GHANA: Motherhood and Experiences

GHANA: Motherhood and Experiences

I love being a mother and I’m forever grateful for my children. It has not always been so smooth through pregnancy, childbirth, and nurturing but I’m constantly learning, praying and evolving as I navigate through this journey of motherhood. We have been blessed with two gorgeous boys who are to me everything that I could have asked or wished for. They are sweet in their own right and sometimes can be thorns in each other’s flesh (sibling rivalry). I don’t dare say I know much about that as I am an only child so did not have to fight over toys with any sibling. Nonetheless I get to watch the love and bond that both boys share which is beyond every little fight that exist between the two.

Raising boys has its own challenges but I guess the same can be said about girls too (any help from mums with girls?) This should be another topic for discussion sometime later. Often times I get friends asking me how I manage with two boys? I don’t always have an answer but rather say to them; do I need a formula to manage boys? I believe every child is an individual with unique strengths that need to be nurtured by parents and not go by society’s norms to raising boys or girls in a certain way. Every child is created different and no two children are the same even twins. I am not a perfect parent but I pray and strive to be the best mother to our children.

This topic of motherhood and experiences came up during a discussion with a group of mum friends at one of the children’s parties we had attended. As usual we sat around and chatted over finger foods and tried to catch up on what we had been up to. A mum who was still nursing her then 4-month old baby told us about her birthing experience since she was a first time mum and wanted to hear from some of us who had been there before. You sometimes feel you have a lot of experience after a second or a third child and can give the most advice to new mums. This was her question to us: ‘so how was it like during the birth of your first child? Were you so nervous or scared? My answer to her was simple; I was just SCARED! (more…)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Beach Bodies

Photo credit to the author

I live in a country where it’s bathing-suit season all year. As a woman “of a certain age,” as they say in France, that fact does not exactly fill me with joy.  My bathing suits tend to be utilitarian affairs, more designed for walking along the shore than glamorous sunbathing. Because I live in the United Arab Emirates, however, my friends in the States assume that there is some sort of dress code that mandates what I can wear. Ironically, I wish they were right, but they’re not. It would be great to blame a dress code for my demure swimsuit, rather than admit that it’s my love of bread (and occasional glass of wine) that led me to the one-piece life.

Sometimes I think it’s a betrayal of my feminist principles to be self-conscious about my middle-aged tummy (apparently when I turned fifty my metabolism pretty much decided to leave the building), but I can’t help it: my belly and a bikini aren’t going to be keeping company any time soon. Thinking about my own body makes me wonder how mothers of daughters negotiate the potential land-mines around issues of body image. I have two adolescent boys, and while I know they wrestle with questions about their physical appearance, it all seems less fraught for boys than for girls (ah, patriarchy: the gift that keeps on giving).

Photo credit to the author

I see teenage girls on the Abu Dhabi beaches in the tiniest of bikinis and wonder what I would say to my daughter, if I had one: I’d want to encourage her to wear whatever the hell she wants, on the one hand; and on the other, I’d worry about having her be so exposed, both literally and figuratively. I once joked to a friend of mine whose daughter is sixteen that perhaps all girls should wear “burkinis” and not just those who want to maintain hijab while at the beach.

At the beaches in Abu Dhabi, there are burkinis and bikinis and women wading in the water with their black abayas billowing out in the waves. Men in salwar khameez splash each other, while Russian men in tiny speedos do laps across the beach front.

Pink-skinned Brits crisp themselves in the sun (mad dogs and Englishmen, after all), and children of all sorts laugh and play in the waves. My teen-age sons see the beach as a place to play soccer, paddle-board, and hang out with their friends (preferably as far away from me as possible). I see the beach as a cosmopolitan space that allows for, and respects, individual differences—this person covered up, this person barely dressed—even as we’re all there enjoying ourselves.

When I told my kids about my beach-as-cosmopolitan metaphor, they scoffed. “It’s just a beach,” they said. But I wonder. In a world that is slipping faster and faster towards intolerance, nativism, and fundamentalism, I’m happy to grab at any indication that people from different worlds can exist happily in the same place.

