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Author: Tarja Van Veldhoven

Finnish-Delftian mom of three, married to a Dutch man with a decade long blogging history.

Delft mama of the week: Tarja

When I first started to write about the Delft moms of the week, to be honest I didn’t have the slightest idea how to interview people, let alone write about the amazing mothers in our community. The first mothers were mere pictures with one or two lines of text running underneath, usually photographed at playgroups or workshops. Gradually, I started asking people more questions and eventually I realized I was doing a mini Delft MaMa version of the world-famous Humans of New York blog that had been online for years.

Most of the mothers I’ve photographed and interviewed are mothers that I’ve known at least by name beforehand. After doing it for a while, I felt it was too much pressure for me to go choosing who to interview, so I simply started asking the mothers to nominate their friends to be moms of the week, which led me to meet yet another round of fantastic women.

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to mothers from all continents in the world. Those that are mothers of newborns and those with a teenager or two. I’ve listened to life stories from as many perspectives as there were mothers, and each and every one has been open about who they are and how they look at their lives.

And the things that I’ve learned…

Whether it’s mothers, women or people in general, we are all ultimately almost shockingly similar. Surely there are differences that make us individual, but I simply mean I have been able to relate to every single person I’ve been talking to, in one way or another. My simple conclusion is that it does not matter at all where someone comes from: we often have similar struggles, challenges and things we find joy in. Children mean the world to every mother I’ve spoken to, and as much as I’ve aimed to highlight the mother behind the children, the topic often turned onto the children.

Many international mothers in Delft region are at a transition, looking to take the next step, as much as their toddlers. They are often unaware what the next step should be, yet many times they have very clear ideas on where they want to end up. Instinctively we seem to know it’s important to stay in motion, no matter the speed, as long as we keep on moving with an open mind.

Becoming a mother has woken many women to question the ideals of motherhood, the roles of mothers and women in the society and their own dreams and motivations. We start by raising children and end up being raised by our children into better versions of ourselves. For many of our moms only parenthood has taught them what needed to change for the world to be better for their children – or what would make it better for future mothers.

It’s essential for me to say I’ve learned an incredible amount from all the mothers, and I’m grateful for each and every one who agreed to be in the spotlight and allowed me the time to grow as an interviewer and a writer. Whenever I asked mothers to nominate each other, many of the mothers nominated me to write about myself. I always thanked them for their suggestions and replied that I was going to write about myself the moment I was writing the last piece for the Delft MaMa blog as a farewell. Evidently, that is now.

The Dutch-Finnish children, Viola (9), Felix (5), and Jonatan (4) me and my Dutch husband, Emile, are lucky to be the parents of, are all school children at this point. This said, I have less and less chances to get to know newcomers. It’s important to make room for the new moms (and dads!) with fresh perspectives, who are recently discovering the joys and challenges of motherhood in a foreign country.

Luckily for the readers, for a while I haven’t been the only one writing under the title “mom of the week”, as Marie and Agnes joined in on it too, so this is not the end of the series as far as I can tell. It’s simply my time to put the pencil down at this blog. My only regret is that I know dozens of wonderful women that should’ve been in the spotlight. However, this is something many of you can fix by grabbing that pencil and continuing this series.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the people I’ve interviewed: “A lot of our moms are doing something interesting. There is so much potential around us!” Let’s keep on discussing our ideas openly with each other in the future as well!

Yours truly,

Tarja van Veldhoven

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36 questions to love for couples

I recently read about the 36 questions to fall in love with anybody. This is meant for people that are dating and possibly looking to fall in love, but I really wanted to know what it was about and if it had any impact to a couple that has been together already for years.

When a chance presented itself, my husband and I went for a date night, but before we left the house, I downloaded an app called 36 to love. There are lots of apps with this name, but I just chose the first one on the list.

Around 10 in the evening we sat down on high bar stools and I told him I’d like to give this experiment a try. Luckily he was on board immediately, curious about the process.  We have been together for over 10 years by now (married for nearly seven years), we have children and we’re all in all a somewhat regular couple with life’s ups and downs.

