Home » Female empowerment

Category: Female empowerment

Delftian Entrepreneur: Renny Wiegerink

Meet Renny

Renny Wiegerink of Auryn Acupunctuur en Advies voor vrouwen

Renny Wiegerink works with Dutch and expat women in her business, Auryn Acupunctuur en Advies voor vrouwen (Acupuncture and Advice for Women), which is based out of her home in Delft Noord. From the eastern part of the Netherlands, she moved to Delft 25 years ago. She knows how it feels to have to move around in a strange place/culture. A long-time collaborator with Delft MaMa, Renny values being able to share her experience and knowledge as a native Dutch person with expats.  When planning the Delftian Entrepreneurs Series for the DMM blog, I knew I wanted to start with Renny. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and join us! Read more

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

Maya Levi: Determined not to let life be defined by MS

Guest Post by Nina Bogerd and Maya Levi

Although she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) fifteen years ago, Maya Levi has never let it determine her life. She is always full of energy, always optimistic. Even now, as the disease starts to profoundly limit her life physically, she is discovering new spiritual and physical pathways within life’s limitations.

Multiple Sclerosis

MS is a disease that affects central nervous systems, thus the brain and the spine. Immune cells attack the myelin layer around the nerve cells, resulting in damage to neural functions and an impaired electric signal. The wide range of symptoms—e.g., balance problems, muscle weakness, blindness—vary from person to person, depending on the specific location that is damaged in the brain or spinal cord. The common prognosis, though, is the worsening condition over time. Maya’s symptoms have always included balance problems—but in the last year, the signaling to the legs has been so far damaged that walking has become extremely difficult.

However, the point of Maya’s story is not to focus on her disabilities caused by MS. The focus is on enabling her still existing abilities, thus strengthening her body and soul.

Raising funds to enable Maya

On the GoFundMe campaign started by her friend Lidia Bernabei, Maya tells us that although using a wheelchair might become inevitable, she wants to explore new opportunities to do as much as she physically can, to empower herself. She invites us to financially support the activities that she would like to do, but otherwise cannot afford.

Raising awareness

Lidia Bernabei in Rome

In September, Lidia ran a half-marathon (20 km) in Rome to raise not only funds for Maya but also awareness for MS. Delft MaMa Nina Bogerd ran in Ljubljana, Slovenia in October, and Andrea Ortenzi ran in New York in November.  These runs are steadily raising awareness for MS. Maya is currently training at the gym (weights) and on an indoor hand bike as a part of her physiotherapy and hopes to participate in a half-marathon with the hand bike in Rome in September 2019. If you plan to run somewhere the coming year, you can also dedicate your run to this campaign.

Funded: From disable to enable

The funds raised so far has enabled Maya, among other things, to start taking horseback riding lessons. These lessons have had an extensive impact on her body, mind and soul. But more specifically to her MS, the horseback riding forces Maya’s core muscles to stabilize her body. The lessons are taking place in Madurodam Manege, that specializes in horseback riding for people with disabilities. In addition to horseback riding, Maya has been able go wind sailing again, and plans to continue that next year  thanks to Sailwise, a foundation that organizes adapted sailing activities for people with physical challenges.

Funds needed: Access to better mobility aids

At this moment Maya is unable to leave the house independently with the kids—she is dependent on her husband, ‘Regio Taxi’ (Municipality Taxi’s), and friends as she only has a manual (borrowed) wheelchair. A mobility scooter has been approved in September by the municipality but is not yet in place. Maya would like to have an electric folding wheelchair for traveling with her family. She would also like to have a hand bike with exchangeable wheels that can be connected to a wheelchair. This would allow Maya, a biologist, to go outdoors and enjoy nature. These are expensive products that can improve Maya’s quality of life.

Delft MaMa High Tea

Maya should not be alone in her struggle. To help Maya further, we are organizing a High Tea on the 9th of December, 2018, at Lunch Café Leonidas Delft. Money collected will go to Maya’s GoFundMe campaign. You are cordially invited to an afternoon dedicated to supporting one of our heroic mothers.


Thanks to Nina Bogerd and Maya Levi for contributing to this post.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

The Mother Lode – female writers and motherhood

by Amanda de Souza

Motherhood is contradictory. It simultaneously unites and divides between the haves and have-nots, between those who go to work and those who chose to stay at home, between the free-range, the tiger and the helicopter parents. But perhaps nothing divides and unifies more than when writers question the beatified view of motherhood as fulfillment of women’s role and its cherished place in society.