What the beach also provides, much to the shared chagrin of my sons, is an opportunity to talk about (ssshh!) girls. Or rather, desire. And bodies, and respect. We talk (well, okay, I do most of the talking) about what it means to find someone attractive, and about how they feel about themselves in this public and uncovered space; I try not to laugh when the thirteen-year old mocks the sixteen-year old’s subtle bicep flexing when a cute girl walks by. I remind them that it’s okay to feel insecure about how they look (there was much scoffing at this point, and then some quiet questions). We also talk about the importance of looking past what someone is (or is not) wearing—and after one of those conversations, my younger son said, exasperated, “we’ve lived here for six years. Robes or no robes, covered or uncovered, I don’t really care. Can we get ice-cream?”

Ice creams were indeed purchased, although I didn’t have one. Maybe with enough “no” on ice cream, a bikini won’t be out of the question by August.

How do you talk with your tweens and teens about their bodies, and all the related issues? And how can we make sure that our own issues with our bodies don’t inflect how our children think about theirs?

This is an original post written by Mannahattamamma for World Moms Network.

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

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.

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OMAN: Four reasons to raise awareness on parenting issues

Raising awareness

As I find my way between my career and parenting, I try to make the fewest mistakes possible. It’s not that mistakes aren’t good sometimes – I just try not to go beyond the useful ones.

Fortunately, I am good at observing, analyzing and indulging myself in learning. The moment I became a mother, I realized that motherhood is not something you take for granted. Indeed, parenting is hard work. I am not even talking about the early hardships: the feeding, cleaning, and staying awake at nights. As tough these aspects of parenting can be, what comes later is much more challenging, and requires a great deal of awareness.

It is more important – and so much more difficult – to work on values, principles, education and maintaining a good connection with your children. It also requires more work to prepare your kids for the outside world. Sometimes it seems that we as parents will be working on that forever.

The hands-on experience I had gained as a parent, along with reading continuously helped me all the time. Having empathy for other parents who might eventually go through the same parenting struggles I had experienced, I decided to dive into the world of raising awareness. Here’s why:

  1. Like all parents, I experienced various difficulties and challenges at each stage of my children’s development. Thus, as part of my social responsibility, I decided I should share what I am learning to raise the collective awareness of parents around me. My goal is to help other parents out there, and also to help each child I can to live his childhood in a better way whenever possible. As Robert Ingersoll once said, “We rise by lifting others.”
  2. I love sharing knowledge and raising awareness. Giving lectures and running courses has always been my thing, so why not? I could still remember the fun I had reading a novel, and going to work the next day to narrate it to my colleagues in my own style. They looked forward to hearing it and I enjoyed sharing it.
  3. We became parents between two different generations. Before us came a generation that mostly believed in a strict, authoritarian parenting style. After us came a generation that is overwhelmed by the modern, hectic life, and trying to find a balance. I have been there, and if I can help one parent increase their awareness and manage that period with less stress then I had, I would willingly do it.
  4. I love children and I want to give them better life opportunities. This has always been a reason that does not need any justification.

Specializing on issues related to parenting and childhood are not enough to make you go further into the awareness spectrum. You need the passion in order to take this road.

What do you think?

 

 

Ibtisam Alwardi

Ibtisam (at Ibtisam's musings) is an Omani Mom of three, living in the capital city of Oman ,Muscat. After working for ten years as a speech and language therapist in a public hospital, she finally had the courage to resign and start her own business. She had a dream of owning a place where she can integrate fun, play and 'books', thus the iPlay Smart centre (@iplaysmart) was born. Currently she is focusing on raising awareness through social media about parenting, childhood, language acquisition. She started raising awareness on (the importance of reading) and (sexual harassment) targeting school-aged children. Ibtisam enjoys writing, both in Arabic and English, reading and working closely with children. She plans to write children books (in Arabic) one day. Contact Ibtisam at ibtisamblogging(at)gmail.com.

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SAUDI ARABIA: A Message to the Mom Shamers

SAUDI ARABIA: A Message to the Mom Shamers

Mom Shamers
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 (Saudi Arabia)

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.

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EGYPT: Beliefs and how they impact our lives

beliefs

According to Merriam Webster, a belief is, “something that a person accepts as true or right, a strongly held opinion about something.” A belief is just an opinion, not necessarily the truth or the reality. Beliefs can be imagined as an iceberg. There are some beliefs  we are conscious of, like the tip of the iceberg that can be seen above the water. Meanwhile, there are other beliefs we are less aware of, the larger part of the iceberg that lies below the water.

