When I was a teenager/young adult I wanted to change the world (as it happens with so many youngsters). And changing the world usually meant Doing Big Things.
Now, three kids and more than twenty years later, my saving the world efforts seem so distant. I grapple with alternating days when I stay home with the kids, sorting socks and washing dishes, and days teaching classes at the university, advising students’ research, and trying to do some research of my own.
At one point of my life I thought my career would be in the non-profit sector; i.e., I would be a professional environmentalist, forever. By then my volunteering efforts had evolved into parallel paying jobs related to social-environmental issues, and this kind of lifestyle went on for 12+ years.
I continued on to graduate school not because I wanted to become an academic, but because I thought it would be a great addition to what I already did. I found it exciting to go from project to project, often working on more than one at once. I felt almost repulsed by the thought of staying in the same job for the rest of my life, always doing the same thing. I even got a certain thrill from not knowing where my salary would come from after the current project ended.
My husband (who worked for the same NGO) was not as thrilled and dreamed of the day at least one of us would have a more stable job. Since I was already on the academic path in one way or the other, that person became me.
When I first became a professor I wasn’t overjoyed. Although I love to do research, teaching is a different story and it was very hard in the beginning. At this point I already had three children and the “saving the world” type of projects were in the past. Another dream that I tried to pursue (to become a professional writer) had also been buried. I sadly realized I wasn’t really passionate about anything anymore – except, of course, my kids.
By this time my husband had gotten a relatively stable government job, although he didn’t really love it. We were finally okay financially and we were living a comfortable life. Nevertheless, we began to question ourselves about our choices.
Were we still living according to the same principles we followed when we first met (especially in relation to the environment)? Were we fleeing our responsibility of making a difference in the world? Had we left our ideals aside for modern, middle class comforts? Were we still being true to our dreams?
At first I had a good excuse to avoid these issues because two of our kids were very small and I had to deal with all of the related motherhood issues. In parallel, I tried to make the most of my job focusing on the good things: stability, flexible hours, and the possibility of quantity time with my children even if that meant doing a lot of work at night and during the weekend. I told myself (and I still do), that there are many means to make a difference, even if in “small” ways.
After all, in practice, there are no real big things. Big things take place in small steps and often need more than one person involved. Also, what seems like small, local things, often involve a lot of work and may have a greater impact on the world than expected. No wonder one of the most popular environmentalist mottos is, “Think global, act local”.
Today, in my attempts to continue to be of service to the world, I try (for example) to be a good listener to my students because sometimes I sense they are more in need of a friendly ear than anything else. A great number of students suffer from depression and other related disorders, for instance. And it’s not that I serve as a psychologist or anything, but I frequently feel that just treating them kindly and making an effort to advise them extra well regarding academic issues makes a significant difference.
Yet the fact is, regardless of how we do in our present jobs, the sort of questions I listed before has been haunting us for the past few years. Now that our youngest is past three, these questions have resurfaced. The biggest issue that remains is how to be true to our dreams and ideals while at the same time guaranteeing enough food on the table (and healthcare, and a good education etc., etc.)?
This post will be continued in Part 2.
Please share your story below on how you have managed (or not) to follow your dreams, personally and professionally.
This post was inspired by two other posts: “Surviving the turmoil” and “My frame world”.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.
Photo credit to Claremont Colleges Digital Library. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.
In the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Ecuador, the people of my husband’s home country are on our minds and in our hearts, and we are very much in touch. Today, I am giving them a voice on World Moms Blog…
Beautiful Ecuador. A photo from the hacienda belonging to my husband’s family in Cuenca.
Ecuador is the home of the Galapagos Islands, aromatic coffee, delicious chocolate, and my husband. He was born and raised in Cuenca, a charming colonial city in the mountains. Although we reside in the United States with our two children, my husband always makes it a point that we always stay connected to the place he still refers to as home. We got engaged on his hacienda (family’s land), honeymooned in the Galapagos Islands, and continue to vacation in Ecuador every year. My children love visiting with their abuela and primos and enjoy all the natural splendors that their father’s home country has to offer. Ecuador is always very much in our minds and in our hearts.
