Maternity Leave

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I have always wondered how a country that has made so many strides in affirmative action and women empowerment has such terrible laws when it comes to maternity leave. I have seen pregnant women push themselves up to the last minute so they can keep working, and after having babies  they are back to work after 6 weeks, when they are barely healed.

How come having a baby is like a punishment, where are the activists, feminist?? How come the maternity leave structure is not structured in a way where mothers can heal and attach and take care of their babies? how come most people are not paid during their maternity leave, so that while they are at home bills keep piling and they are forced to push themselves and go back work. And even after you go back to work its so expensive to get childcare for your child that you are basically working to just pay it. How come women are not put on light duty when they are pregnant, you will find them working in positions where they have to stand for long periods of time, we see them all the time, serving us, selling, stacking boxes.

Having being pregnant in this country I am very surprised by the lack of respect for pregnancy, you will never have someone offer you a seat, or let you go ahead in the line, or offer to help you carry groceries.

Somebody please help me understand, why for a developed country is the US lurking so far behind in this aspect.

Wearing School Uniform

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uniformGrowing up, we wore school uniform to school and for the most part we hated it. We had to wear uniform from primary school all the way through high school. On a few occasions, like when we would have a party we would be allowed to carry some ”home clothes” and wear them for the party. We would plan our outfit for weeks, this was such a great occasion because you could now show off your ”sunday best” as we called it.

I remember we would watch tv and see kids in America never wore uniform to school and we would be so envious, I remember even when my niece was leaving Kenya to relocate to the states, she was worried about school and how she was going to fit in, the only thing she had to look forward to was the no school uniform.

On a few occasions, the uniform discussion would come up in school, and our teachers would always explain to us = the reasons and benefits of wearing school uniform. You wear school uniform so you can all be equal, when you have uniform you cannot tell apart the less fortunate and the rich kids, so you interact as equals and treat others as equals. This offcourse to us made no sense. All we wanted was to look different from each other, to show off our cute outfits and new shoes (which was probably just one or two) but we felt if we wore ‘home clothes’ then that would be a good excuse to get more outfits.

But now that I am older, I realize that what we were always told was possibly true, that there were benefits to wearing uniform. We had a very diverse group in school, from kids from affluent backgrounds to kids who came from struggling families. But in school we didn’t realize the difference, maybe when you saw the car that would pick some people up we would realize they were rich or sometimes they would bring some toys to show off. But other than that we felt very equal.

I have seen a lot of kids here, in the states, have a lot of issues because they cant afford to buy a pair of the new designer sneakers, or not having a particular designers clothes. I have also seen how much money it costs parents to do shopping when kids are going back to school.

They keep growing and always need new clothes when going to school and its expensive and even after spending so much money, its not always appreciated since that is not what all the kids are wearing.

It builds character and strength having to go to school in what is not considered to be ‘cool’ by your peers but it also leads to a lot of bullying and discrimination. Our images separate us and that is why I believe wearing uniform is beneficial. We are already separated by so many other things, why add more.

Being Bi-lingual

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Bilingual

I speak three languages, English, Swahili (which is out national language) and my mother tongue. A lot of people who are from where am from do speak more than one language. Research shows speaking more than one language has its own benefits,

Speaking two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age

It is also much easier for someone who is bilingual to learn another language.

So why is it so hard for me, and a lot of other immigrants, to teach our little ones our languages. I know the generation before ours thought that, if they taught their children their mother tongues, then it would confuse them and maybe they would have a hard time adjusting in school.

But today we know better, we know it doesn’t confuse kids, having grown up in a multi-lingual environment myself, I know speaking more than one language has never been an obstacle in class.

I was and still am determined to teach my daughter at least Swahili, it will not only benefit her to know it, but I feel it would be crucial for her to learn it so that when she goes back home she is able to interact with other kids, who mostly speak Swahili. Every time you speak to people back home the first thing they ask is if we speak our language to our daughter, to which I always respond yes, but I know I rarely do. They ask it, as if your parenting skills are judged by your ability to teach it.