There are different types of beliefs. There are some that are empowering beliefs, like we are happy, we are successful , life is beautiful and worth being lived, failure is a part of the success journey, and so on. Other beliefs are disempowering, like I am unhappy, I am not good enough, life is unfair, I am a loser, et cetera. Such beliefs can be very limiting. Our beliefs about ourselves shape our lives. If we hold empowering beliefs, we feel more satisfaction and peace of mind. Otherwise, we are frustrated and unhappy most of the time. Most of our beliefs are formed during our childhood and adolescence.

Why our beliefs impact our lives?

Our beliefs drive our behaviors, so anything we do can be linked back to a certain belief we hold. Our perception of a situation creates a thought in our mind. The thought triggers an emotion, and the emotion makes us behave in a certain way. For example, one of my clients felt uncomfortable when her colleagues repeated to her, “You are so kind.” From my point of view, it was a positive comment of praise, while she perceived it as, “You are so naive.” With the positive perception, she would have felt totally comfortable and satisfied. Meanwhile, with the negative perception she felt annoyed and uncomfortable. These two different perceptions of the same situation triggered two completely different feelings, which lead to two totally different behaviors.

When we go through the same experience with the same thought, we feel the same feeling and we behave the same way until it becomes an unconscious belief and the behavior becomes automatic. Unfortunately it becomes the TRUTH while actually it is just our truth that we created due to our perception. If we want to change our behavior, we need to change the angle from which we see the situation.

“Making mistakes is shameful”

I grew up in a family and a school where making mistakes was not an option. We were punished, made fun of, and severely criticized for making mistakes. There were only one way to do anything, the way the elders wanted it done. Anything else was wrong and unacceptable. Living in such an environment was really hard.  I always felt like an accused who needed to defend herself. I wanted to have my own life, but unfortunately anything that did not match their way was considered a mistake.

One of my dis-empowering beliefs that negatively affected my life and harmed my self confidence for many years was, “Making mistakes is shameful.” I was so sensitive, so I avoided many situations and experiences to avoid the feeling of guilt and shame I felt every time I thought I made a mistake. I feared oral exams, trying new things, delivering presentations, and giving an opinion in a meeting or a class. I was so frightened of failure that I had to find help. My coach helped me see my foundational belief that making mistakes is shameful, and helped me to see that it caused me to avoid situations where I feared failure. It took me some time to adopt the new perception and to overcome my fear and my belief. Fortunately, I can now express myself in public easily, confidently, and in a relaxed way.

How we can change a behavior?

When you want to change your behavior in any situation and you want to find out what dis-empowering belief you hold, just answer these questions:

What are your thoughts in this situation?

How do you feel every time you go through it?

Write down your answers, and repeat this process several times. You will begin to notice a pattern. Notice your inner self talks and your wording – it will tell you a lot about your beliefs. To change the behavior, you need to change the angle from which you perceive the situation. Try to find a more positive perception – it will make a big shift in your thoughts and feelings and hence your behaviors.

As moms we need to be so careful with our children. We must pay attention to how we treat them, and also how we treat ourselves or speak about ourselves in front of them. We need to be aware of our dis-empowering beliefs, and work on changing them as they will surely affect our children. They acquire their self confidence and self esteem from ours. Our children see themselves through our eyes and they believe us, so if you tell your child they are not good enough or they are amazing they will believe you and may be they will live their whole life with this belief. Be cautious which beliefs you want to implant in your child.

Are you aware of your beliefs? What type of beliefs do you hold about yourself? How do they affect your life? Do you have a similar story, to share with us, about replacing a limiting belief ?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Nihad from Alexandria, Egypt. Nihad blogs at Aurora Beams Life Coaching.

Image via José María Foces Morán / Flickr

Nihad

Nihad is an Egyptian woman, who was born and has lived her whole life in Alexandria, Egypt. She says, “People who visited this city know how charming and beautiful this city is. Although I love every city in Egypt, Alexandria is the one I love the most.” She is a software engineer and has worked in the field for more than twenty years. But recently she quit her job, got a coaching certificate and she is now a self employed life and career coach. She says, “I believe that women in this era face big challenges and they are taking huge responsibilities. That's why I have chosen my niche -- women looking for happiness and satisfaction. I help and support them in making whatever change (career change, life change, behavior change, belief change…) they want to bring more satisfaction and happiness in their lives.” Nihad is a mother of two lovely boys, 15 and 9 years old. She states, “They are the most precious gifts I have ever had. I madly love them, and I consider them the main source of happiness in my life.” Our inspiring mother in Egypt can also be found at Aurora Beams Life Coaching.

