This Sunday, many moms in the United States will be celebrated with crepe paper flowers, homemade artwork, and breakfasts made with love and varying levels of quality control as tradition dictates. No matter how many kids you have or what country you live in, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day from the U.S.!
But I really want to give a shout out to the Supermoms who walk among us. Hats off to the….
Single Working Moms
…who are just as tired as everyone else, but never get to look forward to that break and relief of hearing another set of keys in the door. All responsibilities start and stop with you when a child is sick while you need to work at a job that may or may not be paying you what you are worth.
Moms of Kids With Special Needs…
…who do everything all moms do, but over and over and over. Sometimes while everyone stares because they judge your child is too old for such behavior when they should be in awe of your patience.
Moms Living in Poverty…
…whose lives are full of Either’s and Or’s. You made the tough choices this winter between heat for the house or food for the bellies. Or even when things were going a little better, making the slightly higher class choice…toothpaste or dishsoap?
Moms Who Have Lost a Child…
…who live with the shadows of possibilities that never will be. You have an empty seat at the table and love still in your heart.Whatever your plans are this weekend, you should receive much more thanks from the world than you’re going to get this Sunday. I hope that if our paths cross on Mother’s Day, that I might notice you and give you some more of the respect and love that you deserve. But most of all,
I wish I could tell you that you can be the most powerful among us. You have the stories – if you are ready to share them – that can change minds and change lives to make the world better for your kids or the kids that will come after them.
This might seem like a strange Mother’s Day message, but Mother’s Day in the U.S. throughout the 19th Century was not about pancakes and flowers, but more about peace movements from mothers who lost sons, temperance movements, and local efforts of women to help other mothers learn to properly care for children. It used to be about empowerment instead of recognition. Could it be a bit of both?
To the Supermoms: Life is asking more from you than of many, but don’t let it defeat you. Be strong and speak out whenever you can. I wish I could tell you that you are powerful and have you believe it. Because it’s absolutely true.
This is an original post written for World moms Blog by Cindy Levin.
Do you know a supermom? Maybe it’s you?
This week, as I was catching up on news headlines, a notification appeared announcing the 80th birthday of David Suzuki. David Suzuki is one of the most recognized and respected environmental scientists and activists of our time. And, he is Canadian – something I am very proud of. But when I shared this tidbit of information with my daughters, they didn’t share my enthusiasm. What I soon realized is that his name meant very little to them. How did this happen?
I remember being a child and thinking of David Suzuki as a homegrown hero. I would eventually study environmental science in university and graduate school, and then work as an environmental consultant. I think much of my career path was shaped by the Suzuki movement in Canada.
The very first fundraiser that I ever organized as a child was to save polar bears. Why were my daughters not feeling the same way? Sure, they love and respect nature, and spend their summer days exploring outdoors from dawn to dusk, but they were not nearly as passionate about environmental issues as I was when I was their age.
In response to this realization, I made a trip to our local bookstore and purchased a children’s book on climate change written by David Suzuki, himself. We then proceeded to hold mini-discussions within our family on various environmental issues. I have to admit, that I found it incredibly difficult. Climate change is scary. When you hear that a 2 degree Celsius change, in the global average temperature, can have devastating effects on the world in which we live, it underscores just how delicately balanced the earth really is.
Explaining this to young children is just as delicately balanced. How do you ensure they understand the severity of the issue, without making the situation terrifying and seemingly hopeless?
Through our discussions, my girls began to not only learn about the science behind climate change, but also about what they could do to limit their impact on the environment. They are becoming more and more passionate about environmental issues by the day. They now have countless ideas on how they can “help the environment”. One of their big concerns is parents idling cars in school pick-up zones. They plan on approaching their school to come up with a ban on idling, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It may be a small step, but it is a start. And, it allows school-aged children to not only have a direct part in reducing GHG emissions but also provides an avenue in which to have further climate change discussions at home, at school and within the community. I truly think that they understand the severity of climate change now, but their passion and commitment to change the future far outweighs their fear.
This all caused me to wonder how others, around the world, address the issue of climate change with their children.
Are there any resources or approaches that you use that others would benefit from knowing about?
This is an original post by Alison Fraser who is Founder and Director of Mom2Mom Africa.
March is a special month in Bali. Depending on the cycles of the moon, every year a specific day in March marks the special Nyepi celebration; a cultural phenomenon that leaves a mark in your soul no matter who you are or where you are from.
