Debunking a few Parenthood Myths

This is my third year into motherhood so I feel morally obliged to share some insights. It has changed my life immensely and it has been by far the biggest blessing I ever received, but I wish there were more sincere aspects of the hurdles of first time parenthood on the web to prepare women for this life-changing experience.

So here it goes, debunking some myths:

“Balancing career and motherhood will sort out itself ”: The African saying “It takes a Village to Raise a Childprobably sums this up best.When you decide to start a family and you are a professional person, the first thing you need to do is look around you and identify what is your support network. Are your parents or your in-laws retired and willing to give you a hand once you return to work? Can your salaries afford you a nanny or daycare, and would you feel comfortable leaving your new born with strangers for nine hours per day? Obviously these are questions that should be addressed beforehand.

Breast is Best. Ok, this is such a sensitive topic. Obviously breast is best. But sometimes I feel I agree with the French on this one. You should always do what keeps you balanced and sane. You are an intelligent human, not a feeding machine. Couples today, eager to be the best parents possible, go to extreme lengths to prolong breastfeeding, and are very proud when little Sofia, that has a mouth full of teeth and can speak sentences,pulls mom’s blouse down in public to drink milk. Stop feeling a failure or guilty if breastfeeding did not work out or you simply did not enjoy it.

Early Potty Training. Just like breastfeeding potty training is another topic that sparks lively database and attracts the most condescending and smug  comments from parents that trained their baby as soon as he could hold his head up. Enough with this madness. Sooner or later they will learn, and rest assured, they will not go to school wearing nappies.

Playdates: As a new mother I felt obliged to take my daughter to playdates way before she was interested in engaging with others or even inclined to liking others. I would say that toddlers from the age of two onwards are likely to look for the company of children but earlier than that, I am sorry to say, but it is a waste of time. Yes, it can be also a social opportunity for the mom to meet other moms but don’t expect to get a second for an adult conversation,let alone an intelligent conversation of any kind. Most of the time you will be either pretending to tell off your baby not to scream, cry and throw things down (and pretend in front of others that there is some logical explanation for that “This is totally because she didn’t have a nap today”) and, secretly planning your escape when she gives her best and loudest performance. “I ll take her home for that nap that we were saying”.

I take care of my baby while I work from home. Since I became a parent I came across this urban legend of the professional (usually a mom) that works from home while she takes care of her baby. Even though I am not familiar with the specific working arrangements of every person this sounds like the equivalent of trying to write a text when you are driving a motorbike at high speed. When I work I need to be able to focus on what i am doing, which is virtually impossible with an awake baby in the house. If however someone offered me the kind of job that you can do while taking care of a baby, and paid me with real money for it, i would take it in a heartbeat.

The second one will be a breeze. I left my favourite for the end. In life you can never keep people happy. When you are single people want to know when you will tie the knot, and when that happens they regularly interrogate you when are you planning to get pregnant. Just when you thought you have ticked all the boxes and they will finally leave you alone, there is the question of the second baby.I once had a mom that tried to convince me that having two kids is easier than having one just because they keep busy playing with each other. As a new mom of one, I thought it was one of the most outrageous arguments I had ever heard.  Even if it holds true for some part especially when the children are older, the popular idea that the second baby is a breeze and it will simplify your life is ridiculous. Sure, you already have all the know-how but that does not make the 3am feeds any easier, or lessens the overall responsibility of raising another human being.

So have more kids, but because you welcome the joy and the hard work, not only to provide the first one with a play mate.

Losing the extra weight: What I have learnt

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Being someone who has always experimented with weight loss, I have my own observations that I would like to share. With the exception of my post pregnancy weight where I had to shed around 28kg or 62 pounds, my main concern has always been the last stubborn five kilos (10 pounds), the result of love for food, loss of motivation and ignoring the caloric value of certain foods. I have never consulted a nutritionist or a dietician, (even when I successfully shed those 28 kg) but I always had a good general idea of the things I should and should not eat and I made my own diet plan according to my personal judgement.

Disclaimer: When you must lose  more than 6-7 kg it is best to visit an expert and get a a professional diet plan. The dietician will give you the right food combinations to cover your nutritional needs while cutting down on calories, and inform you about your personal ideal pace of weight loss.

However no dietician can make you thin, you are the the only person that can do that. Your motivation is your best friend in your weight loss journey, your driving force without which your goal cannot be achieved.

Below are some tips that I hope will help you keep it up and succeed.

