GREECE: New Writer Interview – Ann Marie Wraight

GREECE: New Writer Interview – Ann Marie Wraight

annmarieWhere in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

Well, this may be the most difficult question to answer!

I’ve lived for the last twenty years in the northwestern mainland area of beautiful Greece. By birth I’m British as were my parents and grandparents, although I’ve had dual nationality – British/Greek – for about a decade. I was born in England but my family relocated to Australia when I was about 3 years old and so I started my primary education in Sydney. Due to family problems, we left Sydney when I was about 8 and returned to the UK where I was based until I finished my A levels. I decided to go to Berlin, Germany to do my gap year before starting my degree course. I was so intrigued by the culture, language and endless opportunities in Berlin that I extended my “gap year” to THREE gap years before finally starting my degree course in the UK! Once I’d gained my BA (Hons) qualification I immediately came to Greece on a teaching contract and have lived here ever since!
So, to cut a long story short, let’s say I’m a Brit by birth, Aussie by nature with a sprinkling of Greek/German regarding my greedy appetite for tasty food and chilled beer!!!

What language(s) do you speak?

My native language is of course English and I have a high level of modern Greek and German. Until I was in my 20’s my French was passable but I honestly think that Brits shouldn’t try to speak this flowing and poetic tongue unless they REALLY make an effort to get the accent RIGHT! I haven’t been to France since my 20’s so, alas, I’ve probably forgotten most of what I knew.

When did you first become a mother?

I first became a mother in my early 30’s which is relatively late for Greek standards although fairly normal for British women.

Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?

The idea of not working on a permanent basis absolutely TERRIFIES me! I’ve worked on both a volunteer and professional basis since I was 15 and if I have periods of a month or more when I stay at home it ends up in a bout of depression. Always. Short holidays are pleasant but not for extended periods of time. That’s why I continued teaching right up to the birth of both my boys and continued to work from home (doing private tuition) while I breastfed them. I love teaching and being with teens gives me both pleasure and lots of positive energy. I’m addicted to it and believe that staying home and being a full time mother is MUCH harder and challenging than working outside the home!

Why do you write?

I learnt to read and write before I went to school as I was one of those tiring kids who could never sit still. Books and words fascinated me and when I was 5 I made a small folder with VERY short stories and plays! No piece was more than 50 or 60 words but I thought I was a Genius! I used to force my brother and friends to act out the scenes and dialogues I wrote, fantasising about how much smarter than them I was!!! What an obnoxious and bossy child I was!

The death of my mother from cancer when I was six and a half certainly knocked me down to earth and cured me of my bossiness, though. I hardly spoke at school and almost never at home for about 2 years after that so writing became my main form of communication with the outside world. Books and words got me through those terrible years. Writing was my escape from cruel reality.

In my adult life, writing is my main means of socialising as I live in a fairly isolated region of mainland Greece. I have 3 herniated spinal discs which means I have to limit the amount of driving I do. I don’t have the luxury of just popping over to a friend’s house for a coffee as it entails at least an hours’ drive.Too painful for me! So, writing saves me as I can express myself on a practical, emotional and creative level! I’m working on a children’s book at the moment, too, so my creative side is being constantly fed! Basically, writing keeps me sane!

What makes you unique as a mother?

Every mother has her own stamp or parenting style. When I was pregnant I used to really worry about how I would interact with my child. Every mother wonders about that of course but remember, my own mother had passed away when I was six. I didn’t have a role model or a standard to follow. My father didn’t remarry and he worked full time so it was up to me to look after my brother, cook, clean and of course get good grades at school! So, in a way I was a mother to my younger brother from a VERY early age. I went from being a brat and know-it-all to a mini-momma by the age of 8. I didn’t really have a typical childhood at all!
This is what makes me unique as a mother. I am very wary of over pushing my 13 and 14 year old sons in a very competitive culture. I’m hyper-aware of their emotional state and they can REALLY talk to me about most of the things that bother them. I believe the way I had to grow up has made me more empathetic and sensitive than most European mothers are.

What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

Wow- the list is endless!!!

In my house a major challenge is to encourage our boys to be open-minded and embrace people of other cultures, religions and world views. Most Greeks tend to be pretty narrow minded towards anything or anybody non-Greek! From primary school level especially, there is a very negative attitude towards children from certain countries such as Albania and Bulgaria. My blood really boils when my boys come home and repeat racist comments they have heard at school!

Despite such easy internet access nowadays to a plethora of global information, many parents and teachers in Greece are ignorant of other cultures, education systems and religious views. In an attempt to combat this, we hope that by using reason and examples of our personal friends from these cultures, we can get our boys to see that these stereotypical accusations are ridiculous. One of the most trustworthy employees we’ve ever had was from Albania and one of my closest female friends looks like a model, has the heart of Mother Theresa and is a Mathematics Professor at University level. She’s also Albanian!

So by our own personal interaction and logical arguments, our children see for themselves the opposite of what they sometimes hear and experience at school.

We have also told our boys about experiences I had when I first came to Greece and they feel shocked when they see how it is when someone they love is at the receiving end of an unjust system.

I’ve encountered many problems over the years both social and legal. We talk to our children about all these past experiences and encourage them to put themselves in other peoples shoes before acting. Also, the family saying is ALWAYS be fair and just. We try to teach our boys that if we  treat others as we would like to be treated, then the world would improve dramatically!

How did you find World Moms Blog?

I was introduced to the blog by a very dear friend and writer/blogger, Heather Kelly. She has known me for some years and suggested that I might enjoy reading about motherhood all over the globe! Cheers Heather!

