Celebrating International Women's Day

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Tuesday, March 8th, is International Women’s Day 2022. The day was established in 1975 by the United Nations to celebrate and promote the achievements of women.   

On IWD, I think of the women who inspire me. That includes my daughter, the women on my team, some of my clients, and my idol: my mom.  

My International Women’s Day Inspiration  

My mom was not my idol growing up.   

She seemed strict, traditional, and too involved with the cooking and cleaning.   

My younger sister Heba and I would come home from school, hungry and tired from carrying our heavy school backpacks. Often, the power was out in the building where we lived in Tripoli, Lebanon, so Heba and I had to climb up four flights of stairs to reach our home.  

As we walked through the building, we could smell the dinner each mother was preparing for their family. Heba and I would pause at each door, take a deep breath, and guess what that family was having for dinner.   

When we reached the front door to our own home, we’d do the same, and then our mother would open the door and let us know if we guessed her meal correctly. Heba and I would laugh, especially when we guessed something like chicken and potatoes, while the meal was stuffed grapes in lemon juice. My mom would grin at our silliness.   

Role Model Without a Role Model  

When we all moved to Canada a few years later, my mother was 42. Moving was hard on her. Partly to help my father carry the financial responsibilities of our newly established home, and partly because she felt lonely and isolated, she decided she would get a job. She applied at the nearest A&W.   

My mom worked all day at A&W. When Heba and I came home from college at the end of the day, she would be in the kitchen cooking for us, still in her A&W uniform.    

None of us had the energy to guess nor laugh. We would often eat in silence, thinking back at the many struggles we experienced that day as new immigrants.   

When my mom felt more confident with her English speaking and became more familiar with the city, she decided to become a pastry chef.   

I did not realize it at the time, but now I understand, my mom would have had to gather a tremendous amount of strength to go through the application process, ignore those who told her she was crazy, AND do the actual work while attending to all of us, and cooking at home.   

She did all that without a role model, without a coach, and with only basic English.   

Happy International Women’s Day 2022

I remember the day that all the students in the Pastry Chef Program had to present their creations. My mom invited us to watch the presentation. I could tell she was nervous. She kept looking at her young classmates’ work. I could see that she felt intimidated, but at the same time, she knew that she did it. She was at the same stage as the rest of her classmates.  She later went on to work as a pastry chef at big hotels in Calgary, like the Westin and the Sheraton.  

I’m now 40. I, too, need to often gather a significant amount of strength, ignore the negative thoughts and people, and jump into situations and projects, just like my mom did at my age.  

I realize now what I did not when I was growing up. My mom is my role model, my idol. I extract a lot of my strength from her presence in my life.  

Zeina El-Sayed and her mother Wafa

Mom, Wafa, Happy Women’s International Day. Happy Women’s International Day 2022 to all the mothers and daughters, especially those that recognize each other’s strength and hold space for one another to be who we want to be.  

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