Nurturing is her superpower: Anne Ferguson and The Centered Mama Project
Opening the series of interviews with inspiring women who are crafting their own path and a meaningful life in Geneva, we introduce Anne Ferguson, founder and chief nurturer at The Centered Mama Project.
Changing the world, one act of (self) love at a time
From mini retreats where mothers can practice yoga, meditate and share their feelings and thoughts in a non judgmental, empathetic environment while their kids are at school, to online programs where each day participants are invited to practice self care through simple yet powerful gestures, The Centered Mama Project is all about women putting themselves at the center of their own lives. It may sound selfish, but as Anne will be the first to tell you from her own experience, unless we take care of ourselves, we cannot be there for the people that we love.
I wish I had met Anne earlier, back in the first months of motherhood when I was scrambling around to get my pieces together and I found no time whatsoever to take care of my own needs. I could have seriously used her support and be kinder to myself in those trying days.
I got so curious when I learned that she was running a self-lovathon that I signed up as a Christmas gift for myself, and I'm loving it! What's a self-lovathon anyways? It's a 40-day long program proposing a new self-love practice every day through a dedicated online platform and live Facebook videos in which Anne shares her tips in the best blend of fun and empathy.
Got curious too? Join The Centered Mama Project Virtual Village on Facebook (it's free) and keep an eye open for upcoming events. Anne is concocting some wonderful things in weeks and moths to come!
From superwoman to centered mama: Anne's journey as an international mother in Geneva
BG: Hello, Anne. You have a very interesting professional title: chief nurturer at The Centered Mama Project. Please tell us more about that.
Anne Ferguson: So, I am the founder and chief nurturer at The Centered Mama Project because my superpower is nurturing. I have, like so many moms, this huge drive to nurture and it doesn’t just stop at my kids, it extends to anyone who crosses my path.
My experience is that we as mothers are really crap at nurturing ourselves and we’re not that great at nurturing each other. We are phenomenal at nurturing our kids but then we kind of run out of juice. So the Centered Mama Project was created in order for us to come back to our center, to put ourselves at the center of our own lives.
My mission is to change the way we treat ourselves as moms. And also the way we treat each other. If we can go from comparing, and judging and criticizing and evaluating and all those things to elevating, and supporting and being compassionate, and sharing and collaborating then it will literally not only change our individual lives but it will change the world.
FROM ANNE FERGUSON'S INSTAGRAM: @centeredmamaproject
BG: How did you realize this was your calling? How did your experience coming to live in Geneva influence your professional path?
Anne Ferguson: I worked in public relations for a decade and a half in Toronto where I’m from and in London and Barcelona. And then we came to Geneva through my husband’s work, when the company he worked for opened offices here.
We had a ten month old at the time, and once I was able to find some help I did freelance work in different PR agencies in Geneva. Then I became pregnant with my second daughter and in all this time my husband’s travel schedule was around 80% of the time. He once got a letter from Swiss saying, “congratulations! You spent 30 days flying on our planes!". That's 30 days' worth of hours just in the air.
We don’t have family here and I was a superwoman. I was doing all the things all the time and people would say “how are you?” and I was like “Good, it’s good, a little busy, husband traveling. All good!”. And what was actually happening was that I was very slowly starting to crack and I didn't appear to realize it.
When my daughters were almost 4 and almost 6 we had a lot going on and I had stopped working. I had retrained as a yoga teacher because I didn’t want to be available to travel for my clients when the boss decides, I wanted to be independent. So I started teaching yoga and it was great. But it was a lot of running around. I was driving to the studio and then going to teach private clients of my own and then going to teach private clients for the studio and then going to teach corporate clients. And anytime my kids were sick I couldn’t just leave them with someone because I didn’t have that someone. It was very stressful.
Then one day I had food poisoning. I went to a cafe and got some take away. It was fish. I ate it outside and before I knew I was in the emergency room and all the staff was scrabbling around. Eventually that day the doctor said to me, “there’s nothing else that we can do, we just have to wait to see if your organs hold". So, my husband was in Texas, my family in Canada, his family in Argentina and me being superwoman I didn’t have that many people around to call on. Because even though I’m super social, everything was fine.
BG: Nobody else knew you needed help.
Anne Ferguson: Exactly. Because everybody else is a mom, also an expat and everybody else’s partner is traveling and some of them were working and they didn’t have the time to help me and I didn’t want to put more load on them. I describe it as being in a glass tower. Like I'm inside at the bottom of this glass tower and it’s just getting thicker and thicker and taller and taller. And to the outside, I look totally fine. I’m totally handling it. Because my glass tower is holding me up. But actually I was trapped. I couldn't get out to say “I really need some help”. I just wouldn't allow myself to do that, because I was so invested in being this uber-coping uber-capable, uber-committed, full-on, full-time, super amazing connected mama who responded to all of her children’s every needs.