I have bought books and try to speak it to her, but mostly she just speaks English and I feel like if she doesn’t get it now when she’s still so young then it will be lost forever. I always thought this was just a Kenyan problem, we would always ask each other how come the Hispanics are able to teach their kids Spanish. Until I spoke to my Vietnamese friend who told me it was the same with them. For her she only spoke Vietnamese to her kids when they were growing up, when they went to school they didn’t even know English. And now they are in their 20’s and cannot speak it anymore. They understand some of it, but like when they visit Vietnam they are completely lost in terms of language.

So is it worth it to struggle and teach our children another language while living in an English speaking country? (well now its English and Spanish).

I also have another friend from Iran, who recently went back to Iran for 6 Months so that she can enroll her 4 year old son into school so he can learn how to read and write Persian, which they only speak in the house. Is all her work going to pay off?? I don’t know but I highly doubt, I have seen and heard of many stories where kids could only speak one language for a long time but eventually forgot it.

One documentary I watched on immigrants said it best; as parents you need to accept that English will be your kids first language.

So what does this mean? Should we just give up on teaching our kids our languages? How are the Hispanics capable of doing it? For one thing, I believe they have a large community and they live around each other with family members who don’t know English. So they are forced to communicate in Spanish. The population of Spanish speaking people is growing so rapidly that now if you don’t speak Spanish, its becoming more difficult to get jobs.

Knowledge is never a waste, the more we know the better. So the struggle is real but not a waste. I know of many kids who are older now and they ask their parents, why didn’t you teach me our language. So we will keep trying and hopefully it will be enough to just understand it even if they cant speak it.

Lessons in Value of Life

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Scenario one:

Everyday on my way to drop my daughter off at daycare, we drive by a particular spot that has wreaths of flowers placed, the flowers have been there for the last almost two years I have used that road, they are laid there in memory of someone who lost their life on that road, come rain, sun, changing seasons the flowers are always there. I once asked if they are placed there by family members and Mothers aganist drunken drivingsomeone explained to me that they were placed by a group called mothers against drunken driving (MADD) this is an organization formed by mothers who have lost someone due to drunken driving. Where I live this group has pushed for so many reforms that charges for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) have become so serious. Every time I see these flowers I get flashbacks of drunk driving back home, I know  of several areas that are known as ”black-spots’ due to the number of people who have lost their lives, so many young people get into accidents every weekend on this particular spots and I wonder if we had some type of memorial like flowers or pictures or something placed in these areas, if perhaps it could help reduce the number of accidents.

Scenario Two:

If their is one law that always confuses me when I am driving, its the stopping for a school bus flashing a stop sign. When a school bus is stopping to pick or drop kids, all cars on either side of the road are supposed to stop until the school bus starts moving again. Sometimes I see a school bus that has stopped on the side of the road and I stop, only to realize its not flashing a stop sign, it confuses me so much, Stopped school busand when I stop I get a flashback of when my husband and I were dating back in Kenya, I remember we were walking to his house one afternoon, and then he looked at his watch and he exclaimed, ”oh No” I don’t like being caught on this road at this hour because the school bus is a bout to come by and it leaves a cloud of dust as it fly’s by. No sooner had he finished saying this, the school bus came by, it was speeding so fast that all you could see was a cloud of dust, so we all took our places squeezing ourselves at the doors of the shops on the sides of the road shutting our eyes tight, and so did everyone else walking by, once the bus was gone and the dust settled we went back to what we were doing, and as soon as the bus stopped to drop off some kids, their was a car behind it honking, upset about the interruption. Lesson, isn’t it all of our responsibility to ensure the safety of our kids, granted when you are so accustomed to something you don’t notice it, but society at large should look out for kids, by standers should complain about drivers who endanger children’s lives and fellow motorist should show some consideration for public transportation dropping off people. It may not be the law but we could learn from exposure.

Scenario Three

Before I left Kenya I could count in one hand how many kids I had seen using a car-seat, it wasn’t the norm for kids to use them and they were used by what I would consider the few elite, fast forward to today and its the opposite. I only see kids in car-seats now as its the law here, however every so often when I am looking at photos posted by my friends on Facebook in Kenya I will see a photo of aCar Seat child sitting in the car with no car seat or even on the passenger seat of a car, and because it never happens around me it really stands out to me. It looks very weird and awkward but I know it wouldn’t had I never left home. Now knowing how much car-seats save lives, I believe they should be made a must in Kenya too, they are probably expensive now since the demand might not be so high, but am sure if legally people are required to use them the price would come down.

