Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
My name is Coretta Vermeulen. I am a 1970’s child, the daughter of my 81 year old mom and my dad who would have turned 88 today. I’m the mother of three kids by birth, bonus mom of two, and spare grandmom of one.
I was born and raised in the Netherlands. Now, this is not a big country, but I took a giant leap of faith moving from a small town in the North to the big city of Amsterdam. Oh, I can tell you stories about that!!! And I will, in time.
What language(s) do you speak?
My native tongue is Dutch, but I also read, write and speak English and German. In Dutch high schools, learning foreign languages is mandatory. Whoo, lucky me!
When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
I became a mom at age 27. I was drawn to the man who fathered my oldest son (oh, I can tell you stories about that!!!) because of his interaction with his then 4-year-old daughter. I actually never wanted kids before, not because I didn’t love kids (I did), but because of the whole lifetime relationship with someone who claimed to be the dad. I really hadn’t had the best example, daddy-wise. It freaked me out. But this man was so sweet with his daughter, giving her attention, revolving his whole life around her. So I thought: what the heck, let’s just go for it. As days became weeks (yeah, that fast!) I noticed the psychiatric imbalances in him: it ruined a perfectly good man with a good heart. But by then I was already pregnant, and I decided to just make the best out of everything. Who knows how far I could come with him? After all, my love for him would cure him, right? And then there was his daughter, who was depending on me too. So, we gave it a shot.
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
I’ve been working on and off since I became a mother. I had my teaching diploma, but there was little work in schools for young teachers. Fortunately, my then husband had been putting up a remedial program for dyslexic kids, and they could use me in it. So we worked both half a week, bringing our son to his grandparents once a week. It was the perfect balance. Until it all blew up in my face.
After my divorce and move to Amsterdam, I had a 40 hour work week at a school with lots of different ethnicities, young kids aged 4 to 6/7 years old. I took my son to school with me. After a while, I could ask some parents to babysit while I was having conferences, meetings, and the like. I remember this time as one of my strongest periods. I was so proud that I did this, all alone, recovering from an abusive marriage, recovering from very strong and powerful family ties, having a 40 hour job that I loved. I lived the insecure life of illegal sublet housing before I got my own place, redone and redecorated just by me, the handy-gal. I was a single mom in a strange city, and even considered having a second child by myself.
A series of incidents made me realize that although I AM a teacher, I cannot be bound by rules and regulations that I don’t support, and that do not support teachers or students. As my life took a turn to the worse, I gave up on teaching and haven’t been working since. I met my current husband, married and moved again. We had two children, and I stayed at home.
That’s going to end though, but I will tell that some other time, too.
Why do you blog/write?
I have always loved writing, but I am a little shy. At 46, I recognize that every artist is unsure about his or her own talent, even when someone performs daily over a period of years. So the writing thing (singing thing, creating thing, painting thing) never really left the building, except sometimes on Facebook or Google-Blogger. I do get nice responses, but I tend to think people are “just saying that to not make me feel too bad”. I recently auditioned to be a singer in a band nearby, but I’ve not heard from them. I guess the singing thing will stay at home with me, but I hope I will do a better job at the writing thing.
We have a very different family, which you all will definitely come to know. Writing about the things we experience daily helps me in a lot of ways, and I think maybe other people might benefit from it, if I can make someone smile or see things in another perspective, like it does to me.
What makes you unique as a mother?
I don’t consider myself special or unique. I am just a girl who gave birth to some live dolls. I act out like a little girl all the time. But that’s just a phase I’m in right now.
I think that my YOUNIQUENESS lies in being authentic. Although I try to hide my bad moods and not project my problems/emotions onto my family members, I really can’t. So yeah, sometimes I shout and yell and curse, but mostly that is pure and utter frustration from my side, after having said something for the @#$%&*! time, or tripping over shoes in front of the doorway, or picking up laundry from all over the house. I am consequently inconsequential, and that is a good thing, because I am flexible like that. I am NOT a hover-mom: my 9 year old daughter cycles to school on her own, facing traffic and traffic rules and teenagers blocking her way and what not. I haven’t seen the inside of her school for months now. I let her walk our big dog, because I trust them both. I let her go shopping for me and smile and praise her when she’s done her best finding the right groceries but ending up with completely different stuff than I asked for.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
Although there is a lot going on in the world, and it seems like the worst time to grow up, I don’t consider that being a parent is very difficult at all. From the births of my children, I have watched them grow just on their own. I could look at them for hours! How they discovered their hands, their feet, getting a reaction from repeatedly taking off their socks, being completely startled when first rolling over or standing up, and then the smile of triumph. All you have to do is put some food, love and trust in them, and the rest comes naturally. I believe in raising our kids authentically, with common sense, trusting their innate qualities and abilities, following some simple guidelines, parenting out of love and not fear, nurturing body, mind and heart. We need to set our own boundaries in which children can grow and discover safely. Above all, I want my children to be genuine, true to themselves, believing in themselves, being able to trust themselves as much as others.
