Parents’ Night Out with PechaKucha Yerevan

Mothering in the Motherland columnist shares her experiences at MamaBalik event

Times are changing, and so are kids these days. In a nation where traditional parenting techniques are still commonplace, it’s challenging to introduce modern ideas especially to this new generation of young parents in Armenia.

Modern parenting was the leading topic at a recent exciting event in Yerevan called MamaBalik Pecha Kucha Night.

The Mama Forum in collaboration with UNICEF and PechaKucha Yerevan presented experienced mothers and fathers with their stories of parenting in Armenia. From a plastic-free household to the breastfeeding, each parent shared their personal stories with a crowd of over 100 people and paved the way for a new era of parenting. And, there was free on-site childcare! My kids had tons of fun playing Legos and making new friends.

PechaKucha Nights are designed in way that allows each speaker to present 20 relevant images for 20 seconds each. This method of presentation is obviously fast-paced but still quite compelling. There were ten speakers that evening, and the subjects were all intriguing. Before the speakers’ presentations, the UNICEF representative spoke of the differences in parenting in this day and age. With ubiquitous technology, it has become clear that children face new challenges now versus thirty years ago. In the same way, parents have more information, including false-information, at their fingertips. The UNICEF representative noted that even her parents’ generation was only able to learn about parenting directly from their parents. Undoubtedly, the things we parents do nowadays definitely confuse the generation that parented before us.

Contrasting information has been a constant struggle for me. Whether I’m researching about symptoms or sleep training techniques, I’m always surrounded by an older generation who is convinced that whatever information I find must be false. They tell me their experiences were different and that they learned otherwise from their parents and I should do the same.

To some extent, I do turn to them for their wisdom. Experience in some ways can be more valuable than the Internet. It’s exhausting to sift through conflicting information. But having a community of supportive friends who are enduring the same situations can be helpful. Where the older generation falls short, our own generation steps up. That’s where MamaBalik comes in.

Where the older generation falls short, our own generation steps up. That’s where MamaBalik comes in.

I’ll admit, the subject of a plastic-free household was interesting to me personally, considering how much I want to rid my life of plastic. As ideal as this seems, I just don’t see it happening. In our household, I’m adopting a few of the tips prescribed including a focus on wooden toys; and since we have tap water coming in now, we are eliminating our use of plastic water bottles (just waiting to install a filter so the children can drink from it it too). I think reduction is possible with some of these tips, and the rest is all recyclable, right?

The most touching moment was a mother who shared her struggles of getting pregnant and eventually having her first child despite the odds. Her emotions surfaced fast. There was plenty of love in the room to make her feel safe.

Among the most alarming presentations was that of Mkrtich Khachatryan from Personal Data Protection Agency. He talked about children’s identity protection online, which was a sobering realization. Even in Armenia, we are not impervious to all the real world issues of identity theft and bullying. Talk about globalization, our parents definitely never had to worry about these things.

It’s also become clear that there is a shift toward valuing breastfeeding now. Where there was a belief that formula was a luxury afforded by those who had the means in certain parts of the world, breastfeeding is now the preferred source of nourishment for our children. It’s a point of pride among many, and I’m proud to see that we are back on track with what’s best for our children.

For some much-needed comedic relief, Masha Gasparyan and Nareg Margaryan from ArmComedy joked about broken iPhones and charts depicting sleepless nights until the end of time. The two also focused on the importance of fathers in the health and well-being of a family, especially in Armenia where tradition expects otherwise. Usually the mother handles all the household matters, but it’s becoming clear that this model no longer serves the child’s and mother’s mental and physical health anymore. It’s time for fathers to get involved, and it seems they are doing just that in the new generation.

Arsineh Valladian presenting at MamaBalik Pecha Kucha Night.

I was also given the opportunity to share my own story: traveling with toddlers. I shared 20 slides pinpointing key moments from 16 international flights with my children, highlighting the misery that is traveling with kids. Boy, do I need to write another column just covering this. Regardless, my personal experiences definitely drew some laughs from parents, who clearly understood my traveling troubles. It’s a reality for many parents in Armenia, considering the dispersion of Armenians all over the world. We all have to take our kids somewhere far to see relatives or tatiks, papiks, medzmamas, medzbabas, nenes or dedes. As I spoke of the moments of misery where I just wanted it all to end, I reminded them that it all eventually did. And that’s the point. Everything ends and it’s just one day… until I made them realize that jetlag is even harder than the flight itself. Yeah, I’m a complete buzzkill, I know.

PechaKucha Yerevan planted the seeds for healthy parenting. I realized its benefits several days after it was over when I ran into a few mothers who were in attendance. Together we laughed about our favorite moments and shared the most salient elements.

All of the presentations will be posted online at the PechaKucha Yerevan website; I highly recommend it for parents in the Diaspora to get a better picture of how parenting is changing in Armenia. I want to thank the people at Mama Forum, UNICEF and PechaKucha Yerevan. I hope that your efforts for a progressive parenting environment continue and reach larger audiences in the years to come.

Arsineh Valladian

Arsineh Valladian

Arsineh has been living in Armenia on and off since 2001 and has worked on marketing and branding for many clients locally and globally. She currently does all the marketing for Adzoukh restaurant in Yerevan, her husband’s latest venture with his friend and business partner.
Arsineh Valladian

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