Mothers as leaders learning across borders – Families as Teams

motherhuggingearth-1We spent the last two weeks homeworking, homeschooling, feeding our families and meanwhile trying to keep fit with our workouts.  We are almost all turning into the Wonder women, but wait…how sustainable is this situation on long term?
How can we replenish our reservoirs of energy?  Were can we create a place for our own  development and motivation through these tough times? 
We made it through the first two weeks but what if this new situation drags through the entire 2020. The changes happening now will be having lasting impact on the inner family dynamics and the roles we each play in it.We can treat this situation as diligent mum managers, who are trying to work harder and faster every day, or we can step back and look at the challenges as true leaders of our family. A lot to ask from one human being. 
Inspired by the examples of so many people around me who leverage technology for global solidarity, I felt the need to put my professional knowledge and the resources of the Mothers as Leaders practice  in the service of others.  I called Donna de Haan (a fellow mum and an Associate Professor at The Hague University) and we decided that now more than ever, it is the time for mothers to step up.  We decided to  create a LinkedIn Group  and to do a series of  webinars for women to get inspired, learn, laugh and build motivation throughout this difficult corona time. The topics of the first two webinars will be: Families as teams and Empowered Mums.  Donna and will  play the host role and curate the topics but as the community grows we will open invitations for members to present and do peer coaching and mentoring.
Do you want to join us?   Please register on the Linkedin Group: Mothers as Leaders – Learning across borders
Upon registration you will receive more information about the first zoom webinar, Families as Teams is  on Thursday, 2nd April, 20.00 pm CET incl. the dial in details.  We will continue posting our next webinars on the group to avoid communication overload. 
We look forward to meeting you up virtually. Feel free to share it on your social media. 
Thanks,  Steliana & Donna
Steliana van de Rijt-Economu – Leadership Coach & author of the internationally awarded book ‘Mothers as Leaders’
Donna de Haan –  Associate Professor at The Hague University of Applied Sciences,  Adviser on Gender equality for UEFA

Some anxiety is normal but how can we avoid becoming victims of group panic

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How do we protect our brain and our heart from group panic? I view myself as a relatively calm person, but even I struggled to sleep well the last few nights.

Considering that the number of Corona related deaths in Europe is increasing significantly, it is not surprising that we, especially parents, worry. Like most people, I already had my own personal issues to deal with before the home isolation.  I was still reeling with sadness. My father passed away one month ago in a ICU hospital unit in Romania. It wasn’t Corona but a very aggressive form of a neurological disease. The memory of the two weeks  spent with my 73 year old father in ICU makes the statistic on death rate for elderly very real for me. When you lose a parent you lose a part of you, at least that’s how I feel now.

Through this weird situation of having the whole family being at home all the time, I somehow find it easier to deal with the constant heavy heart. As a  working mum who needs to juggle home-schooling, cooking and 1-2 video calls a day I don’t have time to check the news during the day. However in the evening, after watching the news, the bad thoughts are coming in. Sometimes they continue through the night.

It is tempting to fall into a state of self-pity but instead I decided to stay active by spending enough time outside with the kids. Treasure hunts are a nice distraction. To deal with my inner worries I started to read articles and tips from the ICF executive coaching  community.

Here are four tips  I found useful to help me avoid anxiety and panic.

1. Be aware of the anxiety influencers around you

When anxiety fosters prevention it is a good thing, but when the threat is uncertain, as in the case of the current corona virus, our mind can easily underestimate our body’s ability to cope. People with pre-existing anxiety conditions are particularly vulnerable.

I know by now exactly who are the people that will send me panicky whatsapp messages or would give me that weird feeling after a phone call. I deliberately choose how to react to them.

While a healthy dose of anxiety will help us cope, extreme and prolonged anxiety can become panic. When we are in a panic state, we suffer, we stress out our children and we create new problems through our reactions, such as buying toilet paper and masks.

2. Limit media exposure and stick with reliable sources

I used to check news throughout the day and I now keep to one official update through the  the Dutch news (‘NOS Journaal’). I received a lot of fake news via social media. After being burned once or twice I started to ignore that. Thoughts and predictions, especially the examples given on social media, can fuel panicky feelings.

I am not saying we should ignore the problem. It is important to be informed about the safety precautions and how to be supportive to others, helping them think more calmly. I was inspired to see my neighborhood has a volunteer group that offers to help people with grocery shopping.

