NETHERLANDS: Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

NETHERLANDS: Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

lather.rinse.repeatMy life is busy.

I get up in the morning and get myself ready before I wake up the kids. My oldest kid is sweet and cooperative in the morning. He just gets up and does his thing.

I wake up my middle kid. Up and down the stairs I walk, greeting my youngest with a smile and waking up my middle child, again.

I check on my son who’s on his way down for breakfast and have my daily discussion with my young fashion queen. Then I wake up my middle child. In between giving instructions, brushing teeth and combing hair I tidy up and load the washing machine.

Then I wake up my middle child.

By this time my waking her up is accompanied by a series of serious threats. Usually that does the trick.

Lunches are packed and I make sure the kids eat before rushing them out the door on their way to school.

As I drive back home after the last drop off, my hand reaches for the radio.

Daily. Same button, same action, same feeling.

My life consists of routines and familiarities.

Hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, into months, into years.
Little things shift and change. I don’t have to buckle up my kids in the car, they do it themselves, I no longer pick out all the clothes. If they want a drink they pour it themselves.

It is almost impossible to imagine, but one day I will miss these routines.

I have to remind myself frequently not to take them for granted.
And I have to force myself every now and then to pause, look my kids in the eye and not rush by them on my way to the next chore.
What I have right here and now is amazing.

But because it is here every single day, I tend to forget.
My days are so busy with tasks that they go by far too quickly.
And ever since I started working outside of the house more,
it seems the pace of my life has doubled in speed.
I start my week on Monday and before I can even blink it’s already Friday.

So when I’m folding laundry I pause to look at my kids.
When I’m cooking, I take a second to stop and smile at them.
If I walk past my kids I take a moment to hug or kiss them on the forehead.

And after dinner we dance, I always have time to do silly dances with my kids. Because how ever fast my life goes by, I do have the power to pause it in those little moments.

Do you take time to pause?
How do you make sure life doesn’t pass you by too quickly?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mom of three in the Netherlands, Mirjam.

The photo used in this post is attributed to McKay Svage. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Mirjam

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 a decade to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. In what little time she has left, she enjoys being an elementary school teacher. Mirjam has battled and survived three postpartum depressions. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and she 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 at 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.

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NETHERLANDS: Seasons Change

NETHERLANDS: Seasons Change

DSC_8444In my part of the world there are seasons. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Each of the seasons carries drastic weather and environmental changes. The changing of the seasons has a huge impact on our daily lives. We dress in different clothes, eat different foods, change the way we spend our days and feel different. Festivities and activities are tied to the distinct seasons, and they hold special meanings.

When I think about winter I think about skating, hot chocolate, Christmas and snow. In a less obvious way, Winter makes me think of family and cozyness. The feeling of tucking my child in at night when it’s dark and cold outside, is completely different from taking my child to bed in the summer.

We plant bulbs in Fall and wait for them to bloom in Spring, We collect colorful leaves and harvest apples in the Fall. We visit the beach and turn on the barbecue when it’s summertime. We dress in multiple layers of warm clothing when it’s Winter. Life continues within the cycle of these seasons.

I have always liked the seasons.

It’s like an ongoing song or poem that keeps changing and repeating my favorite lines, repeating verse after verse with similarities that are never exactly the same.

The seasons are my mantra for life. Reminding me to expect change, to laugh a little louder and enjoy the sunshine more fully, because hardship will come. But adversity will pass, and eventually little seedlings will stick their heads through the dirt and start to make their way to the sun. There will always be renewal, growth and hope.

Right now it is Spring here. Spring is my favorite season. It’s a season of increase, growth, warmth, hope and promise. It’s a joyous season. It will be followed by a season of abundance. With lots of light, warmth and the harvesting of the fruits of our labour. After summer there will be decrease and splendor at the same time. An outburst of color and creativity will accompany the transition to a season of absence, lack, stilness and patience. At the end of this cold withered season Spring will start again.

It’s the perfect metaphor for life.

Seasons change… and then they pass.

Seasons change… and then they pass.

What is your favourite season? What season is it right now in your part of the world?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands.

