How She Does It | Bilge Apak

February went by swiftly: like a gentle breeze of intention and commitment, powered by acute determination to promote inclusion.

Earlier this month, I announced Project Mamager’s brand new Vision Statement:

To become a place of deep and meaningful Bonding, Inclusion and Growth, for Working Parents across the board.

Project Mamager Vision statement

As a first step towards the embodiment of that Vision, we set up a Circle within the Global Lean In Network, exclusive to the Working Moms of Athens. Our circle is a place of deep and meaningful Bonding and Growth, aiming:

To energize, empower and enable Working Mothers in my hometown to grow into the most fulfilled and empowered versions of themselves, and generate ripple effects for cultivating a purposeful growth mindset!

Working Moms of Athens Mission Statement

I’m passionate about this initiative which, in only a couple of weeks, already accounts for 21 active members! I met those amazing Working Moms one by one, and I am amazed and deeply inspired by their eagerness to support one another and help cultivate inclusion and a sense of belonging! So stay tuned for more news to come, on how our supportive growth experience will play out, and what kind of ripple effects we get to generate through our group interactions!

Speaking of inclusion, this Month’s featured How She Does It Mom, Bilge Apak, is simply… amazing! Committed to her journey about growing into a better self and driving positive change, Bilge is advocating for open-mindedness (I admire her YouTube channel on her cross-cultural turkish-japanese family). She is also an unapologetically daring entrepreneur, working diligently to close the skill gap and create opportunities that lead to sustainable change in the future of work. Long story short? Bilge rocks. If you are looking to grow into something more in your life, be more Bilge!

Bilge Apak, Co-Founder & CEO (WeWent.com)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Bilge. I grew up in Turkey. During and after my studies, I lived respectively in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. It was in no way planned that I move around only German speaking countries. I guess life had a plan for me. For 11 years till now, I call Zurich, Switzerland home and met my life partner here. We have a son whom we welcomed on a nice summer day in 2018.

I am one of those people who is into tech and business. Even though I studied Computer Science and worked in Information Systems departments, what brought my passion to live has been being an entrepreneur. I also hold a masters degree in Digital Marketing. 

I have co-founded my company, WeWent.com in 2016 and an initiative called Shake up the Workplace! in 2019. My daily work is about helping workplaces close the skill gap and creating opportunities that lead to change into a positive “future of workplace”. 

I also started a YouTube channel with my family during the lockdown, to raise more awareness for mixed families (as there is a crazy tendency towards far right) and to share  knowledge around raising multilingual kids in a casual  way. By now you might see the pattern, I love the process of creating!

My last project is waiting to come to light soon, and is about “fertility”. I am particularly interested in women’s health because we, women, uncover the truths about our body very late and fertility consequences can be the most disheartening. If I can save some of the emotional struggle and help save time for women on their fertility journey with my project, I will be most fulfilled in life.

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

Becoming a mother in my 30s, I feel I am blessed. I think we are more prepared in many ways to become parents after a certain maturity level. Although I also say that I wish I became a mother earlier due to the joy it brings and for the energy it requires. In our generation, women studying and building careers have become the norm. Therefore having kids in our 20s like in our parent’s generation is less likely today. 

Being a Mom is actually a full time job. The toughest part for me is not having a family support system as we live far away from our families. In Turkish families or in Japanese (in my husband’s case), it is common that family is a big support for raising kids. Even though the nature of raising kids is a community work, our modern lives push us to do it alone as parents. And that is actually extraordinary.

My son started going to daycare at 8 months old. This is crazy for Turkish people even to begin to think! Without daycare I would not be able to manage it. And being an entrepreneur requires you to get back to your work as soon as possible. So my son got to join many meetings in person or online with me before going to daycare full time by the age of one. I have to admit that it also comes with emotional baggage. Doesn’t matter how much you know scientifically and logically that it is best for his development, the guilt creeps in every so often. When it happens I go through the things I am grateful for and find gratitude in his happy face. 

What is also important is that my husband is an equal caretaker at home and a hands-on Dad. After my son was one year old, he took over the night shifts while I took over more general feeding duties.

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 go to person is my Mom. Before the travel restrictions my mom visited us for a couple of months helping me at home. That laid quite a strong foundation. Luckily I have a great relationship with her. She continues to be my support by sending me encouragement through our video calls! Also she can be quite entertaining for my son when I need a distraction for him.

Apart from that, I am part of a local Facebook group with other mothers, where we learn a lot from each other.

Another support I am proud to have is weekly cleaning help. I am proud because I am capable of choosing to get help so I am not burning out by trying to do it all by myself.

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

Let go. Narrow down the choices massively.

Let me explain what I mean by these two sentences. With one or two little people at home things will be far from being perfect (except your own baby/kid itself). Most important thing is that our focus should be on our health and happiness. I am chuckling as I am saying this – who doesn’t know that? But it is true sometimes we need to drop the idea of cleaning the bathroom or cooking the most nutritious food if all we need is more time to sleep. We need to give ourselves permission to let it go. This will keep us sane in the long term.

This means we have to make thousands of mini decisions per day. From buying utilities, to what to cook for the day etc. What helps the most is a short list to choose from instead of a big one. Less is more. Most of the time we will have to decide for our kid too. I love to teach freedom of choice to my son and I do that by giving him two options instead of asking open ended questions. 

Example: Do you want red or blue? Instead of What color do you want? This will save you a lot of headache based on my experience. Thinking about it, funny how all parenting teachings can be implemented in the business…!

What advice do you have for a new Mom?

Take time for yourself. As simple as happy momma makes a happy baby. And this is actually already true during pregnancy. I know it is easier said than done.

There is only one way to do this: Give yourself permission to rest. Make that time. Give the baby to the daddy/grandma/close friend/nanny for 3-4 hours per month and take time for yourself, especially in the first year of your motherhood. And absolutely best to continue that, too.

I have this recent memory. It was actually my birthday and I gave myself the present of a spa day. I was lying down on my belly on the hot stone of the hammam, trying to relax. Trying to hush the noise of my mind. Trying not to think of any to-do lists. My body was enjoying the heat and the humidity, my eyes were closed… I placed my hands on the sides of my head with a swift move of trying to find the right position. Suddenly, I could smell onions…the smell was coming from my hand…. My hands were smelling like onions. I smiled. I was like a hot mama on a hot stone in a beautiful spa, yet my hands were reminding me of my endless duties. It felt like a contrast but a happy one. After I changed the position again, I was convinced I deserve that moment. 

My advice is to be that person. Giving and receiving. In all aspects of life.

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