Superhero Mothers

This week did not go according to plan. My cousin became ill and was admitted to the hospital and I decided to be of assistance and look after her 2 year old daughter, Faith. Her other two children stayed with their dad and grandmom. Unfortunately Faith is yet to master the art of sleeping straight through the night. I took her on Tuesday night as her mom was admitted to the hospital that day. She was off to bed around 10PM on Tuesday night and around 1:30AM on Wednesday morning, she woke up, ready to play, watch television, eat popcorn and go swimming…yes swimming. She stayed up until 4AM and was back up at 5:30AM. I’m not sure how most mothers do it but I do give them praise for it. I dropped her off to daycare that morning and drove straight back home…I was a wreck. My plan to make it to work before 12PM proved to be futile and I spent the entire day at home. I usually take Faith for the day to give her mom some time to run errands and do chores, or just give her time for herself but since she turned one, she hasn’t really spent the night with me. Sadly on Wednesday, I wrote no blog posts. I woke up after my morning rest, got some chores done, ran some errands, visited her mom in the hospital then I picked her up by 6PM. Having her with me makes me feel somewhat like a mom. I’m actually happy driving home from work in traffic to pick her up and I usually prefer to stay in office late to avoid the traffic. Yesterday afternoon was really great. I picked her up, took her to the supermarket to get some essentials, visited the pharmacy for her children’s toothpaste, then we were home. How mother’s manage all of their work and home responsibilities is beyond me but they’re definitely superheros in my eyes. One day I will embark on the journey and be blessed by the God of my Heart to bring life into this world but until that day comes, I will have all the practice I need being an Aunt.

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Being True to You

I don’t follow reality television but it’s hard to not be aware of who the Kardashians are. Last Friday, one member of the show, Bruce Jenner, sat down with Diane Sawyer for an interview to discuss his transition from a man to a woman. Homosexual, Bisexual and Transgender issues are always starting points for conflict but that’s not the angle I’m coming from. Speaking to Diane Sawyer, Bruce Jenner said he always believed he was born with ‘the soul of a woman’, and this is the last time he would appear as ‘Bruce’ before becoming ‘her’. Now whether this is right or wrong is none of my concern but one thing I do understand from all of this, is that it can drain your spirit if you can’t be yourself. So many times we pretend to be someone else for so many reasons. Either because we believe it’s the societal norm, to make or parents and family happy, to be accepted by those around us or to make relationships work. Bruce Jenner has been living a life where he could not be his true self for the past 65 years and I can only imagine how crippling that can be. I know personally what it’s like to be be living a life to make someone else happy and forgetting who you truly want to be. I have found great joy in getting back to my true self and regaining sight of the things I want to accomplish in life, instead of living by someone else’s standards and ideals. One of the most beautiful things about life is that we each have our own and we can live it how ever we see fit. While something may have worked for someone else, it’s not guaranteed to work for you. There is not blueprint for life, for relationships, for parenting. Referring to Pythagoras’ quote ” Man know thyself; then thou shalt know the Universe and God”. Instead of trying to be who society or some else tells you to be, figure out who you truly are and everything will fall into place.  

Sacrifice and Compromise

Lately, I’m reminded that in relationships there must be some sacrifice and compromise for it to work. How much should one compromise in a relationship, I’m still trying to figure that one out. A close friend of mine told me a few months ago, that I compromise too much of myself to make friendships and relationships work. I think compromise and sacrifice are great once the other person can be thankful for what their partner is willing to give up to make them happy. My last serious relationship ended in 2009 to one of my best friends and I’m really glad we have maintained a great friendship after the break up. Having spent the past six years focusing on myself, compromise can be somewhat of a challenge. I’ve invested so much in my education and career that I believe I need to grab at every opportunity that comes my way, even at the expense of my health and time with loved ones. I recently had the opportunity to work with a start-up here in Trinidad and Tobago and sadly, I turned down the opportunity. I looked at my current schedule and I knew it would be impossible to manage. I’m making great headway with a web based application and my lecturing duties are extremely important to me and I’m also finding it easier to make time to spend with loved ones. To risk losing the things that I have working for me now may not be a sensible compromise. It’s impossible to grab at every opportunity that comes your way and it’s understandable if you feel you need to. I wish that start-up all the success in the world even though I cannot be a part of it. One old saying that I always remember is “One bird in the hand is worth two in the bushes“.

A Gentler Approach

Oh how do I love my Aunt Bernadette. She is my father’s eldest sister and I often describe her as the epitome of female perfection. The respect I have for her as a person far surpasses the respect I have for my mother and father combined, not that I love my parents any less. I’ve always admired her approach when dealing with me and people in general. She has never raised her voice or her hand at me, yet she can easily influence my decision making. My parents on the other hand, have both raised theirs hands and voices at me and yet I have disobeyed them on numerous occasions. I recall noticing this about her as a teenager and I often wondered, how does she do it. I would look at other family members and friends who would often use aggression, obscene language or try to instill fear in someone else to get what they want from a person, whereas she would find kind words and even a bit of scripture to get her point across. This lady has amazed me all my life. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and even her approach to dealing with it has been inspiring. I would admit that growing up I was a bit more aggressive than I am now but after having noticed how my Aunt Bernadette got the things she needed and wanted in life by taking a gentler approach, I was determined to try it myself. I am no where close to being like her but I constantly aim for it. People and circumstances constantly test me to see how much I really want to change but it helps to focus my mind on her when I’m tempted to act otherwise. While there may be many people who have found a more aggressive approach to work for them and they have gotten what they wanted, it’s important to consider the psychological consequences of the person who is the recipient of such aggressive behavior. The emotional and mental abuse passed on to someone can affect so many aspects of that persons life and the people around them. Whenever I call my Aunt Bernadette for advice on anything, I can guarantee that she’ll be honest, give her opinion about both sides of the situation and always suggest I pray about it.  Aunt Bernadette, I love you dearly, please continue to be an inspiration to me and for many others who look up to you.

