When it was time for my son to start school, I knew I wanted him to go to private school and thankfully, he was accepted into one of the international schools near our house.
Private school has its pluses and unfortunately its negatives too.
My son’s classmates are from the upper-middle class, those whose spring breaks were spent going to Japan or Hong Kong to visit Disney Land. The same kids who also have their own iPads and the latest cell phones.
I realized this might cause a challenge for us—with me being a single mom, who had just recently returned to the corporate world—but I try not to let their different lifestyles make my son feel that he’s different.
So that’s why, on Easter weekend, I took him on a mini-getaway to my new job.
We did not take a taxi to get to my office, which is in a hotel. Instead, we rode the train like I do daily. I wanted to show him this is what his mother has to do to get to and from work. He got to see views that he won’t see from inside a nice air conditioned taxi or private car.
He loved staying in the hotel, just like most kids do, so we had a blast. But on our way home Sunday afternoon, the train was full. Not as full as it normally would be on a week day, still, we had to stand. We were leaning against the wall that separates the engine and the passengers. With the train swaying, it didn’t take long before my son told me he wished he could sit down.
Part of my mama bear instinct wanted to give him a seat but part of my tough love was to allow him to feel and experience how not everyone is blessed with a comfortable life.
I hope by showing him what I have to go through on a daily basis it will help him realize that I am working hard, that as the sole bread winner, I am providing for him. Yes, his father pays for school but outside of that, he is my responsibility and I’m doing my best to take care of him.
Yes, I told him I would love to be able to take him to Disney Land someday but for now, we have other priorities. Bills to pay, medicines to get for my parents, uniforms to alter, the list goes on.
Through our short train ride, my son was exposed to life “outside the fence”. What he saw through the windows of the train: makeshift shacks, houses built only inches away from the train tracks, kids playing soccer barefooted with garbage piling up around them. Hard life. The other side of glamorous Jakarta living.
We discuss this. He asked me why these people are living in such poor conditions. My heart ached having to explain that some people are not as fortunate as we are and that poverty is real.
We have a house to live in, a roof over our heads, while others came to the big city to chase their dreams and never made it. That’s why it is important for him to get his education so he can make a living for himself, one that hopefully he will love. I told him it is easy to look up and want what other people have but we need to be in the now, to be grateful for what we already have. To remember that there are those who need our help, who are struggling just to eat.
My wish is for my son to understand this, to grow up being grateful for what we have and to have a heart that is kind and willing to help others.
How do you explain poverty to your children?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer and single-mom to one in Jakarta, Tatter Scoops.
The image used in this post is attributed to Hideki Yoshida. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
The first thing I noticed was her walk. In 2010, at Lagos International Airport, she walked purposefully, like one who has limited time to solve the world’s problems. It was nice seeing a woman walking with such force, even if it was just through the airport. I have been accused of walking like a man, and it was refreshing seeing another woman with that stride. Then, I realised it was the former Minister of Education–the one with the signature short haircut.
I didn’t know her name. I couldn’t be bothered about politics; my focus was surviving in a nation where one has to fight extra hard for the basics of life. As far as I was concerned, politicians were all the same: enemies of the common person struggling to make a living.
Even so, I heard of her once in a while. She was said to be tough on government corruption, especially those who used government funds as their own.
On April 30, 2014, I saw her again at the first march for #ChibokGirls. At the time, they has been missing for just 15 days. (They have now been missing for 379 days.) She was something else! She spoke with such passion. I knew I would never forget her name: Obiageli (Oby) Kathryn Ezekwesili. Everyone called her Auntie Oby.
The sky threatened rain, and as the clouds grew darker and more threatening, even I thought it would be the end of the march. Little did I know! Auntie Oby rallied the crowd:
“Are we salt? Would we melt if beaten by the rains? Do we know the condition our #ChibokGirls are in?”
And that was it. We went. The sky did open its floodgates, and we got drenched. I have never been so soaked, but we kept marching and chanting, “All we are saying is #bringbackourgirls.” Women forgot about their hair, and their appearance, and marched. I bet you that if Aunty Oby had asked us to, we would have marched to Sambisa Forest on that day and brought our #ChibokGirls back. At the end of that day, I told her I wanted to hug her. She opened her arms, and I held her tight. “Thank you for making me believe in Nigeria,” I said.
For me, Auntie Oby represents sacrifice and giving. She is the heart of the #BringBackOurGirls movement and considers the #ChibokGirls her daughters, refusing to let the world forget them.