Writing motherhood

Writers have long used their life experiences in their novels. Good writers use those experiences to tackle topics explored with a mixture of intelligence and forthright argument. Yet those who seek to honestly document experiences of child rearing often run the risk of being controversial, or at the very least, provocative. This week’s blog explores the work of two such accomplished, provocative writers — set almost 50 years apart. Both cast a wry and cynical look at motherhood in all its wonder and horror. These are not childcare nor self-help manuals. These authors wrote to maintain their sanity or for financial reasons — often one and the same.

A Life’s WorkOn becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk

A dark memoir and a relentless lament of the author’s early experiences with mothering.  Its compulsive reading with a familiar cast of characters (mother, father, baby, doctor, health visitor, a few friends) and plot (pregnancy, birth, colic, sleepless nights). As with the first few months of a baby’s life, the time scheme in the book is unchronological, as if to convey the disorientation of early motherhood. Rachel feels like an exhausted prisoner and even questions sadly whether her daughter likes her at all. What makes it so compelling is her masterful prose and the bravery that others will find some solace in her experiences.

Life Among the Savages and its sequel Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson

Both written around the late 1950’s, Shirley Jackson’s books seem very modern and relevant today.  Primarily known for her macabre “horror” fiction, these novels about her family life — originally serialized in magazines — portray a more human side of her writing. These books established Shirley as an unlikely predecessor of today’s “mommy bloggers.” She removed the traditional sugar coating around motherhood. Her writing serves as an intelligent and insightful chronicle of perennial issues on raising children, while questioning if every woman belongs in a traditional role.

Breeding power

Somewhat antithetical, motherhood has the ability to both empower and disenfranchise women.  All too often, the initial  respect and responsibility women experience nurturing young lives becomes diminished by reduced income and influence when they switch to part time employment, chose to work from home, or eschew paid employment completely in favor of child rearing.

Rachel Cusk’s and Shirley Jackson’s writings shine a spotlight on that dual aspect of motherhood, and calls for new inclusive definitions of power. Definitions that recognize both the joy and sacrifices required to perform that “mother of all jobs”.

Women and Power by Mary Beard

Mary Beard’s manifesto  timely in the light of the #MeToo movement — reinforces that need for change and inclusivity in the language and definition of power. It proposes, instead of appropriating male definitions, women break societally imposed silence and create their own language and means of wielding power in order to effect a semblance of modern equality.

One aspect of a changing definition of power is the power of individuality. The acceptance of differing views on long cherished ideals about women and motherhood. The acceptance that we as women do not all fit into one mould and knowing that WE are not alone.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

The Womanhood Studio

The Womanhood Studio in Delft is moving to a new location and will be filling a hole in Delft’s current offerings for families. Tami, the Womanhood Studio’s creator and owner, has been serving women in the Delft community as a doula. She opened the Womanhood Studio two years ago, expanding her services to offer massages and classes for pregnant women and new moms. Now Tami’s moving her studio to a new home at 28 Schoolstraat in Delft, bringing the studio closer to Delft’s public transportation connections.

The Womanhood Studio was a centerpoint for my pregnancy in Delft. I was able to enjoy several massages with Tami and discuss the best way to alleviate my aches and pains. Tami was there for me when I was overdue, worrying about an induction. Once my little one arrived, we returned to the Womanhood Studio for baby massage classes. The studio also offers baby sign language classes. At the previous small space on Vlamingstraat, the studio services often ended there – then came news that Tami had found a new, larger location and would be able to expand her offerings.

My experience is not unique. Jules, who used Tami as her doula had wonderful things to say about her experience. “The Womanhood Studio is a unique concept that celebrates women ,and I feel fortunate that I had the support and care of Tami during my pregnancy and labour. Tami was our doula – her calm spirit, cheerful personality, positive affirmations and can-do attitude gave us a lot of confidence as first-time parents. My birth was filled with laughter and Tami’s presence really empowered me to have the birthing experience that I had dreamed of. I am so excited to see that the Womanhood team under Tami’s guidance is going from strength to strength and moving to a bigger historic Delft location. Tami’s big smile and hospitality will welcome you. Make sure you check out the Womanhood Studio. You won’t regret it.”

If you have never been lucky enough to meet Tami, you should rectify that right away. Her mere presence puts you at ease. She has a particular soft spot for expat parents and classes at the studio are often taught in English. (I can promise you she will make sure you feel comfortable no matter what your language or home country.) She encourages everyone to stop in and say hello to see what the Womanhood Studio has to offer for you! I am lucky enough to be Tami’s neighbor. I invited her over for tea to chat all about the exciting changes and what it means for families in Delft.

