I had a nightmare the other night about running late for dinner with my husband. In the dream, I went into the bedroom to change, but for the life of me I couldn’t get ready. I knew my husband was outside getting more and more impatient with me and we were going to miss our reservation, but nothing could make me speed up. I woke up with a start and looked at my bedside clock. It was 9:15 am. I was an hour and fifteen minutes late for my son Boodi’s sports day. I had slept through the alarm (and many many snooze alarms) like a zombie. My subconscious had been taking me on a dream guilt trip.
I jumped out of bed, irrationally angry at everyone in the world who didn’t wake me (including my 4 year old, Khaled, who I kept home from preschool to go with me to sports day). He greeted me saying, “Mama I was waiting and waiting and you weren’t coming.”
It took me 10 minutes to get from the bed to the car. My irrational anger began to subside when I realised that there is no one to blame. I simply slept through the alarm. This didn’t help with the guilt that swelled with every passing minute.
I should give you a little background: our nanny normally does the school drop-offs, which is why I was still asleep till 9:15. Also, I am 17 weeks pregnant with baby number 5 and running my own business – hence the coma-like sleep I have been experiencing lately.
Thankfully, our nanny had rushed back to school at 8 am to be there for my son and take pictures. I frantically called her from the car and she assured me they had 3 more games to play before the end of the sports day.
We arrived finally at 9:55 am. As I walked onto the field where the mothers were following their children’s classes from activity to activity, I ran into a couple of mother whom I know. One of them looked concerned and asked if I had just arrived. “Yes, I slept through the alarm! I feel terrible!” I told her. She gave me a sympathetic look and said not to worry, and that Boodi was pleased the nanny was there (kill me now). The other mother laughed and said “Well, good morning at night!” (An Arabic expression meaning too little, too late). The first mother was genuinely trying to help but this one, well, was just being bitchy.
I let out a little laugh, not knowing how else to respond. I held back my tears, and went to find Boodi. Khaled found him first and ran over to him to give him hugs. I found our nanny, apologized, and thanked her profusely for coming and taking pictures. She, as always, understood and left us to enjoy the last of the activities. I ran into a few other mothers who were genuinely empathetic. They made me feel better, but I couldn’t shake the sour taste the mean mother’s comment left in my mouth. I promised to pick Boodi up at the end of the day and headed home. Boodi was so happy to have us there the last 10 minutes that he didn’t even ask why I was late.
I came back to school at pick up time and was waiting outside for the final bell to ring. Another mother whom I know walked up to me and said “I didn’t see you today.” Previous interactions with this particular mother had me prepared me – I knew what to expect. “Oh, I saw you!” I said with a smile. “I arrived a bit late.”
“How late? After it finished?” She laughed. I stared at her, flabbergasted, and said “I slept through my alarm,” because that’s all I could muster. “Well, don’t be late for the grade 5 sports day tomorrow!” she snipped. Tomorrow’s sports day, which both our older children are part of, starts at 12 in the afternoon. I managed to say, “Of course I won’t! It’s at 12 pm! Who would sleep that late?” This answer took her back a bit. By the time the bell rang I was seething.
I went home planning what I would say the next day when I saw the mom shamers. I knew that someone would make a comment, and I wanted to have a snarky reply at the ready. Of course, the next day when the other mother passed by me on the field and said, “Ah, I see you made it on time today!” I just gave her a steely look and walked away. At the end of the day, I’m all talk.
Looking back on the different interactions I have had with the mom shamers at school, I lose count of how many times I have been shamed, or have witnessed shaming of others. Mom shamers can be brutally judgemental. No matter their reason for shaming other moms, it is inexcusable for women to be other women’s biggest critics. What happened to women supporting women? We’re in the trenches together, are we not?
Here is what I want those mom shamers to know:
You don’t love my child more than I do. And if you feel I don’t love my child enough, your shaming me won’t change that.
When I arrive for the last 10 minutes of my sons sports day looking frazzled and out of breath how do you think shaming me will help? I believe your goal was never to help me, but rather to feel better about yourself.
Parenting is not measured by drop offs and pick ups or having a nanny versus doing everything yourself. No one can measure the strength of a mother and child’s relationship from these superficial, insignificant daily routines.
