POLAND: What I Didn’t Expect: When The Kids Go to School

Enjoying chocolate paczki – a national Polish treat – after preschool one day

A little over a year ago, I posted an article on WMN that announced all of my hopes and dreams for when my kids go to school. I talked about the things I wanted to do, the things I had been planning to do and put on hold for awhile, the freedom and the feeling of being on my own and pursuing anything I wanted in my newfound free time – whether that be a enrolling in a photography course, writing a children’s book, joining a cooking class, taking a tour of this beautiful city I live in.

With my youngest turning three last March, I decided it was time for her to try out preschool for a couple of days per week for a few hours per day. She would join the same class as her older sister and is familiar with the teachers, the kids in the class, and everything surrounding the school. She has been with me for every pick up and drop off of her sister over the last two years.

Ivy on her first day of preschool: not a tear in sight

Since she is my third and my last, she is both extremely close to me, but also very “grown up” in order to keep up with her older siblings. So, I was ready for anything. I was ready for her to cry. I was ready for her to rebel and run right out of that classroom. I was ready for her to be proud and march right in. Lucky for me, she was thrilled for her first day. With a wave and a smile, she said, “Goodbye Mommy” and headed straight on into the classroom. I waited in the coat area for a few minutes to see if she changed her mind or if she would start to cry when she noticed I was no longer in sight. Nope. I went to a cafe less than half a mile away to have a cup of coffee and catch up on email. I found myself incessantly checking my cell phone to see if I had a missed call or text from the teacher, saying that perhaps I should come to pick her up. The phone was silent.

After seven years of being with one, two, or three children all day everyday (besides a few babysitting hours here and there), I was on my own.

If I had to describe the mix of emotions I felt after dropping the last of my three children off at her first day of school, it would be nervousness, excitement, freedom, joy, uncertainty, and a little bit of fear.

I think all of those feelings are to be expected.

But here is what I didn’t expect: loneliness.

For my whole life, I have been around others. Whether that be at work, at university, with my children, with my parents, or with my husband. Nearly seven years ago, I delivered my son just two days after my last day of work at the U.S. State Department. And for the following seven years, I have been with my children. So the thing I felt the most acutely after dropping her off for a few hours? I was lonely.

Who would I talk to? What would I do?

I did not expect to be lonely.

As I had expected, coming to grips with finally having all of the children at school, especially when you have been a stay-at-home parent, is hard.

Most of us use our new unstructured free time to run errands, clean the house, read a book, go to the gym, catch up on email, or have an actual, uninterrupted phone call with a friend. But as my youngest went to school for the second, third, and fourth time, I realized that I needed to structure my time. I needed to have a plan. I needed to reach out to friends and other moms – meet them for lunch or an exercise class. I needed to schedule a lunch date with my husband. I needed to volunteer to read to my son’s first grade class. I needed to be around people.

It is funny, and even a little bit ironic, how it all comes full circle – or at least, how it did for me. I have waited all of this time for a little bit of silence and time to myself. And what do I find myself missing the most? Human interaction. The noise. The chaos. The laughter. The bonding. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I found myself talking to the dog in the car after preschool drop-off one day recently.

In the daily hustle and bustle of parenthood, we often don’t realize how the energy and joy our children exude nurtures us.

Parenting requires us to be in the moment 24/7. We are concerned with what we are providing for our children and how we are shaping their thoughts and actions, but have we ever thought about how they are shaping us? What they are providing us?

Love, joy, humor, and sure, a little bit (or boat load, depending on your day) of impatience at times. In the absence of the noise and chaos, I realized how disturbingly quiet life can be without the kids at home. So while you still have them at home, try to remember that and cherish it. And when they do go to school, have a plan, and nourish the part of you that needs the support, love, and interaction of others – because loneliness is something you might not have expected.

This is an original post written by Loren Braunohler for World moms Network.

What was your experience when you sent your kids off to school?

Loren Braunohler

Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.

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USA: Returning to Myself in Paris

USA: Returning to Myself in Paris

Just last week, I found myself in Paris, France. I was about to meet my niece, who was studying abroad, but I gave myself an extra first day on my own. I made plans with our contributor in Paris, Marie Kléber, whom I didn’t know very well, but whom I was so excited to meet!

She met me at my hotel, and we headed out by metro to the area of Saint Martin. She helped me navigate purchasing my travel card, and led me to a trendy, “oh so good!”, vegan place for lunch. We sat on high stools looking out toward the street. We talked and talked and talked! (Mostly in English, but later switched to French!) I wanted to know all about her life. What her life was like in Paris as a mom. About the French elections happening the next day. She was curious about how World Moms Network got started, and if I had met any of the other World Moms and who! (Lucky to say, yes, I have!)