Honesty with the scales: I myself have noticed that the times I tend to put on weight are those that I avoid stepping on the scales. Even though you should avoid obsessing over a number (numbers can lie) you still need to be honest about weight gain. No you are not “bloated” every day and it is impossible to gain significant muscle with little or no weight training, so just  be brave enough to admit that those pizzas and buckets of pop corn have turned into body fat that you now need to get rid of.

And now what? Relax.Once you get a cleat picture of the amount of extra weight that you want to lose, take a long deep breath. Success in weight loss requires that you are focused, yet relaxed. Stress, obsession, worry and impatience are only obstacles. The popular role model of the lycra clad  woman in a constant obsessive fighting mode against fat is likely create more stress and waste of your vital energy. Acknowledging that these extra pounds do not change a thing about you being a beautiful, sexy, intelligent person, but you would feel  so much better without them, is the way to start your journey.

Weight loss journey. Weight loss in a journey whether you need to lose 4 or 64 pounds. It is a change of attitudes and the realisation that healthy eating and exercise is a way of life. In fact, you need to accept that excessive eating and, unhealthy foods will always make those extra pounds creep back on. Unfortunately, the older you get, the more you have to watch your diet and eat clean.

Weight Plateaus: Embrace the idea that they exist. If there is one thing to be said about weight loss this is that is is not linear. It might appear that you are dieting for one or two months and the scales has not moved. The truth is that your body fat is a result of long term eating habits and what you need to do is to readjust these habits- in the longterm-to eventually find your weight where  you want it to be.

Learn to say no: Myself being Greek means that I come from a culture where throwing food away and not emptying your plate is the gravest of sins. I still remember as a young child my mother coaxing me to eat the last piece of bread “because children in some places in the world die of hunger”. Having this attitude makes it hard for you not to transgress, especially if you have a partner or child that orders pizzas and heaps of french fries and then does not finish them.Take responsibility for yourself and learn to say no to food. Are you willing to eat all the food available in the restaurant or all the food sold at the supermarket to rid the world of hunger? I thought so.

So do not give up. Weight loss is above all an attitude and a mental state . If you get there with your mind, the body will follow.

The one that got away: advice for broken hearts

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We all have one that got away. Even the most happily married, the most seriously committed. We all have one person that did not succumb to our charms and did not fall in our trap.

There are those who have passionately condemned this person as a troubled commitmentphobe, an asexual loser, a victim of her/his own ignorance and thus have found peace in their own bitter verdict. And there are those who will endlessly wonder on a rainy night what really happened, what really went wrong and burden their minds with whys and what ifs.

If you belong in the second group a word of advice: Don’t waste more energy. It is a fact of life that we all have one that got away, and don’t flatter yourself that you should have been the exception. Yes, you liked that person and yes you felt a special way when you were together. But think of it this way, especially if you are a lady: Love is like an online buy. Imagine for example that you are web browsing on Zalando and while you browse, let’s say shoes, you find that perfect pair of Italian design heels, the perfect color, the best leather. Do you know what really makes it irresistible to buy?

It is not on sale and if it is there is a special warning attached to it that this item will soon sell out. The item oozes adrenaline and desirability. With sweaty trembling fingers you reach for your credit card, even if this item is a bit “out of your league” financially. You follow me so far? Just when you are about to click “buy” you change your mind and decide to wait a bit longer, your finances in mind making you have a bit of a guilty conscience. After having a few rounds around the house pretending to be busy you go back to the computer,credit hard in hand, determined. It’s now or never. In absolute horror you realize that your shoe size is sold out. You cannot believe how it slipped through your fingers just like that. No pair of shoes will ever look that perfect.

But please do realize. Just like shoes, the one that got away’s irresistible charm is his unavailability. It’s the missed opportunity and the non existent scenario. And in case you tell yourself it was you that “pushed the person away”, this is not true either. You don’t need to push a person away for them to want to stay away from you. It is perfectly normal and it happens every day.

All this might sound harsh and unfair but dear friend one thing is for sure: You are a million times better off tonight eating peanut butter off your tv remote, I can promise you that.

And if your hopeless romanticism still doesn’t allow you to find peace in your heart, don’t lose faith. You will always have Paris.

