Category Archives: Lifestyle Balance

Square peg in a round hole: Why it is perfectly normal not to fit the norm

Norms… Sometimes I am under the impression that a lot of norms that exist regarding different aspects of life are just there to make us feel bad.”I don’t feel happy every day, what’s wrong with me?”, “My kid is 5 month and he doesn’t roll yet, what’s wrong with him?“, or “Oh, but my kid is almost two and he doesn’t talk yet, what’s wrong with him?“… Did somebody actually ever wonder if there is anything wrong with the norms?

I almost failed my physical education class in school because I could not run the 4000-meter torture that I was supposed to. I got 4 out of 10 (the last passing score) merely for my persistence. I ran the first 1000 or so meters and the rest I walked. I am no runner! Does it make me a failure? My daughter started rolling only at the age of 5 months. Only the lazy one did not ask me if I was not worried. I was not. She was physically in a perfect condition. She did not want to roll. Does that make her a failure? My son started walking at the age of 9 months. But that’s not normal! And what should I have done? Tied him to the chair?!

It gets worse. You should go to school, you should get a degree, you should get a job (and preferably in the same domain where your degree is), you should buy a house, you should get married, you should have a ring, a dress, a party for 200 people, you should go on the honeymoon to the fancy location at the sea, you should have kids before 30, you should lose weight  in the first 10 days after giving birth, you should have a career, you should have a dog/cat/hamster/horse/alligator… You should… Have a riffle to use every time you hear it? That would be a great idea.

I did not invent this quote but I like it:

All I should is enumerated in the Tax Code; all I should not – in the Criminal Code; all the rest is in my discretion!

I don’t believe in “shoulds”. I don’t believe in norms. And most importantly what I don’t believe in – is in being worried and feeling yourself down just because you or your kids don’t fit some stupid norm written by somebody. What I do believe in, however, is in respecting the choice of others that they made for themselves and their family. In the end you are the only one who knows what’s right for you.

You breastfeed until your kid is 2,5 y.o.? Good for you both! And you stopped at 6 months and your kid already eats steak at 1? Perfect! You chose to work and your kid goes to day-care? That’s fine. And you decided it’s best that you stay at home? Also great. You do Montessori and a whole bunch of other early development activities? Good choice. And you don’t believe in the value of an early development? You’re also right. You co-sleep with your little one? Super! But yours learned to sleep in his own bed since the beginning? Wow!

Bottom-line is: Universal “normal” applicable to everybody does not exist. Normal is defined by lots of factors, amongst which your unique life circumstances, but also your vision of the world, your attitude, your values and your perception. It is what you personally feel comfortable with and what is acceptable for your family, but not what somebody else tries to force on you.

And by the way all the great minds of the past and present were not “normal”: they did not fit, they challenged the norms, they rebelled against them and went their own way. They followed their own normal. They were square pegs in a round hole and that’s what in the end contributed to their greatness.

 

Protecting wings from being cut

While browsing through my Facebook I stumbled upon an interesting question posed in one of the groups – “Who is cutting your wings?”. Replies split almost equally between those who were blaming themselves and those who identified some external sources of influence: like a husband, family, friends, colleagues. It made me think about dreams, about identifying them in the first place and daring to follow them. And about all those moments when you are so inspired and uplifted, yet all your enthusiasm is crushed like a bug on the ground by someone whose opinion you value. Those moments when you feel good about yourself, but are made feel worthless; when you are, as Russians say, multiplied by zero; when your dreams are shattered and wings are cut…

… But let me start with identifying dreams first because “if one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable” (Seneca).

Long time ago when I was something like 17 or 18 years old (damn, I am old!) inspired by the movie “The Secret” I made my first list of wishes, hopes and dreams. There were 100 items from all possible categories starting with things I want, moving onto experiences I want, even places I would like to visit. Dreaming without any limitations, without thinking whether you can afford that, whether you are physically or mentally capable of doing that at the moment – dreaming without analyzing. I remember that it was fairly simple to write down the first 50 items or so, yet to reach the number 100 it took me almost a week. I looked at my old list couple of months ago and  – it’s almost complete! Some items were scratched off because I don’t want them anymore, however the majority of my wishes and dreams has actually realized. In the hindsight there were quite a few items in that list that back then were simply impossible for this or that reason: like going to China or learning to play golf, or studying abroad or having “Manolo Blahnik” shoes. Guess what: I went to China as part of my MBA studies (done abroad), I learned to play golf last summer and pretty much like in “Sex and the City” my husband proposed me putting on beige “Manolo Blahnik” shoes on my feet.

Few yet unrealized items are now transferred to my “Life plan” – which is an extensive list divided in 6 categories covering all the main aspects of my life – lifestyle, health, emotional well-being, financials, personal development and vocation and family (I will talk about how to write it in one of the future posts). Yes, a bit insane, I know. However, knowing precisely what I would like in my life and with my life creates a good focus. Just for a giggle – if tomorrow I am going to win “Euromillions” then I know precisely where and how I will spend that money. Yet also if it never happens I am pretty convinced that somehow there will be a way to get everything that I want. Even (and maybe especially) if I don’t see that way at this moment in time.