How did you find World Moms Blog?
I’ve been reading World Moms Blog for quite some time now, as I am Facebook friends with other bloggers. I love reading about the interaction with our sprouts, the dos and dont’s, the similarities and the differences across the world, in different cultures. As a child, I always thought that my mother knew exactly what she was doing and why. After being a mom for almost 19 years now, I still don’t have a clue, and sometimes I’m even scared of being caught at it, so people can see: See, she acted like she knows everything about it, but look at her! I recently learned there’s a term for that, the “imposter syndrome”
But I’ve come to terms with just doing what I do and hope for the best. Up to now, I think we have managed just fine.
Photo credit: Coretta Vermeulen.
1. Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
Currently, I live in Washington, D.C. with my husband and three children (ages 1, 2, and 4). Our family is constantly on the move because we are a U.S. Foreign Service Family. We just returned to the U.S. after nearly four years in Bangkok, Thailand, where both of my daughters were born and my son grew up, and will be moving to Krakow, Poland in the summer of 2015. I was born and raised in Florida, but I spent my high school years in Singapore.
2. What language(s) do you speak?
I speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai — some better than others!
3. When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
I first became a mother at the age of 31, when my son Logan was born (2010).
4. Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
It was always my intention to continue working after I started my family (previously I was a U.S. diplomat serving in Mozambique, Venezuela, Sudan, Washington, D.C. and Thailand), but after the birth of my first child, I knew instantaneously that I wanted to be home with him — and other children we might have — in order to nurture them and watch them grow. I was fortunate to be able to make the choice to stay at home and although some days are more challenging than others, I’ve never regretted the decision to leave my career in order to be at home with my children.
5. Why do you blog/write?
I write for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy writing. I’ve always written – whether in a journal, for major publications, or on my blog. I express myself best when I write. I love being able to chronicle our family’s journey around the world on my blog, Toddle Joy. I also enjoy being able to inform other parents about traveling with their families to places that we’ve lived and visited. I love discovering new vacation spots and/or activities and being able to share that with others!
6. What makes you unique as a mother?
I like to be on the go. Whether it’s traveling to a new location or checking out a new local museum, library, or park, I like to be out and about. I think my children have followed in my footsteps, because they cannot bear to be home for more than a few hours at a time before they are ready to get out and explore too. Luckily, my husband’s job affords us the opportunity to move around the world to new locations every few years. Suffice it to say, we never get bored. It’s perfect for us!
7. What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
I like to encourage my children to be outgoing, courageous, and inquisitive. I feel like there are some places in the world where they can do that freely and I don’t need to worry about their safety. In other places, I worry more about their safety. I want them to be able to trust others, but also have a sense of street smart about them.
8. How did you find World Moms Blog?
A dear friend of mine, Ana Gaby Turner, introduced me to World Moms Blog. We lived together in Thailand and are now both in Washington, D.C. We’ve shared many of the same overseas experiences and have children the same ages.
These interview questions were answered for World Moms Blog by Loren Braunohler. Photo credit: Loren Braunohler.
In preparation for our adoption, we had to take an intensive course, dealing with the many dynamics involved. A while later, our gained knowledge, but also our personal history, relationship, parenting skills and social network were scrutinized by a social worker and a psychologist.
During those months and months of preparation, there are two statements that came up several times and which I will always remember:
1) Having children is NOT a universal human right. Having a parent – or a dedicated caregiver – IS.
In other words: We were not entitled to a child. It’s the child’s benefit that comes first at all times. A hard lesson to learn for some, and next to impossible to swallow when the judge doesn’t give you the much hoped for green light. But true nonetheless.
2) We were NOT judged for our parenting skills. We were judged for our ADOPTIVE-parenting skills.
Especially to couples that were already parents, the course and social exams could be seen as an affront. And yes, it could be quite provoking and private at times. But in our case is was also very respectful at all times, and educating as well. And it was necessary.
Why? Because adopted children come with a backpack filled with their history. Because, as an adoptive parent, you might need to help carry that backpack.
A central topic to both the course and the exam was: attachment, and with that, basic trust. It was explained to us beautifully by ‘The parable of the little sailor’, in which a child is at first safely on a boat. All of a sudden, she finds herself in a storm. The boat sinks and she struggles to survive. When next she is picked up by a new boat, full of small children like her, and a new captain, it takes a while before she believes that the captain will keep them safe. And she proved right to be hesitant, because a new storm comes up and eventually, that boat also sinks. The child is alone again. From that point on, the child decides to not trust any captains any more. So when a new boat arrives, she goes in hesitantly, because she has no other choice. But she will keep her guards up for a long time now. She will test the captain’s sailing skills over and over again, and whenever a storm comes, she will be ready to take over control.
