Uprooting your life and moving abroad is often an isolating and all-consuming experience, no matter how many times you may have done it before. The highs are high, but the lows are sometimes lower than you could have ever fathomed.
Change is the only constant, as the trite cliche goes, but when life throws changes at you left and right, there’s little comfort to be found in dusty old cliches. That’s where I found myself before my conversation with Eva Amaral – weary and a tad emotionally disheveled after yet another move. Albeit, this time it was within the Netherlands, but far enough from Delft to register as a move away from “home.”
Little did I know that an interview in which I was supposed to be finding out about Eva’s coaching business was just what I needed to go back to the core of what I want. Because that’s what Eva does, with warmth, honesty and a gentle nudge – she helps her clients make sense of their values in the midst of topsy-turvy lives.
Next in our Delftian entrepreneur series, Delft MaMa Natalia Moreno sat down with Gemma Rubio, the energetic entrepreneur behind Define The Fine. Join us as Gemma talks about her business and how she strives for a healthy work-family balance, especially as a single mother.
Welcome to the first blog post after the summer hiatus! Caroline Kappers brings us a thought-provoking piece about choosing to have, not have, or stop having, children. Each couple’s choice is an extremely personal one, and I thank Caroline for being open about their choice. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and happy reading. We look forward to hearing from you about this topic in the comments!
On April 18, 2016, Tarja van Veldhoven and Agnès Battlori Benet posted the very first post of the Delft MaMa blog. This April we’re celebrating the blog’s 3rd blogiversary!
I talked with some of our past editors about their experiences working with the blog and if they wanted to share some memorable posts for your reading pleasure. As I tried to map a timeline of people who helped run the blog, I quickly realized that while Tarja and later Marie were major coordinators of the blog, there were MANY contributors that helped keep the blog running smoothly. While I haven’t been able to track you all down, know that we appreciate you! Happy reading…
Delft Mama’s own “Legal Mom,” Marisa Monteiro Borsboom, will be leading the “Legal Mom” column for the Delft Mama Blog. In this column, she and her team will address questions submitted from the community about personal or business legal issues. As an extremely diverse multinational/cultural community, we should expect to see very interesting topics for everyone to consider.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Work – On 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.
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.
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 andInstagram to stay up-to-date on all the exciting changes. I hope to see you there!
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!