For the past 108 days, I have been keeping a daily gratitude ritual. I have a notebook (ok it’s a digital notebook because, you know, me!) where I get to reflect on the things of the day I am grateful for. From getting to spend some time with my munchkin, to acknowledging the fact that we are alive and well, there’s no such thing as “too insignificant” for my gratitude list. Not too lengthy, just a couple of sentences each day are enough to send me to bed calm and happy for the joys of the day. Consistency is key.
One year ago today, I got a major new reason to be grateful of today. I came across a person who, through her work and presence, has managed to become an integral part of our lives and positively influence our well-being. This person has taught me and my family how to keep calm (and carry on) in the face of illness. She has given us options and tools to have around when we need support but, most of all, has empowered us to not feel scared and frail in the face of the unknown, and to further develop a holistic perception around health.
I am more than proud and extremely grateful to host on our monthly “How She Does It” column renowned holistic pediatrician Dr. Susanna Kemper!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Ι’m Susanna Kemper and I am a trained pediatrician with a PhD in Immunology, but I went through a particular set of health problems myself, with my eldest child and later with patients that made me turn to an integrative approach to medicine. So I work as a holistic pediatrician in Zurich, Switzerland, combining so-called “alternative” therapies like acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy in my daily practice. My husband is also a doctor and we have two really great kids: Leonidas, almost 14, and Isabella, who is 10 years old now. I believe that life is full of incredible possibilities and opportunities, if only we can open our eyes and see them!
I started www.kemper.gr in 2017 and www.drkemper.ch in 2019 – both my websites educate and empower parents in the use of natural therapies to help their children attain and retain natural health and well-being – essentially teaching a simplified version of pediatrics and alternative therapies for parents. Obviously the former is in Greek (my native language), the latter in German. These sites I started as passion projects, mainly out of frustration at what I heard from so many parents – they felt that they were trapped in the use of too many chemical medications to help their children when ill, and when they did consult an alternative health practitioner, they frequently did not understand what was being done or given and could not transfer most of that knowledge for home use. So I use social media and online courses, and now teach parents online in over 12 countries (at last count)!
The funny side of this is that I used to be completely social-media-phobic before 2017, I did not even have a Facebook profile. But through this project, I have realised the power of people to connect and learn online, and am proudly embarrassed at the amount of “fan” mail and messages I receive full of gratitude and parents’ stories about their children!
Stemming from your personal experience, what is the toughest part of being a Mom, and how do you manage it?
I believe the toughest part of being a Mom is the discrepancy between one’s personal expectations and reality. My parents brought me up to do my best and excel at the things that were important to me, so apart from sports where I was a total zero, many other things went really, really well in my career and personal life – until the atomic bomb, which was our first child.
Suddenly there was an incredible amount of complication, stress and unpredictability. And yes, often there was also a feeling of failure, when I had hoped for a serene, loving existence in sync with my work life, which was objectively unattainable at the time considering I sometimes worked 100 hours per week as a neonatal intensive-care doctor. So I spent years coming to terms with this and understanding that absolutely everything has a trade-off.
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?
My husband Daniel has, by far, been my biggest and best supporter and I am eternally grateful for the fact that he is alive and lives with us. I’m not saying that everything is always golden, he’s as much a human as I am! But there is something truly magical about being together with someone who understands and accepts your struggles, genuinely loves you and your children, and dreams and works with you creating a common vision.
What’s the No1 Skill (or Ability, or Knowledge) you have found handy in your role as a Mom?
That’s actually a really good question! I think my No.1 skill is organization: I use an online calendar for work, kids, family, friends, EVERYTHING. This calendar syncs with our computers and our mobile phones, and everything has to be on it so things practically never get forgotten – it’s like juggling 20 balls and keeping an eye on all of them at the same time. I wish I was equally good at prioritizing, but that’s my husband’s superpower! 😉 I always tend to try to do All The Things.
What advice do you have for a new Mom?
Advice for a new Mom: be kind and forgiving to your future self and learn to not make yourself feel bad about things that will go wrong, or will just not turn out exactly as you had hoped. Inevitably, the act of juggling Motherhood, Career, Marriage, Social relationships, and Being a Woman is a thing of almost impossible beauty. It is simultaneously rewarding, challenging, frustrating, boring, tiring, infuriating, marvellous and awe-inspiring…. but this is something you see ever more clearly, the more you grow and climb up the “mountain” of life.
When you’re at the foot of this proverbial mountain, all you can do is take one step at a time, overcome your difficulties and carry on, and do your best to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and enjoy the journey!