Scenario Four

Teaching my daughter how to ride her tricycle at the playground, I realize all the kids around us who are riding bikes were all wearing helmets. I have never thought of having to use a helmet when riding a bike, since we never used them, however now I know to buy one, lesson learned.

At the end of the day, ignorance is not a good defense. If their is one advantage of traveling and being exposed to different people and lifestyles is the sharing of ideas and knowledge. I realize that having systems that work is not impossible, we come from Kenya to this foreign land with so many laws, rules and regulations and we abide by them. Which means we are capable of abiding by rules, if only we have consequences for not following. Granted the system here is also broken in its own way, too many rules leads to more chances of breaking them and being on the wrong side of the law can happen so easily and from my experience and observation it is not a country of second chances, but for today I would like to share the good things I believe we could implement in our country, things that would help save and enrich peoples lives.

It sure does feel good to know if you call the police they will not respond by saying that they have no transportation to get to you, if you call the fire department they will not run out of water, that power outages are rare if at all, that I can drive home with my daughter at 1am and not have to keep looking at the rare view mirror to make sure no one is following us. Basically, human life is upheld and precious. These are things all humans deserve, these are things we should demand.

 

 

Sesame Street Lessons

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MuppetsOfSesameStreet

Sesame street is just about the only kids show I enjoy and will watch with my daughter, we even listen to songs from the show in the car and sing along as we drive. Its so amazing to me how all the lessons cut across all cultures (because they are all different looking and different colors), and age groups.

But what I enjoy most about the show, is how many things I re-learn from it. Sesame street has a lot of lesson for children, but as adults I think it has so many lessons we can re-learn.

We learn how to love ourselves, regardless of how we look their is only one you, with all your unique features that make you, you.

We learn how to not give up, even if we are not good at something we need to learn how to be patient and to keep trying.

We learn ‘the power of yet’ something we want might not have happened the way we want but it just hasn’t happened ‘yet’.

It nice to remind ourselves some of these things, we get busy with life and grown up stuff that we forget the little things that count.

Growing up Sucks…

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growing up sucksLooking at my toddler exploring, playing, fighting, living life I always find it fascinating to say the least, to see her outlook of life. I often find myself wondering what if ‘us as grown ups acted like kids act, with no limitations or boundaries. Being brutally honest and having no known shame. Being innocent and self centered just like toddlers are. If we as grown up acted like kids:-

Our houses would be a mess and everything would be MINE

We would have ice cream and candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner and fight all day with everyone around us

We would be extremely jealous, we wouldn’t let our boyfriends/husbands talk to anyone else without us letting them know, ‘that’s my someone’

We would walk around naked, or with our skirts over our heads and take out wedgies by putting our hand underneath our dress.

We would fart and go to the bathroom whenever and wherever we felt the urge

So basically growing up is learning how to hide and control our urges, needs and wants. Growing up means learning how to pretend and act like everything is fine and act polite and smile with strangers.

Growing up basically means acting and we as parent’s job is to create the best actors we can, the better actor your child becomes the more proud we are of them.

Maybe if we lived like kids life would be more enjoyable, we would have less limits on our selves and believe all is possible. We would be honest with people around us and they would appreciate the honesty and criticism, we would be more willing to learn and experience new things.

Growing up sucks! Happy New Year my fellow grown up…

Impact of Teachers

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Teachers

While I was filling out a job application, I was required to write an essay about a teacher who made an impact on my life. Writing the essay brought back a lot of memories that I felt I would like to share.

Growing up we were surrounded by ‘crazy’ teachers to say the least. I don’t know if they were frustrated by the work load and menial pay they were getting, or it was a cultural thing. But the teacher was always right, you never talked back or questioned any of their rules, no matter how absurd they might have been. We had one teacher whose rule was that we should never rip a page out of our exercise books, please note we had to buy this books ourselves and they were not provided by the teacher or the school. However, this being one of his rules, he would randomly have one class lesson where he would ask us to exchange our books with out desk mate and then we were to count the pages and if any of the sheets of paper were missing we would tell him and then you would canned depending on how many sheets of paper were missing. This is just one example out of the numerous ones I can state.