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UAE: Parenting In Strange (Trumpish) Times

Parenting in Strange (Trumpish) Times

We are living in strange times. Here’s how strange they are: the other day I found myself nodding in agreement with something that Dick Cheney said. He is one of the few Republicans who spoke out immediately against Trump’s executive order banning Muslims entering the United States. (Of course in the same interview, he talked about how there was “nobody in America” when his Puritan ancestors arrived. I guess some things never change.) I’ve also started following Pope Francis on Instagram. The Pope gives good Insta, I have to say, but the thing is, I’m not Catholic. I’m not even a lapsed Catholic. I’m not even religious. The closest I came to a religious moment is when I was about seven and was a horse in the St. Augustine “Noah’s Ark” pageant. I pranced down the aisle with the other “animals” and then we all huddled around the altar while Father Pemble—the hippy minister with a fabulous baritone and a red beard—sang songs about the flood. A religious high-point, for sure.

I don’t agree with the Pope on some key issues—he’s not going to be espousing any pro-choice rhetoric anytime soon—but his messages speak to the importance of caring for all of humanity, not just those who look like you.

Here’s an even stranger thing: for the first time in my adult life, I wished this weekend that I had become a lawyer. Because if I’d been a lawyer, and if I were in the United States, I could have gone to an airport and offered my services to detainee families as they (as we all) struggle with the implications of Trump’s destructive (and illegal) actions. I even suggested to my sixteen-year old son that he might think about becoming a lawyer — an idea that wouldn’t ever have occurred to me a month ago. Watching from afar as US airports flooded with people offering support of all kinds to detainees and their families—legal advice, places to stay, food, whatever they could find—I felt a tiny glimmer of hope. The Women’s Marches were amazing, a tour-de-force of activism, energy, and global feminism, but somehow the airport protests seem like an even bigger deal, because they were spontaneous, contagious, and effective (can we get a shoutout for the ACLU)? As the wonderful Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, “Donald Trump has no idea how terrifying a blue book and a Lexis password can be. He’s about to find out.”

The protests have also helped me to show my kids that all is not lost (for a little while longer at least): the country still has the rule of law, which the President has to obey. I’ve been pointing to the photos of lawyers sitting on airport floors, laptops open, as signs that individuals can make a difference and that Trump’s message of fear has not taken hold everywhere.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? How do we explain Trump’s actions to our children when what he’s doing violates such fundamental principles of civility? And how do we keep our children, particularly older children, optimistic about the future when around the world things seem so bleak? My sixteen-year old son is full of the existential despair that only a teen-ager can feel. He says things like, “yeah, I’m doing my homework, not that it matters because…Trump” – which might become the 2017 version of “the dog ate my homework.” Like most teenagers, my son is a pretty rigid thinker: things are one way or another, the best or the worst; he has lots of opinions and they are, of course, always correct. The night after Trump’s victory (a landslide, as Trump keeps telling us), The Teen said, “but mom, I thought the good guys were supposed to win.” He looked so sad and confused, and I could almost hear the screeching gears in his mind trying to recalibrate his world view.

The Teen has only known Presidential elections where Obama won, and although he knows theoretically that “good guys” don’t always win, this election is his first real-life whammy of watching the good guys lose. It happens to all of us eventually, and sadly, we may even come to expect it. But right now, the Teen is sure that we’re all doomed. I’ve had my fair share of similar thoughts since the inauguration (did you see those “huge” crowds on the Mall for the swearing-in? Yeah, me neither), but I don’t want my kids to feel as pessimistic as I do. They’re young, right? If they lose hope, then that’s the end of the game.

Surprisingly—or perhaps not surprisingly, given how odd things are these days—I found some advice on the Pope’s Instagram. The day the Muslim ban went into effect, the PopeFeed featured a picture with the caption: “Dear young people, make a ruckus! A ruckus that brings a free heart, solidarity, hope…” You know what? I’m thinking ruckus sounds just about right. Perhaps that’s the final thing: I’m actually telling my kids to make a ruckus. Ask questions, read the news, read history, pay attention. And vote. The sixteen-year old will vote for a President in 2020. I wonder who she’ll be?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. 

Lead photo credit: Kenneth Lu / Flickr. Pope Francis video via the Pope’s Instagram

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

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.

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