The name Womanhood Studio came from her desire to serve women in the community at all stages. Although many classes focus on children or pregnancy, the studio is designed to be welcoming to all. The new studio space will even enable Tami to offer Pilates classes for men or mixed classes.

All the classes at the Womanhood Studio are small, usually under 10 participants, so that they can have an intimate feel. These gatherings are designed to provide community and connection. Tami encourages participants to come early and hang around afterwards to chat up with her and other participants.

Photo Credit: Womanhood Studio

The new space means an expanded range of options. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises she has planned, but Tami was off to be certified to teach Arial Yoga after our chat. She’s also ordered some lovely swings for a special class for children and plans to offer other classes that help older children with body, mind and emotional connections. I cannot wait to have my kids try out these classes. Previously you would have needed to head to Rotterdam or The Hague for offerings like these, but now they will be available in Delft center.

If you still think the Womanhood Studio has nothing to offer stop by, meet Tami and let her know what you would like to see. The Womanhood Studio is a service to the community and wants to be responsive to the community’s needs. Feedback on classes, be it times or format, is heard and adjustments are made. If you have a group that is looking for something specific, say Pilates for moms with young babies, stop by and she will see if she can make it work. Since classes are small, it’s often feasible to start a class with enough interest.

The studio will also be available for other gatherings. If your group is looking for a place to gather and meets the mission of the studio, get in touch with Tami. This lovely new space can be a gathering place for the community.

Make sure you follow the Womanhood Studio on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on all the exciting changes. I hope to see you there!

 

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

Delft MaMa’s 10th anniversary August 2017

Ten years ago together with some of the Delft MaMa’s original board members, I signed a notarial act officializing Stichting Delft MaMa (The Delft Maternity And Motherhood Assistance Foundation) to serve the Delft international community of pregnant women and mothers of babies.

As my own son who is born in 2003 grew up, Delft MaMa gradually expanded to mothers of children up to the standard age of the end of primary school in The Netherlands, ie  12 years.  Our goal has been to promote the well-being and participation/ integration of international mothers (-to-be) by sharing information about the local system related to healthcare, daycare, education and service providers to make you feel at home and empowered. Another very important concept has been to bring mothers together to share their experiences and doubts in a safe and open-minded way. Parenting is not easy, especially when you no longer have your relatives and long time friends around.

Delft MaMa has grown into a very dynamic and supportive  community, with so many cultures and languages. Facebook and email newsletters have replaced our original email messages and magazine in PDF thanks to Vanessa Later. Information fairs are no longer needed as other organizations in Delft ended up taking them over. In our first year, we received funding for what was innovative at a time : an information fair about prenatal and postnatal care (two thirds in Dutch and one third in English with over 30 participating organizations and service providers). Three months later, we were organizing a multicultural baby festival at our then new public library DOK at Vesteplein 100. We had amateur artists from several countries who lived in Delft show off their artwork about maternity using various media for three weeks. This was a partnership with Stichting Kunzt and artistic Delft mamas. The opening had live lullabies from classic music to folk songs. A representative of Indonesian museum Nusantara came to tell us about traditions when a baby is born and how to protect him/her form evil spirits.  Several Delft mothers created large posters with texts and pictures about what the  original traditions of welcoming a child into this world are like in their countries. It was very well received by DOK visitors and staff.

This could not have happened without Sjoerd from the Delft volunteer office, Irina Thio from Foundation Voor Delft, top trainer El batoul Zembib and Hafida Azouagh coordinator of the Gemeente Delft leadership programme Stuurvrouwen for highly educated women born outside of the Netherlands who wanted to become board members of local non-profits, associations and political parties. Brenda Kooy-Grootscholten from Bedrijf en Samenleving Delft was later an important supporter of Delft MaMa, just like Elinor Abramson, Tonya Tolmeijer, Myra Hillebrink, Bianca Blaak and Sephine Laros. A special thank you to our original board members Suchandana Roy, Nushaba Mirzazade, Grace Akebe, Shenandoah Evans and Renee Veldman-Tentori.

Foundation 1818 and the municipality of Delft were crucial financial supporters of our yearly city wide events. Delft MaMa would also not have been possible without the involvement of many volunteers from workshops to board meetings, to fairs and second-hand markets we have organized for the last ten years. I no longer have to convince institutions that any parent Dutch or international finds it nice and useful to get information not only about products but about knowledge and finding experts when things become more complicated, whether it is picking a primary school or a special needs specialist. With the recent makeover of our beautiful website we share a lot of practical information on web pages, an online calendar and the very popular blog expert. Our newsletter still highlights fun things to do or useful things to know about what is going on in Delft and becoming an active Delftenaar.