Roles and Responsibilities

Before I was born my parents separated and I was raised by my mother. I would spend some holidays with my dad and see him on average every 2 weeks. I was raised in an extended family home with grandparents, aunts, uncles and for me, most importantly…cousins, the best compromise for siblings when you’re an only child. As I mentioned in my previous post, my grandmother was the first to wake up in the morning and the last one to go to bed at night. She did everything and in my opinion, she was superwoman. She cooked, cleaned, washed, ironed, took care of her children and grandchildren and was also responsible for the upkeep of the garden. At times she even used those plants in her garden to play the role of a doctor, making teas for the common cold, stomach cramps, headaches, you name it. It’s not that my grandfather did nothing, it’s just that I saw my grandmother play a much bigger role with respect to taking care of the home. Even when my mother began dating after my father, I also noticed her doing quite a lot to maintain the home. I believe watching my grandmother, my mother and even my aunts take care of the household, has somehow conditioned my mind to believe that women need to do it all. I hardly saw my grandmother ask my grandfather to do much even though he knew there were things he was responsible for, like maintaining the physical appearance of the house. Times have changed and many women are no longer housewives, so the role I would have seen my grandmother play in the home, is one that has changed quite a bit. Responsibilities are shared more between husband and wife and there are even more husbands who stay at home while the wife works. Years ago, I noticed that as women left the home to work longer hours, family units started to fall apart and couples divorced more regularly. I’m not casting blame on anyone here but it seems that a woman’s role in keeping the family unit together is quite invaluable. As we switch and share roles and responsibilities, I can’t help but wonder, are we doing it mainly for convenience or for the benefit of the family unit?

Can’t Have It All

Earlier this year, I read an article by Ivanka Trump talking about women not being able to have it all. Ivanka Trump is the daughter of business mogul Donald Trump. She is also the executive vice president of development and acquisitions for The Trump Organization and the founder of the Ivanka Trump fashion brand. Most importantly, she is a wife and a mother of two beautiful children, daughter Arabella Rose and son Joseph Frederick. Ivanka recently launched the initiative #WomenWhoWork, which aims to “celebrate the many different ways in which women work and to redefine and break stereotypes around, what it looks like to be a working woman today.”. In an interview with Business Insider, Trump explained her perspective on work-life balance. She frankly says, “You can’t have it all.” When people ask her how she balances work and life, her response is always: “I don’t, and I don’t try to.” “People obsess too much about balance,” she said. “A scale is only in balance for a brief second. Inevitably the pendulum swings. It’s impossible to maintain.” Ivanka says, it’s less about balancing a “work life” and a “home life” and more about creating one rich, full life that’s tailored to my specific goals and priorities.

As I’ve decided to give my personal and family life a bit more focus, I too am realising the difficulties with trying to create a balanced life. I began feeling a bit overwhelmed with my additional responsibilities and sometimes I even felt as if I needed to give up something in order to feel a greater sense of accomplishment in at least one area. I grew up watching the women in my family. My grandmother was the first to rise in the morning and the last one in the family to go to bed at night. For a working women who still has the responsibility of taking care of her husband and children, I can only imagine a full night’s rest of 8-10 hours sleep can seem like such a fairy tale. Sometimes I think that it’s a bit unfair for women but then again there are times I see how privileged we are. We are expected to be as educated as men but in some organisations, industries or countries, we will never be professionally equal to men. Even after contributing our day’s work at the office, we switch our hats, become more submissive and nurturing and come home to take care of our families.

It’s inevitable that some of us will have to sacrifice some of our professional goals for a family life. Having been so focused on my career for most of my life, I’m starting to realise that I need to view family life with equal or greater importance than I do my career. The drive and passion I have towards my professional goals and accomplishments need to also be the drive and passion I have towards my personal life. When asked what’s her definition of success, Ivanka says happiness. She doesn’t think you are truly successful unless you are a happy person and are happy with your life. She recalls many people who are professionally successful but miserable. She concluded by saying that she’s happy when she’s achieving her professional goals and when she’s with her husband and children.

Good Luck Guys

Today the students of the Java Design Patterns class are writing the final examination. Yesterday I found a one page summary of all the patterns covered in the class and I emailed it to them. I know it was a bit late to send the summary sheet but I felt it could come in handy. This morning, I sent text messages to the students in both classes wishing them all the best in the exam. After having prepared and delivered this course for the first time, I have found areas where it can be improved. I can only hope the work I did was enough to ensure that the students understood the concepts well enough to pass the exam. Two students from one class dropped the course and it’s my assumption that the course material may have been too programming intensive for them. Some students found 15 design patterns to be quite a lot to cover in one semester and it is something I will take into consideration when delivering the course next year. A mock examination as well as some online multiple choice questions were created to assist the students with exam preparation. Even though 2 students out of both classes completed the online questions, I hope the mock examination was enough to help them prepare. I included 80% of the topics from the final examination in the mock examination, changing question structure where needed. I provided as much assistance as possible to the students with their examination preparation as no past papers were available. As I write this blog post, the students are writing the exam, which should end in about 80 minutes. I’m quite excited to see how they performed in the exam as this would not only reflect how well they grasped the topics but how well I presented the information to them.