It’s 8 o’clock in the morning when I arrive at the home of Kseniya, Jean-François, Zoya, Maxime and Victor. The kids are tucking into breakfast, Daddy, dressed for work, is getting ready to leave and Mom is looking after baby Victor. A morning like any other for them, but the picture of a happy family, to me.
Jean-François works at a law firm and Kseniya works for Cirque du Soleil. At the moment, though, she’s on maternity leave. Like all mums, she couldn’t be busier, but in this case, it’s for a slightly different reason: Kseniya studies part-time! Now that’s a challenge – especially when it comes to juggling it with mealtimes!
Between Zoya and his school lunchboxes, Maxime with his exclusive penchant for raw fish, Victor eating everything (but mostly the inedible) and Jean-François being allergic to poultry, being a mum, a chef and a student can be a real headache when it’s happening all at once.
I don’t have kids and I’m certainly not ready to start a family. However, if I can trust all the wisdom that can be gleaned from blogs and social media, moms in any situation can struggle to find time for themselves and for their personal projects (and the same often goes for dads – I wouldn’t like to discriminate). With work, household tasks, the kids and all the chauffeuring that accompanies them, it seems impossible to me that parents might find a single minute to themselves. But as my meeting with Kseniya goes on, I find her to be a mum who not only devotes herself to her kids, but who has also managed to follow her personal dreams, and it’s truly inspiring.
So when did you make the great return to studies?
Kseniya : Not very long after Victor was born, so about a year ago, now. It’s required loads of organisation, particularly with household tasks and shopping.
How exactly has the change altered your daily life as a mom?
Kseniya: I have even less time to cook [laughs]! As lots of my classes are at night, I’m often not there for dinner, or to put the lunch boxes together. The kids love it, though, because it means they can often put in a word with their dad to order from St Hubert [laughs]!
Was it difficult to make this decision?
Kseniya: Yes, mostly because of all the admin. On the one hand, I’m there during the day to look after the baby, but on the other, I’m busy at night and when exam and essay time comes round. There’s also the financial burden of it; not just with the price of studying itself, but also the fact that I’m only earning a maternity leave salary alongside it.
At times, I’ve let people’s opinions get me down a bit, too… After all, I’m 40 years old and back at school! When my friends found out, I think they felt a bit weird about it, I guess because they assumed I was all settled in to ‘regular’ parenthood! It’s all worked out, but yeah, it was tricky at first.
What would you say to people who’d like to return to studying, but wouldn’t dare?
Kseniya : I don’t think there’s an age limit on doing what you want to do in life. Take me: I’m 40 years old and I’m just finding out what I really want to do! I’d spoken in great depth to the VP of our human resources department and he said “you’ve got a fantastic opportunity, so hurry up and get on with it!”. And he was absolutely right, because we never really lose the things we learn! So I would tell others that same thing! It’s an amazing way of enhancing your lifestyle.
And it feels great to make a decision for yourself. When you start a family, every decision you make is for them; the kids will always come first, but it’s important not to forget about yourself along the way, so that you’re still your own person.
It’s been really good for me to open my social circle and exist outside of the ‘mom’ world. My studies give me a moment to myself, where I can exchange ideas with people who have the same passions as me… and it happens to offer me some time away from the same old chores [laughs]!
Favorite Cook It recipe?
The prawn Poke Bowl! That was a real surprise for us! Out of the four recipes that we got last week, we left it until last, worrying that the kids wouldn’t like it… but it ended up getting 5 stars all-round!
Borscht*! When I was little, my parents had to force me to eat it, but now I love it!
Sausage and vegetable couscous! It’s easy, but it’s always a winner with the whole family!
Les Provisions! I love the concept, because we never know what to eat! The chef goes to the market in the morning and buys whatever is freshest, then prepares recipes using that.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
I can’t live without breakfast! I’d rather arrive late if it means I have time for breakfast [laughs]! Otherwise, my ideal meal would just be any kind of dessert… regardless of the main course!
* Borscht is a soup originating from Slavic countries. It is usually based on beetroot, which gives it a fantastic, deep red color.