Together we are happier, more in balance and have more fun! All your contributions through donating your time, ideas and occasionally funds has made this exciting community a reality, and I keep marvelling at all your strength, resilience, creativity and being honest and vulnerable too.

When I moved to Delft on January 1st 2003 and became pregnant within 3 months, no one ever told me about resources for international parents in the region. I made friends with local mothers, then with international mothers who had traumatizing experiences, and once my son turned one and a half I launched what became a year later Stichting Delft MaMa meeting hundreds of mothers every year first in person and now mostly online as a moderator now that my son is almost 14. Delft as a city has much to offer to us: low criminality and many intellectually interesting things to do, sports, jobs and beautiful architecture where riding a bike is made easy. Looking back, I can only be proud of this wonderful experience that I hope we will all keep maintaining and adjusting for many years to come. This year we have special activities such as our upcoming mosaic and barbecue and can’t wait to see you there!

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

5 top tips for mothers

Her name is Nina. She changed my life in 2014. She changed me.

This journey through motherhood is a never-ending one. Among many other things, it has been teaching me about the meaning of deep connections, selflessness, and unconditional love. It has taught me what empathy (really) means and what comes along with it.

As any other journey in life, motherhood doesn’t come without bumps along the way (pun intended!). Although I have always considered myself an empathic person, it wasn’t until recently that I understood the strong impact empathy can have on one’s life. Empathy is defined asthe action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another, of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner;” in other words, it is the “ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

When we become mothers, the physiology of the brain changes; our hormonal production changes to make us more empathetic with the purpose to adapt to the tiny human being that we have generated.

As soon as our babies are born, we become able to feel with them in order to be able to respond to their needs in the best way possible. We feel their pain. We cry with them. We suffer with them. And we become so immersed in our babies’ needs that we start losing our focus on ourselves as individuals. Motherhood comes with priority shifting, and, at some point, our identity gets shaken off.

Through my coaching practice and from talking with other mothers in informal settings, I observed that a lot of mothers suffer from some lack of confidence, have a negative self-image, and sabotage themselves by negative self-talk and limiting beliefs.

I frequently hear self-castrating beliefs such as “I shouldn’t dress the way I want because I am mother now” or “I am not allowed to have fun if my child is not with me” and so forth. This limits their freedom – to feel, to behave, to be. And most of them seek me in order to help them to deal with negative emotions that have been triggered or enhanced by maternity (such as fear, guilt, anxiety, and frustration). It truly breaks my heart to see so many wonderful women not valorizing themselves as they deserve. So, when DelftMama invited me to write a blog as a guest, I decided to give my contribution by sharing simple tips to get you going through the day in a more healthy way.

I am not going to be extensive here, but I hope that by starting to practice the following suggestions you may find it easier to get through your day and avoid falling into the negativity spiral.

 

Tip #1: Mind your (negative) language

Are you familiar with the expression “careful with what you wish for”? Yes, the way you set your mind for something is halfway to being successful (or unsuccessful).

Expressions such as “I don’t deserve,” “I am not good,” “I can’t,” etc. are behavior sabotagers! People have no idea of the impact that their own words can have on their psychological processes. When we say something like “I am not capable of doing such and such,” we are already believing that that is true; we are accepting it and, therefore, creating a limitation.

Our brain literally believes in everything we say, either out loud or in internally. So, instead of using negative language and focusing on negative aspects of yourself or your life, make a conscious effort to praise yourself, to point out and talk about the good things about you, about others, and your life. Describing yourself in a positive way is already halfway to build a healthier self-image!

 

Tip #2: Breathe and connect with yourself

Breathe when you are annoyed. Breathe when you are happy. Just breathe!

Allow yourself to take a few minutes a day and stop whatever you are doing just to create a moment to connect with yourself. Breathe in and out naturally while paying attention to any sounds surrounding you. Observe how you feel in your body, pay attention to your emotions, let your thoughts come and go without judgement. Go back to breathing.

If you are not used to meditating (or even if you are!), my suggestion would be to listen to guided meditations. These are a great tool to help you to take a little break during your day. You can find meditation videos and podcasts on Youtube, or you can download the app “Insight Timer” on your smartphone – I am hooked on this one, as there are literally hundreds of podcasts to choose from!