The point of the game is to answer the question on the screen. Both participants take turns and once both are happy with each other’s answers and have done the after talk that evidently follows, the question will be swiped to the left to make room for the next one.

During the questions, the level of intimacy gradually builds up. You start with easy questions, such as if you’d like to be famous and why, but soon enough you’ll find yourself answering questions about the way you were raised, what things you are dreaming about and reliving your most embarrassing moments.

This experiment was supposed to take a few hours tops, but at 01:30 we were still sitting on a bench outside going through some of the questions. During the answers I had come to realize several points about the person I’ve been sharing the biggest things in my life with.

I thought at this point I had surely heard all of his stories, but these questions proved both of us wrong. When he talked about particular things in his childhood, I suddenly understood him better as a parent. I saw where he was coming from and why he thought and did things certain way. When we talked about our dreams and fears, there were surprises on both ends and when we praised each other and gave thanks to each other, we were both definitely happier and more in love with each other than before. But a fair warning: we also stirred some mud that we had nearly forgotten about. Because we know each other so well, we didn’t let the other get off the hook so easily with superficial answers.

Image: pixabay.com

In the end, swimming so deep was purifying, albeit we caught some mud on the way. Luckily, years together had taught us to let that dilute, until we were back to clear waters again.

The last task was to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. It made me realize how hard it is to concentrate for so long on such an intimate act. How little time did we actually take to do such small efforts that could bring us back to each other so much faster? When I looked at him so intently, I saw our children in his face, I saw his vulnerability, his love and I saw myself.

Although the questions are meant for people looking to fall in love, but from our experience I can also say they are excellent questions for couples who think they know each other, too. The process will definitely add an extra touch of intimacy to the relationship.

For many it might seem natural that relationships to remain close and loving over the years take a lot of work from both participants, but I’m sure there are also those who might have overlooked this fact, too. If you’re looking to reconnect with your partner, I can definitely recommend trying this out. If you’re in a fully committed, loving relationship, you should still try this one out.

If you walk out with anything from this article, let it be this: Great relationships aren’t just naturally great. It’s the continuous, genuine effort by both participants that makes them great.

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Delft mama of the week: Susan

When she opens her mouth, anyone would be under the impression she’s from Scotland. As a matter of fact, she often gets mistaken for Scottish even by the Scottish. However, once you ask her which part of the beautiful highlands she comes from, she’ll tell you she’s born in and bred in the flatlands of Holland, more precisely born in Amsterdam and bred in Zwolle.

As a little girl, Susan once had a very vivid dream. In the dream, she was running off a green hill out of the forest in a white dress with long hair and came alongside a cobblestone wall with a big tree. “I ended up in Ireland that was similar, but now I got a Scottish guy…” Susan explains. Only when she met her Scottish guy, Iain, and visited Scotland with him, she realized it was just like in her dream. Susan refuses to speculate the meaning of this dream, but it clearly has had a lasting impression on her.

Susan was just finishing school when she got a job at a new Irish bar in her hometown. This led her to get a job offer in Ireland, where she lived for four years, before returning to the Netherlands to study. Susan got her master’s in art, specializing in architectural history. It was a long stretch for her, as people had been telling her all her life that because of her dyslexia she doesn’t have what it takes to get through University. Somehow Susan managed to turn what others perceived her weakness into her strength and with the help of her University professor, she realized that because she observed the world differently, it gave her a big advantage as well. “I’m thinking very different than mainstream. In University, I did research my way; if I see a building, I can already build it in my mind. I didn’t know that people don’t do that,” Susan points out.

These days Susan is a busy mom of Aoife (8) and Fionn (3). Only through her daughter, Susan has started to deal with her own insecurities from her childhood and adolescence. Growing up, Susan felt a lot of people didn’t get her. “I see everything, I feel everything, I hear everything, I take everything in. I’m highly sensitive, open to everything. I learned that through Aoife, to be honest. She looks at the world the same way. She doesn’t fit in the regular schools and that made me look at my life. I think really quick, see things other people don’t see. I need to adjust all the time. It doesn’t make me cleverer, I just think different”, Susan casually points out and continues “Ever since Aoife, I can look at life and say “life isn’t that bad”. I always thought I was weird. Now I’m quite happy about my abilities.” She’s now also more forgiving to herself, since she learned to see things through her daughter.

