How She Does It | Stella Kasdagli

How many Stellas does it take to empower one generation of women? Definitely one. Hopefully two!

Most of March was invested in setting up the foundations of a new beginning in my life. Having spent more than 15 years in the corporate world, while collecting degrees and conducting independent research on the side, I took a pause. The holiday season of 2021 was all I needed to deeply reflect upon my life. By New Year 2022, one thought had dominated my existence: my life fulfilment was seriously lacking.

Having experienced work (and especially working motherhood) in corporate Greece, during a lockdown and amidst a pandemic, surrounded by social inequality and under the spell of collective inertia, it struck me: I want out! This world of work which got me thus far, is not the fitting environment for me to grow in. And if I’m any good walking those strong-minded talks of mine, I really thought of taking the leap of faith and surround myself with better-suited conditions towards the life I want to experience. So I did!

You see, I crave for genuine flexibility. Not the fake kind of “work around the clock and sleep when you’re dead” dogma of the corporate world we are so meticulously programmed to sustain. I don’t mind hanging up the fancy dress-suit. I’m OK to never get that Rolex. What I do mind, things that through me off the wagon can be found elsewhere. In situations such as being devoid of the ability to handpick my collaborators or projects. I want to be passionately engaged in what I do, to such a degree that it doesn’t even feel like work. I want to help answer the big questions of the world (or maybe smaller ones stemming from within). I want to bring my unique designer skills in researching solutions to problems that matter (to me or to others like me). That long suppressed and utterly neglected “researcher and writer” Stella has officially prevailed in the struggle within. Corporate Stella has left the building.

It took approximately 4 months of contemplation, 10 weeks of therapy and numerous deep-dive discussions with people from my tribe to realize that I no longer wanted to pursue the quests of the corporate mogul. Instead, I want a richer life where less is more. I want to spend the remaining 4 (or so) decades of my existence into an examined life worth living.

I want to read more. Write more. Listen more. Sing more. Exercise more. Play more. Connect more. Travel more. Surround myself with smarter people and be the dumb person on the table, rather than play smartass during the roundtable. I am eager to flood my days with insightful conversations. Embrace life as a working mother, rather than try to squeeze in family time into hectic professional demands that meet everyone else’s needs but mine. I want a life that’s active and busy. But my kind of active and busy, where I am actually loving every minute of what I do, rather than waiting for half a weekend to feel alive.

With such a major decision coinciding with the pandemic, a burnout, and raising a preschooler, I can safely attest that my story builds the global case for the Great Resignation (or Great Reshuffle, if the alternative term works better for you): an ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs en masse. The phenomenon is more prevalent in the United States, but some recent studies show that it has recently crossed Europe’s doorstep, raising concerns amidst EU & UK employers who rush to become more appealing to both current and prospect employees in an attempt to strengthen their brands. Greece, however, where unemployment rates are high, and rates of job vacancies are extremely low, is maybe the last place in Europe one would expect to find a Great Resignation case. People are understandably more reluctant to call it quits, uncertain about their prospects to secure alternative employment and income. It turns out my ethical headhunter friend Grigoris has proven to be on the right side of history once again: I am “a case”.

A case who has realized that life is too short to not be completely invested in one’s true calling and potential. A case who has decided that she needs to wait no longer, and that tomorrow can start today. So, as of March, I’m leading a new life, and minding my own business. Using my braincells in ways that don’t even feel like work. Handpicking my collaborations, pursuing my creative dreams, and continuously looking to connect with likeminded “cases” out there. Especially cases of working mothers who are truly eager to share their whole truth and nothing but the truth on “How She Does It“. Working Moms like Stella Kasdagli.

I’ve known Stella for a very long time, and at the same time I can’t really claim that I know her. We have coincided in forums and collaborated on projects. I’ve read some of her books. I’ve listened to her TEDx talks. I’ve been a registered Mentor on her platform. But I haven’t sat down with her to grab coffee and deeply connect (yet). But I do know her line of work. And her line of work has had monumental impact on my own line of work. When I was looking to kick-start Project Mamager, Stella’s quality standard, unique positioning and smooth pen was the push I needed to get things going. “Now, here’s a similar-thinking case of a person,” I said to myself. “I have a lot to learn from her paradigm. And, one day, who knows, maybe I’ll get to interview her for Project Mamager!” The rest, as I like to say, is history…

PS: I’m a quiet time junkie (i.e., an introvert who replenishes energy by indulging in quiet time) without which I simply cannot function. Combine that with a sensitive preschooler, and you get yourself a spicy cocktail of guilt, anger, and exhaustion served on a daily basis! So no, Stella K, rest assured: it makes total sense, and you are certainly not the only one who feels like that! (more on that, below!)

Stella Kasdagli, Co-founder @ Women On Top | Writer | Translator | Youth facilitator

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am the co-founder of Women On Top, a non-profit organization in Greece, working for the professional development of women and for gender equality in the public life. I am also a published author, a translator, a coordinator of 3 book clubs and the facilitator of impactful workshops on professional development, gender issues and social change.

I previously studied French Literature in Athens, and Media Studies in London, and I have published eight books for the empowerment of girls, women and teens. I live in Athens, Greece, with my husband and two daughters, who help me grow along with them.

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

For me it is the lack of quiet time. I can find time to work, I can squeeze in a workout or two, I can very well live in a less than perfect house, but I can’t for the life of me ask for quiet time or prioritize quiet time – although I know now that I become a really difficult person when I don’t get enough of it. So it is always a balance between me thinking that I over-indulge myself and feeling guilty for it, or going for days without quiet time and then erupting in anger or drowning in frustration. Does this make any sense or am I the only one feeling that way? I would really love to know!

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 partner and my therapist! I turn to my husband for practical support and for balance, because I feel that our parenting styles are different but really complementary, and that means that whenever I get overwhelmed the whole system is in need of a different approach.

I also turn to my therapist to explore and work through all those feelings and knots that motherhood often brings up -not just to become a better mother but also to become better, happier and more aware as a person. I view parenthood as the ultimate learning experience and I very often need a teacher to help guide me through the process.

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

I think that one of the habits that have helped me the most is that I keep rehearsing in my head different questions that my kids may ask me and the answers I may want to give them. It sounds crazy, I know, but it has helped me both to clarify my own values and opinions for myself (do I really believe that? is this really that important for our family? etc.) and also to avoid saying things that I will regret later. I have done this in relation to questions about illness, death, puberty, sex, war, crime, friendships, love and values and I have never regretted it!

What advice do you have for a new Mom?

The first two years of a child’s life are not about being a good mom, they are about surviving -don’t ever forget that, or you will put an unnecessarily heavy burden on your shoulders. Plus, not asking for what you need won’t make other members of the family happier; it will make them more unhappy, because if you don’t get what you need, you will end up behaving like a horrible person.

Why are working mothers filled with guilt?
Click to listen to the latest episode of Stella’s Women on Topic podcast where I have taken part.
(Note: Greek Speaking Discussion)

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