 

Tip #3: Take a break

No matter what that annoying voice tells you, you-deserve-to-take-a-break! Indulge yourself, take care of yourself. Literally do anything that YOU enjoy doing. Meet with friends, exercise, have a drink (or two!), play video games, go for a massage, go to the movies, go silly, just go on a spree!

 

Tip #4: Go out on a date

Spend some time with your partner. Cherish and indulge each other. It is difficult when you have a little one (or more) between you. My advice would be to make time to spend some quality time together.

 

Tip #5: Get it out of your system

Whatever you are feeling right now you may find yourself thinking that you are the only one. You may assume that other mothers don’t feel the same way and that talking about your feelings will perhaps be a burden on others. I get it; I have been there and got the t-shirt. But you are not alone in this. Venting out and sharing your feelings with friends, other mothers, or even a professional will very likely help you to find some balance. And, remember, by expressing your feelings you may actually help others do the same. It’s a win-win situation.

 

So, after reading these tips I hope you already have your diaries at hand and are ready to plan a date with yourself, with your partner, or a friend for this week!

Just have some fun! Oh, and make sure you attend the Delft MaMa events – they are a great way to have fun while sharing experiences.

And, remember, just breathe!

 

 

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

Some of my favorite books by female authors

There are so many authors and readers in our Delft MaMa community that I felt inspired today to write about women writers. Books have always been one of my passions. At one stage growing up, I would finish my homework and then devour a book a night. These days, I do not have the luxury of finishing a book a day, but I generally manage to carve out some time from my busy schedule to read. Believing in the power of literature and being enamored of a wide range of authors, I, however, find it jarring to see how much the literary world still reflects biases in our society. Female authors are reviewed less often reviewed than their male counterparts, and fiction written by men or about men is more likely to receive literary awards. Furthermore, a large swath of popular novels by women are deemed less worthy of praise than more “serious” literature, generally written by men, as shown in this exchange.

With so many exciting and excellent female writers to choose from and with the summer holidays around the corner, I decided to make a short list of some of my favorite works of fiction from the last fifty years by female authors. Over the upcoming holiday, perhaps you can spend some of your well deserved rest and relaxation time discovering one of these gems. The list idea is inspired by the Guardian’s weekly Top Ten book series, which I also highly recommend.

I will start my list with a Arundhati Roy, an Indian author and activist, whose first work of fiction in twenty years will be published next week. Before you dive into her new book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, I would recommend taking the time to read her spellbinding The God of Small Things. Set in Southern India, this novel shows how a series of prejudices linked to class, gender, and religion combine to produce a tragic outcome. Its evocative, lyrical prose is made all the more vivid by the fact that the story is told through the eyes of two children, fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel. This evocative book was the first Indian novel to win the Man Booker Prize, and I am sure it will linger in your mind long after you reach the last page.

Elena Ferrante’s engrossing Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, The Story of the Lost Child) follow Elena (Lenù) and Raffaella (Lila) from girlhood in a tough Neapolitan neighborhood through many twists and turns to arrive at old age. Ferrante masterfully paints a portrait of a friendship that is both a source of strength and anguish and examines the inner lives of her characters with lucid intelligence. Ferrante has never revealed her identity, considering her biography irrelevant to her fiction. Unfortunately, a journalist recently reported to have unmasked the “real” Elena Ferrante, an endeavor that many describe as sexist.

Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories offers a refreshing perspective on traditional European fairy tales and their underlying themes. Carter’s heroines are not helpless damsels in distress but strong, independent characters that define their own destinies. Her depictions bring to light the sensual dimensions underlying most of these traditional tales and her gorgeous, gothic prose is a joy to read.

Another collection of short stories that I would strongly recommend is Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America. These excellently crafted stories delve into the everyday of lives of people, most often women, to find deeper meaning. The prose is subtle and minimalist, especially if compared to that of Carter, but the stories manage to pack a true emotional punch. For example, the poignant “People Like That Are The Only People Here” brings the reader inside the painful reality of life for parents of a child diagnosed with cancer.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale become a bestseller again. Atwood’s dystopian vision documents the life of Offred in Gilead, a theocratic military dictatorship that subjugates women. The story is a page-turner and a frightening prediction of where the dogma of limiting women’s rights and wilfully destroying the environment could lead. If you are interested to find out more about this prolific Canadian author, the New Yorker recently published an intriguing profile of Atwood.

Another page turner, but one based in the past rather than an imagined future, is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Mantel plunges the reader into the intrigues of King Henry VIII’s Court and brilliantly portrays the ambitious Thomas Cromwell. Her prose is vivid, and the tale is thrilling enough that the reader never feels overwhelmed by the large cast of historical characters. Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up The Bodies both won the Man Booker prize. The third and final part of the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, has yet to be released.