Mirjam

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 a decade to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. In what little time she has left, she enjoys being an elementary school teacher. Mirjam has battled and survived three postpartum depressions. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and she 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 at 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.

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NETHERLANDS: 5 Children’s Requests I Usually Give In To

NETHERLANDS: 5 Children’s Requests I Usually Give In To

406623767_850e9146c3_zSometimes I think I’m too permissive. Sometimes I think I’m too strict. Most of the time, however, I think I’m just right. I try not to say “no” without having a good solid reason for it, although I am not afraid to use it when I feel something isn’t safe. Sometimes, when I’m cranky and tired, you will hear more “no” coming out of my mouth than I would like to admit. But there are many things that will most likely elicit a big, happy resounding “yes” from me.

1) Hugs and kisses

I must confess that I always fall for these. I love it when my big girl puts her arms around me, the way my little girl’s body feels soft and warm in my arms, the soft smell of my baby’s head when I hug him. Yes, yes, yes, to all of them. Bring on the hugs and the smooches! Sometimes I don’t want to be touched and that’s OK, but when I’m in the mood, kisses are the best!

2) Singing songs together

I love singing, and my children seem to enjoy it, too. When we’re outside, running errands or walking to the playground and they ask me to sing “Let It Go”, I do what I’m told even though I can’t reach these higher notes. Singing gives us a lot of pleasure and besides, with some more practice (and since children love repetition, I get a lot of that), I’ll be able to sing it Idina Menzel-style in no time. Just watch me!

3) Reading books

To call me a bookworm is an understatement. I have a very serious reading addiction, and if you ask me, it’s the best of all addictions to have. Our house is full of books. We have recently given away some toys, but the books are not going anywhere. And if my children ask me to read to them I’ll drop anything I’m doing in order to do just that. I am also teaching my 5-year old to read and write so that she can also read independently. But I want to give them my love of reading and hope they will find joy and solace in books.

4) Independent play

I must admit that I don’t entirely enjoy playing with my children. I am just not that good at playing. So I will do anything to get out of playing with my kids. But I do love reading my book, and catching glimpses of them playing together. Seriously, the less I intervene here, the better they play. And if, once in a while, I make a suggestion that we all play together and they say, “No, we want to play by ourselves”, who am I to argue? It’s back to my book, then. Thanks, kids!

5) Answering their questions

The number of questions a child asks is endless. “What is this?” “What is that?” “Why did that happen?” “How do you know that?” It may seem annoying to some, but I actually enjoy answering my children’s questions. Some of them are simple or funny: “Why can’t I have ten legs?”. Others are more educational: “Where did the dinosaurs live?”. Yet others are hard: “What happens to us when we die?”. But I believe it is extremely important to answer these questions in an honest, but age-appropriate manner because they serve many functions, such as learning and managing difficult situations. Not to mention the fact that it teaches them that asking questions is always a good thing! So, children, ask away. You won’t hear, “Because that’s how it is” from me! The only exception I make is when they actually know the answer to the question.

It’s OK if I don’t respond to every need and every request. The children need to learn that their parents are individual human beings whose primary purpose isn’t necessarily connected to them. And there is a lot I simply refuse to do (like help them put on their clothes when I know perfectly well that they can do that themselves).

But there are things that I will always do for my kids, or at least as often as possible. I don’t think it’s a good idea to do things I don’t like doing for the sake of the kids. I also think there are some things I absolutely despise doing but the kids need them so it has to be done. The important thing I guess, is to find the happy middle ground.

What are some of the things you never say “no” to?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Olga Mecking of The Netherlands. Photo credit: Jesslee Cuizon. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Olga Mecking

Olga is a Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband. She is a multilingual expat mom to three trilingual children (even though, theoretically, only one is trilingual since she's old enough to speak). She loves being an expat, exploring new cultures, learning languages, cooking and raising her children. Occasionally, Olga gives trainings in intercultural communication and works as a translator. Otherwise, you can find her sharing her experiences on her blog, The European Mama. Also take a while to visit her Facebook page .

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NETHERLANDS: To Mop Or Not To Mop

NETHERLANDS: To Mop Or Not To Mop

unnamedMy parents were born and raised in Surinam. They moved to the Netherlands in the 70’s and raised their children there. Though not completely oblivious to Dutch culture, the way my parents raised me was greatly influenced by the motherland. That includes the way chores were done.