Some adopted children will have experienced more boats, more caregivers, than others. Some will have had worse storms than others. In quite some cases, gaining the trust of that little sailor will be a tremendous task for the final captains of its journey, the adoptive parents.
Attachment disorder can be an overwhelming Damocles’ sword that hangs above an adoptive family.
We were told the best way to avoid attachment disorder, was to make sure we were going to be the only captains during our precious sailor’s first months on our boat. A minimum of six months of semi-isolation, they recommended. Ideally not letting anyone else take care of her, not even hand her gifts. After that, the time she would need to safely attach to us and rely on us to steer the boat, was estimated as her age upon adoption, multiplied by two.
Our daughter was 2.5 years old when she came to live with us, and she’s been with us for three years now. That means we still have at least 2 years to go for her to let go of her anxieties and mistrust.
At least 2 years. Probably longer, if we look at where she is today on her journey towards trust and attachment. I personally believe attachment, at least for our daughter, will be a constantly evolving process for many years to come.
We’ve also had our share of storms. For one, we broke her trust those first, crucial months. You see, in Belgium, maternity leave is fairly short, only 15 weeks. When adopting, it’s even less. We were ‘lucky’ to adopt when our girl hadn’t reached the age of 3 yet, so I got to stay at home with her for 6 weeks. When your child is older, you only get 4 weeks. Or zero weeks, when the child has reached the age of 8, or when you’re a foster parent… So, a maximum of 6 weeks to complete this huge task of gaining trust. It’s extremely frustrating to have been pressed repeatedly on the importance of a strong basis for attachment and then being forced to send that little sailor off to another captain, one in the boat of day care or kindergarten, after a mere 6 weeks or less.
There have been quite some voices and petitions these lasts months, to once and for all equalize maternity leave rules for all sorts of parenthood, including adoption and foster care. The old statement of ‘You don’t need physical recovery from adoption like you do from giving birth, so you don’t need the same amount of time’ has lost its validity the moment regular maternity leave was extended with an additional (unpaid) month, for the sake of ‘bonding of mother and child’.
No need to say the adoptive community was outraged, or at least strongly disappointed at that time. We still are. The adversaries of our request don’t seem to understand that we don’t ask longer maternity leave for ourselves, although I must admit that some time for emotional recovery would have been very welcome in those first, stormy months.
But essentially, we request it for the benefit of the little sailors to come. They deserve more time to explore, defy and scrutinize their new captains.
How long is maternity leave in your country? Is the same for all kinds of parenthood? And how long do you believe it should be?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.
Photo by Alejandro Groenewold under Creative Common license
Relationships are the key to life…
Lately, in my personal life there have been many changes. And I started wondering about relationships and how much importance and attachment we give to them. And the fact that certain relationships make or break our life.
For instance, the relationship each one of us have with our children as mothers is so precious and may seem to signify the epitome of any wholesome relationship. But what is it that we share with our children that we cherish in this relationship? Love is a very poignant word, and I sometimes wonder the real meaning of it. Maybe it is the capacity to give your life for your child? Perhaps!
And then we have these relationships with our spouses and meaningful others. Other than physical intimacy, emotional attachment and love (again, that word) what else do we share with them? An interdependency, trust, common value system and a few other things like this. But what is a relationship based on? (more…)
My heart has been trudging through tough terrains lately because of some events that happened unexpectedly.
Tough as it may be, it’s going through this challenging time as a mom that has been harder to handle.
In the beginning, there were times when I just wanted to go away and be alone. Twice, I lost my temper at my son. But just as soon as I did that, guilt washed over me. I immediately apologised and held him tight in my arms, assuring him it wasn’t his fault.
This whole experience got me thinking about how I should deal with tough times as a mom. More importantly, how can I help my son to cope with challenges in life?
While I feel a need to be strong for my son’s sake, I don’t want to pretend that things are fine. After all, setbacks are a reality of life and even the little one experiences a bit of that once in a while – like when mommy and daddy refused to buy him a toy even though he was bawling his eyes out and his voice was turning hoarse from crying.
However, at two-and-a-half years-old, he is too young to understand what happened. Yet, I believe he can sense that I’m feeling down, and it probably affected him, as he did throw more tantrums than normal when I was riding out the emotional roller coaster.
But it’s never too early to start thinking. So I imagine the day when my son is old enough, and what I would say. (more…)