Your focus on me and my child should be a sign for you to look deeper into yourself to see where this is coming from.
My lateness is obviously triggering something inside you, making you need to lash out with a snide comment. Your energy is better used trying to figure out why it is so important to you to put me down.
Finally, as Bernard Meltzer said: “Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mama B. of Saudi Arabia. Photo credit to the author.
Mama B’s a young mother of four beautiful children who leave her speechless in both, good ways and bad. She has been married for 9 years and has lived in London twice in her life. The first time was before marriage (for 4 years) and then again after marriage and kid number 2 (for almost 2 years). She is settled now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (or as settled as one can be while renovating a house).
Mama B loves writing and has been doing it since she could pick up a crayon. Then, for reasons beyond her comprehension, she did not study to become a writer, but instead took graphic design courses. Mama B writes about the challenges of raising children in this world, as it is, who are happy, confident, self reliant and productive without driving them (or herself) insane in the process.
Mama B also sheds some light on the life of Saudi, Muslim children but does not claim to be the voice of all mothers or children in Saudi. Just her little "tribe." She has a huge, beautiful, loving family of brothers and sisters that make her feel like she wants to give her kids a huge, loving family of brothers and sisters, but then is snapped out of it by one of her three monkeys screaming “Ya Maamaa” (Ya being the arabic word for ‘hey’). You can find Mama B writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa . She's also on Twitter @YaMaamaa.
When we moved to Abu Dhabi from Manhattan five years ago, we intended to stay in “the Dhabs” for a year. Our kids had scored the Manhattan Grail: spots in a “gifted and talented” public school, which meant we wouldn’t have to sell everything we owned to pay for private school, and if we stayed away from the city for more than a year, we would lose the seats.
“But you have two spots at the school,” people said to me when I told them we were leaving. To ease their doubts, I kept talking about the benefits of an international education and experiencing different cultures–but to tell the truth, I think I was trying to convince myself. After all, if you’re a student in a Manhattan public school, you’re going to be connect with kids from around the world; it’s unavoidable. Did we really need to move halfway around the world to get a “global experience?” I wondered.
Three-quarters through our first year, we decided to take the leap and sign on for another year (or four) of expat life. A year just didn’t feel like enough time: we would have been packing up to move back just as we were starting to settle in. I felt as if all the energy (and exhaustion and not a few tears) that went into adjusting would have been wasted if we returned to New York after just a year.
The boys are studying Arabic in school, and in our travels through the region, they’ve picked a few phrases here and there — mostly “hello” and “thank you” and “chocolate” — in Sinhalese, Punjabi, Italian, Swahili, Korean. The trips we’ve been able to take from Abu Dhabi would have been impossible from Manhattan, especially on the salaries of two literature professors, and so in that regard, our expat life has delivered the sort of global awareness we were hoping for.
Or at least that’s what I think on my optimistic days. On other days, I wonder: does the simple fact of being able to say “hello” in eight different languages really make you globally aware? I suppose my wavering back and forth is just the expat version of questions most parents ask themselves–“is this school the right school,” “are we doing the best we can for our kids”–and we all have good days and bad days in terms of those answers. How do we raise global citizens? That question, in the light of “Brexit” and the demagoguery of Trump, seems increasingly important, even as the answers get more complicated.
I had to confront those questions just the other day in an emotional conversation with my younger son (now almost twelve). We were sitting on his bed in a hotel room in Bangkok, where we’d come for the Global Round of the World Scholar’s Cup, an academic competition that draws kids from, yes, around the world (but mostly Asia). I’d asked C. if he were nervous about the upcoming three days of competition in writing, debate, and current events quizzing, and his eyes welled up. He admitted that he wanted to do as well as his brother had, two years ago, in the same competition, but also, he said, “I don’t want you to feel like it was a waste for you to bring me here.”
Argh! A blow straight to the heart! How had he gotten the idea that my husband and I would resent the money we spent on airline tickets if he didn’t do well? Suddenly I was the one almost in tears.
I assured him that we didn’t think it was a waste at all and that we were ridiculously proud of him already, just for doing the work to get this far. “Being able to do things like this are why we moved to Abu Dhabi,” I said. “We couldn’t afford flying to Bangkok if we still lived in New York.” My son nodded, vaguely reassured (although still nervous and still in the grips of sibling rivalry).
