“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it The Present.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Three days into 2022, I find myself reminiscing about the year that came to pass. So much water under the bridge; too fast and so furious, after all those alternating stances of my existence, in what will go down in history as one of the most bizarre years in the storyline of Mankind.
Although for the better part of the year I stayed put and in the safety of our family home, this year I got to experience movement in all its manifestations: both external and internal. Internal shifts, developing habits, altered mindsets. Situational changes, new working environments, revamped interpersonal connections. Remaining under domestic lockdown for the better part of the year did not necessarily mean I didn’t get to go places. On the contrary.
My passport may have remined hidden deep in the drawer, but my psyche got to travel to new planes of awareness. More mindful than last year, powered by an abundance of new experiences, this year I took time off during the Holidays to reflect on my identity: Who I am; Why I am here. This grew into a pivotal question for me: What do I want to see manifested as my contribution to the world? Do I have a purpose?
Back in February, when I announced the creation of the Working Moms of Athens LeanIn Circle sponsored by Project-Mamager, I had no idea how extremely Tolkienian life would turn into. Starting-off a journey I knew little about, one filled with volunteerism, community building, and co-creation, I found myself in the outskirts of there and back again. As a naturally social introvert, I was quite skeptical about welcoming all that additional social interaction into my life. I was unsure about my energy reserves. I lost my sleep for days before taking the leap. Still I did bring out my best self into this, in a quest for self-discovery: to see what kind of a person I truly am, and how far I could progress given my own blockages with social interaction.
In 9 months, what started-off as a tiny circle with a big vision I was reluctant to discuss, got powered by my consistent willingness to show up regardless. Today, I take a pause to realize how far this experiment has gone. The Working Moms of Athens has grown into a community of its own, welcoming no less than 55 Members! As LeanIn.org puts it, “We all need a safe space for real talk, inspiration, and support. Right now, we need community more than ever […] to come together for real talk and peer support”. And, boy, did we have tons of that!
The Working Moms of Athens Circle aspired to create a deep bond of growth and meaningful support among Working Mothers who reside in Athens, Greece. As part of the Global Lean In Community, from April till December 2021, the members of the Working Moms of Athens Circle managed to:
- Meet once a month at a time and space which conveniently co-decided by the group. We hosted 8 Meetups, with an average participation of 10 Members per Meetup.
- Create room for personal growth through group discussion to help Working Moms learn new skills together, powered by guides and resources provided by LeanIn.org, and some which I curated myself, who also got to personally facilitate these discussions.
- Build a tight-knit support group to effectively guide us through our career and life. Whatever happens in our Circle stays in our Circle, abiding by the LeanIn Circle fundamentals (also known as the 3Cs) Confidentiality, Communication & Commitment.
- Commit to One Action! Every meeting concluded with a personal growth commitment stemming from each participant: one thing we would do next to step outside of our comfort zone or learn a new skill before our next meetup.
Our thematics varied, and were all co-decided: the Circle got to choose what the Members wanted to focus on, and the proud facilitator (a.k.a. me!) researched and curated a multidisciplinary growth experience which touched an abundance of topics, delivered through multiple touch-points:
- Monthly Bulletins and Inspiration Decks delivered to the members’ inbox via email
- A LinkedIn Group as a repository for our shared material (our reading material, our collective insights, our celebrated moments)
- A WhatsApp Group as our asynchronous communication channel
- A dedicated Zoom Space to host our meetups
Members were provided with multiple ways to interact with the Circle, and based on the captured feedback this was one of the most significant aspects to keep them interested and engaged, and willing to recommend the Circle to their Working Mom friends. Fun fact: we had an average of 3 new onboardings per Month!
Here’s the 9 Themes we tackled in 2021 during our Monthly Working Moms of Athens Meetups:
- Working Motherhood under Lockdown
- Supporting our Kids through the Pandemic
- Getting to Equal Partnership
- Managing Guilt as a Working Mom
- Working Motherhood & Multitasking
- Career Progression Opportunities for Working Moms
- Work-Life Balance
- Business Coaching for Working Mothers
A lot of talking took place in our Circle. An abundance of support, ideas, inspiration, motivation and fun came out of our collective interactions. It was a unique experience which sparked some much needed reflection around personal growth and inner support. And, alas, we didn’t stop there: the Working Moms of Athens decided to go vocal about our collective insights and shared themes. To raise our voice not in protest, but in a stance to become seen and known.
The Members of the Working Moms of Athens collectively synthesized and openly shared 9 unique Mementos in 2021: 9 briefs containing original material composed by the Circle, to be distributed after each Meetup. In a global world gone south, trying to navigate change amidst global turbulence, standing one’s ground is a revolutionary act. Achieving to have a steady voice heard despite the pressure, stress and exhaustion is the epitome of social impact. Showing up, not merely to generate public noise, but to actually help our communities, our work environments, our cities, and our families deeply understand where we stand (our profile, our viewpoint, our struggles and unique needs) is the foundation needed for social change. The Working Moms of Athens chose not only to strengthen the individuals, but also to contribute to the collective. To shed light on all those pressing themes which oftentimes go overlooked, as they get crammed in the chaotic intersection of Work and Family Life. We didn’t come to show off. But we did show up.
At the end of this piece you will find our Collective Insights as they came out of our Monthly Meetups: we like to see them as our treasured social legacy curated with love, respect and responsibility. The Working Moms of Athens don’t just meet to feel good about ourselves as individuals (which is also a great place to be). We choose to meet to help bring about positive change into the World, when it comes to building inclusive societies where Working Mothers are encouraged to grow and flourish rather than get cast-out and bluntly discriminated. We are a Circle on a mission to bring about Positive Change one growth-minded Meetup at a time.
All in all, this experience meant more to me than a Monthly insight generating mechanism, or an opportunity for me to host and facilitate nice adult conversations as a Learning Experience Designer:
- I got to spend 18 hours of group interaction and collective growth with 55 of the most caring, sharing and helping Working Moms (who just happened to reside in Athens).
- I got to witness a lively community share more than 300 instant messages (including resources, articles, book recommendations, tips, birthday wishes, high-fives, memes, good mornings and more).
- I got to be a part of an ecosystem where Working Mothers actively and practically supported one another, no questions asked and unconditionally: bright moments and successes were celebrated, opportunities for collaboration were built, mentoring and coaching relationships emerged, some Moms even took the next step in their careers all thanks to the support they got from our Circle such.
If this is not impact that matters, I sincerely don’t know what is.
Contributing my passion and talent to the Working Moms of Athens has taken up most of my free time. My Sunday mornings. Some Friday nights. I gave up some of my other habits to take this one up, and I it did not disappoint: I would do it all over again. Volunteering as the Leader of the Circle Working Moms of Athens has made me a richer person: someone more than the mere sum of her parts. Someone with a purpose higher than fulfilling personal needs or achieving goals. Having lived in this plateau of facilitating meaningful connection around the multi-competent profile of Working Mothers for the past year, I find myself growing into a better version of myself. I see now how this is my purpose. Something I live for. And I am grateful to be a part of an experience so unique.
Thank you 2021, for you have been perfectly imperfect in showing me how much we can achieve if, amidst the pandemic and all that jazz, we continuously root for all those overwhelmed Working Moms of Athens who manage to stick #Together.
We got this.-
Here’s the Collective Insights co-created from the Circle Meetups of the Working Moms of Athens. Read them, grasp them, reflect upon them, share them with others, spark conversations about them. It’s life as Working Mothers experience it. It’s a Working Mom’s soul, in brief. These Mementos are (and always will be) free, and openly available.