Sometimes 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.
I 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.
When people find out I have three kids, they tell me: “Oh you must have your hands full.” Many mom bloggers rage against this because they feel that there’s contempt hidden behind these words. They feel it means that we have too many children, that we are crazy, out of control and have no idea what we’re doing. Which may be partially correct but not very helpful. Others offer tips what to say instead of “You have your hands full” and except for “enjoy every moment”, I agree with all of them.
Personally, I don’t mind being told I have my hands full because it is the truth.
I walk away and smile because these people have no idea how right they are.
Of course my hands are full. How can they not be, with three kids? They are full of little clothes to wash, dinners and snacks to prepare, toys to buy and clean up.
They are full of little warm bodies to hug and cuddle, of tiny hands to hold and of heads to caress.
In the moments that my hands are not busy with children’s affairs, they can usually be found holding a book, typing away at the computer. But mostly, they are writing about the kids anyway, just like they’re doing now. Sometimes, they’re doing nothing for a change, which is also nice.
But my hands are not the only thing that is full with my children.
No matter whether they are around or not, my head is full of thoughts of them. “Will K. like it?” and “How is J. doing at daycare?” and “M is so active, what a fun little boy!”
I think about them. I worry about them. I miss them. I am happy for them. Sometimes, I am even angry with them or feel sad about something they did. Yes, one way or another, my head is full as well.
And so is my mouth because many words that come out of my mouth are about my kids. I tell them I love them, I ask them about their day, I tell them to clean up after themselves. I talk to them. I read books to them. I sing for them. I kiss little cheeks and noses and make ouchies magically disappear with my kisses. I talk about them a lot, maybe even too much. Sometimes, the words that I say are “I am so tired”. Sometimes, they are not even meant for children, but they were definitely “inspired” by them.
My eyes are full of my children as well, when I watch them play or sing or make a mess. When they want to show me something. “Mama, look, look, looook!” Of course, I have to look to see what they’ve painted or built with DUPLO blocks. I have the kids before my eyes when I look at toys or clothes and try to find the prettiest ones.
Sometimes, this fullness is all too much. Sometimes, I need to step back, lie down, clear my thoughts and just be alone. Be empty, in a good way, even if just for a moment.
To let my hands, my head and my eyes rest.
But my heart will never rest because without the heart’s involvement, the actions of my hand, head and mouth wouldn’t mean anything. My heart will always be full of the love I feel for my kids, no matter how annoyed, tired or cranky I am.
Yes, I am so full.
My hands are full.
My head is full.
My eyes are full.
But my heart is the fullest of them all.
What are some of the ways in which your children make you feel fulfilled?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Olga Mecking of The Netherlands. Photo credit: le vent le cri. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
My eldest daughter and I are waiting in line at the chocolaterie. We both love ice cream and we’re discussing which one we would like best. My girl is impatient, giddy, excited. She wants ice cream and she wants it right now! But she can’t have it just yet because the older gentleman right in front of us is not done with his purchase.
He takes his time picking his pralines – the choice is huge and all of them look delicious. Pistachio. Orange liqueur. Coconut. With or without nuts. He can’t make up his mind, but until he does, we can’t get ice cream. My girl grows more and more impatient. “I want ice cream, why do we have to wait for so long?” The gentleman makes his picks, but asks the lady to make another bag of pralines for him, which she does. And then he asks her to gift wrap each little bag separately. She’s not that quick either, the lady behind the counter, and she takes her time, choosing the best fitting box, the right colour of ribbon to go with the chocolate box.
In all honesty, I am growing somewhat impatient too. My child is close to having a tantrum. I have a tram to catch to go back home, errands to run, a dinner to cook. But I wait. Because if that was me, I would appreciate other people’s patience so that I would be able to buy a beautiful gift for someone I care about.
And that’s what I tell my daughter: that we need to wait sometimes, be patient, try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Soon enough, we get our ice cream. I take pistachio and mango, she takes strawberry and vanilla. After all, we had a lot of time to choose our flavours. And then, we’re on our merry way back home.