Penelope Fitzgerald only published her first book at the age of 58, but her late blossoming career left us with a remarkable body of work. One case in point is The Blue Flower, a short but elegant novel that immerses the reader in moments of the life of the 18th century German poet Novalis. Fitzgerald shares a multiplicity of sensations and meanings through a series of vignettes, but the tale retains an aura of mystery that will keep you searching for what the blue flower truly represents long after you have put the book down.

On the fence between journalism and fiction writing is the work of Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 Nobel Prize in Fiction Winner. In Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, Alexievich weaves together interview segments to show how the collapse of the Soviet Union impacted everyday citizens. Many qualify Alexievich’s work as oral history, but she prefers to call her literary technique, “a novel in voices.” No matter how you classify the book, it offers a remarkable and compassionate portrait of post-Soviet society.

I have read all of the extremely talented Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works, and my favorite is her powerful account of the Nigerian Civil War, Half of a Yellow Sun. Rather than focus on battles or glory, Adichie offers a devastating assessment of the disappointment and violence wrought by this conflict. You may also be familiar with Adichie from her TED talk on why we should all be feminists.

The list would not be complete without a work by the brilliant 1993 Nobel Prize laureate, Toni Morrison. Beloved, a virtuosic novel in every sense, tells the tale of former slave Sethe and her process of “rememory.” It is even more tragic to note that the book is based on an actual case from the 1850s. For those interested in the topic of the value of work or how work relates identity, I also encourage you to read a short piece by Morrison from this week’s New Yorker.

Additional resources :

For the very ambitious, the New York City Library created a list of 365 Books by Women Authors to Celebrate International Women’s Day All Year.

Danielle Dutton recommends her top ten Top 10 Books About Wild Women.

Marta Baussels lists 10 Inspiring Female Authors that You Need to Read.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

10 things living in The Netherlands has taught me

In the summer of 2016 my family and I moved from the sunny Costa del Sol to the not-so-sunny town of Delft, and  I wasn’t sure if we’d made the right decision.  I knew that my husband’s work opportunities would be better, my children’s schooling would be a LOT better and that I wouldn’t have any trouble continuing my writing. I also figured that living in such a creative town, and close to other business hubs like The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, my career could only ever progress. But Holland? Could I be happy there?

Yes I like cheese, clogs are funny and tulips are pretty – but what did I know about The Netherlands? What could the country offer me?

Well actually, it turns out that ten months into our three year placement here it’s taught me a lot. I now understand why everyone thinks it’s so cool and I know (freezing winters aside) I will be happy here. Here are ten things that living in The Netherlands has taught me…

 

 

You don’t need to have good weather to have fun
I’m half Spanish so sunshine runs through my veins…closely followed by mojitos. When I look back at the best times of my life there’s always been a blue sky. Yet living in The Netherlands has taught me that it’s fine to go outside. Even if it’s a bit drizzly and cold. Once I’d invested in a decent winter coat, thermals and thick boots I was ready to explore the amazing scenery. We’ve trekked through fields of tulips, woodlands and farms, canal boat rides, city walks and plenty of food markets – and although it’s been cold it’s also been lots of fun. And as for going out with friends in the evening, I just swap my sangria for gluhwein and it’s all good!

You don’t need a car
In Spain we had a car – in fact we had two! Then we moved to the tiny cobbled streets of Delft, with its multitude of bicycles and parallel parking beside canals and we changed our minds. And you know what? I love not having a car now. I walk over an hour a day and my backside is pert and round. I get fresh air (maybe too fresh) and I get to see the beauty of the town. The trains, buses and trams are (mostly) on time and reasonably priced and best of all I don’t have MOTs and insurance to worry about. I’m sure life will get even better once I get myself a bike…but one step at a time. Literally.

 

 

Kids should be given freedom
To be fair, my kids have always had freedom because I practise the parenting art of ‘do the least possible and tell everyone you are making your children independent’! But in Holland that is a thing. It’s actually their way of life and it’s encouraged for parents to let their children do as much as they can by themselves. Cycling to school, going to the park, going shopping…you see children as young as six years old going about their daily business alone and it’s fine. It feels safe here and you know your children are respected; in fact kids are given as much importance as adults. Apparently children here are also the happiest in the world (they don’t get homework in their pre-teen years, which I’m sure also helps). Take a look at the book ‘The Happiest Kids in the World’ if you don’t believe me!

