Although I have lived in Britain for 30 odd years, I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and am originally from Goa in India. Due to my growing empowerment programme for parents, I have been contacted by women across the globe including parts of Asia, reaching out for my support. I came to realise quite quickly from their messages, that many Asian women are really struggling to be all things to all people.
Daughter, Mother, Wife, Sister, Aunty and in all those roles it is often difficult to forget who you are, your identity, your goals, dreams and ambitions.
We are almost built with a ‘guilty’ microchip which makes us feel guilty if we even consider putting ourselves first. Love and respect for others, our family, and our elders is what always comes first.
Many Asian women now realise that with careful planning and a shift in mindset a better balance can be created. We are all given just one chance in life and so regardless of cultural backgrounds, beliefs or religion we all owe it to ourselves to live the most fulfilling life possible.
Today, the year 2016, more and more women across the globe are taking on public leadership and decision-making roles; they are seizing expanded opportunities in education, entrepreneurship, and employment.
They are also discovering they can be a devoted mother, wife and successful women fulfilling her dreams.
At 39 years old I am married with two children, my youngest having a disability (Autism) and an array of medical conditions. For a long time, I thought “why me? why our family, why my son?” I slipped into a dark hole and was happy to stay there as it was safe and quiet.
Due to my son’s medical conditions, a lot of time was spent at appointments, workshops, and conferences and the medical costs forever creating financial stress and pressure.
I began to feel starved, starved of time, starved of emotion and starved of wellbeing. I was basically broke, struggling to fulfill my growing list of motherly duties and any leftover time was shared between my husband and the various family duties and outings that come with a large extended family.
I remember looking at myself in the mirror one day thinking ‘Where have I gone? Who am I? do I even know myself any longer?” … and once I realised I couldn’t actually answer any of my questions because I was so deep down in my own dark hole I thought… “Jo-Ann… sort yourself out…get up, get over it and get on with it!”
Since that day I have not looked back, I have put my armour on, and my life has opened up in so many ways.
My armour included a new mindset of positive, happy, confident thoughts. It also included wearing my favorite shoes, a new lipstick, meeting people, networking, writing, reading, watching documentaries, Zumba, Chai lattes. Finding a little bit of time every day for the little things which make up me ‘Jo-Ann D’Costa-Manuel’ after all there is only one me and it is my duty to live a fulfilling life.
I also do not view myself as an echo but rather a voice…I have my own opinions and views and am confident to share them.
I appreciate the gift of loving one another, diversity, forgiveness, positivity and always viewing the glass as half full rather than half empty.
Along with my journey, I have been approached by other women who feel they have lost their voice, their identity, their confidence. Sometimes during puberty, marriage or after having children and although my story is quite different they have all found similar dark holes.
My monthly columns will be filled with advice and strategies of empowerment. To be the best version of you, to manage your time so that you can be an incredible mother, wife, friend, colleague but also know who you are and stand loud and proud.
Take care of yourself and each other.
Until the next time…
Jo-Ann currently runs Autism Parent Empower a CIC supporting parents across the globe. She is an Ambassador for Virgin Atlantic Airways and has created a variety of videos to support families, children, and adults. To connect with Jo-Ann join her page today
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