Truth be told, he probably doesn’t believe me when I say that we’re proud of him already. In the mind of an almost twelve-year old boy, “winning” is pretty much the only thing that matters. Given that there are about 2,000 kids competing in his division, I’d say winning anything is a long shot. (Though if there were a category called “Minecraft knowledge,” he’d probably outscore the entire world.)
What I realized after our conversation, is that yes, this experience is part of why we moved to Abu Dhabi, even though at the time we’d never heard of the World Scholar’s Cup. Even with the international flavor of New York, this sort of intense week-long bonding experience with kids from around the world would not have been possible. This experience, of negotiating differences and finding connections across cultures, will go a long way (I hope) in establishing the foundations of a global citizenry.
C. will remember this week in Bangkok long after he’s forgotten how to say “hello” in Sinhalese. For this week, at least, I’m pretty sure that becoming an expat family was the right thing for us to do.
What about you? How do you raise your global citizens?
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.
My husband has a brother and a sister. I have two sisters. So we both grew up in a family with three kids. To us it was just a normal situation, not too big, not too small. I don’t think I ever gave it much thought, except when I watched the Cosby show. I thought our family wasn’t big enough. I desperately wanted an older brother and I thought it would be great if I had that many kids later in life.
Now that I am a mother, I am positive that 5 children would be the death of me. I have absolute respect for those that are able to pull it off. I am a mother of three, and I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this adventure.
Sure, I realized that we were going to need a bigger car, a bigger house and that it was going to be busy but the reality of mothering three kids is not at all what I expected.
Being a Mom of three is sometimes like an episode of ER. The camera zooms into a touching scene. Soft music is playing, the surroundings are faded, then suddenly you’re being swept away into utter chaos with the passing of a stretcher.
A lot of my days are like that. One moment I sit and cuddle at night with my youngest, the next I am a referee in a heated discussion between siblings. I get yelled at by my oldest and at the same time my youngest passes me dancing and twirling in a princess dress.
I congratulate my daughter for passing her swimming exams and take my other daughter for her first swimming lessons. I gradually loosen the reins around my son as he gets older, while I pull my daughter extra close as we cross the street. I dance to a song on Sesame street with one kid and listen to the other kid calling it childish.
My days are full, my days are never the same. Some days are harmonious, filled with routine, smiles, kisses and singing in my head. Some days are heavy, burdened and feel like a group of giant rocks rolling over me the moment I get out of bed. Some days are loud. I yell, my kids yell, they stomp the stairs like a herd of elephants, something falls, something breaks, doors get slammed and voices are raised.
Most days are hectic, dropping off kids, picking up kids, cooking cleaning, planning, running around.
None of my days are dull.
I do have a chance to read a magazine or to simply sit down with a cup of tea, but that mostly happens when the kids are away or asleep. My husband and I run a tight organization. We plan and schedule, there are doctor’s visits, sports, school meetings, swimming lessons, all times three. When one of the kids gets sick, our entire schedule is disrupted and the whole house quickly turns to chaos.
Date night is a rare thing for us. We mostly watch a DVD together and try not to fall asleep before the movie ends. You are probably shaking your head right about now. And I haven’t even told you about the finances yet.
But there is another side.
There are moments my husband and I pause to look at each other, silently agreeing that we have the best kids in the whole wide world.
When I wake up Saturday morning and all three of them are snuggled in one bed reading stories to one another. When I put on music and they do silly dances together. When we sing songs in the car on our way home. When they play self invented games together. When one of my kids jumps in, to help another kid before I get a chance to. When I watch them watching TV, hanging upside down on the couch. When one of the kids says or does something silly and we laugh until our bellies hurt. That is the other side. A moment that takes my breath away, times three.
How many kids do you have? What are your challenges, and what are your blessings?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in the Netherlands and mother of three, Mirjam.
The photograph used in this post is attributed to the author.
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.
Well, there were these competitions going on in my seven year old son’s school again, here, in India. This time it was Western Music. I am so fond of these musicals. My son sang some of my favorites and then Que Sara Sara and Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. He continued to the preliminaries, quarter finals, semi-finals and the finals. But one day while preparing for the finals at home, my son suddenly said, “Not all are going to win.”