Because of this amazing ability to take it all in, Susan is a highly creative person. She would love to do an exhibition for her photography “at least for the sake of trying out”, she says. She loves to create with her hands and looking at the things she has done or photographed, Susan clearly has a good sense of proportions, colour palettes and composition. Susan tells me she has made some bags and buttons, but doesn’t like repeating the creative process to make a product. It’s art all the way for her.

She’s soon pushing forty and since her kids are already going to school and growing up quick, she’s at the brink of her on blossoming. “I was thinking the other day about going for my PhD. People always told me I wasn’t good enough, but I realized there is the TU here, so I might! I’m going to look into it. My time will come,” Susan says with anticipation. Personally, listening to her for more than an hour, I cannot but agree.

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Delft mama of the week: Olga

Ever since I started writing about the moms of the week for Delft MaMa blog, I’ve been asking those who I interview to nominate other mothers to be the next moms of the week. The list is ever-growing, but sometimes someone is nominated multiple times and it’s time to get to know them better. This is exactly the case with our mom of the week, Olga, who has been nominated by others who look up to her every now and again.

Although Olga lives in Rijswijk these days, she’s one of the Delft MaMa pioneers. She joined the playgroup that used to gather at St. Olofspark back in the day. Olga joined after she got someone call the police on her, so her journey so far has been not only long, but a noteworthy one as well. “I reached out and it was fantastic. It’s all the support you get. If you have a problem, you know someone who may know the answer, or at least they might know someone who knows the answer,” Olga says.

She’s sitting across the table from me in Bagels & Beans on the Markt, which she chose for us to meet. Olga orders macha latte, a very trendy drink indeed. “It’s Japanese green tea powder,” she clarifies while sipping her healthy looking drink.

Olga was born in Poland, but partly grew up in Germany. Her parents spoke several languages to her in her youth and when Olga did Erasmus exchange program in Hamburg, she met her German now husband, Nikolai. His studies took him to Winnipeg, Canada, where Olga followed, just to try her wings since given the chance. She loved her time in Canada, although she spent that time working in telemarketing and customer service, which is ironic because Olga has always found talking on the phone difficult. In the end she’s glad she did it, as it gave her a yet broader perspective of the world around her. After the year in Canada, the couple moved back to Germany, where their first-born, Klara (8), was born and soon enough the family settled in Delft. In the years to follow Klara got company from her little sister, Julia (6), and little brother, Markian (4).

By the time they settled down, Olga had lived on two continents, four countries and countless addresses. It’s no wonder when figuring out her national identity, Olga found it very natural to refer to herself as a European Mama for her blog.

Having studied German in the University, she wasn’t exactly sure what was in the future for her. Before she started blogging, she thought blogging was for people who mainly wrote about themselves. Little did she know there already was a whole community out there with similar feelings and experiences to her. Accidentally, she tumbled into blogging and over the years found her audience growing. “What I don’t understand about blogging is that everyone tells you to find your niche and stick to it. After a while I get bored about a subject,” Olga says.

Even with blogging, Olga has been following her own intuition and has been writing about what she gets inspired about. Currently she’s responsible for one major parenting newsletter and writing paid articles about various subjects, ranging from motherhood to tech. She’s also working on publishing her grandfather’s text about his experiences. “It’s his story in a holocaust. He lived in Ukraine, but moved to Warsaw when situation was getting tough there and they thought it would be safer in Poland. They got caught in Warsaw uprising and his first wife died. I was thinking what would have happened if she survived. I wouldn’t be here. I think I owe her my life in a way,” Olga says and struggles finding the words about what she means to her.

Personally, I’ve known Olga since 2011, and every time I meet her, she leaves me with more questions than what I had in mind before meeting up with her. Even though this time I came to her with a bunch of questions, when our time together is up, she still manages to intrigue my curiosity to the point that this expectation is yet again met.

