Reflections On International Women’s Day: MOTHERHOOD, WORK-LIFE BALANCE IN A PANDEMIC WORLD

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.….It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would become a full-time employee and homeschool teacher at the same time. I am not going to deny it, but this was probably one of the most difficult things I ever had to endure. I was exhausted and anxious to say the least. It was definitely challenging trying to work and navigate online learning, but somehow, we survived it. As much as I was frustrated with the situation, I was fortunate in a sense where I had a very supportive spouse, employer and a network of friends online to talk to. The majority of people that I talked to regarding the school closure situation were actually women and I think everyone had the same feelings that I had. We all shared the same worries about our children’s future, we all vented to each other with how challenging it was to teach and work at the same time and how we were all worried about the mental health of our children and ourselves. At the time, I felt it was so important to advocate for the safe return to school and in doing so, I realized it was a very empowering and meaningful experience.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought out many inequalities within society, namely within racial, ethnic and indigenous communities, refugees and women. Women, who bare the burden of most household responsibilities, have been negatively impacted as a result of school and daycare closures. This in turn negatively impacts the workforce, creating an even greater gender divide on the economy. But the silver lining in all this is that women’s rights and equity have come to the spot light and change is happening: the conversation has started. In a post-pandemic world, we really need to ask ourselves how can we better support women? I believe the answer is simple.

Everything starts in the home:

I truly believe that any conversation must start within ourselves and within our homes. As parents, we need to start having conversations with our children regarding the value of women within society and provide them with the perspective of the world through the lens of a woman. Education is a key element in teaching our children about the values of gender equality as an important role within a democratic society.

Advocacy and support:

Continuing to advocate for things such as paid leave during an emergency for example or more equitable workplaces are important policies that would help women. Providing women with support, for example, during motherhood, could be extremely beneficial towards women who, for instance, want to further themselves in their careers. Today there is an array of online support groups and outreach services available within many communities to help serve women in such situations. I am also seeing more and more platforms on social media supporting women in various roles of society. It’s important that we continue to advocate for things such as parental leave, child care leave, flexible work schedules to help women move forward.

Supporting women through business:

Today, many women are taking on the roles of becoming business owners and entrepreneurs, however, only a small percentage of women are CEO’s throughout the world. According to Catalyst, although the number of women CEO’s have gone up in 2020, “there are still nearly 13 companies run by a man for every company run by a woman.” However, more and more women are stepping up to the challenge and starting their own business ventures. Today, I ask you to look around in your own communities and go out and support businesses owned by women. Even doing something small, such as tagging a female-owned business on Instagram or picking up a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop run by women, can go a long way in showing our support for women in business. Women supporting women is a very powerful thing!

Celebrating women:

Celebrating women’s empowerment doesn’t have to be only on one day, but rather should happen everyday and there are small things we can do to help celebrate women. Maybe its contributing towards a charity that is geared towards the empowerment of women or learning about an important historical figure within the women’s rights movement. We can also honour the women in our own lives, such as a parent, grandparent, a teacher or a friend.

In summary, given all the hardships that we have been through this past year, if anything, I have learned that as a woman and as a mother, I am strong, I am resilent and I am fearless. Not only will I continue to advocate for my children, but I will advocate for all women, to help create a more just society.

Quarantine and chill: What slowing down has taught me

We are now entering week three of self-isolation here in Ontario, Canada and I must say that despite all the insecurity and fear surrounding the pandemic, for the first time in a long time I feel peace.

I feel peace away from the traffic.
I feel peace in the neighbourhoods and in the streets.
I feel energized.

For the first time in a long time, I don’t have to worry about rushing home from work to get supper ready on time.  I don’t have to worry about planning my day around the kids’ activities and worrying if I’ll be on time or not because of the traffic.  I am no longer exhausted from staying up  late at night to finish chores as I have a bit more extra time during the day.  I can finally enjoy that cup of coffee warm in my own home, in my pyjamas while cuddling with one of the kids.  It’s great.  img_6792Although the implications of the pandemic are scary, I feel somewhat at peace knowing I am at home, safe, with my little ones.  My anxiety levels have definitely decreased knowing that we don’t have to rush to go anywhere.  It’s a welcoming break.