A home looks better when you fill it with flowers
You know what makes me happy (apart from chocolate and silence)? Fresh flowers. And the best thing about The Netherlands is that flowers are cheap. If you go to the market before they close you can buy a bunch for as little as a Euro! I’ve quickly realised that the dustiest of houses look pristine if you fill them with enough tulips and roses. It also smells better too!

I’m lucky to have English as my mother tongue
Have you ever tried to speak Dutch? Well luckily you don’t need to, as the clever buggers all speak about five languages and feel so sorry for you as you splutter your way clumsily through every sentence that they insist that you speak English. Even the films on TV and in the cinema are in English – lucky us!

 


You can eat crap and still be slim
Dutch people are not fat. Dutch people love their beer, waffles, pancakes, bitterballen, bread and cheese. It must be all that cycling and lack of driving that keep them trim!

Beaches are not just for the Med
I was shocked that The Netherlands had such great beaches (OK, so my geography isn’t great). Although it’s standing room only when the sun makes a rare appearance, places such as The Hague’s Scheveningen is a Hipster paradise full of cool beach bars, restaurants and sand finer and more golden than anything the Costa del Sol has to offer. I wouldn’t bother bringing your snorkel, or getting in the freezing sea in general, but you can still get a mean cocktail or two.

Women are a force to be reckoned with
Being an expat (or ‘trailing wife’…don’t you just love that term?) it’s rare for me to move to a country because of my husband’s work and get asked what I do. It’s a sad fact of life that when you are a mother, and married to a businessman who travels a lot, people rarely expect you to have your own career as well. Except in The Netherlands. How refreshing to be asked if I was here for my studies or my own business. How wonderful to have the opportunity to tour universities and schools talking about my books, host panels at literary events and get to discuss gender politics, entrepreneurships and business opportunities while surrounded by like-minded working mothers. Hurray, an expat location with an advanced mindset.

You can be rude and still have manners
Just ask the Dutch. So friendly, so helpful, so smart…yet so direct!

Europe is actually one big playground
And the best thing about living in The Netherlands? We are at the centre of Europe. We are a short train ride away from Belgium, France and Germany. We can hire a camper van and drive to Italy via Switzerland. Or we can be in the UK in 40 mins by plane. Weekends have just got a lot more fun. So who cares that the weather is cold, the language tricky and the food a bit stodgy? It’s a magnificent country with great people and loads to do…and if you get bored of it you are just a few hours away from other amazing countries. Yes I miss my siestas and balmy nights of sunny Spain – but pancakes on a Dutch beach in an anorak isn’t so bad either. I might even treat myself to some cheap flowers on the way home.

Natali Drake is a published author and freelance Marketing consultant. You can attend her FREE talk about the Rise of Young Adult fiction and its place in today’s society at the American Book Centre in The Hague on 1st June 6.30pm, where she will be also answering questions and signing copies of ‘The Path Keeper’ – her first book from her thrilling fantasy romance series.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

What’s your time worth?

Yesterday I worked fifteen hours without a break. No, I’m not a life-saving surgeon or the Prime Minister – I’m a working mother who is underpaid and undervalued. Who am I undervalued by? Myself.

In 2012 I began to work as a freelance Marketing Consultant while living in Spain. My girls were aged nearly three and five at the time and in full time nursery. I had survived the sleep-deprived baby years, my energy and health was improving and my kids could finally (more or less) feed themselves and wipe their own butts. It was time to forego the part time work, take the plunge and finally use my years of experience to become self employed.

‘My days are my own!’ I silently rejoiced. ‘I will finally be paid for everything I do outside of my mummy duties.’

Oh how wrong I was.


The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have time to work – nursery was 9-5. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have clients – I had plenty of work coming my way. The problem was that I underestimated how bad I was at valuing my own self worth, and what a pushover I would be at volunteering my time now that I didn’t have a boss managing it.

Time and time again I would find myself looking at my watch thinking ‘how can it be 3pm? I haven’t done any paid work yet!’

Then things got trickier. I received a three book publishing contract for my fantasy romance series ‘The Path Keeper’ and I temporarily moved to The Netherlands with my family. I continued working and getting new marketing clients, but now on top of work and mummying and writing my books I was now also promoting them. I was up until midnight every night trying to squeeze it all in…but my bank account didn’t reflect the amount of hours I was working

After a long hard think I had to admit where I was going wrong. Tell me if I’m alone here, but I think it’s fair to say that the self-employed, especially women, and ESPECIALLY mums are really really really crap at saying no.