So I landed in hospital and for several hours I didn't know if I was gonna live. And the next morning I was fine. I just walked out of the hospital. It was the weirdest thing.
BG: I guess this episode had deep consequences for you...
Anne Ferguson: I spent six months having big panic attacks and having to go to the hospital because I thought it was happening again. I stopped working and lost a lot of weight. I realized I had become a hermit, and I felt the need to do something more. Work for myself. I found an online business course through which I connected to some great networking people and started teaching yoga again. I didn't want to be driving around everywhere again, though. And I thought, "ok, I’ll do something online, because then if my kids are sick I can do it anyway. If my kids have to be away there’s something I can program and work around our real life."
So The Centered Mama Project has taken various forms. It has gone from local workshops to doing workshops online to now having programs that I’m offering online. It turns out what I initially thought was an expat mama challenge, actually isn’t. Talking to moms who live in London who moved a ten minute drive down the same road, they tell me they no longer see the friends they used to see. There are different stages of motherhood and it's very isolating.
Busting through the isolation and through the loneliness is really what brought the centered mama project to where it is now.
BG: What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time and talk to Anne when she was feeling lonely? Or even before, when you had recently arrived and were trying to do everything perfectly?
Anne Ferguson: I would say, there is so much available in Geneva. You just need to scratch the surface. Someone said to me, Geneva is very discreet. She doesn’t unveil herself easily. And that has proven very true. There’s a ton of resources like what you’re creating, so there are resources online, but there’s also… women in Geneva are doing a lot for each other. And it’s not immediately apparent so don’t give up.
Talk to as many people as you can and ask people to introduce you to other people. Ask. Don’t be afraid to bother people. If they can’t, they will say no, but ask and just deal with them when they say no and find someone else and ask them because there's a tremendous amount that is available and I didn’t really tap into as much as I would have liked to because I didn’t realize. Even if you don’t speak French there’s a lot that you can draw on. [check Anne's tips at the end of the interview]
BG: I think you are the right person to comment on something that I suspect a lot of women experience. So, you come to Geneva because of your husband’s job, and it’s a good job. And then you feel lonely, it’s difficult to fit in, or to find a job. But at the same time your family and your friends back at home may be like, “what are you complaining about? Your husband has a good job, you can afford to just do yoga in the middle of the day. You have nothing to complain about.” Sometimes I think we also feel guilty about own feelings towards our lives.
Anne Ferguson: It’s something that has definitely come up when I have workshops where moms will literally start weeping and say “I feel so much guilt that I’m not appreciating this amazing situation we’re in, but I’m really lonely. And yes, I have someone coming clean my house once a week, but it doesn’t replace my friends."
We feel ashamed and guilty about these feelings. But they are born out of vulnerability, which is, “I am lonely. I miss my beloved people, I miss my friends and my family. And I miss familiarity." And it’s ok to feel that way. And it’s also ok to talk about it, because everyone feels the same way.
[The solution] is having common goals with people. It’s having different conversations with other women who have similar interests. You need to find those things that draw you together and then share experiences because as you do that you get to know each other, versus, "hey, do you wanna go and have a coffee?" Which is what we tend to do. But if you could say, "hey, I’d really love to go for a power walk, would you like that?" And then you go and do something that’s good for your body, good for your heart, good for your soul and also you get to know a new friend. It’s great!
BG: Do you have a special place or something that you like to do here in Geneva when you need to recharge your batteries… if you took a special day for yourself here, where would you go, what would you do?
Anne Ferguson: Well, one thing that I love to do is going for walks in the vines. And in the woods. I just discovered some places around Satigny and Dardagny, there are some really beautiful walks you can do from the village of Dardagny through the hills and the vines. The views are so amazing and the peace is so complete. For me the recharging thing is to get out into nature. I just love being outside, almost more than being inside.
Thank you, Anne! If you enjoyed this article make sure to subscribe using the box below so you receive an email every month with out latest news :)
Anne's tips for mothers in Geneva:
Carte 20 ans/20francs: a card that gives discount prices on a number of activities in Geneva ranging from museums to movie theaters to sports facilities. It costs 20 CHF and is valid until the child turns 21, no matter how old s/he was when the card was ordered.
Carte Junior: did you know you can get a card for 30 CHF that allows your child to travel for free in most areas in Switzerland when accompanied by a paying parent? That includes TPG, so if you're kids are between 6 and 16, it's super handy. Check all the info (in English) here.
Leprogramme.ch : a website that compiles events in Geneva both for children and adults, sorted by type (music, theater, dance, etc). Very useful to see at a glance everything that's happening in theaters near you.