She gives so much of herself that I am afraid that she will break. I sometimes wonder where she gets her strength from.
Auntie Oby has been a mother, mentor, teacher, and a beacon of hope to so many young people in Nigeria, a nation that desperately needs such role models. Her lessons keep us on task: to always deal with empirical evidence, to focus on the issue at hand and to not allow other issues drown the cries our #ChibokGirls. She insisted we develop core values to guide Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG): hope, unity, motivation, affability, nationalism, integrity, transparency, empathy, equity, discipline and sacrifice (HUMANITEEDS). These core values have been instrumental in making us a disciplined movement.
Aunty Oby, I am so grateful to God for bringing us together, despite the tragic reason for our meeting. You have shown me that the traits people have tried to shame me for are the very tools I can use to help others. I realized that the loud mouth that people tried to quiet could be used to unapologetically fight for others. I never had a big sister or aunty who encouraged me to do more. As the first born, I had to fill that role for my siblings. In the one year that I have known you, you’ve been that big sister. When I feel I can’t do something, you give entertain no such nonsense. “Aisha,” you say, in that voice that brokers no argument, “You have to do it.”
Everybody need such a voice in their lives to excel. Under your tutelage, I have done so many things I never dreamed I was capable of doing. Everyone has the capacity to contribute, but they need the right person who believes they can and gives no room for mediocrity.
Aunty Oby, it’s your birthday. May God give you all the best in this world and in the hereafter. Happy Birthday, to my amazing mentor. I cannot find the words to do you justice, but they are in my heart. I am sending a bear hug to you, and lifting you off the ground to dangle and twirl you all around so you can let go of the world’s problems for a few seconds. You made TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, but you are my person of the decade! I love you!
Last week special correspondent Anna Gress covered the opening night of the Women In The World Summit for World Moms Blog. The evening launched three days of emotional and inspirational speakers, and panels highlighting the singular truth that Women are key to global development and peace. The sixth annual Women in The World Summit was presented by Tina Brown Live Media in association with the New York Times, and took place at the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City.
The topics were tender and the experiences the women were sharing emotionally centered the entire audience. The atmosphere of the auditorium was indescribable.- Anna Gress
Opening night we heard Saida Munye, the mother and activist spoke on the “Girls as Weapons of War” panel. She shared her story of losing her daughter to a Jihadi recruiter. Her activist message illustrated the power of a mother’s love and created a platform to educate the audience on how she fights to prevent other mothers from enduring the same pain.
As a society and within different cultures, we bottle up sharing and declaring eternal and everlasting feelings, but this was a clear message as Saida spoke.
Communicating with love is the only way to affect a person and to make a change.
Saida was asked by the moderator what would happen if her daughter were to return and without hesitation Saida responded, “As hard as your children may be on the outside there is an inside, do not give up on them.” In closing, Saida left the audience with one message, a message she hopes her daughter will hear where ever she is in the world, regardless of her affiliation with Jihad, “My heart is like the ocean that can clean the earthly waste, I want her to become what she has been before. I still believe…she has my ticket to go to paradise.”
The other opening night panels proved equally as impactful:
During The Sons We Share an Israeli woman and Palestinian women shared how their personal losses forged a path of forgiveness and friendship. The biggest takeaway from this panel was perspective illustrated in the mother’s quotes;
“When you see humanity that is the beginning to the end of conflict.”
“You can say a lot, but do you meant it, forgiving is giving up your just right for revenge.”
“Walk the walk, talk the talk, take the steps.”
Three Great Women of Film with Jon Stewart and Meryl Streep closed the opening evening with the power of Story. Sharing stories is our goal at World Moms Blog, to share our stories across countries and cultures, and forge the connections that we need with each other.
We leave you with two more of the many outstanding moments throughout the summit, 10 year old poet from Kibera School for Girls, Eunice Akoth and closing remarks of the summit by Angelina Jolie on the ongoing, unending, tragedy of Syria.
Anna Gress began her career in NYC after early graduation from Ithaca College in December of 2014. She worked freelance producing events at the BBC post graduation and currently is an Account Coordinator at CIVIC Entertainment Group a Seacrest Global Group Company. She is passionate about women’s equality and interested in building ambition and confidence within young people.
World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children.
World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
At the moment I live just outside a small rural village in the Alentejo region of Portugal. I say at the moment, because I have moved across the Atlantic from Brazil to Portugal and back again more times than I can count in the last six years. My background is even more complicated. I was born in a small village just outside Munich in Germany to an English mother and German father, meaning that I consider both England and Germany to be my home countries. As an added twist, my maternal grandmother was also born in Munich but emigrated to England just before WWII…I guess I have a multicultural, nomadic bent in my blood.