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First taste of mosaic making

American mosaic artist living in Delft, Nan Deardorff McClain, greets me by the door of the building where her atelier is located. Eight to ten women have RSVP’d to her mosaic workshop during this particularly different Delft MaMa night out. It has been raining throughout the day and she’s hoping people will show up despite the weather. As a matter of fact, when the weather is scruffy, there’s no better way to spend some time relaxing than creating something new, Nan points out.

Mosaic making
Nan Deardorff McClain introducing the basics of mosaic to first-time workshop mamas.

Altogether seven moms show up. The table is full of snacks and drinks generously provided by the attendees; asparagus wraps, deviled eggs, chocolate, grapes, strawberries, nuts and all sorts of wines. This is shaping up to be an especially good moms’ night out, I’ll say!

Mosaic Making

Nan introduces us to her workroom. It’s filled with different mosaics, big and small, finished and unfinished, glued and those waiting to be grouted. My eyes are drawn to a Delft Blue vase, but unfortunately those are out of the question for an outdoor mosaic. The tiles for outdoors are different: they are harder to work with and has no pours to prevent them from sucking up moisture and possible cracking when freezing.

The room next door is already set up for the workshop. The collection of different colored tiles is in small plastic containers. Nan says we can start with making mosaic flowers, because those are easy to utilize in multiple projects. Many moms whip out their phones to google flowers they want to trace on a piece of paper, but some moms simply work with the shape of tiles, letting them speak for the look of the flower.

The styles in the room are as versatile as the moms attending, but a few things they have undoubtedly in common: there is a lot of use of color, everyone seems to be staying true to their own point of view and they are all shaping up to look like real mosaics!

Mosaic making
Delft mamas getting creative during the mosaic making workshop

Two hours go swiftly by. We barely remember to drink and eat, which tells how much everyone has seemingly enjoyed creating something. “People need to create to feel accomplished”, says one of the mothers at the end of the class and everyone agrees.

I never knew I enjoyed arranging tiles to a particular shape until Tuesday when I tried it for the first time. The workshop was such a success that in the future Nan is planning to organize the remaining Delft MaMa mosaic workshops the same way. Personally, I cannot recommend it highly enough! Hope to see you there!

Mosaics
The result of a 2-hour mosaic making workshop.

The big piece of art Delft MaMa is planning to put up on a wall in the Achtertuin playground will need all levels of support to get finished. You can start by sharing information about this with your friends, roll up your sleeves yourself and take part – or you can show your support to us here, and below is a video of what the workshop looks like in real life 🙂

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Happy May holidays!

The Delft MaMa blog is celebrating its first anniversary this April. Agnès Batllori Benet and I started this blog with lots of plans and even some structure, but most of all we learned most valuable lessons on the way. Agnès is moving onto other challenges while Marie Kummerlowe will take her position as one of the blog leaders.

During this past year, we have been lucky to have such great diversity of writers joining us regularly and temporarily and this is something we’re very much looking keeping this up in the future as well. Tuesdays blog posts will be published on Fridays from now on biweekly alternating with the mom of the week, which will have a bigger team of writers behind it as well.

Currently most children are enjoying their May holidays, which include the celebration of King’s Day. The toddler playgroups on Tuesdays and Fridays will go on normally during the holiday weeks, so if you’re looking for a few hours of downtime with other parents while kids are getting to know each other, that’s your place to go. If your plans aren’t still locked down, but you find yourself in the need of a day trip idea within the Netherlands, check out the DMM Pinterest page made just for this. For crafty parents (any skill level) the 2nd of May DMM is organizing a mosaic workshop. Also, don’t forget DelftMaMa Cinema Club is always open on Facebook for new and familiar faces! More ideas on what to do throughout the year, subscribe for the Delft MaMa newsletter at the bottom of this page!

Happy Spring everyone!

With lots of love to each and everyone,

Tarja van Veldhoven

 

 

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Three easy ways of becoming an active part of Delft MaMa community

Delft MaMa Children and Maternity Clothing Swap

This Saturday Delft MaMa is taking a head start on King’s Day by organizing a Children and Maternity Clothing Swap at the playgroup location KDV de Vlinderstruik in Delft on Lodewijk van Deysselhof 165. It’s a well-organized and an easy way to be kind to the environment and to our wallets by joining our efforts together.