Every Saka Lunar Year, the Balinese people celebrate Nyepi, a day of complete silence, peace and contemplation. In stark contrast, the night before is the Ogoh Ogoh parade, a festivity full of loud sounds, crowds and spirited dancing. A few days prior to that is the Melasti celebration, during which temple gods are taken to the ocean for purification. Bali is known for daily rituals and celebrations of many kinds, but the week of Melasti and Nyepi are quite special.
If you are in Bali for Nyepi day, even if you are not Balinese, you must stay inside your house and make very little noise. No cars roam the streets and the airport is closed for 24 hours. At night, you cannot turn on your lights except for one or two candles. There is to be no work, no revelry and no cooking. Of course expats can cook inside our house just not a barbecue or with all the lights on.
Last week on March 9th, we experienced our second Nyepi in Bali and it was a little nicer than the first time. Last year our son was worried that he wouldn’t be able to talk for an entire day but felt better once our Balinese friend told him that children can talk but have to try really hard to not scream or create any scandal. This time we knew what to expect and were actually pretty excited.
You know what the best part of Nyepi is? The way the sky looks once the sun goes down.
This morning I told my kids that I was going to write an article about Nyepi and asked them to tell me what their favorite thing about Nyepi was. My son said the Ogoh Ogohs and the eclipse. Indonesia was the one lucky spot on earth to experience the full solar eclipse on the same day as Nyepi. Unfortunately the full effect was only seen in other islands of Indonesia, not in Bali. The color of the sky did change a little bit and my son got up early in the morning to see that, even if he had gone to bed late from seeing the Ogoh Ogoh parade the night before!
My daughter said she liked the giant Ogoh Ogoh that was displayed in the beach neighborhood close to our house. In all truth we all liked it because it was huge, red, demonishly funny and had really big titties!
The Ogoh Ogohs are sculptures made of bamboo and Styrofoam that represent the demons and bad energy that has accumulated throughout the year. The night before silent day, all the Ogoh Ogohs; small ones made by groups of kids and really big ones made by the neighborhood groups area paraded on the streets for everyone’s enjoyment. The largest Ogoh Ogoh parade is in the city center in the Island’s capital Denpasar, but really the entire island participates in the Ogoh Ogoh parades. The tradition is that after the festivities the Ogoh Ogohs are burned to represent getting rid of all bad energy, but lately they are being made with non-organic materials and the Ogoh Ogoh stay displayed on street corners.
We don’t know if we will be in Bali for the next Nyepi, but what we do know is that we will never forget the feeling of waking up on Nyepi morning and not hearing traffic, or music, or people talking in their patios.
The silence is trickled with bird songs and frogs. The night sky resembles the sky you would see in the desert or high up in the mountains. A usually scarcely starred sky becomes the milky way’s playground to the naked eye.
It surprises me when I hear of people leaving Bali due to Nyepi, like one day in silence and peace could be so difficult or not worth doing. I wonder if my kids will remember how special Nyepi is and will come back to Bali when they are older and have kids of their own.
Do you have similar cultural festivals where you live? Is there a festival of silence?
Photo Credit to the author.
I realize that in my last post I might have sounded just slightly negative about Portugal and the Portuguese. Let me just state clearly, so there is no doubt, that I absolutely truly love living in this wonderful country. And it’s not just about the food, the sun, the wine or the beautiful beaches. Portugal is one of the most child-friendly countries I know.
It is difficult for me to make a fair comparison to my home countries, since I have spent so long in Latin places (Portugal and Brazil) that my personality and culture has strayed very far from its Anglo-German origins. Just ask any English person who backs away when I enthusiastically greet them with a kiss! I’ve never tried to nurse a baby in England, never attempted to enter German restaurant with a pushchair. But it doesn’t get much better than what I’ve experienced in Brazil and Portugal.
Let’s start with pregnancy. In Brazil, you are automatically elevated to the position of demi-goddess. People in the street will exclaim how lucky and beautiful you are, no matter the size of your girth or breadth of your waddle. Little old ladies in cafés will stand in line to touch your baby belly, coo to the baby or pronounce a quick blessing. Granted, this can sometimes be a bit too much for someone who has clearly defined boundaries around their personal space (who, me?) but all-in-all being pregnant Brazil is like being wrapped in a comfy, welcoming social blanket (until you try and give birth…).