What language(s) do you speak?
English is the language I work in and speak to my baby boy, my husband is Brazilian so we also speak Portuguese at home – unfortunately, I now only speak German to relatives from my father’s side of the family. That doesn’t leave much space in my brain for the smattering of French and Spanish I learnt at school, which doesn’t stop me from trying whenever I get the chance!
When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
In July 2014 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in the city of Vila Velha, Brazil just a few months shy of my thirtieth birthday. We started trying for a baby about a year beforehand because we felt we would be happy to settle in our apartment by the beach for a while. Of course, life had other plans and we ended up moving to Portugal with a 4-month old baby in our hand luggage.
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
Both. I stay at home with my baby boy and work from home as a freelance translator. I feel very lucky to be able to do this.
Why do you blog/write?
Because I can! Teachers at school and university were always critical about my writing style, which meant I left higher education feeling that I was a complete failure at writing. That changed when I sat the UK translation diploma and chose Literature as one of my specialties. Passing this exam the first time gave me a super boost of confidence. Just perhaps those teachers at school had been wrong about me? I’m still finding out.
What makes you unique as a mother?
Everything and nothing. I’m a bit of an introvert and being a mother has made it much easier for me to connect to other parents – I feel that no matter our background, beliefs or culture we immediately have something in common. On the flip side, parenting can be quite isolating when you feel other people don’t share the same ideas on how to raise children. That’s why the internet can be such a great resource – when you feel like you’re on your own, you’ll always find a mother with a similar outlook blogging from somewhere in the world.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
Giving our kids the freedom to grow. Everywhere I look children seem to be limited in some way. Babies are taught to sit still in strollers. Primary school kids can no longer walk to school. School days are getting longer and more test-oriented. Afternoons are filled by a strict regime of activities. While all of these decisions are made in the best interest of the child, I feel it is limiting their ability to grow naturally both physically and mentally,.
How did you find World Moms Blog?
One of those lazy, rainy pre-baby days where you first click on one link, then on another, then another and suddenly find yourself at World Moms Blog!
These interview questions were answered by Julie from Portugal for World Moms Blog.
Julie, her husband and baby boy are currently living in Portugal, having spent the previous three years in the southeast of Brazil.
She considers herself a bit of an obsessive reader, and even more so since discovering she was pregnant. All that information has to go somewhere, which is why Julie started her blog, happy mama = happy baby, where she documents all the quirky parenting ideas she has collected so far.
My husband’s affair began after he received some really bad news from his Doctor. These things happen. I had the proof! Crumpled receipts from fancy restaurants and out of the way cafes; unanswered calls; and worst of all, excessive gym workouts after a long day at work.
At first I was angry, and I wanted to confront him, but I thought it might be better to see how far he would go. It was easy, and I can’t think of how long I played his game. I do know that it took every fiber of my being to not lash out and demand the truth. Instead, I forced something – I don’t know what it was – back inside of me…smoothed it out and kept on going. (more…)
An Imperfect Stepford Wife is what Salma describes herself as because she simply cannot get it right. She loves decorating, travelling, parenting,learning, writing, reading and cooking, She also delights in all things mischievous, simply because it drives her hubby crazy.
Salma has 2 daughters and a baby boy. The death of her first son in 2009 was very difficult, however, after the birth of her Rainbow baby in 2010 (one day after her birthday) she has made a commitment to laugh more and channel the innocence of youth through her children. She has blogged about her loss, her pregnancy with Rainbow, and Islamic life.
After relocating to Alberta with her husband in 2011 she has found new challenges and rewards- like buying their first house, and finding a rewarding career.
Her roots are tied to Jamaica, while her hubby is from Yemen. Their routes, however, have led them to Egypt and Canada, which is most interesting because their lives are filled with cultural and language barriers. Even though she earned a degree in Criminology, Salma's true passion is Social Work. She truly appreciates the beauty of the human race. She writes critical essays on topics such as feminism and the law, cultural relativity and the role of women in Islam and "the veil".
Salma works full-time, however, she believes that unless the imagination of a child is nourished, it will go to waste. She follows the philosophy of un-schooling and always finds time to teach and explore with her children. From this stance, she pushes her children to be passionate about every aspect of life, and to strive to be life-long learners and teachers. You can read about her at Chasing Rainbow.