I must say, its not perfect:  homeschooling the boys has not been easy; we have meltdowns and we have tantrums.  Sometimes they just aren’t that into it.  I am currently in the process of trying to get set-up to work from home. Like everything though, I’ll figure it out. With that being said, the kids’ bedtime routines have been a bit off, and I am working on creating some type of routine.  But overall, the big reward to all this is that we are spending more time together.  We are doing things that we would not otherwise have had the time to do and we are starting to get creative.  We spend time exploring the backyard in search for nature’s treasures.    We started baking almost everyday and it’s been a delight and sense of pride for the kids.  I made bread for the first time and a decent Croatian apple strudel.  Not bad for a novice baker.

In an odd way, the pandemic has taught me a bit more about myself and how stressed I really was.  Trying to balance a career and motherhood is exhausting.   But for the first time in a long time, I feel as if I am finally in tune with myself.  I adapted a more gentler and slower lifestyle, which is the complete 360 to the life that I was used to.  I found that since the pandemic started, I am exercising even more, despite the fact that the gym is closed.  The fact that I am getting an extra hour or two of sleep as well is another added benefit.  In addition, with malls being closed and whatnot, I found that I am less tempted to shop and waste money unnecessarily.  Since being at home, I’ve adapted a minimalist wardrobe and I actually think its suitable for me and my taste.  Perhaps living simply is the way to go.

Slowing down is a blessing in disguise.

We all need it from time to time.

 

 

 

 

 

The secret of happiness

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

What is happiness?

The past few years I’ve been on a journey to figure out what true happiness is.   Over the course of 7 years I’ve went through some pretty big transitions from being me -> to wife -> to mother.  If you think about it, that’s a lot change a person can endure in such a short period.  You go through many different changes: the stages of pregnancy, the hormones and sleep deprivation that comes with it, the stress of finances, parenthood, work-life balance and so on.  These challenges can certainly catch up to you!

For a while I was not feeling like myself and really started to ask myself some hard questions about life, namely what is true happiness.  

I’ve definitely endured some of my own challenges which affected my perspective on life.  We live in a world where things are becoming more and more materialistic, where we spend more time on our phones and less time talking to each other.  We are surrounded by images that mislead us to believe what happiness is – a designer handbag, a luxurious vacation abroad, a Friday night out and so on.  It seems as if today’s society is defining happiness by the amount of money we make or the the type of car we are driving.  Over the past few years this topic started to fascinate me and as a result, I started writing about it more and more.  It’s no wonder why so many young people are depressed- we have created for ourselves false expectations because of what we see on social media and television.

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Following my uncle’s sudden passing last April, I started to go through the many stages of grief and began questioning my own purpose in life and what is truly important.  I slowly began to realize that happiness isn’t the designer handbag I am wearing, but the people that surround me and the one life I have to embrace.

After my uncle’s death, I started to go through every memory I had of him because I did not want to forget anything about him.  It then dawned upon me what the true meaning of happiness was because he knew the secret.  What was it?  He valued life and lived it to the fullest.  He was kind to every person he met and valued each person for who they were.  He was extremely generous because he enjoyed seeing people happy.  He was always one of the first people to help- be it on a house renovation, a car repair, or volunteering at an event, he was always the first in line and he enjoyed it.   He laughed, enjoyed dining at fine restaurants and was very sociable.   He had an infectious smile that everyone loved.  My uncle lived for today, he lived for the moment.  In my homily dedicated to him I stated that “our world would be a much better place if we were more like him.”

The months following his passing, I started to realize what is truly important in life.  I realized that a lot of these material things that surround us, don’t really matter.  They are just that- things.  You can have a lot of things, but if you aren’t surrounded by people who love you, then you don’t know what true happiness is.  If you don’t have anyone to create memories with, then you are losing out on happiness.  If you don’t do things that are fulfilling, then you can’t find happiness.

I began reflecting with my kids every night the good parts of our day and the bad parts of our day.  We would discuss some things we enjoyed doing, and if we made poor choices, how we could have handled the situation differently.  I started to laugh more when they goofed around before bed time, because I realized that stressing out before bed time is not worth it.  Sometimes parenting can be hard- there are highs and lows, so I started to tell myself to enjoy this time because time is going by too fast!

I slowly started to realize it’s okay to not have the “most expensive” wardrobe or the “perfect” body and instead, to embrace the one I have.  Now, I am thankful for my health-  I feed my body with healthy food and exercise because that is what makes me feel good on the inside!  I also enjoy a nice glass of red wine on the weekends (that’s what my uncle used to do!) and have a glass with my husband or some friends.