It felt surreal. I traveled all this way, and all of a sudden I have a good friend here whom I had never met before. But, it’s not a unique feeling. It’s the same feeling when Purnima from India met Ecoziva in Brazil. When Tara from Canada met Nancy in Tanzania. When Martine from the Philippines met Ruth in Singapore. When I met Mama B. from Saudi Arabia in NYC. In our own efforts we are satisfying (or igniting more!) curiosities about the world through meeting women from around the world. Woman who we wouldn’t come across in our towns or cities at home. We found them through this network.

In France I had a feeling of complete comfort in a foreign city that had just been the site of a terrorist attack the night before. After lunch Marie took me to see the statue of Rèpublique, a piece of her French heritage. Then, I assumed I’d just find my way back to my hotel on my own. I had such a fantastic time with her!!

But no, Marie, rode the metro back toward my hotel with me, out of her way. And walked me back to my hotel. She was going to tell me how best to get to a friend’s place for later tonight. It turned out it was only 2 blocks from where she lived. What are the chances of that? So, Marie insisted that she take me to my friend’s doorstep. And I insisted that she come in and meet my friend!

World Moms Network reminds me that the world isn’t so big. That there are amazing people to meet in every culture. We just have to reach out and allow ourselves to be connected. Let go of what is familiar. We may be surprised.

Marie gave me more than just great conversation, a tour around her home city, and sight-seeing tips for me and my niece. I had been feeling burnt out lately. I had spent so many years straight working and squeezing hours as though squeezing the last of the toothpaste to work on World Moms Network since 2010. And this past 100 days, watching how my own country is trying to defund the very life-saving global health programs that I’ve been writing about and passionately advocating for. Calling my Senators and Congressman. Reading. Disappointed. And on top of all that, busier in my children’s lives in my new role this year as Girl Scout Leader. And finally making exercise a priority for my health.

World Moms Network has continued to deliver while I have been juggling other life stages because of the strength of the team of women behind me. Just in case you ever thought that this site was just me, it’s sooo never been just me. Thank you to the World Moms who carry the torch when other World Moms just cannot.

It’s amazing how a conversation with a new friend thousands of miles away can take you back to what you stand for. For what you fight for. For peace. For friendship. For understanding. For cultural appreciation. For respect. For maturity. To help you find your footing. Guide you back to writing. To restore you energy.

It’s been awhile since I wrote. Thank you, Marie. I’m back.

This is an original post to World Moms Network by founder, Jennifer Burden, of New Jersey, USA.  

Photo credits to the author. 

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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TANZANIA: Terrible Thirties – A Tale of Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety

My Name is Nancy and I am experiencing, after more than six years of motherhood, a terrible case of separation anxiety. We are used to our toddlers give us hell with this – it is, after all, expected during the terrible twos. But you may call mine a case of the “terrible thirties.”

I have never had to leave my baby, (she doesn’t agree with the baby part) for longer than a week. That week, might I add, was the toughest week ever. I am so fortunate that my job requires minimal travel. Each year, I travel for just a few days to get things done, and hurry back, super lightning speed, to be reunited with my family.

Those brief work trips are hard. I suffer everything from insomnia, to hearing my daughter’s voice in my head, to general feelings of self loathing and sadness. I could really kick myself because it’s ridiculous. She is 6! Surely that’s old enough for me, and for her. Why can’t I get over my separation anxiety? Does traveling have to give me such dread? Why is it never the same without them?

I recently got a fantastic opportunity to be a part of an academic fellowship across the pond, I mean waaayyy across, that will require me to be away for most of the summer holidays. While it a great opportunity for myself, the first thing I felt was pure dread. Dread that I have to leave my husband and my baby behind for what seems to be an eternity.

Ladies, please tell me I am not going crazy and some of you also feel this way at times? Is it impossible to put ourselves first?

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania. Image courtesy of the author. 

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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INDIA: Home, Mothers and Love

INDIA: Home, Mothers and Love

A few weeks ago, I found myself rubbing a strained back, while contemplating a few dozen cardboard boxes, spilling with myriad possessions. My family and I had just shifted residence and while the bigger home was welcome, the sense of being uprooted, was downright disturbing. Over the days and weeks, while I got back to arranging cupboards, emptying out the boxes, and deciding what went where, there was an almost palpable sense of shaping and creating a living space imbued with warmth. A feeling that this apartment was slowly but surely turning into “home”.

That got me thinking. What is it that binds the woman so closely to the sense of “being home”? Why are bachelor pads the butt of jokes, almost as if they can’t be anything more than functional places of stay? And what is it with mothers, that transforms a space with walls and ceiling, from house to home?

Keepers of memories:

“You can’t possibly throw my old soft toys” was the plaintive wail over the phone, from my now grown-up teenager, studying engineering, hundreds of miles away. The tall, bearded young man can dismiss tech troubles and maths equations with ease, but will turn into a 7-year old when confronted with the threat of parting with his precious old buddies of childhood. While I laughed and assured him his dear Spiderman figurine and other assorted ‘friends’ would continue to live with us, part of my mind wondered about how easily mothers slip into the role of “memory-keepers”. In my family, I get to be the person who decides about the keeping of old birthday cards, letters (yes, we still have those!), hand-written notes and little reminders of days gone by. And so there are three burgeoning bags labeled “Sentimental keepsakes”, holding varied treasures such as a favorite insect-print shirt of the sonny-boy when he was a toddler, a teddy-bear with a missing eye, painstakingly created art projects and more. I guess being the protector of the little tangible reminders of precious reminders comes with the territory of being a mom.

