Julia Ganol is from Zhytomyr, a city located 120 km away from Kiev, Ukraine. A few years ago she moved to The Netherlands with her husband and daughter. She works in the IT industry and recently sat down with Every Mother Knows to tell us her story.
How old was your child when you returned to work?
My daughter was 2 years old at the time. We were still living in our home country, Ukraine.
Maternity leave is normally for 3 years in Ukraine. Very few mothers return to work before their children are 3. Some even wait until their children are much older. Unfortunately the system does not support an early return to work after having a child. Most daycares are public ones and are not always the best. Plus companies are not keen to hire mothers of little children. So mothers tend to stay at home while their children are young.
In my case, I felt the urge to go back to work because my skills and competencies were in danger of being outdated very easily. The IT world is fast-paced. I did not want to throw away all the learning and skills built up until that point. Before returning to work, I actually studied for a while. It was the best way to refresh my knowledge so that I could return to work with confidence.
Which type of childcare did you arrange?
My daughter attended a Montessori daycare in Ukraine - a private one. She was exposed to an approach which focused on independence, freedom (of course, within limits!) and respect for a child's natural psychological, physical, and social development. We loved it and she benefited so much. This was especially important in a society like the Ukrainian one, where the focus is on discipline and rules.
When we moved to The Netherlands, she joined a local daycare. It was not easy in the beginning. She was very shy and almost didn’t talk to anyone. She is now 5, attends Dutch school and international BSO, her Dutch is great and she is a happy and smart little girl. (a proud smile!)
What was your motivation to leave Ukraine and move to The Netherlands?
Well - initially I didn’t know I’d actually move to The Netherlands. My aim was to move somewhere in Europe. At some point I found a good job opportunity in The Netherlands and went for it.
I lived in Europe before - when I was a little girl I spent some time in Poland. There are great memories of that period - I can still speak Polish. I still practice it if I meet any Polish person here in the Netherlands.
I was looking for a better life, more opportunities and stability for my family and myself. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. But it’s such an important aspect in life. Quality of life is great in The Netherlands. People look happy and satisfied so you want to be part of a good society like this. Services like public transport, infrastructure and healthcare work well and there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.
The environment and the mindset of people here is different from my home country. We have more challenges in Ukraine - propaganda, bureaucracy and yes, corruption just to mention some.
It must have not been easy to move abroad with a little child. How did the relocation go?
Yes, it was difficult and tiring at times. It was not easy for my daughter, as I mentioned earlier. Fortunately the local daycare here helped us to overcome that phase.
It was also not easy for my husband. In the beginning I was the only one working. My husband stayed home with the little one.
I worked full time - 5 days in the office, starting early in the morning and leaving late in the evening. My colleagues often told me to go home and take some time off. But I was so much into all the projects and activities that it was difficult for me to take a break sometimes.
Surely my husband deserves a prize for all the great work he did! A stay-at-home dad deserves some recognition as well. He was flexible, patient and always supportive in relation to my work commitments.
It was not easy for him to move here. He missed his home country, family and friends, especially in the beginning. It took him about 8 months to realise it was actually a good move.
What made your husband finally fall in love with The Netherlands?
The Dutch cuisine! (laughs). Actually, before we moved here my husband was hardly able to make an omelette or to switch on a stove... But, while spending time at home here, he started to experiment a bit more in the kitchen. The result? Today we share 50-50 our cooking duties and he treats me with some traditional Ukrainian soup, so delicious!
We also changed the way we spent our weekends. Being adventurous, we began travelling within the country and exploring new places. Moving within The Netherlands is smooth, easy and quick - a real pleasure. My husband later found a good job and he is now happy with his life and career here.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to mothers who are relocating from abroad with their family and little children?
Hmm, tough question… perhaps the only advice I can offer is to stay open and receptive towards the new country, society and culture. Maybe even learn the language? I remember receiving correspondence from local services in Dutch. That was a big trigger for learning beetje Nederlands. I wanted to know what the tax office or the municipality was writing to me… (big laugh).
And yes, give your family and yourself permission to explore new ways of doing things - even if this might be different from what you’re used to. I believe that’s the only way to grow as a person.
Finally don’t forget to make contacts and start getting to know people.
You’re very enthusiastic and open about the Dutch culture and ways they do things. Is there anything you still cannot embrace of the local way here?
Well you know, there is something. Are you going to print this? (laughs) The Dutch society is quite relaxed when it comes to the education and upbringing of children. There’s some ambition, sure - but lots of time is dedicated to playing and exploration. I like this concept but I struggle to use it in relation to my daughter and to my own life sometimes. So I end up pushing my daughter to improve, do better, learn more. And I do the same with myself. I push myself for the next challenge and so on…That can be tiring sometimes. Yet it’s thanks to ambition and desire for a better life that we are here today. So maybe it’s good thing after all, right? (cheeky smile)
How do you recharge and take care of yourself? It sounds like you have a busy life…
Reading helps me switch off. It immerses in a completely different world. I enjoy reading novels and classics. I also eat healthily and get good rest and sleep. Being a mother is the greatest and most challenging job ever, no doubt! Even my husband would agree. Mothers wear different hats and juggle multiple things at the same time. I learned that my own health and happiness is also important so that my family is happy and healthy too. In my country motherhood is often still associated to sacrifices and selflessness but it’s actually the opposite. Mothers need nurturing and nourishing themselves in order to do what they do and to give what they give. And believe me, they do and give a lot.
(Julia, we couldn’t agree more!)
What do you desire most in your life and career?
Many things! A mother is allowed that, isn’t she? My wish is to enjoy this present time - these moments that life is giving me right now.
I love the stability and feel satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. I’d love to travel with my family a bit more in Europe. We have a car and and we’re buying a house here. So yes, I want to settle down, make some roots and slow down a bit.
My mind sometimes still thinks about new career opportunities - maybe somewhere else with fresh, new challenges. It’s that inner voice which makes me restless sometimes. It stems from my own background and upbringing. But I’m learning to not paying too much attention to that voice and be more in the present moment, which is already perfect and beautiful exactly as it is.