“If one million people bought their next item of clothing secondhand instead new, we would save SIX million kilograms of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere.” [1]

What to bring? Good quality clothing in all sizes for children and expecting mothers that no longer serve you. The seasons change and you just might find yourself staring at your child’s closet trying to find out if any of the last years shorts fit them. Or perhaps your maternity pants are only hogging the space and you’d much more benefit swapping those elastic jeans to a pair of sandals and rubber boots for your toddler. Whatever the case may be, everyone’s welcome!

Image: pixabay.com

How much do the items cost? The short answer is zero. Many of us don’t have families close by and find ourselves lacking the otherwise natural circles of clothes swapping with relatives. Swapping with cousins rarely cost anything and neither does this. We encourage people to bring what no longer serve them and hopefully find the pieces that will be just right for them as well. Pieces aren’t counted, so swap will be strictly based on taking whatever serves your purposes. You’ll simply pick what you need!

The items that are left in the end you’re free to bring back home or you can choose to donate to the Delft MaMa King’s Day Sale.

More information about the swap is available here.

[1] Source

Delft MaMa King’s Day Sale

Last year Anna Kõvári of Delft MaMa organized the first King’s Day Sale all by herself.

“I just cleared a bit our house and sold the items. It was more like an experiment for me to see how I would deal with selling things to strangers. I was completely surprised by myself; I did not know that I love bargaining and selling,” Kõvári says.

It took a few hours, Kõvári made some money, which she then decided to donate to Delft MaMa. Call it a success? Absolutely!

This year DMM decided to turn on the big gear and start preparing well in advance. Tatjana Lisjak has taken an excellent lead in the project and gotten people to dig through their closets in order to support the organization. Want to learn how to donate items and more? Click here.

On King’s Day you’ll find Delft MaMa in two locations: Nieuwe Langedijk and another to be announced spot. You can drop by to see the variety of books, beautiful dresses, clothing, toys and the rest that are available for small change at these two stalls. You will also find a Delft mama volunteer on the spot with coloring sheets, boxes of raisins and other wonderful things for your little ones. If you already have everything you could ever desire for, but you feel like supporting some of our projects, there will be a box for money donations purely for the upcoming mosaic project.

Crowdfunding for the mosaic

The mosaic project was previously introduced in the blog by Oriana van der Sande.

What’s the gist? Delft MaMa is turning 10 years in 2017. To celebrate, the organization wants to treat the city on our birthday much like the Dutch people treat their family, friends and colleagues in the form of “traktatie”. The current Delft MaMa substitute chairwoman Ildikó Wooning explains further: “We are taking a wall that is tagged with graffiti and make it a lot nicer. The location we chose is a playground, so it connects nicely to the spirit of Delft MaMa. The design is a picture of a bridge, children, a mother and ducks and it embodies the feeling of bridging the gaps.”

The current substitute chairwoman Ildikó Wooning. Image: Tarja van Veldhoven

Delft MaMa has asked funds from the city and various other charity foundations, but most of all we are relying on donations. You can contribute by donating your time, money or materials. [2]

  1. Nan Deardorff McClain, well-acclaimed mosaic artist in Delft, will be leading this project with the help of volunteers. There will be five mosaic workshops available for the Delft mamas in May. It will be an exchange of talents, time and materials, according to Wooning: “We give the materials and the volunteers give us their handiwork. Those pieces will go on the wall.” The first workshop will take place on 2nd of May. You can find more information here.
  2. Through this link you can donate, or you can choose to wait until King’s Day and drop by and donate money at designated box at the stand.
  3. Did you recently brake a mirror? Do you have a pile of outdoor suitable tiles you no longer need? Then hit us up and we’ll tell you where to bring your donations or when we can pick them up.

And of course once the crowdfunding videos Wooning has been working on are released to the public, you can help by spreading the word.

[2] Any extra donations will be forwarded to the next mosaic project.

