As part of World Moms Network’s collaboration with BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood®, our World Moms are writing posts on maternal health around the world. In our most recent post, Dee Harlow shared some surprising facts about HIV in Lesotho and the work of m2m in the country.
“Last week I attended, the 21st International AIDS Conference (#AIDS2016) in Durban, South Africa. Learning more about the HIV epidemic is important to me because where I live, in the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa, one quarter of the near 2 million people are living with HIV. The knowledge I gained at the conference will allow me to apply the latest research and methodologies to my work on pediatric HIV and prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in Lesotho. Check out these 7 facts I put together on the topic – they may surprise you!”…
Read the full post, “7 Facts that may surprise you about HIV in Lesotho“, over at BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood®!
My Parenting Anxieties as an Expat
Right now I have a lot of parenting anxieties. One is over our transient lifestyle moving from one country to another every few years with our young children. Another is over my absence from my children as a full-time working and studying mom – when I’m not home, I’m at work; when I’m home, I’m studying.
Can anyone else relate?
My twin children are in 1st grade and about to finish up their second (and final) term. A new teacher has come into the picture…(thankfully) with very structured daily homework assignments and weekly quizzes…Quizzes?!…and a very clear goal of getting the children to 2nd grade level reading and spelling by the end of the term. All of this is wonderful, makes a lot of sense, what a blessing, terrific….and time to PANIC!!!
How am I going to spend enough time with my kids to go through their homework? Will I have enough reserve of patience to be encouraging? How am I going to impose the strict rule about no tablet time until afterhomework when they are with the housekeeper? How am I to maneuver between two very different personalities, learning styles, and confidence levels when the kids are constantly comparing themselves to one another’s abilities (one can spell and is excited about school work/one can’t and doesn’t want to; one still needs to do math with fingers/ the other is a natural whiz?)
Anyone else have similar issues with parenting anxiety when raising twins or between siblings?
Walking in the Shoes of the Basotho
Meanwhile, throughout Lesotho, where we live, there is a large migrant adult population who must leave their families behind to go work for long stretches of time in the mines or textile factories in another area of Lesotho, or even as far away as South Africa or other countries in the region. Sometimes, they move around with their families and are transient depending on job availability. Sometimes they go away on their own and are absent for months and years from their loved ones.
For the Basotho, they mostly leave their families behind in the care of other family members, mostly with the paternal side of the family given their patrilineal culture. As I imagine what life would be like in the Basotho culture, as a wife and mother I would be living with my in-laws under the authority of my father-in-law for all family decisions. I imagine that parenting anxiety exists, albeit, very different. Here’s how…
My concerns for my children would be challenged not only by the quality of their education, but also by their access to adequate healthcare; the family’s limited income to pay for daily necessities (until the next time my husband comes home with more money); the home garden suffering from drought; and the decision to send my daughter to school, but not my son because we need him to be a herdboy and tend to our livestock until we can sell them. Time to PANIC?
If I take this exercise further, I begin to imagine how can I convince my father-in-law to agree for my child to see a medical doctor instead of a traditional healer. And even if he agreed, how will I get my sick child to a medical facility when it’s a day’s walk away and there is no public transportation even if I had the money to pay?
If there is no work for me, should I trade sex for money or goods to provide for my family? What will we eat if the garden is dead? Will it rain soon? What will happen to my son if he doesn’t get the education he needs to become more than a herder or a laborer in the future?
Can anyone else relate?
Parenting anxieties are indiscriminate across the planet. We all have them at one time or another and for many different reasons. With each location my family and I live as expats, I learn to walk in many different shoes (or bare feet) of the people whom we share our community. With each day, I gain a greater understanding of the challenges that parents face around the world. And, these varying experiences are often on my mind.
Do you or others in your community relate to these two experiences living side by side? What are your current parenting anxieties?
The Basotho and me
In death we bond
The Basotho and me
On a glorious morning
I heard your scream
When the death bell tolled
The pain in your cries
As I rubbed your back
Me a cultural stranger
You huddled in your tearful sorrow
A young life departed
A friend is gone
A colleague forever missed
A brother lost
A husband mourned
If I’ve seen him once
They’ve seen him a thousand
Still we mourned together
The Basotho and me
A fate granted so unexpectedly
I’m a cultural stranger to sorrow
The West easily detached
They suffer sorrow all too often
Enmasse they gather together
In hundreds or more
Through the wake in solidarity
I followed in footstep
I hugged and held hands
Offering what I can
Not much from where I stand
The hymns in unison
Lifted heavy spirits high
Tributes and sermons in foreign Sesotho
So genuine and heartfelt
Struck universal cords of grief
At the end of processions
The longest for me
A friend said
“You’re one of us now.”
We are all humanity
The Basotho and me
This is an original poem written for World Moms Blog by our mother of twins, Dee Harlow, currently living in Lesotho. You can also find her on her blog Wanderlustress.
I grew up in a family full of dynamic, resourceful, and strong women. My grandmothers were both widowed and had to raise their children (one had 6 children, the other 9) with nothing but agricultural produce and handcrafts. My mother and aunts displayed the same tenacity in their lives, and I witnessed similar characteristics in other women in my neighborhood and social circles.
This sparked a debate in me. I was baffled: “With such a healthy heritage of Basotho women, why do we have so few in leadership?”
My personal search for an answer to this question led me to explore avenues commonly considered to be reserved for men. I wanted to be a medical doctor like my father and grandfather, which led to me compete with my male counterparts from primary school through to university. I managed to earn a number of over-achiever certificates, but my dream of being a medical doctor did not materialize. I ended up with a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in biochemistry and psychology.
After graduation, I entered the telecommunications field. I soon learned that the corporate world, like school, tended to reserve certain roles for men–including most senior offices, despite the high level of educated women in our country. Of course, this is not unique to Lesotho, but a global phenomenon.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a gender gap in mobile phone ownership in developing countries as well. (Men own more of them.) When I was presented with a project to reduce the mobile phone gender gap, I ran with it! With the eradication of the mobile gender gap, women will be enabled to participate in the global economy while improving their livelihoods.
The project focuses on women working for the company, women in the community, and the company’s female clients. Internally, a network of women was formed in order to inspire leadership, achievement and accountability among women. The Sisters’ Circle meets monthly and holds quarterly workshops to work towards this.
Externally, I am very excited about the creation of an internship program. Our goal is to give female graduates work experience, build a talent pool for the company, and help to bridge the skills gender gap that might otherwise hold these women back.
I wish to see more, if not all, major employers in the country adopt a similar projects so that our women believe in themselves and realize that that they have what it takes to lead organizations and governments. Ideally, empowering females should start in the classroom, so our daughters know and believe that they are equally able as our sons to become doctors, telecommunications executives, or whatever their heart and head desire.
What does your place of work do to empower women?
This is an original post to World Mom Blog by guest writer Mho Mosotho in Lesotho. She is a colleague of WMB contributor Dee Harlow.
Photo credit to the author.
In 2002, my international investment banking career in Singapore had left me drained. I needed to find the physical and mental freedom to return to my first passion, which was development work. I left my job and embarked on a solo backpacking journey, looking for peace and inspiration. By the time I circled around sub-Saharan Africa and ended in Lesotho, I found both. I have never looked back.
My very first impression of Lesotho came from the high peaks of the Drakensberg mountain range in the eastern part of the country, where the autumn air was cool and crisp. Dirt roads wound through small villages dotted with tradition rondavels made of stones or mud, with thick thatched roofs. The vast mountain plains opened up into a broad blue sky and brilliant, high-altitude sunshine. Our hiking trail climbed up rocky table mountain tops and down into freezing cold streams that cut through house-sized boulders, groves of thirsty willows, and into caves of prehistoric paintings. Lesotho, tucked completely within the walls of South Africa, seemed an ideal natural treasure to me.
Fast forward thirteen years. After living in Vientiane, Laos, for two years, last November, I arrived back in Lesotho. This time, I had a family in tow. My husband is in the U.S. Foreign Service. The rhythm of our family life consists of an international move every two to three years, with trips back to the States for home visits and language training in between.
Where I once turned to travel to help me change my life, what I now seek at each new destination is stability and conetinuity for my family.
After 22 hours of travel, we arrived in the capital city of Maseru, which is situated in the hilly western lowlands. The air is again cool and crisp, although now it is springtime. The backyard of our new house is full of bright yellow birds, endlessly flitting back and forth to complete their work. The males are busy constructing round grassy nests, which dangle festively in our trees. If a female doesn’t accept the nest, the male bird tears the entire thing apart and starts all over again. The kids and I have named one “Butternut”, and we admire his tireless work everyday.
Maseru is a small city with a growing suburban sprawl. There are barely 300,000 people in the entire urban area. The buildings are low, the traffic flows, and only a couple of noteworthy malls have popped up within the past two years. “First impressions” this time around are mainly focused on the business of getting on with life for our family–new school, new friends, new job, new supermarkets, getting the internet set up, figuring out a car, and obtaining household help. Luckily, it’s been quite easy to get everything that we need. As far as Western-style life needs go, there are plenty of products here that are brought in from South Africa and beyond.
With our basic needs met, we’ve been exploring beyond the city. I still find Mother Nature calling at every turn. Within Lesotho, you can go hiking just about anywhere. Cross a bridge and stop to hike down to explore up the river. Head up a hill to find herdsmen tending livestock. When it rains, we hike in the mud (the kids’ favorite). When it’s hot, we cool down in streams and waterfalls. The nearby children find us no matter where we go; the adults are not engaging but very courteous. Fortunately, the personal safety issues prevalent in most of South Africa are not as concerning in Lesotho yet, and most of the expats we’ve met are comfortable exploring the countryside.
After the scant two-and-a-half months that we’ve been here, we are already feeling more settled. And while we all miss what we’ve left behind in our “old” life in Laos . . . and Mexico. . . and the U.S. . . ., we begin anew to embrace what we have and to anticipate what gifts our new country holds.
Is there a change in your life that you’ve made or would like to make? What have you left or would like to leave behind, and what have you found or hope to find?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow, currently living in Lesotho. You can also find her on her blog Wanderlustress.
Photo credit attributed to Damien du Toit. This photo has a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license.
My family and I have just returned home to the United States after living in Laos for the past two years. We’ve been back in the States for 1.5 weeks and the highlight of my day today was a successful trip to a clearance sale at the local used children’s clothing store here in Denver, Colorado.
For $200 U.S. dollars, I bought 50 pieces of clothing for my 4.5-year old boy and girl twins to last them (hopefully) for the next three years, when we will be living in Lesotho.
No, you’re not reading typos (WMB editors are awesome). Yes, that’s $200 for 50 pieces of clothes including: jeans, pants, shorts, collared shirts, t-shirts, cute shirts, dresses, skirts, leggings, pajamas, and swimwear, sizes 5 – 8. All are like new, and many top quality brands, which some of you might recognize: Gymboree, Hanna Andersson, Mini-Boden, Garnet Hill, Gap, Carter’s.
I’ve been shopping for used children’s clothing ever since my kids were born. Heck, they’ve been living mostly in hand-me-downs from relatives and friends and this store’s used clothing.
They’ve been happy. I’ve been happy. And we’ve all received compliments on their cute clothes. I really wouldn’t do it any other way.
Sure, I see loads of advertisements, storefronts and catalogs filled with great stuff I’d love to buy, and can afford to buy. But my practical sensibilities and appreciation of value for money mostly always stops me…
”They grow so fast.”
“It’ll just get dirty or torn up.”
“Hey, those are adult clothing prices!”
As they say, “Waste Not Want Not.” Or, “One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure.”
When I was living and working in Singapore as an investment banker, single, no kids, I was a spendthrift. Not a care in the world, except to ensure I saved for my pension.
I used to give my housekeeper handbags and shoes from the back of my closet that had gotten moldy in the extreme humidity, and she would always be delighted to receive these items that I thought were in state of trash-worthy grossness.
Weeks later, I would compliment her on her great purse or shoes and she would say, “These are the ones you gave me Ma’am.” Seriously. I felt like a fool. All I had to do was wipe them clean and put on a coat of leather polish. Silly, young, spendthrifty me.
Now I make sure our belongings are well cared for so they can last, or so they can be passed on and re-used. In Laos, used items purchased or made in America were highly coveted and sold fast. Everyone from our housekeeper, gardener, guard, colleagues at work and folks on a “buy & sell” Facebook site, gobbled up everything that wasn’t typically available locally or across the border in Thailand. Mostly because it was either cheaper, or better quality.
Consumer products sold throughout Asia tend to be of very low and questionable quality, and often not available at all in Laos.
Coming back to the land of plenty and choices, I still try to maintain the same mindset. Things can be valued for much more fundamental reasons than merely being new, or beyond the marketing image of “need” or status or image.
Sure, we can bring in the extreme perspective of the garbage dump cities all of the world where people and children actually live off of, and even earn a living from garbage. And our gut reaction is to think about how we can help them and change their situation, and feeling with a passion that something must be done about them, when in fact, it starts with us.
If we can change our habits and our mindsets, if we can demand less, if our values can put a limit on the things we accumulate versus things we re-use, then…
Who knows? Who knows what the solution is to uber-consumerism? Everyone all over the world seems to want it. Our demand for it makes it thrive. It’s not completely wrong, yet somehow it doesn’t seem right.
What does seem right to me is $200 for 50, and I’ll stick with it for as long as I can.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow, currently in transit to live in Lesotho. You can also find her on her blog Wanderlustress.
Photo credit attributed to Mark Frauenfelder. This photo has a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license.