Now after dreams are identified comes a more difficult part – daring to follow your dreams and this is where wings are often cut

I am lucky to be supported at all times by at least one person in whatever crazy initiatives I would like to pursue. I always believed in myself but for success it is psychologically important to have or find that other person who also believes in you no matter what. When I was growing up I always had my mother by my side. My mother has never questioned my dreams, never put me down saying that something is not possible and or is not for me. She never reminded me of past failures. She inspired me and lifted me up when I felt down. She was there for me when after the first course at a law faculty I decided to switch from a full-time to a part-time program because I believed that if I work simultaneously I will achieve more. I remember a lot of friends at that moment saying that I am making a mistake, killing my inspiration and enthusiasm about actual legal job with comments like: “in this way you are going to fail your studies and are not going to get far anyway”. I graduated with 7,62 on 10, having four years of legal experience including representation before the court behind my belt. The same repeated when I quit my job and decided to do an MBA. I have been told by almost everyone around me that I was making a huge mistake, that I am jeopardizing my future, that I will regret and that I will never be admitted to the business school anyway, yada yada yada. And once again, my mother was there for me, protecting my wings from being cut. I have several stories like that where only with a support of my mother, with her unconditional belief in me that I succeeded, and I am eternally grateful to her for that.

This type of support is what I hope to be able to give my kids as well – to be there for them to protect their wings from being cut.

 

P.S. It is easier when you are supported, I understand. But even if you don’t have that person or people that believe in you at this moment, at least don’t betray yourself – don’t give up on yourself! Ever. There was a great quote by Walt Disney (yeah, a second quote in a short text, but it somehow fits) –

“If you can dream it, you can do it!”

– So don’t stop dreaming! Believe in yourself and your dreams! And go for them! You will find the ones who will support you along the way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you stop developing if you decide to stay at home?

This is a comment I heard way too many times. “I cannot imagine that I would stay at home! That will be a total degradation!”; “A woman has to get a job otherwise she will become stupid and not interesting”, and many others with different words but the same basic message. Arh! To note I am not talking about situations when a woman has to work to provide for the family, I am only talking about cases when a husband actually earns enough to ensure a decent living of his family.

I hate labeling. You can have a salaried job and have no personal development whatsoever. You can have no job and have an amazing personal development. If you are lucky you can have both. Whatever your choice, don’t think it’s the only right one. If somebody chose not to go to work everyday it by no means automatically signifies that this person is not interesting or will face “degradation”. Personal development is only a matter of a personal choice. And a job as such doesn’t mean that you will stay or become interesting. Let’s face it: a lot of people go to work, have their morning coffee, gossip with colleagues, do some stuff, go to have lunch, procrastinate in social networks, do some repetitive stuff again and count down until they can go home; and that’s what they do day in and day out every single working day. The funny thing is that one of the classic representatives of the above example actually did comment on “no job means no development!” – oh, seriously?!

I did have a salaried job, I did freelance, I am thinking about my own business, when kids grow up a bit, but at this particular point in time I am a stay-at-home mother by choice. As I already said in some previous posts just that already hones a whole bunch of skills. Yet, at all times in my life, whatever I was doing to earn the living, I also had  and still do have quite some hobbies.

  • I love reading and I am usually even reading several books at the same time – just finished Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury and am almost done with Walden and Civil Disobedience by Thoreau. After I discovered Kindle my reading hours increased even more, as it makes reading in all circumstances so extremely convenient – Kindle Paperwhite has an in-built light, so you can read in the dark; you conveniently hold it in one hand and don’t need your second hand to turn pages; it has an effect of a paper, so no reflection, allowing you to read in a bright sun; not even talking about being able to have a lot of books without the need to carry around a lot of weight. And it’s not only fiction that I read, but also quite some non-fiction, mostly business books or articles on raising bilingual kids.
  • As regards cooking – it is not only a mere necessity, but also an additional hobby of mine. Frequently it is inspired by Foodpairing (c) and sometimes – by a molecular cuisine. I love experimenting, I love surprising. Cooking allows for that.
  • I did quite some online courses – e.g. Child Nutrition and Cooking by Stanford; Open Permaculture School by Regenerative Leadership Institute; Cognitive Psychology, as well as Crisis Intervention: theory and practice, as well as some others by WEU; Introduction to Psychology by MIT, just to name a few.
  • A week ago I have already planted tomato seeds inside for the subsequent replanting into my square foot garden – yet another hobby of mine.
  • I do cross-stitch embroidery .
  • When an inspiration comes I write poems which couple of years ago I assembled into a book published by Lulu. I write in Russian but for the book I provided translations into English, mostly for my husband to be able to understand them.
  • Recently I started calligraphy;
  • Also recently I finally got to sewing resulting in a nice set of clothes for my daughter and son.
  • I learned to play golf and when the weather outside allows for it, my daughter is in her “school” or willing to join and my son is peacefully asleep in his buggy, I am pitching in the garden with my Tailor Made or hitting some perforated balls with Big Bertha. Also, we do escape to the field with my husband from time to time.
  • I am intensively learning Dutch to get it to the fluency level. Next will be Spanish, where I have some basics, and Italian which I just love.

The bottom-line is – and I repeat it once again – everything is a matter of your choice and your priorities. If you want to keep on developing you will find a way, if not – you will find an excuse.

As a Postscriptum – no, I don’t have a nanny and never did. It is possible to cook together with even a very small kid and in that way develop the motor skills and the speech, if you talk at the same time of course; it is possible to do calligraphy together, when you little one is scribbling something on another piece of paper; it is possible to sew and make a toddler cut the threads; it is possible to pitch and allow the happy toddler bring the balls;… But I will talk about all this in one of the subsequent posts on how to include a kid in your life.

Solutions, no excuses!

(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.

Feel free to contact me directly by e-mail: familylifeceo@gmail.com or via social networks: LinkedInInstagramTwitter