I said, “Yes, they are not. But if you want to win, you need to practise.”
He was not the type of person who was interested to sing, but the type who loved to listen to music and songs. And I discovered this during this time.
“But amma, I don’t care.”
“Well, you should do your best. And then if you don’t get to win, that is fine. But you should not just give up.”
“I am not giving up. I just don’t want to sing.”
Well, I was at a loss of words. I did not want him to do something he did not want to do. But then we were already into the finals, and I thought was it not a sheer waste if he did not even participate? This got me thinking…
The next day I found this quote in his school’s website.
We send our children to school for education and the teachers and parents are loving and affectionate and try to encourage the children to imbibe knowledge.
But then, what do they actually learn? Only what they chose to!
And also, sometimes they don’t learn and at other times they are very smart in academics. They also indulge in sports and other extra-curricular activities. We are happy, sometimes sad, and at times indifferent to various achievements, successes and failures and mediocre performances of our children. So many choices, actions, results, and yet Swami Vivekananda says we are all perfect.
If everyone is perfect, then where are the gaps? Why do only some people win? Why are there so many differences and scales of grades? ‘Manifestation’ is the significant word. What manifests out of a child is important. And whatever manifests, the society, the parents and the teachers are responsible to some extent. And then the children themselves are finally responsible. We bring up a child, giving him a lot of room to explore, think, discover and find joy, and, thereby, allow him to manifest his perfection.
I did not ask him to practise a lot for the singing competition. If he is not interested, let him not be. Maybe he is interested in building robots. Maybe he is interested in literary pursuits. Maybe he is interested in astronomy when he points out the pole star and Venus.
Because he is talented to sing, does not mean he should want to do it or become the next pop star. Whatever he allows to be manifested from himself, only will be, and I cannot force it.
And the reason for what he focuses on, no one can understand. It is his own mind acting under his own will and there are no explanations for that. So, let me not put a restraint to the manifestation of his perfection. Let him lay down his own options and channel his own interests.
In the end, he did end up participating in the finals, but without practising and the results are not out! But I shouldn’t care about the results because he doesn’t, right?
Is your child exercising independence in what he wants to do in life and what he wants to achieve? If so, are they different from what you think? And how do you handle it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Purnima, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.
Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .
She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .
She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .
She also contributes to Huffington Post .
Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.
She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.
There is no denying that my eldest child is competitive.
The kind which makes for a future Olympic-Gold-Medal winner – competitive.
She needs to be first. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that she is the oldest, but I suspect it is just part of her genetic make up.
Her father has the same drive to always do better than the rest, to drive himself towards new goals, to be better, faster, to force his body into running a marathon and to try to improve his time again and again and again. And he is willing to suffer for it, to endure muscle cramps, to run until his energy levels have been completely depleted and he is more dead than alive.
I’m not like that, neither is n°2. We are happily just pottering about, going about our business and we will get there in the end. So what if it takes us hours, weeks or months. So what if we don’t finish first. We ran, didn’t we? We did our part. Besides I do not like discomfort, mentally or physically.
Like so many characteristics, my daughter’s competitiveness is a two sided sword.
It is what drove her to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels in just two days, simply because a boy in her class could do it and if that boy could do it then there was no reason why she shouldn’t be able to as well.
It got her out of diapers so quickly simply because her friend was also potty training and she wanted to be first.
But there is a downside as well. Being only four, she aims to be first in just about everything she does. And I really do mean e-ve-ry-thing . Whether it is rolling in the dust, dressing herself, putting olives on a pizza, eating said pizza, learning how to count to 20, spelling out her own name AND that of mommy, to her it is a competition. She will try to ‘win’ at it, do a victory dance when she ‘wins’ and be inconsolable when she doesn’t.
There have been many conversations about how winning is nice but not so important that you need to bawl your eyes out when some other kid takes the prize and that she cannot always be first. That is OK not to always win, not to be top in everything and that there are some things, that I’m sorry my dear darling, you will not be able to do.
This – I have to admit – will be a though lesson for her to learn. And she will have to learn it, otherwise she’ll be a pill-popping, nervous wreck by the time she is 16.
And she will have to find a way to turn that competitiveness into something positive.
But there is the glitch in the whole affair. How will she learn?