Anyway, going to school to such an environment was horrible to say the least, the only thing that made it bearable was the fact that everyone’s school was the same and so to us it was the norm. At some point I really hated school, the fact that I didn’t have an option but to keep going, is the reason I went, dropping out was not an option, we didn’t even know that people did that, and besides if I would have decided to drop out, where would I have lived, definitely not in my parents house.

So amongst all that craziness, Mrs. Musundi was a God send for me. She was my favorite teacher and I had her in several different classes through out school. She was soft-spoken, patient and kind, a totally different kind of teacher from what we were accustomed to. She commanded respect without being too loud or aggressive. I loved her so much that when I needed some private tutoring, my mum asked Mrs. Msundi if she could do it and she agreed. Her gently nature was the thing the drew me most to her. She listened, and elaborated well. She was a mother of11 with one pair of twins, and worked full time as a teacher and still had time to tutor. How she remained calm and patient with all of that on her plate remains a mystery to me.

I recently saw on Facebook that she passed away. I reached out to her son who explained to me that she had cancer. I told him of how much I loved her and he was so touched, he said he kept hearing of so many things that she had done that he never knew of, and how she was such an inspiration.

Teacher’s have such an enormous task, to teach young impressionable minds, however I think the things that they teach the most, are not the things written in books and class schedules but rather the things they teach through their actions. Mrs, Musundi taught me that amongst all the craziness and evilness that exists in the world, their is still some kindness, patience and compassion. You don’t have to conform, you can be different and stand for what you believe in, and in that, the greatness impact is made and lessons taught.

Parental Advise

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Parenting AdviceIn life we are always judging other peoples way of doing things, we are constantly offering and getting unwarranted advise about our careers, where we live, who we date, what we wear. This is all fine and dandy since I believe the older we get the easier it is to brush off all the advise people offer.

And then one day you become a parent, the hardest job in the world. Creating a being and molding them into a productive member of society. The kind of person they will turn out to be will be all on you as a parent. You read and research, you pray, you share with friends and family on ideas, you try different things and at the end of the day all you can do is your best and hope and pray you are not raising some type of psycho.

However, every so often, their comes around someone who makes a judgement on your child and your parenting based off on one interaction. And then they will offer some unsolicited advise, about what you need to do and how you need to do it and how your current approach is completely wrong.

Being a first time mum, advise from people is common. Depending on who offers it I will take or let it go. But the advise that comes from people who don’t know you so well, or people whose kids are not the ideal kids you would want your child to grow up to always hits me hard in my core.

In parenting, I am starting to realize that no one sees all the work you put it, no one ever gives you a pat on the back. But once your child does something wrong, you will be loaded with so much advise on what you need to do.

Just like I have learned in life how to brush off what people tell me, I would really love to learn how to brush off parenting advise.

How have other parents coped with unwanted parenting advise, how do you respond to it and how do you make sure it doesn’t get to you?

Vacation – Jobcation

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JobcationRemember when vacation meant, sleeping in, cocktails, love making and club – hopping? Those were truly the days, when the only limitation was perhaps money or time. Yes, the good old days.

When you have a baby, a vacation is more of a job, hence why I refer to it as a job-cation.

What does vacation now mean?

It means, dreading the drive or flight, packing toys, books, snacks ensuring phones are fully charged and questioning if you have enough.

It means packing ‘favorite snacks’ and perhaps a cooler full of a variety of food, because you never know what this little people will decide to eat.

It means messed up schedules leading to whining and tantrums.

It means bed sharing, with a small selfish person who you probably are not used to sleeping with, which in turn leads to body soreness.

It means making excuses for your child, who might not be on their best behavior due to the messed up schedule and fatigue.

It means chasing your little one around because everything is new, and they want to explore and touch and play with all of it.

It also means joy and laughter from seeing the expression on their face when you show them new things, when they experience new stuff and those small moments of joy and happiness make the whole vacation worth it. Creating memories that will last a lifetime.