In Surinam, and I’m guessing in many non-Western (“Second World”) cultures, chores are simply a part of life. They are part of a daily routine in which all family members share the responsibility of running a household. As a kid, you go to school, do your chores and play in the time that is left. Dinners are prepared together, cleaning is a joint effort and in some cases, children even help parents with their jobs. Except for that last part, this is basically the way I was raised.

My Dutch husband has been raised completely differently. Chores were the responsibility of his parents. They took care of everything and as he got older, chores were gradually given to him as a way to teach him responsibility. I must add that not all Dutch kids are raised exactly the same and that there are many varieties, but the difference between Dutch and Surinam upbringing is apparent.

One of the thoughts behind Dutch upbringing: “Let children be children, let them play. Let them enjoy childhood without too many responsibilities. The time for responsibilities will come soon enough.”

Personally this thought appeals to me yet also conflicts me. I fear that my children will become entitled, spoiled and unable to deal with responsibilities if I simply let them play.

One of the thoughts behind Surinam upbringing: “Chores are normal and necessary and help kids to become responsible independent adults. Every member of the family has to do their share, family comes before individual needs.”

Having to raise children now myself, I need to find a balance between these very different approaches. And it is not easy to find a middle ground. My husband tends to have a “Here, let me do it for you” attitude. And I have a more “I am not your maid, I will teach you to do it yourself” attitude.

I have a sense of contentment and pride when I teach my kids to do their chores independently and without complaint. But I also understand how nice it is for a child to be shielded from too much responsibility and to simply be taken care of.  I want to let my kids enjoy their free time in between school, homework and sports, but I also want them to help around the house and feel like they share some of the responsibility of our household.

And so I go back and forth. Some of my Dutch friends drop their jaws or raise their eyebrows when they learn that my kids clean, vacuum, mop their rooms and scrub the toilets every weekend. And my mother will feed my guilt by asking me why I don’t let the kids help around the house more.

My background does have one distinctive benefit. When my children moan about having to do chores, I tell them about my childhood and they stop complaining immediately.

What are your thoughts about chores? Does the way you raise your kids look more like the Dutch way or the Surinam way?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of The Netherlands. Photo credit to the author.

Mirjam

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 a decade to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. In what little time she has left, she enjoys being an elementary school teacher. Mirjam has battled and survived three postpartum depressions. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and she 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 at 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.

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NETHERLANDS: What’s My Name Again?

NETHERLANDS: What’s My Name Again?

2681579791_7ca98063b7_oI like my name. It is short, easy to pronounce, Slavic but international at the same time. I was not always fond of it but now I am. 5 years ago I changed my last name to match my husband’s and not long after that, I acquired yet a new first name: Mama.

I like that as well, but it is not the only name I have. There are others. Sometimes, I’m Mrs. Mecking, my husband’s wife. The woman who fills in forms and goes to the doctor, the one who studied and has a MA degree, who once held a job. Sometimes, I am known as the European Mama, blogger, writer, translator and contributor to many great sites, like World Moms Blog. For friends and family, I am simply Olga or endearments thereof.

I’ve never liked being just one thing, so it is no wonder that when motherhood threatened to take over everything, I fought back and fought hard. I didn’t want to be “just a mother”. I wanted motherhood to complement the many colours of my personality, not to repaint it.

So when I had my first child, I worked hard to finish my MA thesis. When my second child was born, I started a blog. When my son came along, I consciously decided to keep writing as soon as it was possible because already I could feel my brain being fogged over by sleep deprivation and I wanted to keep it sharp and alert. I knew if I was to remain sane, I’d have to fight against the “mommyfication”.

And fight I did. The more I wrote, the more I felt I was returning to my own self. And it felt good. Some told me “You may regret not being with them every minute of their lives, time goes so quickly”. I don’t think so. I know why I did what I did and why it was necessary.

Apparently there is a discussion whether it is OK for children to call the parents by their first names. For a long time, my children called me “mama” but my husband went by his first name. I asked them why this was the case. My eldest answered that she always thought my name was Mama. Don’t get me wrong, she knows that my name is Olga, but to her, I’m Mama.