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Delft mama of the week: Sine

Sine invites me to her house for the interview. When we step in the elevator she tells me many of her neighbours are older people. She loves it, as they are very curious about her son, Arda (4). Just like herself, her husband Faruk also originates from Turkey. When biological grandparents are a plane ride away, living among the elderly is giving their family some invaluable contacts that otherwise might be harder to come by.

It’s the first time I visit Sine in her home. The Sun is shining outside and laying rays on the two yellow armchairs in front of their living room windows. The style of the home is impeccable and it feels welcoming. Sine tells me she could’ve chosen her career path differently and pursue one of her dreams of becoming a designer. She sure has the eye and the taste level for it. However, Sine chose another one of her passions and decided to study English language and literature at the University of Gaziantep in southern Turkey. That is also where she met Faruk.

When I listen to her stories, she comes across like a bit of a nomad. Both of her parents are from Circassian descent, both of whom are born in Turkey. Circassia was a sovereign nation until the mid-19th century on the shore of the Black Sea with its own rich language and cultural heritage. Her name, Sine, is a typical Circassian name, so although born and raised in Turkey, her parents valued their heritage and Sine was already happily living between two worlds.

Her first experience outside Turkey by herself was her three-month trip to Alaska through a work and travel program and afterwards she knew she couldn’t settle in Turkey for good. During their University years Faruk applied U.S. Green Card lottery and asked her to try as well. She calls her last year at the University her “lucky year”, because not only was Sine granted a chance to study in Denmark, but she also won a Green Card. Instead of spending an entire year in Denmark, she spent three months there and then moved to New York with her husband.

The nearly seven years they spent in New York were great but tough. When Arda was born, the grandparents from both sides would fly from Turkey and babysit him one after another. “In New York we had fun, but we did work a lot. When I was studying in Turkey, I was reading about American history and about the American dream, but in New York life was different. You don’t have much time to spend with your family,” Sine points out. When Arda was born, Faruk didn’t get to see him almost at all. Luckily Sine’s work at a non-profit organization was more flexible, but in the long run something needed to change. Out of all places, the family relocated to Oklahoma.

The first three months in Oklahoma were great, but soon enough Sine realized she misses the big international community around her, which she had gotten used to while working in Manhattan. Some years in, Sine realized she wasn’t very happy in Oklahoma. The window of the opportunity to move to another country was closing in, because Arda was getting older and soon they would have to think about settling down for a longer period.

In 2014 the family visited Maastricht during their holiday in Europe. It was then the spark for the Netherlands was ignited. In 2016 Sine’s husband arrived in Delft for a job interview and in September they moved to this picturesque town. It wasn’t a smooth transition, especially with the housing and picking a school, but one of the aspects that made the move easier was a great online community happy and quick to answer Sine’s questions. “I found Delft MaMa when I was searching for how to do something in Delft. Whenever I had questions in my mind I asked them. I joined the group before I came here and they helped me a lot about many questions, and got me socializing quickly”, Sine says. Sine also took part in a DMM organized soft-landing in Delft, or SLiDe program for short, and after seven months of experience on living in Delft she felt confident enough to mentor another Turkish newcomer.

Because of her keen eye, Sine has been volunteering for the DMM even further to help with the 10-year anniversary preparations. “I like doing things like decorating and currently I have enough time to help with these kinds of things. A lot of other organizations in the Netherlands require a lot of Dutch. Delft MaMa is more international”, our mom of the week points out.

People often ask Sine if they moved to the Netherlands, because statistically some of the happiest kids in the world live there, but she tells me it wasn’t the reason. “To me it seems the kids are happy, because from my point of view it’s such a luxurious thing to spend breakfast time with family in the morning, then bring the kids to school that is at a walking or cycling distance, have time to stay at school for a moment, go to work and be back home for dinner.”

In the end, when I ask about Sine’s cultural identity, she says to me she feels more Circassian than Turkish, more American than Turkish, but when she must say where home is, it’s Turkey. “Maybe in 10 years I’ll say I’m more Dutch, who knows. To me, it’s having the best of both worlds. I want my son to grow up in an environment with people from different cultures. We had that in New York and I loved that aspect so much. Delft is no New York, but it has a big international community. I feel so lucky,” Sine says happily.