3. Reduce anxiety by reducing risk and taking care of yourself

No matter your age and your state of health, don’t feel silly or embarrassed about taking the required precautions. If the government tells us to keep 1,5 meter distance, just follow their advice for the safety of everyone.

During this uncertain time, I found it important to keep up my self-care routine. A friend of mine just told me via video call today that she keeps doing her 7.45 a.m daily sporting routine and dresses up nicely as going to the office. Consider what helps you most, such as taking a walk in nature, meditating, exercising, or talking to a friend.

As long as you step back from the flow of news and take time to connect with the people you love and care about, you will feel better.

4. Keep the lines open with your parents. Be a positive influence on their day, they get enough anxiety influencers through the news

I started to call my mum every morning. I know she is alone and the mornings are toughest without my dad. However what is tougher for her is to hear everyone calling her the ‘risk group’.  She is not used to see herself as a victim and by calling her ‘risk group’ we instill more anxiety in her.

The language we use with our elderly parents and friends can either lift their spirits or  place them in a victim mode. It is not about ignoring the danger, but about considering their situation and being empathetic. This morning I had to stop myself from using the same patronizing speech with my mum everyone else does -‘take care, you are at risk, don’t go outside of the house, etc’. How would I feel if someone would tell me this, over and over again?

We can go through this together, but let’s not spread more panic.

Instead, let’s spread hope.

Author: Steliana van de Rijt-Economu, Executive Leadership Coach and author of ‘Mothers as Leaders’.


Equality starts at home

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Tomorrow is the 8th of March, the International Women Day, #eachforequal, but...

What does equality really mean for us?

I grew up in a traditional family where the role of the woman and the man was set many years ago.

My mother was a girl with ambitions and my dad was a boy with ambitions and… as life happens, they both stepped in the traditional role of mum and dad at home.


They did that well for 52 years and, sadly, two weeks ago my father passed away following a painful terminal illness. While I am suffering terribly for his loss, I am also left wondering about ‘who I am’, ‘how I was raised’ and the huge vacuum in leadership my father left in our family.

My mother is left wondering who she really is, or better said who she is outside of the role she played for the past 52 years. She needs to assert a new type of personal leadership.

I started to wonder more and more about the leadership model I give to my children. They are watching every day how I communicate. They are forming a definition of equality through that lens.

One common thread I noticed in all the interviews I held for the ‘Mothers as Leaders’ book is the way both women and men attributed their drive to succeed and the development of their life values to their family context and to their childhood observation of their own mother.

At the funeral of my father last week I was reminded once again about the weight of that insight.

Equality in the opportunities for boys and girls, men and women will not be achieved only through corporate D&I targets,country policies and recruitment targets, the real equality is paved in each of our homes.

The equality is felt through the moments we create between each other and it is created through how we lift each other up through supportive communication and compliments or we bring each other down through self-defense communication.

Some people say that leaders are born, others say they are made. I think we are all born with the possibility of being leaders but also with the desire to follow because the desire to belong to social structures has existed in humans since the hunters and gatherers time.

We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves: an idea, a dream, a purpose. There is a moment in life when you hear a beautiful story, a story that resonates and brings out something that was there, inside of you, all this time. You feel that a woman or man really understands you and has a vision that you believe in. You are inspired; you follow and together you have created…the Leader. Without you, she was just a woman with a dream.

In an ideal world, both boys and girls would have equal opportunities for following their dreams. Of course, achieving them depends on their personal commitment and their hard work, but we as society should not add extra barriers for women. In the year 2020, we still have a long way to go for achieving equality in our world of 7 billion people and 2 billion mothers. With a deadly coronavirus spreading so quickly we become even more conscious of the need for a new type of leadership for our planet, one that transcends borders.

I have made it my life mission to support women to continue dreaming and following their dreams after becoming mothers. This blog is a place to share stories, provide inspiration and learn from each other. Do subscribe and you will receive monthly articles. If you liked the article and you want to reach out, write me on the Contact form and I will be in touch.

If you are based in The Netherlands, you are invited to join the ‘Mothers as Leaders. Dare to dream’ workshop taking place on March 22nd, at the FemaleHub in The Hague.

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s celebrate our successes and let’s DREAM FOR MORE.