As she begins to make more sense of the world, she figures out that there is more to her mother than just being Mama. Recently, she asked me: “Are you Olga or are you Mama?”.

I explained that my name is Olga but that I’m her mom, and that she has a name as well and that she is a daughter and a sister, and a friend and a student at school. And that she is also herself.

They say that a woman is usually remembered by her relations to someone else. Obituaries say “good wife, devoted mother, great friend”. That is not how I want to be remembered. I want to be remembered as a smart, clever, intelligent person, in short, I want to be remembered for my own sake.

And I want my children to understand that yes, I am their mother, but I am also many other things at the same time. I wear many hats. Sometimes, I am not entirely sure what I am. Sometimes I am one things and mere seconds later, I am something else.

I am always changing, always adapting, always in motion. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because while standing still to catch your breath is great, I know that in this case, to stand still is to stagnate. It’s not that I dislike being a mother, but the only way I can enjoy it it’s when I can be something else for a change. I want to be Mama, but I also want to be Olga, Mrs. Mecking or The European Mama. I want to be able to change my names like I change my clothes and wear something new every day.

What about you? Do you mind being “Mama” or do you prefer to have many names?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by The European Mama, Olga Mecking of The Netherlands. Photo credit: Mike Licht. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Olga Mecking

Olga is a Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband. She is a multilingual expat mom to three trilingual children (even though, theoretically, only one is trilingual since she's old enough to speak). She loves being an expat, exploring new cultures, learning languages, cooking and raising her children. Occasionally, Olga gives trainings in intercultural communication and works as a translator. Otherwise, you can find her sharing her experiences on her blog, The European Mama. Also take a while to visit her Facebook page .

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NETHERLANDS: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

NETHERLANDS: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

DSC_0034I had a little ritual with my son when he used to be little.
Sometimes when snuggling I would sit him down and tell him a little story.
I would tell him about the biggest most precious gift I ever received.
It has been ages since I told him that little story,  but I still remember my son’s eyes turning big in anticipation as I got to the end of the story, revealing what the gift was.

“The gift was you,” I said.

And I proceeded to tell him how happy the gift made me and how loved he was.
No matter how many times I told him the same story, he never got tired of hearing it.
And I never got tired of telling him the same story.
I had promised myself very early on in life that if I ever had children, I would make sure they knew they were loved. As far as I was concerned, they would never have to deal with low self esteem or feel unwanted.

For most of my childhood, I spent time excusing myself for being me.
I tried to change myself, copy others, or suppress things that were typically me.
I apologized a lot. When you spend that much time being aware of what you are not supposed to be, you’re under a lot of pressure.
I used to bite my nails almost to the point of bleeding and I was shy and clumsy.
I broke things, I fell a lot, I bumped into things. It was a hard task, trying not to be me.
Today when I look at my middle child, who is almost like a copy-print of me, I laugh at my attempts.
That kid is so present, so alive, so wild, so loud, so emotional, so outspoken, so amazing.
There is no way to tone that down. And what a waste would it be to do so.
My kids have taught me that it is okay to be exactly who you are and that the flaws and the twitches are what makes a person unique.

My kids have helped me accept myself. I see myself when my daughter is persistent. I see myself when my oldest child gets emotional, I see myself when my kids do silly dances and I see myself when one of them nestles on the couch and disappears in a book.

It doesn’t bother me that my daughter feels too shy to speak around strangers, or that my son is difficult when he feels overwhelmed. Nor does it bother me that my daughter is chaotic and would forget to bring her own head to school, if it wasn’t attached to her body.
I see me.
Whenever I look at my kids, really look at them, my heart bursts with love.
I have always promised myself that whenever I had kids, I would give them the space to be themselves.
What I never expected was that through my love for them,  I would learn to love and accept myself more.
And that is truly a gift.

What gift have your kids added to your life?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of The Netherlands. Photo credit to the author.

Mirjam

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 a decade to the love of her life. Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home. In what little time she has left, she enjoys being an elementary school teacher. Mirjam has battled and survived three postpartum depressions. She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and she 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 at 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.

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