All posts by Maria Boicova-Wynants

European Trademark Attorney, Mediator, Partner at Starks IP and International Trade Law firm

(Re-)discovering myself


I used to be a successful career girl: a lawyer, patent and trademark attorney, as well as strategy consultant and mediator in cross-border civil and commercial disputes. I hold an International MBA degree and I did two years of doctorate in business.

At this moment, I am a happy stay-at-home mother.

I was born and raised in Latvia, yet I am ethnically Russian and culturally homeless. Six years ago my MBA studies brought me to Belgium, where I also met my future husband and settled down. We now have two amazing little kids whom we are raising bilingual: Russian and Dutch. However, they are exposed also to English language, as this is the language I speak with my husband.

I ended up as a stay-at-home mother partly by chance, partly by choice. After the graduation from an MBA I started with PhD in Business for two years attending the Doctoral School in Social and Behavioral sciences and in parallel working as a researcher in a business school. My focus was on risk management in non-financial companies. However, the academic world turned out to be not my cup of tea, as the reality is so much more stimulating than a statistical report with numerous reservations. Also the cooperation with my supervisor was far from being smooth. I now understand why all the three PhD candidates who started with her at different times, quit shortly. It got worse after I said that I want to take not only the 3 months maternity leave, but also the additional 4 months parental leave after my kid is born. I was told that I obviously lack the motivation required for doing the PhD (which was probably true). So I got fired when I was 7 month pregnant with my daughter and in the hindsight that was the blessing which spared me quite some nerves and left me with some extra cash.

After that I freelanced doing mediation and consultancy work in strategy and intellectual property matters; I lectured in risk management; I worked as an international coordinator for one of the mediation associations, assisting them in their internationalization efforts. And then…

Then, I lost my third child when I was 12 weeks pregnant… And it dawned on me. What a hell am I doing? I have changed but I am still pretending to be someone who I am no longer.

What I really want now is to be there for my kids, write, learn, golf, bake,… open a coffee house in the future, one day have my own vineyard and maybe see to apply my mediation skills to a different level (I will come back to that in detail in due time). So I have finally collected myself together, identified my new priorities and goals, and took full control of my new life. And I intend to make the best out of it!

cropped-image1.jpegThank you for reading this and I would be glad to meet you: be it in the virtual space of this blog or over a cup of coffee some day.

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An identity crisis of a stay-at-home MBA

It was an obvious choice and a well-thought through decision. Nevertheless, that does not mean that even inside myself I immediately understood the consequences and the change that this choice will trigger.

Yesterday I was an ambitious rising-star in the intellectual property law domain, the youngest patent and trademark attorney in my country (and let me boldly assume that also in Europe and perhaps even in the world; I made it when I was 23 years for God’s sake!), fresh MBA graduate at 25 and even an aspiring PhD candidate.

Yesterday I knew how to make fried eggs… Well, most of the time. Except all those times when the eggs burnt down sometimes even together with the frying pan, but those are details, no? And one can always dine out.

Yesterday I was open to hop on the plane and go to any location in the world. I was young, ambitious, free, easy-going, well-educated, with over five years of an impressive career progress,…

I had it all.

(Today I have so much more, yet it took me a while to understand that).

My identity crisis started with becoming a mother. Yet, after my daughter was born I was still in denial. Yes, I was already a stay-at-home mother but I had plans to return back to the workforce; I subscribed myself to the course on commercial and civil mediation; I finalized my risk management notes into a decent report; I was planning on opening my mediation practice; I lectured on risk management in one of the business schools in Paris; I was in denial. Then, when my daughter turned 9 months and the start of the mediation course was rapidly approaching I found myself pregnant again. Still breastfeeding, already having all the “pleasures” of an early-pregnancy toxicosis, I was nonetheless performing outstandingly in the mediation course. And then my son was born.

Drowning in the deep blue eyes of my newly born child I realized that I don’t remember the first look of my daughter! With her I was so preoccupied with other things, so much living in the unknown tomorrow, building some sort of plans, even breastfeeding with my computer on. However, I still did not change significantly. Not yet. It was only when I lost my third child at 12 weeks pregnancy that it finally dawned on me. Done. I finally admitted that – I have changed. The only question remaining – changed into what?

I’d like to be honest first of all with myself. I am no longer a lawyer and patent attorney, no longer anything I used to reply when somebody asked me – what do you do? Even when already taking care of my daughter, I still was doing a lot of legal stuff, coordinating one of the mediation associations’ internationalization efforts, still advising old clients and new referrals on strategy vis-a-vis intellectual property protection. I could not let go. I still pretended to be what I no longer was. Why? It is immensely difficult to let go of what you believe to be your identity; to let go, what you always thought defined you. And when I finally did that I found myself in the very depth of an identity crisis…