Through experience? Will it just click one day? Will she simply just realize that she is not musical (she has inherited my signing voice, which sounds like a chorus of warthogs high on helium), that she cannot really jump that high. Will she be sad, will she cry, will she regret it her whole life or… will she just simply accept. Accept that yes, she sucks at music, dancing, mathematics, but hey, she has a knack for drawing awesome portraits and makes a killer brownie, so what the heck …
How did you or your child come to terms with the fact that there is something that you or s/he just is not good at?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mother of two in Belgium, 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.
In a few short weeks she has overturned long-established ideas about age and ability and strength and given us all a reason to keep swimming.
Nyad, in case you’ve been looking the other way, is the 64-year-old woman who recently became the first person to swim the 110 miles from Cuba to the U.S. without a shark cage, taking almost 53 hours.
This would be a marathon effort at any time, but when you consider that it was her fifth attempt over some forty years; that she had to wear a mask to protect her from jellyfish stings; that she took in so much sea water it caused her to vomit constantly for almost all of that 53 hours; that she arrived finally with face and lips swollen from sun and sea water – well, then her achievement, and her insistence not to be deflected from her aim, would seem to reflect almost superhuman levels of endurance.
The word endurance does not typically bring to mind 64-year-old women. In our culture, it is often used to describe young men – runners, rowers and cyclists at the peak of their profession or pushy capitalists doing extreme sports to fill that adrenaline void when Wall Street is closed.
Google “Endurance” and up come pictures of young, lean, tanned male muscle in a celebration of machismo as traditional now as images of mustachioed weight-lifters once were in Victorian times.
The same web search also shows sepia-tinged photographs of the tall-masted Victorian adventure ship christened Endurance, on which British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton set off for Antarctic expeditions in the last century. (Twenty-first century sailor Ellen MacArthur’s solo circumnavigation of the globe strangely does not feature.)
Nonetheless, I think many women, hearing Nyad’s achievement, will have given a little nod, and maybe a small smile, of understanding. Many more will never hear of her, yet understand without discussion the will that kept Nyad going.
Though they may not be sports fanatics, or travelers with a yen for the toughest destinations, many women set their own personal standards of endurance in their day-to-day existences.
Their marathon may consist of walking for hours to find water and food in conditions of extreme poverty and hunger. Their endurance training may consist of watching their children die for the lack of a cheap vaccine. Their 53-hour record may be for the time worked within a dangerous and miserably uncomfortable factory, to earn a tiny amount with which a family can just about be supported.
For the luckier ones, endurance may just mean a bleak commute, juggling the needs of employers and families and ever-mounting bills. It may mean keeping smiling when a child is in pain, it may mean getting up for the fifth time in one night to attend to small, fevered offspring while knowing that big important morning meeting is looming. It may mean getting over the disappointment when that male colleague got that promotion. It may mean an ability to keep walking with head high when the cat calls keep coming.
Endurance can mean many things. Diana Nyad has reminded us that it is not an exclusively male domain. Already crowds of cynics are assembling to cast doubt on Nyad’s achievement, wondering how an old woman could have completed that swim in that time. Clearly her next endurance test lies just ahead.
But whatever the outcome, she has broadened the parameters of what the will to keep going looks like. And that is no small feat, either.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in the UK and mother of four, Sophie.
The image used in this post is credited to Alan Cleaver. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
Writer, mother, runner: Sophie works for an international news agency and has written about economics, politics, trade, war, diplomacy and finance from datelines as diverse as Paris, Washington, Hong Kong, Kabul, Baghdad and Islamabad. She now lives in London with her husband, two daughters and two step-sons.
Sophie's elder daughter Grace was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome several years ago. Grace is a bright, artistic girl who nonetheless struggles to fit into a world she often finds hard to understand. Sophie and Grace have come across great kindness but more often been shocked by how little people know and understand about autism and by how difficult it is to get Grace the help she needs.
Sophie writes about Grace’s daily challenges, and those of the grueling training regimes she sets herself to run long-distance events in order to raise awareness and funds for Britain’s National Autistic Society so that Grace and children like her can blossom. Her book "Grace Under Pressure: Going The Distance as an Asperger's Mum" was published by Little, Brown (Piatkus) in 2012. Her blog is called Grace Under Pressure.