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Delft mama of the week: Marie

I met Marie for first time last year when she started hosting the Delft MaMa playgroup. She is currently the playgroup coordinator and she’s taking part in several other DMM projects as well.

We sit down together on display on the window of Hummus in Delft and order hot beverages. It’s Saturday and she’s coming straight from mindfulness yoga. It fits the first impression I had of her: a calm mom oozing nothing but serenity, but Marie tells me laughing her yoga classes were a gift from her husband, who hopes she can find it easier to relax a bit. Marie has been called too serious all her life, because of her amazing drive and ambition, so she has made a conscious effort of finding ways to loosen up a bit. To her luck, becoming a mother has been one of the things that has helped her in her quest.

Marie has been calling the Netherlands home for a few years. She used to travel a lot first for her studies: a scholarship took her from her home in the US to Paris when she was only 16, and later during her undergraduate studies Marie spent a semester in Brazil, two summers in Russia and one summer in Paris, where she also completed her master’s degree. Later in life her project based work took her from Scotland to Singapore and everywhere in between. She loves Brazil and says Vietnam is one of her favorite countries. But the love of her life, a Chinese man Junzi, Marie met by coincidence in the Netherlands.

When Marie was expecting their son, now a 1-year-old William, the married couple decided to settle down in Delft. Earlier having spent her time visiting new countries and cities every two to three weeks, Marie was sure she’d go out of her mind in such a small place as Delft. She had good friends in The Hague and in Haarlem, but she was missing a closer safety net. “When I first had William, I wasn’t meeting others very much, but I knew about Delft MaMa. When he was 5-6 months old, I decided to come to the playgroup”, Marie says. Meeting other moms allowed her to create her own social circles in Delft and thanks to this simple plan followed by action she’s much more involved in the community and to her surprise has yet to feel bored in the beautiful medieval town.

Marie speaks several languages fluently (English, French, Portuguese, Russian) and is constantly pushing the envelope with useful things to learn. She is currently taking Dutch lessons and teaching herself Chinese and she’s soon traveling to China with William to stay with her in-laws for a month to get more immersed in the language. She has always been hard-working and extremely driven at school and at work. Before becoming a mother, she describes herself as having been “definitely workaholic”. As one might assume, it has been a big adjustment fitting in the stay-at-home-mom shoes.

Lately Marie has been increasingly thinking about returning to work. The original plan – to return to work when William was three months old – didn’t go through. She realized the plans she had made before the birth of her child weren’t what she wanted and she listened to her heart instead. “Outsiders often think I’m calm, but I feel it’s the opposite! The main struggle now is should I go back to work or should I stay with William,” Marie explains.

The struggle is familiar to if not all, to most mothers. Marie says she knows she shouldn’t compare her own situation to her friends who are working in very prestigious positions around the world, but she can’t help but think about the opportunities she had, the good schools she went to and the professional ambition she to this day has. Now that William is one year old, Marie started to apply to again. She has sent out tons of applications, but hasn’t gotten that much interesting feedback. “It’s always difficult when you’re used to having a job and now I have to think how much I want a certain job and how much I want to stay at home with William. He’ll never be young again, but maybe if I stay out of work too long, I might have more difficulties finding a good job”, Marie says.

She often thinks about why work is so important for people in general. In the more distant past people didn’t define themselves by their work, but now it seems to be one of the first questions people ask each other. Before Marie didn’t mind this question at all, but lately she noticed how defining this question sounds. “It makes you think why do we value work so much as the value of the individual, when it doesn’t represent much at all. Of course it can, but oftentimes it doesn’t,” Marie says and explains how these days a specific job isn’t always what someone chooses to do, as it depends a lot about circumstances one can’t control. “If I’m philosophical enough I’d say would it matter if I’m working or not? What I’m doing is probably more valuable than what a lot of work people do,” she rightfully says at the end of our talk.

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Delft Mama of the week: Natali

I’m meeting our mom of the week at café Kek in the center of Delft. I’m early, but she’s already sitting by the table working. Behind her there are frames with cool drawings, including one with a feather.