Updates on Life in Sweden:The Stockholm Syndrome

Lately I have reconsidered almost every aspect of my life in Sweden. Everything that bothered and frustrated me the first year when I was child-free has now transformed into a big convenience. First of all I don’t mind living in the suburban multinational company Legoland anymore. True, there is no metro station nearby and not a pub in miles, but it does not matter anymore. For one thing, I rarely take the baby downtown nor have the urge to do so. And as for pubs, it sounds a bit obscene even for Swedish standards to push a trolley into a bar. I no longer whine about the bad restaurant food in the area, as for the last months in an effort to fit in my clothes again I have embraced green vegetables and water.

The only two establishments that I frequent multiple times a week, the supermarket and the gym are around the corner. I am finally giving in to the Stockholm syndrome. It took me a while to get here, but here I am turning into a Swede as we speak. Last year I had all these Whys and WhatIfs that made my marching through the snow even more challenging. Not anymore. I quit reading the Local.se as well. How much better can this get?

Parenthood lessons Chapter Two: Giving up on all the above and the below: sugar, booze, skinny jeans, second thoughts , the Local, ironing and the urge to keep things tidy and clean all time.

Embracing : Chaos.

Urge of the Week:
Claire2

The Bitter Truth about my Pregnancy Weight Gain

I feel for you Kim

I feel for you Kim

When I put my foot on the scales for the first time after giving birth it was 8 weeks post partum and I was consciously holding the baby in my arms. I thought, if I saw something I did not like I would blame it on the baby. When the actual number hit me, two thoughts crossed my mind: a) the baby cannot possibly weigh that much before she turns ten years old b) an old classic: this scales is old and broken.

Just to be completely sure, I tried to balance the baby alone on the scales before I tried again without her. Coward me. I had never seen that number in my pre-pregnancy life.

During my whole pregnancy I was in denial about my weight gain. Apart from the fact that I refused to get on the scales after the fourth month when I realized I was already 10+ kilos heavier, I somehow tried to convince myself that “it is all swelling and fluid retention”. (Guess what, it was not.) But I could not control it unless I went on a diet, and that was not what I wanted to do while pregnant.  Having been slim most of my adult life, I never had to struggle to lose anything more than 4-5 kilos max.  So when I had to confront my post partum weight reality, I panicked. I kinda expected that out of these 28 kilos half would be gone after delivery with the baby, the placenta and well… the swelling. At least that is what so many moms on numerous pregnancy blogs claim, that by the time they left the hospital 10 kilos had miraculously evaporated. But it does not always work that way.

When it comes to pregnancy weight, It turns out that your body, in combination with the amount and quality of food you consume will do what your genes and hormones dictate. You may have the noblest intentions to stay “all belly” and be like one of those celebrity moms that go into their skinny jeans a few days or even hours after giving birth. If it is not genetically meant to happen, it will not and the worst thing you can do is to hopelessly cling to this idea in a desperate effort to maintain a sense of control in your life.

Becoming a parent suddenly changes your life so drastically and means that your weight gain will be the least scary of the scary things that will happen to you. I am not suggesting you should eat for two or stuff your face at meals. On the contrary, staying healthy should be a priority. But bear in mind that weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy and how much weight you put on will not solely depend on your eating.

Frankly I am tired of being bombarded with images of pregnant media personas and celebrities-pretentiously- competing who has the best genes.  Yes, we all know there are women out there that are naturally very thin and manage to stay slim during pregnancy.  We also know there are people who can afford expert diet consultation, personal trainers, chefs, weight maintenance programs and plastic surgery.  But the majority of us cannot and the worst thing that can happen to a woman is not the kilos she stocks up during pregnancy but her obsession and frustration over it.

Fellow moms, it’s ok.

Summing up, I had a discussion lately with a male friend. He was telling me how much weight both he and his ex partner had put on during an unhappy relationship. He literally felt heavy with frustration and toxic emotions and it was as if the weight came not from the excessive food but from the feeling that they were both dragging their feet living under the same roof.

So I say away with the weight gain remorse! It is as harmful as the weight gain itself and the surest way to find the old you again is to do everything in your power to be stress free and happy.

 

 

Diversity or Division? The Niqabs again on the News

There is one way to read the news in perspective in the mainstream media. Just read the titles on the main page, the one next to the other. You are probably familiar with a number of recurrent topics anyway. Don’t expect to see something new or different, unless this is an alien invasion.

It occurred to me the other day that a number of articles I was reading were about the same thing. I am not talking about the words or incidents but what lies behind them. The questions posed “innocently” by the mainstream media often aim to evoke sentiments or create counter-reactions among the public.