Since then, I’ve been trying to stick to this one sentence: “If that had been me”. If that had been me, I would want someone to help me, I think when I see a heavily pregnant woman picking something up from the floor. Or when I notice an older gentleman reaching for some item at the supermarket but struggling because his hands are shaking so badly. Or whenever I see someone who may need help. Putting myself in their situation helps me relate to people more, making me get out of my shell and offer help. It’s tricky sometimes. I am an introvert who would rather not talk to people unless she really had to. So asking someone if they need help is not that easy at all. But I do it, because the gratitude and relief people feel when they get the help they need is absolutely amazing.
Of course I can’t always rely on “if that had been me”. Sometimes I think people need help when they’re doing just fine, thank you very much. I once saw a pregnant woman in the street, hugging her belly in pain. She was in the last month, ready to give birth at any time. On the ground beside her was a heavy-looking bag with groceries. I approached her and asked if there was anything I could do. I was afraid that she was having contractions! She said everything was fine, and I really hope it was.
You can’t help someone who doesn’t want or need to be helped.
Neither should “If that had been me” be used to judge other people. “If that was me, I’d never let my children watch TV, eat sweets or behave like this”. Maybe you wouldn’t do these things, but I am sure you’d make other mistakes, so relax.
But when you’re out and about running errands, going about your day, or just going for a walk, look around, notice all these people and ask yourself, “if that was me, what would I need?”. And then go on and ask. Because it’s not really about you: it’s about other people. The very worst that could happen is that they won’t want or need you, but if they do, you’d be glad you asked.
Do you stop to help strangers? How do they react?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Olga Mecking, The European Mama, of The Netherlands.
Photo credit: Richard North. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
As a trainer in intercultural communication and mom to multilingual children, I am always taught to accept other cultures, various ways of thinking and perspectives of looking at the world.
I may of course have a lot to learn about tolerance but I like to think that I’m doing a decent job at understanding all the different viewpoints. But there is a place where my tolerance stops.
One thing I have no understanding for is woo and quackery. The argument, “but indigenous tribes in enter-remote-location-here have been using this plant for ages and it cured all diseases” is useless when scientific research shows that said plant doesn’t work at all or can even be poisonous.
Unfortunately many people believe this stuff and it can have dangerous consequences. And then it gets worse.
Advocates of female circumcision claim that it’s a part of their cultural heritage and without it women feel they are not “real” women. But any cultural tradition that is based on suffering and disfigurement of the human body should be gotten rid of very quickly and no amount of cultural appreciation will suffice for me to accept such a tradition.
Let’s also remember that culture, while it brings people together and helps them get along better and makes sense out of their environment, can also smash our individualism and make us unhappy.
But as dangerous and untrue these claims are, it gets worse. Women get killed, raped, disfigured and humiliated every day. They are afraid to go out on the streets in the evenings; they take great care in picking their clothes out of fear of being proclaimed “indecent”.
In many parts of the world, people kill each other over cultural, religious or political differences which are often minor. In some parts of the world, certain people are considered worse than other people.
Should we just accept it as it is, saying, “It’s another culture, we shouldn’t do anything about it, we should just appreciate our differences”? I agree that cultural diversity is great- and I myself benefit tremendously from it. But shouldn’t we be drawing a line somewhere? And if so, where should we draw it?
In her book, “Medaliony”, Polish writer Zofia Nałkowska tries to make sense of what happened during WWII in Poland. She could have put blame on the Germans, the way many Polish people did and still continue to do today. But she didn’t. Instead, she wrote, “People prepared this fate for people”, or in a better translation, “humans prepared this fate for humans.”
I guess that line should be drawn when it’s not about cultural differences anymore. When the action in question can’t be explained by traditions, cultural heritage or tolerance. In short when it’s about humans hurting or killing other humans.
A common criticism of the understanding cultures approach is that deep inside, we are all the same. Of course there are some things that are universal: we are all humans, we have hearts and brains and skins. We’re so afraid that if we start mentioning our differences, we will start comparing ourselves to others and consider some of us better.
I beg to differ. Of course we are all humans and some of the things we do are universal. But the truth is that we are an extremely varied species, on a wide spectrum of sizes, skin colours, temperaments and cultural and social backgrounds.
Saying we are all the same eradicates the wonderful differences in us and I think that’s a shame. We are all humans and all different, and if one human kills another human it’s a tragedy.