I started to live my life a bit more slowly.  I began to count my blessings and not focus on my shortcomings.  I slowly started to accept what I do have – and what I have is precious.

You see, my uncle knew the secret to happiness and lived it every day.  I realized that the secret to happiness is CHOICE.  You can create your own happiness.  You can continue to be miserable, to complain, to loathe and to be jealous of others….or you can choose to be happy.   You can appreciate the things you already have, embrace the good moments and reflect from the bad.

I have chosen to live my life in happiness.  What will you choose?

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Travelling with children: survival or enjoyment? One mom’s thoughts

We always receive a mixed response when we tell friends and family that we are going to Croatia with our boys.  Some people respond by saying “that’s awesome” and others say that we’re “brave.”  More often than not, you hear that travelling with children is more of a trip than a vacation.  I can see how that is, especially if your children are challenging (or lively) like mine.  But on the other hand, knowing that it’s not easy, is simply half the battle.   What I can tell you for sure is that even the most uptight of parents, with the most spirited children, can still enjoy a vacation abroad.

We’ve travelled in the past with the kids before, where some trips went off without a hitch and others have been so bad to the point where we say “we are never doing this again!”  However, my husband and I both have that travel bug in us and we so badly want to instil that same love of travelling in our kids.   In January we decided to give it a try again and booked a trip to Croatia for the end of June.

We spent three glorious (well depends on who you ask…) weeks in Croatia.  The first week went without a hitch.  The kids loved staying in Zagreb and at Hotel Dubrovnik.  They were overall, very well-behaved.  They climatized to the time change and to the food well.  Heck, they loved the food.  With that being said, we weren’t strict at all when it came to diet because we knew that this was the time to indulge.  We all deserved it! They really enjoyed the sights and sounds of Zagreb and were amazed at all it’s lovely buildings and landmarks.   Our kids enjoyed the three-hour car ride to our family home in Vodice, where they were enamoured of the mountains along the way.   They were so excited to arrive at dida’s house and to go swimming on the beach.

Week two is when things started to become tough.  The older child wanted to go home to his bed and the younger one refused to sleep at night.  This resulted in some cranky kids.  Perhaps they were overstimulated by all the sounds and sights of the beach.  Perhaps it was from all the sugar they were intaking.  Who knows?  Some days they were upset that the water was too cold or that their ice cream was melting funny.   It was hard as parents to not get frustrated, but that’s kids though.  They have their moments; some days they weren’t too into things and other days they were great.

Our oldest is a screamer and it’s been challenging with him, and when he would scream, I just step away and remind myself, he’s just a kid and I just need to shake it off, I want to enjoy this vacation.  I spent a lot of time reading “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka over this trip and boy, did it really help me get through those tough moments.  During those moments when he would get upset at the beach, I would take him to a quiet area and say “I know you are angry, what is it that you need?”

There were some days that we just didn’t go anywhere, and that was okay, because little kids get tired and sometimes you just have to roll with it.  Does that mean I did not enjoy myself?  Absolutely not.  I enjoyed not having to do chores and errands, or going to work everyday.  While they watched a show, I would read a book in one hand, and drink a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) in the other.

You see, it’s all about perspective.   Going into a vacation and knowing there will be obstacles makes you better prepared for how to handle them.   This is where we failed during our last trip.  Some children have a calmer temperament and others are more challenging.  Ours happen to be more challenging so we decided to just roll with it this time around, and in the end, we did find a way to enjoy this vacation.

This is not to say that the whole trip was full of tantrums and meltdowns, there were lots of good parts as well, such as: going on mini road-trips and visiting family; going to the children’s waterpark at the Solaris Resort, and so on.  We got to spend a lot of quality time with family and friends, be it on the beach or at a restaurant.  My husband and I managed to get some alone time over dinner or coffee, which was a nice treat.  On our last night, my husband and I went out for dinner and got to enjoy some tamburica at a local restaurant.   The point is, that is what a vacation is about:  it’s about making memories and making the most of that special time together.

Yesterday, someone at soccer practice asked me how the trip went.  I smiled and replied:  “as good as you can get with kids.”

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An evening in Trogir; we somehow survived