#TalkingMotherhood Event Report: How To Design the Life You Love and Live an Authentic Life
As a company, we believe in creating a society where motherhood is seen as an advantage - not a hindrance, setback or penalty. How do we contribute to do that? It is certainly easier said than done. In our latest event series called #TalkingMotherhood we start raising awareness about the topic and empowering women to share their experiences.
“Being a mom has made me a more aware, compassionate, dedicated, and deeply connected person.”
- Yoko Shimada, Founder of Mitera
What’s one thing that every new mom experiences aside from sleep deprivation?
Take a wild guess.
Well, the severity of this experience depends on who you are and for many, it is more of an identity adjustment or transition rather than a full-blown crisis. Whatever it may be, the experience of bringing life into this world and becoming fully responsible for another human being (whom you just produced), offers us women a profound opportunity to reflect on our life, its priorities and what lies ahead.
This existentialist-like experience experienced by most new moms, however, can be torturous. It’s as if the “pre-baby” You (who used to boast to friends and family that “having a baby won’t change me...I am still gonna work and travel and go out”) and the “post-baby” You (who hasn’t slept and showered for days) cannot quite figure out how to talk to each other and get along.
After childbirth, many of us feel overwhelmed, lonely and invisible. Words are often not enough to describe how happy we are that we became a mom. But at the same time, words fail to describe how empty and isolated we sometimes feel inside.
As Joanna Briscoe put it: “There are unspoken truths about motherhood: sordid secrets we don't even tell our closest friends, private corners of shame, and inexpressible yet universal emotions that make us cringe merely by recalling them.”
But they are there. Taboo as it may be, we cannot help think about ourselves. What do I want besides being a mother? Outside of motherhood, who do I want to become? What do I want to do? Wait, am I even allowed to think about myself? Is it selfish not to think about the baby and focus on what “I” want?
Many moms in our #Miteramama community are navigating the delicate and fluid space of leaning into motherhood and at the same time pursuing their ambitions. So we decided to explore this topic a bit more and recently hosted an exclusive event in Dubai to understand what it means for a woman to design the authentic life she wants to live, especially through motherhood, and what women/moms might need to do that.
What if we helped women realize the power and potential of motherhood?
We approached this topic from the perspective of the relationship between pursuing flexibility and authenticity as the important bases for women to thrive.
《Key Data from Pre-Event Survey》
The pre-event survey of ~50 Japanese women (more than 80% of them were moms) living in Dubai in their mid 20s to early 50s whose background ranged from currently stay-at-home-mom to high career women to entrepreneurs revealed some interesting results.
- Have You Ever Given Up Something?
Seventy five (75) percent of the attendees responded that they “gave up” something as a result of marriage and becoming a mother.
Out of those who responded yes to the question, many cited “career”, “job”, or “the concept of me outside of being a mom”.
To the question of “have you given up something as a result of your marriage and/or becoming a mother?”, Shimada, the Founder of Mitera answered “yes”.
‘Going out, exercising, watching TV, etc. When the kids were still babies, I had no idea when I would ever sleep again but I didn’t even have time to miss my former life during these early weeks and months of motherhood. But what I came to realize is that through the lens of motherhood, what I consider enjoyable changed. I came to enjoy other things and what I used to enjoy now rank lower on my priority list”, Shimada said.
She continued and stressed the importance of changing your perspective saying ‘everyone has 24 hours a day. It is not that you don’t have time but you prioritize what you need and want to do and make time for them. You might feel like you are giving up something as a new mom but frame it in thinking that it is a new phase in your life and try to think positively and make the most of it.’
- Are You Interested in Flexible Work Arrangement?
Before the event 95% of women said they were interested in a flexible work arrangement while a little more than 50% said they would be ready to start working as a freelancer or a remote worker.
Our survey results were in line with a past Forbes study which showed that ‘when asked what the “most important” factors in a potential job are, 84% of working parents named work flexibility, followed by work-life balance (80%). Salary (75%) and health insurance (42%) came in third and fourth on the list.’ (- Forbes).
《The Dialogue and Discussion》
Mitera was fortunate to co-hosted the event with landerlabo, a creative services company promoting work flexibility as the future of work as the company itself has been operating entirely through remote workers located all over the world.
The event was centered around a lively discussion by two female CEOs: Yoko Shimada of Mitera and Mutsumi Lee of Lander, Inc. & Landerlabo where they shared their own experiences of how they design their own lives and the practices with which they achieve it. They also discussed the relationship between pursuing flexibility and authenticity as the important bases for women to thrive in their lives.
All 40 spots were filled within a few hours of event announcement and more than 50 people including those who were on the waiting list and supporting spouses attended the event. Among the many generous sponsors, Babies and Beyond provided four professional nannies to provide childcare at the event to help make the attendance easier for the many moms who attended. Chika-Collection provided a beautifully minimalist venue for the event while the Japanese bakery Yamanote Atelier provided catering to the guests. The gift bags were filled with generous sponsorships including 20% off coupons from Miyako, a Japanese restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Dubai, gift cards from Pure Born Diaper Company and Gardner and the Gang, a unisex kids fashion brand and stylish tote bags and gift cards from Dumye, a socially conscious doll company.
While the discussion focused on the intersection of two event themes: how to design the life you want and what it means to pursue work flexibility, it also addressed specific topics that attendees submitted prior to the event.