Then the baby comes.
If Mom is a demi-goddess, baby is Zeus and Hera wrapped into one. In Brazil, babies rule supreme.
Gone are the days when you could have a quiet dinner at a restaurant. Your baby may be fast asleep but every single passerby will want to lift the blanket to take a look. Random strangers will come up and offer to hold your baby, just because she’s so adorable. I’ll admit I found this difficult to adjust to: if I was uncomfortable having strangers touch my pregnant belly, I definitely did not want them carrying my newborn son around the shopping mall. But although new mothers have to learn to say “No” to little old ladies and be prepared to whip their babies out of the arms of strangers, the beauty of this attitude is that you and your baby are always welcome.
You can go to the beach, have coffee in your favorite coffee shop and even eat your favorite fancy restaurant. No waiter is too snotty to help you carry the push-chair over tables, smile at your squawking toddler and pick up his napkin the umpteenth time he drops it.
Portugal is pretty much my dream country in every single way, so I was delighted to find that this baby-friendly attitude extends across the Atlantic from Brazil.
Since moving here I have breastfed my baby in the local pastelaria, at a fancy Christmas dinner and walking along the beach. I now breastfeed a rambunctious toddler who enjoys pulling the goods out for all to see (if you know what I mean) and still, no comment, no looks, no disapproval.
If you’re out and about on your own with baby, everyone is willing to lend a hand. Just the other day two tiny old ladies offered to hold my bike while I attempted the impossible task of holding my son while switching to the other side of the handlebars. A friend of mine recently flew from France to Brazil. On the way there the Brazilian couple next to her entertained both of her kids throughout the flight. On the way back, a French couple tetchily complained when her toddler accidentally knocked against their iPad.
Like I said, I don’t really know what things are like back in England or Germany. I’ve heard positive stories of playgrounds galore, soft play centers that open on Sunday nights, and cafés with special baby corners. But I’ve also heard friends talk about feeling uncomfortable when out of the house, and of restaurants that are specifically “adult-only”. The Brazilian-Portuguese attitude that “everyone’s child is my child” of course has its downsides: I was recently berated by a couple on the beach for allowing my son to walk barefoot.
But for the moment, I’m just going to count my blessings. My attitude to parenting is that my baby just comes with me wherever I go – how lucky am I to live in a country that gives me the freedom to do exactly that.
How child-friendly is the country you live in? How do you feel about child-free restaurants?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Julie of Portugal. Photo credit to the author.
This Thursday, March 3rd, an event in Japan known as Girls Day, a day of reflection and prayers for the health and happiness of daughters, comes at a time when women’s voices are not being heard.
In the past few months, Japanese women have been at the crossroads of maintaining with what’s been traditionally acceptable or fighting to keep their surnames even after marriage.
A number of Japanese women have taken an age-old law to court, claiming that being unable to keep their surnames is a violation of their rights. One of the women, Kaori Oguni, argues, “By losing your surname-you’re being made light of, you’re not respected…It’s as if part of yourself vanishes”.
What has been at play is that an age-old law stemming from the patriarchal system that has dominated the family dynamic since 1896. Dating back from the 1600’s during the Edo period, whereby the population was ruled by the Tokogawa Shogunate (feudal system), the only people who had last names were those of the Samurai class, until the end of the Shogunate, known as the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800’s. This was created in order to create their own identities, separate from the Samurai class.
The current law states that married couples share the same last name, and while the law doesn’t specify whose name should be kept, most women keep their husband’s last name to prevent pressure and criticism from the public, or worse their families. It is now being challenged by some professional women who believe it unconstitutional to ban women from having a choice of whether to change their surnames once they marry.
Part of the problem is the continued use of a family register system that has been used for decades which lists every member of the family, like a census. Unlike the census, a daughter’s name is crossed off the family register once she marries and is added onto her husband’s family register. What is disturbing is that a woman’s surname is easily assigned from one register to another, without thought of ramifications for her or her future.
The family register is like a census. The “x” denotes when a woman is divorced, and more than 1 “x” means more than 1 divorce. The family register is how families keep track of their families, but if a daughter gets married, he name is crossed off and added onto her husband’s family register.
According to a source from Japan, this law has affected professional women more so than non-working women. The view has been maintained that the government is providing women a safety net by holding on to the idea of keeping their husband’s last name as future reference with regards to parental rights or inheritance issues. By sharing one surname, it is seen as a way of binding one’s family and women become part of that unit, letting go of their own identity.