Thanks for inviting me to this super blog! My childhood trait of talking about myself has obviously never been subdued!

Take care wherever you may be!

World Moms Blog welcomes Ann Marie. Photo credit: Ann Marie Wraight.

Ann Marie Wraight

Having lived in 4 different countries, Ann Marie finds it difficult to give a short answer about where she's from. She regards herself: Brit by birth, Aussie by nature, with a sprinkling of Greek and German based on her insatiable appetite for tasty food and chilled beer! This World Mom has been married to her Greek soulmate for 16 years and they are the proud but constantly challenged parents of two overactive teenage boys. (She secretly wonders sometimes if she was given the wrong babies when she left the maternity clinic.) She can't explain the fascination and ability that her 13 and 14 year-olds show in math and physics or that both boys are ranked 1st and 2nd nationally in judo. Ann Marie can only conclude that those years of breastfeeding, eating home cooked meals and home tutoring really DO make a difference in academic and physical performance! The family is keeping its fingers crossed that---with the awful economic crash in Greece---continued excellence in math and/or judo will lead to university scholarships... In addition to writing, enjoying a good glass of wine and movies, Ann Marie also works as a teacher and tends their small, free-range farm in the Greek countryside.

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GUEST POST: Greek Super Grans

GUEST POST: Greek Super Grans

The Super Greek Gran of this story is pictured above.

The Super Greek Gran of this story is pictured above.

The greatest invention EVER!!!

I hope that all you moms out there are coping with and even ENJOYING your summer vacation! Having kids at home all day and every day can be challenging even for the most organized, and creative of us, especially if we also have to work outside the home.
Do you have help with feeding, entertaining, and generally nurturing your offspring?

I wonder how many of you busy multi-taskers are as blessed and fortunate as I am to have a super-soulmate, super efficient ma-in-law to LITERALLY pick me up when I’m down and totally out of action…and yes, I did say

I have been bedridden for a while and in excruciating pain due to 3 herniated discs on my spine which have plagued me for years. Yiayia (Greek for grandma) makes sure that I have priority in getting meals and having clean clothes, then gets to work doing the same for my hubby and two teenage sons. She makes mouth watering traditional Greek pies and delish soups, so believe me, it’s almost worth suffering flat on my back so that she makes her culinary delights for us!

It’s hard to believe she was born with a severe physical disability and has undergone a series of operations over the years on her legs and hips. Although she can only walk with the aid of crutches, her doctors say that it’s a miracle she is mobile at all! At 83 years old, I truly admre her abilities and her absolute dedication to her three children and their families. The great news is that she is typical of women from her culture and generation.

In Greece, Yiayia is greatly respected and in many households a godsend for working moms. Having a hot meal on the table when your tired daughter/daughter-in-law gets back from work is an example of what Greek grannies consider their duty. Believe me, these ladies REALLY know how to cook!!! Imagine the quality of food our offspring are getting as no Greek from this generation puts takeaway or prepacked food on the table. This would be an outrage! Only dishes based on the Mediterranean diet, passed down from generation to generation are considered good enough for nurturing a healthy family. Really great, right? So, even if at times you might not see eye to eye with the older members of your clan-Greeks are exceptionally clannish-then try to remember that goodwill, especially towards your mother-in-law, has more benefits than negative aspects!

I know that in most cultures around the globe the mother/daughter-in-law dynamic is considered to be one of the trickiest and sticky to manoeuvre.

Haven’t you ever felt at some point in your relationship with the in-laws that a fistful of Prozac or a bowl full of magic mushrooms would be a blessed relief?

Come on now-be honest!

More often than not one or both women feel a  need to have the upper hand when competing for the attentions of hubby/son as well as children/grandchildren. At least in the beginning of the relationship with our new partner things can be pretty tumultuous until the boundaries and expectations are (hopefully) worked out.

My relationship with my Greek in-laws was definitely tumultuous when I first came to live in the family home 16 years ago! My husbands father was certainly NOT pleased when his boy came home with the XENI NIFI or foreign bride!!! Remember that great comedy; MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING ?
That wasn’t a comedy for me but MY LIFE!!!
It’s truly staggering how my relationship with my (now) beloved ma-in-law has progressed over the last one and a half decades! These days I think of Grandma Vasiliki as my own mother who ALWAYS supports me if I have a disagreement with her son. My poor hubby is pretty fed up hearing from his own mother that I’m more practical and wiser than he is (even if it IS true) and therefore I should have the final say in any major family decision making! I sometimes wonder if he rues the day he brought me to live in the family home. After all, the two women who are closest to him have become loving allies and so he can’t get away with anything. AT ALL! There are two sets of beady eyes constantly watching him…sound a little spooky? Well, I’m more than half Greek myself nowadays and I can tell you most Greek families really DO tend to live in each others pockets! I was actually born in the UK but such close proximity and familiarity would be considered very claustrophobic there. In Greece however, every family member feels they have a right to express an opinion about all things great and small, whether it concerns them directly or not! Usually Yiayia has the final pearl of wisdom to share…and more often than not is the wisest of all.

My husband has a great saying in Greek we use when we need a babysitter, cook, housekeeper or a shoulder to cry on. I find it hilarious although it loses something in translation;

“Greek Super Grans- the greatest invention EVER!”

Do you have a mom or mother-in-law to help out when things are tough?
Would you like someone to be this close to you and your family, or would you consider it too interfering and claustrophobic in your culture/part of the world?
What types of behavior would you find acceptable or not acceptable from a grandma?

Enjoy the rest of your vacation wherever in the world you may be!

This is a guest post by Ann Marie Wraight who lives in Greece.

World Moms Blog

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.

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