“Should Britain ban niqabs when it is against religious freedom?” asks one article. “Should neo-nazis be allowed to establish an all-white community in the States?”, wonders another. “EU warns French Minister over Roma comments” Of course it does. Human Rights talk goes well with salmon canapés and sparkling wine. It makes the EU decision makers and their Ngo pets feel less self-conscious about their decorative jobs and inflated salaries.

Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights.  And on the bottom the infuriated reader who like me, jumps naively into the comment war. And the goal is achieved.

 I wonder however why some media out there pose questions that only aim to create reactions, like rage, fear and insecurity among the public. Take the Niqab debate for example. It has evoked endless comments by readers who in a somehow apologetic tone (No, we don’t hate the Muslims!! Secular society for all! ) need to justify why covering your face in public is NOT a good idea. The whole debate has been elevated to a religious debate when the most obvious argument against Niqab has little to do with religious freedom but rather the obvious fact that nowadays as we are heading to a society of mass surveillance you are not allowed covering your face in public.  

Furthermore, the fact that If you are to be integrated in a society and thus your diversity is seen as a benefit and not as a threat to multiculturalism, your obligations should be stressed as much as your rights. In short, leave your extremism at the door before entering. History has shown us that multicultural societies have been destroyed overnight by extremism of both national and religious character. We should not ignore history.

So why is this issue linked to religious freedom of Muslim populations in the West? Muslim or not, no woman should feel oppressed if you ask her to reveal her face in public. If there is such a conservative and oppressive husband that could not imagine his wife leaving the house uncovered, believe me the Western society could not care less about that man. Just keep him in the ghetto away from us, is the official policy. Give him some social benefits too, if you are Sweden and keep him and his children off the job market. You also don΄t need to worry that your doctor at the NHS will insist examining you with her face covered, or that your child’s teacher will haunt his dreams with her scary outfit: These people will probably won’t get the job anyway.

The real question behind is Do you want a society of Diversity or Division?

Also how much the whole Religious/Human Rights debate is being manipulated to undermine Multiculturalism and Diversity and create a divided society? Apologetic attitudes and hypocritical worries about human rights and secularism will not lead us anywhere. We are all equal.

“The dream of every woman”

Sitting at my OB’s office earlier this week I had to face the gruesome questionnaire “tell us about your self” first time patient ordeal.  The blonde skinny assistant tried to be as smooth as possible, as  probably  the protocol for treating a heavily pregnant woman dictates but when the question of employment was asked and I diplomatically replied “None at the moment” she happily exhaled “a housewife! The dream of every woman!”  I almost snapped.

It was the first time in my life I have been called a housewife by someone and I seriously hoped the term would be completely obsolete by now.  For one thing, the doctor’s office I am referring to is in Athens , Greece where I was born and raised and where under the current economic climate I know lots of people whose professional situation could hardly be attributed to personal choice. Furthermore, this whole incident has sparked a whole debate in my mind about professional identity and identity in general.

Why do we still let all these outdated narrow social terms define who we are and in some way dictate our social self worth? Here is some thoughts on that.

a) I was born and raised by two doctors. Two MDs to be precise.  My parents’  professional qualification have defined their social identity throughout their lives as it happens with all traditional  highly valued qualifications like scientists and lawyers or highly technical professions.  On the contrary, everything that belongs in the humanities field as well as arts has to be justified with the presence of a job. While you can say  “I am a medical doctor” and nobody would  care to know whether you are active, retired or spending most of your time playing Sudoku, when you are a writer, artist or in communications you have to be  employed and prolific to prove that you are “serious”. Bottom line is you do not need a degree in humanities to gain a useful qualification; you just need someone willing to employ you to do the job.

b) Our perceiving professional identity itself is wrong. Having some painful experience working for the public sector during unfortunate times,   I have to say that committing yourself from 9-5  in an 8 hour boredom, gossip and coffee consuming  does not make you a professional. On the contrary it threatens to reduce your brain cells at an alarming speed.

Following thoughts a and b I can draw 2 conclusions. First, we live in a social farce. We are each asked to pretend and lie to prove our social value to people whose opinion we should not care about. Why do we do that? We should spend that energy instead achieving true life goals like conquering our fears and insecurities about what everybody thinks. And b, as a society we have moved away from traditional perceptions of profession. New skills and qualifications have created the need for a new understanding of work and employment. As I once read, the future belongs to the freelancers.