Sadly, such tragedies happen all the time. Recently, the three boys: Eyal Yifrcah, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel disapeared and were later found dead. The #BringBackOurBoys campaign, while beautiful, did nothing to revive them. Then, the flight MH17 crushed in Ukraine. Expatica Manager Antoine van Veldhuizen was on that plane. He and other victims of the plane crash will be hugely missed and the Netherlands are in mourning.
We like to say that humans are great with making sense out of tragedies. They need to feel that they suffered for a reason. Again, I beg to differ. Suffering and pain don’t make sense. We can certainly make sense out of them but to do so means to accept that and this is something I’ll never ever do.
Humans killing humans doesn’t make sense. And no amount of cultural appreciation classes or tolerance will convince me otherwise. Before you see someone as a part of a certain culture or religion, you’d better see the individual human first.
Our differences shouldn’t divide us. They should bring us together.
But above all, being different is no excuse to kill other people.Because nothing ever is an excuse to kill, nor should it be.
Instead, killing other people should be considered the shocking and saddening tragedy that it is and nothing should ever change that.
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Olga Mecking, The European Mama, from the Netherlands.
Photo credit: DIBP images. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Recently, I’ve been reading about the Spoon Theory (also sometimes called the token theory). The idea is that we’re all given a certain amount of spoons (or tokens) each day—metaphorically of course–to spend on all the things that we need to get done during the day.
It is usually applied to explain disabilities or chronic illnesses, which often can’t be seen but still make people’s lives difficult (like Lupus, Chronic Pain or Aspbergers). But I actually think that, without dismissing the experiences of these people, the spoon theory also can be expanded to include moms.
Just think of all the things you have to do during the day, and then imagine doing them without children. You wouldn’t even have to think when you got dressed in the morning. Eating breakfast would be simple and effortless. You’d be able to get out of the house in a matter of minutes and you might even be able to get places on time.
When you’re a mom, suddenly everything takes more time. You don’t only have to make breakfast for yourself, you make it for one, two, three, or more people. Here go three spoons- and I don’t mean the ones you use to eat breakfast.
You want to get out of the house. You put your coat on, your children’s coats on. Your price in spoons depends on the amount of children you have and the season- less children cost less spoons, winter is more expensive than summer.
Whatever you do, whether you are a working mom or a SAHM, you likely will be out of spoons by the end of the day. Some days are better and you may even have a few spoons left. Some days are horrible and you run out of spoons before noon. The unexpected temper tantrum costs a spoon or three. Taking your child to the hospital because he’s sick is another five spoons.
Remember, you only get a certain amount of spoons per day and that amount is limited. You can borrow the spoons from the next day but that could be the very day your child gets sick or when she decides that from now on, she will absolutely refuse to do whatever you ask her to do.
But not all moms are given equal amounts of spoons. Some have less than others. These are the moms who have disabled children. These are single moms with two jobs and no support. These are the moms all over the world living in poverty. They struggle every day to provide the best for their children. Yes, parenting under such circumstances is definitely more spoon-costly.
But it isn’t easy even for a family without such challenges. So what can we do? Spend our spoons wisely. Prioritize.
For example, in my case, perfectly folded laundry isn’t worth a spoon but a nicely prepared dinner most definitely is. We can try to replenish our spoons by getting some me-time. We can remember to sleep. We can get help- whether it’s from family, friends or childcare.
These are the things we can do for ourselves. But there are also things we can do for others. When thinking about how to spend your spoons or tokens, please set aside a certain amount for your fellow moms. You can do it by offering support. Offer a shoulder to cry on, extend your helping hand, say encouraging words.
It may seem like spending your own precious spoons but it is really a kind of investment. Because any price is easier to pay if everyone pitches in.
But, all economic and metaphorical imagery aside, I just want to point out the obvious: motherhood is hard. Let’s be kind to ourselves. And let’s help each other out.
Of course, we don’t really need such theories to explain how hard it it so be a mom. But I thought the spoon theory is a rather good way to illustrate the challenges of motherhood.
What are you thoughts on this? Is it helpful to think of your day in terms of having a limited number of spoons (or tokens) to spend?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our Polish writer in the Netherlands, Olga Mecking.
The image used in this post is credited to Nicki Mannix. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.