《To Live Authentically = Live According to Your Own Moral Compass》
Live an authentic life. But what does it actually mean? “As a psychological concept, authenticity simply means embracing who you really are, at your very core, and acting in accordance to your own values and beliefs” (- Fast Company). When women go through the identity shift that comes with becoming a mother, the concept of who they are ‘at your very core’ gets, most often, shaken, broken down, re-evaluated and re-adjusted.
The question of self-identity hits women particularly hard because women are the ones who go through the physical change of conceiving, growing and bringing life into this world and tend to be the primary caretakers for their offsprings (especially during the early stage of their lives).
On the question of what it means to live life authentically, the two panelists shared their own points of view that were grounded in a very similar philosophy. Both often used the word “choose” when referring to how they decided to take a certain path in life. Throughout their lives, these two women took time to listen to their inner voices, thought and questioned and finally chose a path in life based on the information that was available to them at that time and was aligned with their own moral values.
Lee explained, “to live authentically, it requires me to think about my life decisions not in terms of giving something up but rather welcoming the unknowns and embracing taking risks.” As an avid solo traveler, she was at first bewildered by her husband’s constant need of companionship. Instead of feeling like she “gave up” her independence, she chose to embrace this new experience of togetherness where her husband opened doors to new world views and experiences for them which she alone could not open.
《Flexibility = Privilege Reserved for Those Who Have a Solid ‘Axis’ 》
What does it mean to have flexibility in your work?
The next portion of the panel discussion focused on the concept of flexible work. The pre-event questionnaire revealed that while the majority (95%) are interested in flexible work, people’s understanding of flexible work focused mostly on the physical aspect of it such as freedom from fixed hours and location such as “being able to work whenever I want,” or “working from wherever, whenever,” and “I can make my own schedule”, etc.
The pre-event questionnaire revealed that 95% of the participants were at least interested in flexible work.
However, when it comes to wanting to pursue the opportunity, only half of them indicated that they would like to start working remotely.
Landerlabo is headed by Lee who is based in LA while the team is scattered across the globe in Dubai, Tokyo, Paris. Mitera team is similarly global where all the members work remotely from NY, LA, Berlin and Dubai.
Lee offered some perspectives on the concept of flexible work using sports as an example. “In sports like baseball or golf, the person who is swinging the bat or the club acts as the ‘axis’ and the distance of the swing depends on the size of the person or the type of the ball (i.e, curve ball), timing in the game (1st vs. 8th inning), the course, etc.” Lee said.
According to Lee, the axis in flexible work represents the person herself (and her life) and the distance of the swing can be understood as the person’s attitude and capability for the flexibility. That is why the concept of flexibility is not universal and is different for each individual.
Lee further explained that flexible work should not only be thought as a freedom from physical aspect of work such as fixed hours and location per se but is a privilege reserved for those individuals with a strong core/a stable axis = a clear understanding of who she is as a person and her abilities as well as limitations as a professional.
《Freedom vs. Responsibility with Regard to Flexibility》
“I probably work more now that I run my own business as compared to when I was working for organizations”, Shimada said. Both female business owners stressed that flexibility does not necessary equal less work. As an office worker, one can sometimes hide behind the company or disperse responsibilities to your team but when you are an entrepreneur, freelancer or a remote worker, the responsibility falls much heavier on the individual.
Jacko Willink, an ex-Navy seal turned renowned leadership consultant said “discipline equals freedom”. This notion supports the fact that freedom that comes with flexible work is achieved by having a strong self-awareness and accompanying disciplines to carry out conscious decision making and priority setting.
《Why Do Women Want Flexibility? - An Exploratory Workshop》
We are constantly making decisions and prioritizing our choices in order to live the best life that we can. Women today are aware and capable in recognizing their ‘life axis’ - their core personal belief and moral compass - and are able to continuously adjust their actions to achieve whatever life goals they might set for themselves.
During the workshop portion of the event, the participants were asked to share something new that they would like to try or challenge that they may want to take on during their stay in Dubai.
While it is sometimes considered a societal taboo to prioritize your own needs over those of your child (ren) and this sentiment is felt even stronger within the Japanese community, this workshop provided a rare opportunity for those self-aware, intelligent and motivated group of women (80% of whom answered they “gave up something” as a result of marriage, childbirth and (majority) following their spouse to Dubai) to share often concealed aspirations and dreams.
Given the chance, unleashed from their normally reserved daily existence (when it comes to their own wants and needs), each woman animatedly shared what she would like to start or try. In the post-event questionnaire many voiced that one of the highlights of the event was to hear from fellow women/mom attendees how they also have aspirations and dreams beyond motherhood and have often hidden desire(s) to try something new.
In terms of flexible work, while 57% of the participants answered “interested in flexible work or remote work” in pre-event questionnaire, that percentage ballooned to 88% post-event (above chart).
This is mostly likely due to the change in the women’s understanding of the concept of flexibility - not simply as a physical freedom from location and time but more as a tool to achieve one’s own life goals apart from that of their child(ren) and family.
《Post Event Remark》
“Women are strong”, Lee and Shimada both said to sum up the event.
Armed with the new notion of how flexibility can be a great tool to design the best life for themselves, the women looked inspired, motivated and determined. Mitera and LanderLabo cannot be more proud of what they achieved during the event and cannot wait to continue to support them in their endeavors.
Special thanks to the immensely talented and dedicated Mitera Mom-terns who live and breath Mitera's philosophy and without whom this event would not have been possible.
(From left: Mariko in Ellen Deep Coral, Mei in Ellen Ivory and Akiko in Kimono Jumpsuit Sage)