So, on April 16th when we heard the news that a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country, we were a little rattled ourselves.
We learned that my husband’s family was safe, and although they were over 200 miles away from the epicenter they felt the tremors of the quake. They explained that the ground thunderously shook for over a minute, rattling chandeliers and unhinging doors. It was like nothing they had ever experienced before.
What remains of a gift shop in Manta, Ecuador after a series of recent earthquakes recently in April 2016. Manta is Ecuador’s largest seaport on the Pacific ocean.
The epicenter was located in the coastal region of Ecuador, which includes some port cities, picturesque coastal towns and small fishing communities. Buildings crumbled to the ground, over 600 people were killed and thousands were displaced from their homes. Most of the area impacted is very poor with limited infrastructure, most of which was destroyed. Initial efforts focused on emergency response and rescue. Organizations like the Ecuadorian Red Cross (Cruz Roja Ecuatoriana) along with other civil and governmental organizations were mobilized quickly.
Yellow tape marked “Peligro” warns people of danger after the roof and balcony collapse of a building in Manta, Ecuador after the earthquakes in April 2016.
Based on my experience, this is a small and proud country. People boast about everything Ecuadorian including their fruit, wildlife, history and rich traditions. During this difficult time, they have pulled together to help their fellow compatriotas.
My husband’s family helped stock a mobile hospital that headed to the area immediately after the quake to provide emergency health care. Others provided food, clothing and basic essentials. In the days following the earthquake it became clear that the needs of the people were growing and that the rebuilding process was going to be slow. Access to clean water has become critical. Imagine not having safe water to drink or cook?
Once again, local families and companies in the surrounding areas joined together to provide water treatment equipment to service a small portion of those affected. They are making steps forward, but it’s still a long road ahead. There are many organizations that are still offering assistance in the area, according to our family there. One of them is Oxfam, which is working with the Ecuador government to provide safe water and storage to the area. The organization is also focusing on sanitation measures to prevent water borne diseases, especially among children and senior citizens. My family in Ecuador has seen Oxfam’s work on the ground and asked us to donate. We, in turn, are helping to spread the word.
A collapsed and bent tin roof and damaged building supports lean atop brick rubble in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Manta, Ecuador last month, April 2016.
The phrase si se puede is a phrase that enthusiastic Ecuadorian sports fans chant to support their teams. It means “yes, we can.” This phrase has become the motto of the relief efforts.
From the hearts of my family and the people of Ecuador who are in dire need of clean water in the aftermath of the earthquake, please consider donating to Oxfam to help the people of Ecuador see that the country’s chants of “si se puede” will overcome this natural disaster.
Angela and her husband on honeymoon in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador after they first married in her husband’s home country 10 years ago.
This is an original guest post from a World Moms Blog reader, Angela Vega, who is mom in the USA of two sensitive and curious children who keep her very busy. Before deciding to stay home with her children, Angela worked in the field of marketing and advertising. She earned an undergraduate degree from Villanova University and an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, where she met her husband.
Photo credits of the earthquake damage and hacienda to Pedro Vega on the ground in Ecuador.
Photo credit to the author for the honeymoon photo.
I believe that everyone, in some way or another, has a second (or more) set of “parents”. This is a broad definition of parents I am using here – they may be people who cared for you when your biological parents were having problems, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, or even godparents as is the custom in some places. They could be people who took you to the movies or to fancy restaurants if the money in your family was tight. They could be people close to you whom to others might seem commonplace but to you were heroes. They could be teachers, formally or not. The common characteristic among these people is that they were role models for you and had a big (positive) impact on your life in one or more ways.
I was lucky enough to have several such wonderful people in my life during childhood and adolescence, but one couple stands out.
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.
Happy New Year #WorldMoms! If 2016 is anything like 2015 for us it is going to be a fantastic year! Here are some highlights, impact, and accomplishments of World Moms in 2015.
Founder and CEO, Jennifer Burden, accepted the UN Correspondents Association award on behalf of World Mom, Purnima Ramakrishnan of India:
Purnima was unable to attend the event in New York as she was busy reporting on the flooding in Chennai, India where she lives with her family.