Strands of love:

Bidding goodbye to the previous apartment was very difficult due to the myriad of experiences and special moments that had enriched our lives for 16 long years. Would this new home hold a special place in our hearts too? I sighed and realized that when a family lives in various places in succession, no two homes can ever hold the same position in the heart. Each place is linked to a distinct palette of memories. Children are born and they grow up, moving through the years with frightening speed. Our parents leave us, moving from the earthly plane to a higher and better place. We shed our hair and gain some pounds and our faces reflect the battles lost and won in the arena of the world. And our children leave their homes, to find their own wings. Amidst these milestones, big and little, the home remains our sanctuary, the shelter where we return to find ourselves. And so, woven in our homes are strands of love and laughter. Of care and sacrifice. Of sleepless nights and faith-filled days. And again, mothers seem to gravitate towards this process of “weaving love” almost effortlessly.

And so…

Mothers are often, thus, the binding factor, transforming houses into homes. It does not matter whether the mother is the caretaker of a child with special health-needs or the mother of a potential Olympian athlete, or the mother of a daughter in a country where females are routinely treated as second-class citizens, or the mother of a little child, living in a refugee camp, trying valiantly to use lullabies and a rag doll to create the illusion of a home for her little one. Home isn’t a space alone – it is a physical space that is imbued with the most sublime of human feelings and emotions. It is the sparkling magical reaction between a safe dwelling place and a mother’s love.

WORLD VOICE: NovaVeil Introduces Fashion To protect Against Zika

WORLD VOICE: NovaVeil Introduces Fashion To protect Against Zika

 

Three heartbreaking stories of families impacted by the Zika virus were highlighted this week in a Sunday New York Times article.  Although last year’s Zika crisis is no longer making regular headlines, the World Health Organization now considers Zika a continuing health threat along the lines of Malaria or Yellow Fever.  As the babies infected by Zika are getting older new challenges are arising for families, and new babies infected by the virus are still being born. Despite a vaccine in development, pregnant women in at risk areas have to live with the daily fear of exposing their unborn child to the virus.  The founders of Maternova, a company that specializes in women’s health solutions, Meg Wirth and Allison Cote, realized that the world could not just sit around and wait for a vaccine to be developed.  A process that, if successful, can sometimes still take years to get to the public.  Women and babies are most directly impacted by the consequences of the virus, and with nothing on the market  to help women to continue to live their daily lives, a viable everyday solution was needed.

“We realized with the increasing threat of Zika becoming an epidemic in South America and then entering the United States, that this was something that had direct dire consequences for pregnant women and their babies, and there wasn’t anything on the market that proved to be viable and be used everyday in order for these women to protect themselves.”

– Allyson Cote, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Maternova

The duo enlisted Alessandra Gold, a Brazilian-born, Miami-based award-winning designer to create a four piece capsule collection of mosquito repellent, yet fashionable, maternity clothing that women could wear every day. The idea was that the clothing would help to do during the day what mosquito netting does at night. Using a non-permethrin nano-technology patented in Europe the textile used in the garments has repellent embedded into it on a molecular level.

The NovaVeil collection features a dress, a cardigan with a hood, a scarf, and leggings, all designed to be comfortably worn in warm climates. Not only do the garments provide protection from the Zika virus but from other insect born illnesses such as Malaria, Dengue, and lyme disease. The goal was to appeal to and be able to reach women across the economic spectrum, so sales of NovaVeil garments in high end areas will help to subsidizes providing garments in lower income areas. It turns out that the cost per wear of the clothing, which remains effective through 50 wash cycles (and when tested was still 60% effective after 90 washes) will be less expensive than it would be to apply insect repellent every day. It is also better for the woman’s health, and for the environment.

“There is a massive amount of literature on bed nets and protecting women and families at nighttime from Malaria, but there was very little out there about protection during the daytime. In part that’s because this is a brand new technology.”

– Meg Wirth, Co-Founder of Maternova

Maternova partnered with Americares early on by adding a NovaVeil maternity top to anti-Zika mother kits they were already giving to their pregnant patients at a health clinic in El Salvador. The kits also contained condoms, bed nets, skin based repellent, and a water purification method. It is not surprising that a fast acting every-day solution in response to the Zika crisis that puts mothers and babies first would come from a social enterprise owned and run by women. The goal is to continue to offer the NovaVeil line at either no cost or low cost to distribution partners in Latin America in hopes of protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable women, while widening distribution so that pregnant women everywhere can feel safe from the threat of Zika in their everyday lives.

This is an original post written by Elizabeth Atalay for World Moms network.

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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