How She Does It | Eleni Vassiliadis

August is here, Summer Break is just around the corner, but I am determined not to let that get in the way of our Monthly Parenting rendezvous!

I had the pleasure of meeting Eleni a few months back, but I really feel like I’ve known her for ever. Her blog, Positive Parents, came like a breath of fresh air into my life to fill me with inspiration and (much-needed) Parenting context.

I want to actively contribute to her Positive Parenting mantra; it so deserves to be heard! Thats why I did a piece for her blog (in Greek) about Positive (and not so Positive) messages found in children’s Books, which you can find here!

Eleni (or Hélène as I like to call her in a failing attempt to convince myself I still got it with the French I learned in school some 8000 light years ago) has acquainted me with the works of French psychotherapist Isabelle Filliozat, founder of the Empathetic Approach to Children. An “a-ha” moment for me, for sure!

The works of people like Filliozat (J’ai TOUT essayé) and Daniel Siegel/Tina Payne Bryson (The Whole Brain Child) have totally recolored the picture of Empathy for me. A competence so damn pivotal not only in forging my growing relationship with my toddler-son, but also my coexistence with other people around me: my spouse, my extended family, my colleagues, my coachees, my friends…

I enjoy every heartfelt conversation I have with Hélène, that’s why I feel privileged she is coming forth to share her Motherhood Journey with us!

Eleni Vassiliadis, Founder of Positive Parents

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Describing myself always comes a bit hard… I can say for sure that I am an open-minded person with a lot of ideas and dreams, who continuously tries to be realistic! I like challenges as well!

I was a lawyer residing in France (I am half French-half Greek) but I met my husband and came to Athens, Greece, to live with him back in 2008. I had been teaching French for 3-4 years. Now we have a training company together: we are multi-task entrepreneurs, and we deliver life-changing courses to Engineers about Smart Homes!

We have 2 daughters (5,5 and 3,5 years old) and we live in Athens, 4 kms from the sea (I need the sea in my life!)

My passion is to write and learn new things. That’s why I started a blog in Greek about positive parenting (challenging for me because I learned Greek as a second language!) and I am actually in the process of writing a book about the child-parent relationship! 

Stemming from your personal experience, what is the toughest part of being a Mom, and how do you manage it?

Without even thinking about it, my answer is…SLEEP!

Sleep derivation was, for me, the most difficult part of parenting. My second daughter began to sleep through the whoooole night at age 3, so I think that you don’t need a drawing to understand that for many years, with 2 little kids, I was continuously exhausted! (and we don’t have relatives to help…)

I often kicked the day thinking “Will I be able to manage this day?” It was a very difficult phase, and this taught me that my boundaries were farther than I used to believe. I discovered new strengths hidden inside of me. I also began to consider the day in hourly increments. “I will be able to handle the next hour, and then the next hour” and so on. No more thinking of the whole day at 6:00am!

Who is (are) your go-to person(s) when you need support as a Mother? What type of support are you mostly in need of?

When the kids where babies, it was very difficult and I really needed someone to tell me “I am staying with the children, go to bed now!”. Nowadays, I would cherish an opportunity for a night out or a weekend with my husband without our kids… 

I don’t think I am in need of psychological support anymore. But when the kids were younger, say 1 and 3 years old, and they often got sick, I didn’t get any rest at all. Plus, I had to work! I needed some ears to hear my pain and get things out of my system, but I didn’t have someone else to talk to, so I was talking to my husband…all the time! (poor him…!)

What’s the No1 Skill (or Ability, or Knowledge) you have found handy in your role as a Mom?

Books -literally- saved me! I discovered Isabelle Filliozat and positive parenting and straight away I thought “This way of parenting is for me!” Knowing your child’s development, treating your child with respect, learning to actively listen to your child and to communicate your needs to your child are, to me, crucial everyday skills. 

I follow a “30-year plan”. I have this vision inside me and it goes like this:

“How will I be with my child in 30 years from now? Do I want to be an authoritarian parent, or a guide for my child? If I am strict , they will obey right now but will they talk to me in 30 years? I don’t think that our relationship would be very authentic and full of love…”

That’s why all of my interactions with my children are part of this 30-year plan.  Each time I get angry with one of my children, I think about this plan and I remind myself that my child is only a child who doesn’t have my fully-developed brain yet. 

Sofia is yelling in the middle of the supermarket because she wants a lollipop and I said no? It’s okay, her brain is learning frustration at this time, she’s not doing this to get on my nerves… so I talk to her, I tell her that I understand her feelings because she really wants the lollipop. I am WITH her, not against her. 

This plate of spaghettis on the floor is more important than my relationship with my children? No, so I don’t shout at them or punish. I breathe, I explain, I help them clean the floor and let it go. Life just comes with spaghetti on the floor sometimes!

What advice do you have for a new Mom?

My advice to a new Mom? I think you can’t imagine what it’s like to be a Mom before actually becoming one. And then it’s those times before becoming a Mom when you hear other Moms struggling about it and think “that will be different for me”. Such fun actually! 

So, the first advice would be to accept that being a mother is very-very-very difficult indeed. Try not to think how YOU will handle everything right, because you simply can’t! If someone is trying to tell you otherwise, they’re lying! 😉 

You have to know that, when at some point you come to cry alone at night, or get desperate from your kid’s hourly crying without knowing why… you have the choice to say to yourself “It’s okay. All of this is normal. I am strong, and I will handle it.” Thinking that you are all alone in this situation is not going to be very helpful to you. We all struggle as parents sometimes. And it’s okay. It gets easier with time.

My second advice is that you should try to “live the moment” without always thinking how the next act will be played. Children need quality time and present parents. If you actually give them TIME, they will let you breathe. Otherwise, they will chase you around. So, play their game and don’t try to change the rules! Expectations and to-do lists are our worst enemies as parents, because kids are the best program-changing heroes! 

So… learn to LIVE the moment, BE with your kids and give TIME because they are growing sooooo fast… (and so are you!)

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