Feather seems to be a reoccurring thing for our mom of the week, Natali. It’s also on the cover of her book, The Path Keeper, that came out recently. When I ask about the meaning of the feather, she smiles and says I need to read her book to figure out. After her first novel came out, she has already been compared to no other than George R. R. Martin. Natali has a book deal in her pocket for two more books, coming out in February 2018 and 2019.

Natali was born in London, but grew up in Barcelona until her 7th year when she returned to London with her mother. As a daughter to an English teacher and a Catalan graphic designer, language and art have always been steadily present in her life. Mirroring to her background Natali has had a great career in marketing and publishing, working for publications such as Cosmopolitan Magazine and Harpers & Queen (now known as Harper’s Bazaar).

Before settling down, Natali spent 14 months backpacking on her own. During this trip she met her English husband, Peter. Isabelle (8) was born in London, but Peter’s work took the family to the province of Malaga in Spain and the second daughter of the family, Olivia (6), soon followed. “I went from being a London girl having a really cool job to a relaxed mom in Spain,” Natali says and tells me that’s when she got into writing. No family and friends to balance the plate, yet raising two small daughters she had to find a way to work around it. Natali set up her own freelance marketing company, got extremely involved with the local wedding industry and worked in the lifestyle sector. “It was a really good fun, but then my husband got a job in the Netherlands, the children were getting into the age where as much as we love the beach, they needed more culture and diversity,” Natali explains their reasons for moving to Delft.

Before setting a foot on the Dutch soil for the next three years, Natali had already joined the Delft MaMa community. She deliberately looked for it, because she’s the founder of a similar mom group for English speaking expats in Costa del Sol, and figured there must be one in Delft too. Joining the parenting community before arriving was important as it gave Natali and her family a chance to establish friends and contacts before arriving.

Sharing her experiences to empower the mothers around her has been really important for our mom of the week. “For the last few years I have wanted to do a workshop called “moms with ambition” for women who are in that transitionary state of motherhood, having been somebody, being a mom, wanting to go back to who they are, were, but struggling, because they aren’t the same person anymore.” She sees the huge potential to do cool projects with like-minded Delft Mamas and has already been planning some workshops.

Her book is written for young adults, but many of her readers are over their 30’s. Natali points out something that many of us might not have realized before: “Empowering mothers and empowering teenage girls is very similar. We’re hormonal, making that transition, trying to discover or find themselves.” During her book tour she has visited schools and talked to a lot of teenage girls. Even if Natali can make one child think they can do it because of her encouraging words and outstanding example, it’s all that matters to her.

Since Natali was little, she has always been writing stories and drawing pictures. She filled a notebook after another during her nomad years, but only when she moved to Spain she tapped into something she had always loved and she got serious about writing. “You don’t realize you’ve always been something until you start doing it professionally”, Natali says. During her years in Spain she co-founded an online magazine The Glass House Girls that has tens of thousands of followers, she joined a writing class and started writing her book. “I never really lacked confidence. I always felt you should be allowed to do what you want to do, which is sometimes difficult as a mom. Going on the writing class enriched me. My teacher gave me a lot of feedback and told me I could write,” Natali explains. She surrounded herself with other writers and after years of writing, she finished her book. That’s when the work started. “When you’ve been three years writing something, getting a publishing deal feels like the end, but it’s actually the beginning. You then have to be very patient, because it’s a very slow process,” she states.

Although Natali doesn’t write like most people, she has come to realize the style doesn’t matter as long as what you have in the end works. She processes absolutely every aspect of her story in her head before simply typing it down. “Don’t worry about doing it right”, she says about her experience and continues saying experimenting is the key, but the most important thing is to have a story that is engaging. “Really open yourself up, pour yourself onto the pages. Don’t be scared or embarrassed about making yourself vulnerable, because you have to and that’s why it’s so difficult to be creative. You’re throwing your heart out and waiting for everyone to give their opinion and they are all different. That’s being an artist,” Natali sums it up with a profound insight.

If you want to meet Natali, she’ll be at the Comic Con in Utrecht 25-26 of March.

The Path Keeper is available on Amazon.com The book contains sex and strong language.

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