Managing Editor Elizabeth Atalay joined Jen at Cipriani in New York City for the UNCA Award Gala where they also caught up with Dan Thomas, a Communications Director at the UN. Dan was formerly our World Moms contact at the GAVI Alliance when he was in Switzerland!
Jennifer and Steve Burden were in NYC to commemorate World AIDS Day and 10 years of ONE and (RED) with special guests Bono and The Edge, Hozier, Danai Gurira, Trevor Noah, Bill and Melinda Gates and more! #WAD2015 #WorldMoms
Kirsten Doyle of Canada, visited her home country of South Africa in 2015. No international journey is complete without meeting up with a local World Mom! Here she is with Mama Simona in Cape Town!
We celebrated #DayoftheGirl with our daughters from around the world. World Mom, Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria, wrote our post for #DayoftheGirl and her daughter is pictured below.
World Mom Nicole Melancon climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with Solar Sisters to raise funds to launch new solar entrepreneurs.
Our editors stay connected with global Skype calls throughout the year.
World Mom, Kristyn Zalota, continued to help to provide nurse training and Clean Birth Kits to mothers in Laos through the non-profit she founded Cleanbirth.org.
World Mom, Susie in Israel, took her daughter in to the hospital where she works hard saving lives in Israel for “Take Your Daughter to Work Day!”
World Moms Blog attended the first ever Media Tour of Heifer Farms in Massachusetts.
There were lots of speaking engagements around the world including:
World Moms Blog’s panel at the World Bank in April 2015 in Washington, DC on the importance of universal education for girls!
World Mom, Cynthia Changyit Levin, also spoke at a RESULTS conference in Washington, DC on ending poverty.
World Mom, To-wen Tseng, spoke at a Breastfeeding Conference in LA.
And World Mom Sophia Neghesti Johnson spoke at a storytelling event for children, including a village story from Kenya, and one from Austria.
In September while in New York for UN General Assembly week World Moms met up at a ONE Campaign “Poverty is Sexist” party and hung out with activist and Reggae legend, Rocky Dawani. We were also in NYC at that time for the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the Social Good Summit.:
We also started our collaboration with BabyCenter in October 2015, where our moms can also be found writing!
In Kenya World Mom Tara Wambugu toured an elephant orphanage in Nairobi.
Managing Editor, Elizabeth Atalay, and Social Media Editor, Nicole Morgan, advocated for vaccinations for children who need them most in Washington, DC with the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign and were both 2015 United Nations Foundation #SocialGood Fellows:
This summer World Mom, Jennifer Burden, visited the woman who wrote the very first post on World Moms Blog on November 1st, 2010! Astrid Warren, formerly known as pen name Asta Burrows, helped Jen raise the Lady WMB colors in Sogndal, Norway! The two took their families camping together among the fjords this past summer!
World Mom Alison Fraser, Founder of Mom2MomAfrica visited students benefitting from the program she started in Tanzania.
World Moms Blog Founder and CEO, Jennifer Burden, interviewed the CEO of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, in April 2015 at the UN in New York City. They were there for the UNCA press conference for the State of the World Mothers Report.
Aisha proudly voted in the March Elections in Nigeria.
World Mom, Aisha Yesufu of Nigeria, proudly votes in her country’s elections this year.
World Moms Blog Founder and CEO, Jennifer Burden, met the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban ki moon, at the UNCA gala in New York City in December.
We are excited to head into 2016 with new partners and exciting plans, and to see what this new year holds! Happy New Year!
As part of World Moms Blog’s collaboration with BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood™, our World Moms are writing posts on maternal health around the world. In today’s post, Julie Dutra of Portugal, writes about her birth experience in Brazil and her quest to have a natural birth in a country where statistically 80% of all births in private hospitals are by C-section.
“It’s gotten to the point where many Brazilian doctors and nurses aren’t even trained in natural childbirth. The nurses on my maternity ward had no idea what to do with me after labor and stuck me in the anesthesia recovery ward. Staff flocked to our room to see the natural birth baby and mother – they were amazed how fit and awake we both were shortly after birth.”
Read the full post, “My Quest for a Natural Birth in Brazil” over at BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood™!