In addition to married women, divorced women are just as affected by this law. Once a woman is divorced, her name on the family register is indicated by an “x” and any future divorces would indicate additional “x”s. Once a woman is divorced, she has the option of creating her own register or going back to her parents’ register, but along with having an “x” on the register, it would be noted that it was a result of a divorce. While it may be seen as an efficient way of keeping track of the family system, it seems more like devaluing the woman’s importance in a family.
A few people interviewed regarding this issue believe that it is not just about changing one’s last name, it’s more about having the choice to change it for themselves.
Mrs. U, married for fifteen years never had a problem with taking on her husband’s last name. Her husband had an unusual last name and was proud of it, but over the years, she felt that having to explain her surname is inconvenient. It didn’t occur to her how much paperwork was involved in changing her name on all bank accounts, etc. She also didn’t think at the time how it would affect her sense of self, having grown up with the assumption that one day she would change her name. She wishes now she had given it more thought, though she feels she still would have taken her husband’s name. Her children also have pride in their unusual surname and she wants her daughter to have the option of keeping it, if that’s what she chooses.
Mr. A said that when he was married more than 40 years ago, it never once crossed his mind that his wife would not want to take his surname. When his daughter married 15 years ago, he didn’t feel sad when she changed her name. He always knew that would happen so he was okay with it. But now, he says that Japan is changing and women have a stronger sense of identity. He doesn’t feel that a family having different last names weakens the family unit, though he says many of his peers think this. He hopes his grandchildren will be free to choose whether to share a surname with their spouse or not.
Ms. N is divorced. She hates the practice of x-ing through names on the family register and feels it is discriminatory and an invasion of privacy. She thinks this particular case failed in the Supreme Court because the plaintiff approached it from the angle of ‘I’ve built a reputation and professional name for myself using my maiden name. Changing that disadvantages me.’ Ms. N feels this approach was selfish, bound to fail, and that anti-woman powers that be knew this and used this case to strike down the cause. She thinks if it was approached from an equal rights standpoint, the result may perhaps have been different.
For Asuka Someya-Takahashi, who heads a non-profit organization called PILCON, this law has affected her personally and professionally. “I established a non-profit organization before I was married. Upon my marriage and resulting name change, I needed to file new paperwork with the metropolitan city office and legal affairs bureau. In spite of this, work communication often comes addressed to my maiden name. I am constantly unsure if I should be using my maiden name or married name on invoices, applications for subsidies, etc.”, says Someya-Takahashi.
She adds, “I think if the law allowed couples to choose separate surnames, this kind of complexity could be avoided. The love and ties of family do not change simply because a family uses more than one surname. It’s very unfortunate that in today’s world there are still people who speak out against allowing married couples the choice of having separate surnames”.
With regard to her NPO, Someya-Takahashi explains the importance of PILCON. “PILCON is an NPO which expands upon the sexual health education in Japan. We strive to include information on reproduction health and rights (STI’s (sexually transmitted infections, fertility, equal relationships, etc.) that tend to be left out of the public discussion, in an effort to enable youth to make informed decisions”.
It is amazing to see how a patriarchal family system dating back so many decades still has the power to affect women of today, especially professional women who can affect change in their society.
I never thought that I would have an issue giving up my surname, until I got married. I was always known by my maiden name to my friends and family for years and it was my identity. I didn’t realize how strange it would feel to be called by a different name until I had to change my name in legal documents.
While I did have the option of keeping my maiden name if I wanted to, I decided to take my husband’s name as my own. I still consider myself an individual, but also as someone who is part of a family that believes in choosing their own identity. I believe that everyone should have the choice to be identified as the person they wish to be, not one dictated by laws. Here’s hoping that Japanese women continue to question and challenge the laws that restrict them, and create a future that involves freedom to choose their own identity.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Tes Silverman of Pinay Perspective . World Mom Melanie Oda also contributed research to this post.
If you are married, did you keep your maiden name or take your husband’s?
I used to think that racism didn’t exist any more.
Growing up in the Caribbean, in a cultural mishmash of a class, I learned about the slave trade and the underground railroad as part of history. Our teacher read to us about Harriet Tubman. We saw videos of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech. We learned about Rosa Parks.