I’ve often wondered why us mums are the worst when it come to recognising our own self worth. Is it because for years we’ve happily worked for free changing nappies and feeding babies and forgotten that our time is actually worth something? Or is it because once we finally escape the baby years and re-enter the workforce everything (yes, everything) seems easier and more fun than dealing with screaming newborns and tantruming toddlers, so we don’t see it as hard work but actually an escape? And who wants to charge people for work that doesn’t feel all that difficult?

Once I began working for myself I was so eager to please and prove my worth, show that my time out of the workplace hadn’t affected my ability, that I was putting in more hours than I needed to and earning a fraction of what I did pre-baby.

So at what point do we drop the guilt, the sense of obligation and our embarrassment and say to clients/people in need of our time – ‘no, I can’t do that’ or ‘yes, I can….but not for free’?

Work is one thing and one thing only – an exchange of our time for money. That’s it. What we choose to spend time on outside of our allocated working hours is up to us, it’s our right to say no if we think volunteering on three school trips in one month on our only day off is too much. It’s ok to sit and watch TV on a Saturday night instead of answering emails or helping our neighbour with their CV. It’s perfectly ok to say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t’ and be kind to ourselves.

Our kids get enough of our time without having to thank us…so why should anyone else?

What happens if we let things go and say no? Nothing. No one is judging us, if anything they are realising that our time is precious and only we have the right to decide how it’s spent. Hey, they may even pay us what we deserve!

So I have made a vow to myself – from this day forth I shall no longer do things for free. Unless it directly benefits my family, business or my books I can’t (literally) afford to do anything more for nothing. I can’t.

But of course there’s always an exception…such as this article. Of course Delft Mama haven’t paid me for it, and it’s 9pm and I’m still working after having been awake since 6am. Dammit! There’s only one thing for it then, I’ll have to use this as a big advertising tool to shout about my next author event in The Hague on 1st June.

There, that’s better, I don’t feel like I’ve given away my time any longer. And now for the tricky part – how do I say no to  the PTA?

Natali writes as N J Simmonds and the first book of her YA fantasy romance series, The Path Keeper, is now available at all good English language bookshops and online (the second book ‘Son of Secrets’ is out February 2018). She will also be presenting a FREE talk about writing at the American Book Centre in The Hague 1 June at 6pm and signing copies of her book. For more information on her work, and up and coming events, visit njsimmonds.com. And to find out more about her Marketing Consultancy services visit natalidrake.com

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin

Pieces of us

When you move places, countries, cultures, you know pretty much what you leave behind, but you never truly know what lays ahead. You get a bit excited, you gather information, you make plans. And no matter how good you prepare yourself, you find yourself at a certain point in this new place, away from what feels familiar, struggling to put back all the (missing) pieces in your life.

When I moved to Delft, I knew I needed an international community to help me with what I needed back then: to help my daughter the best in her international transition. For me, finding Delft Mama was just a few clicks away. I immediacy found gatherings and get togethers which made me meet interesting people. Later on, just a question here and there, and many Delft mamas were always eager to share their knowledge and information with others.

Building such a vibrant and strong community does not just happened by chance. But I am sure when Lucie Herraiz Cunningham started Delft MaMa 10 years ago, she could not imagine where it stands now. All the international parents involved in so many projects, helping each other, and helping the city of Delft as well. Because, there is what we all have in common,  the beautiful city we live in.

Image: Nan Deardorff McClain

One of the activities this year, to mark the 10th anniversary of Delft MaMa, is the nicest community project of making a beautiful, big mosaic on an “ugly”, empty wall. One of our Delft mamas, Nan Deardorff MacClain, who you might know from various mosaic art projects in the city centre, will be coordinating this project.

Image: Nan Deardorff McClain

The mosaic project is going to be a wonderful tribute to the awesome organization that Lucie started 10 years ago to help international women connect and support each other during the demanding years of mothering babies and young children. The mosaic, once approved by Gemeente Delft and funded, with a combination of grants and a crowd-funding effort, will be installed at the Achtertuin playground, a place that has a large, vandalized wall. We will be including neighbors, hopefully during their annual straatfeest, as well as Delft Mama members and their families at a picnic at the Delftse Hout on June, 25th. Other workshops will happen in May during the mama’s nights out and at the weekly playgroups. The installation of the mosaic, once it is completed will happen in August, if all goes according to plan!

Keep an eye on the calendar and the different events on our Facebook page. You all can participate, and add the little pieces of your own personality and artistic skills to this amazing collaboration. Because Delft MaMa is all of us. And this mosaic will be an unique, urban, work of art. Made by pieces of us.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin