so often, became difficult to find. We did not encounter one single individual for six hours and the only people staying in the Stavali Hut that evening were us.
The Most Harrowing Part
We had to cross a wide, rushing river over which the “summer bridge” was not yet in place. The bridge sat on the land, as if to taunt us, and was definitely too heavy to push into place (believe me, we tried). So what did we have to do? Cross a wide, waist-high icy cold rushing river on foot to continue on the trail. It was not for the faint of heart. It was scary, and cold . . . and after crossing it we still had another 1-2 hours to hike until reaching the hut that evening.
This would not have happened had we hiked during the true summer season; which is July-August in Norway. Blink, and you’ll miss it! But I tell myself we’re stronger for it. It was an experience I’ll not soon forget.
Love a Good Challenge
Our trip to Norway was that, and then some. It was a reset. It humbled me in huge ways. It rewarded me in huge ways. It scared me at times. It forced me to make hard choices. There were times I was in tears because I was so tired. There were other times I was in tears because I was so proud of what I had done. And at the end of the day, I saw me for me.
Not me as a mom.
Not me as a writer.
Not me as a wife.
Not me as a former diplomat.
On this trip I wasn’t a cook, chauffeur, arbiter of arguments, trip planner, master scheduler, nor all of the other roles we play for our kids. This trip was about me pushing myself to my limits and discovering a new, unbelievable place on this planet.
We All Need Trips Like This
You don’t always have to fly half way around the world to find them but you do need to challenge yourself. Do something for yourself. Be somewhat selfish and determine what it is that thrills your soul – and do that. Maybe it’s an improv class; maybe it’s flight lessons; maybe it’s learning how to play a new instrument; maybe it’s the North Pole marathon; maybe it’s a SCUBA certification on the Great Barrier Reef. I don’t care what it is, but plan it.
Then do it!
And in doing so, find yourself. Maybe for the first time. Maybe for the second, third, or fourth time.
My trip to Norway, at 39 years old, was hugely empowering. It was a moment that I made happen. One that required bravery, pushed me, taught me and helped me realize how much I had craved and needed a dose of solo, self-reflection and validation.
Oh, and a little tidbit of information I wasn’t even aware of when planning this trip: I was pregnant at the time with baby number 4. So you know, all things are possible.
This is an original post for World Moms Network from our contributor in Ukraine, Loren Braunohler. The image in this post is attributed to the author.
Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.