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Sunday, July 13, 2014

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Seminar takes moms ‘Beyond the Diaper Bag’

Tags: Health
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Jane Farkas, here with her youngest daughter, Pnina, is the organizer of Mommy Talks, which presents its first annual seminar in April.

For young mothers looking to entertain their little ones, there’s no shortage of baby-centred programming. But Jane Farkas, organizer of a new initiative called Mommy Talks, says it’s time someone thought about the moms, too.

Farkas, a 28-year-old mother of three kids under the age of five, spoke with The CJN about the launch of Mommy Talks, a new program designed for Jewish mothers who want to better themselves for their families and contribute to their community in positive ways.  

The first annual seminar titled “Beyond the Diaper Bag,” to be held April 7 at the Prosserman Jewish Community Centre, is the brainchild of Farkas, who runs Aish HaTorah’s AishCampus Thornhill program with her husband, Rabbi Erez Farkas.

Although her job requires her to work with Jewish students, Farkas said she got the itch to reach out to fellow Jewish moms following the birth of her youngest daughter.

“I started a blog because I needed an outlet. It’s called AwesomeMommy.ca. Then I started a mommy group at my house with a friend who was on maternity leave,” she said.

“I wanted to do something because… the ‘Mommy and Me’ groups at the mall are all good, but they’re all baby-centred.”

But it wasn’t until Farkas read the bestseller Prisoner in Tehran by Iranian-Canadian author Marina Nemat that she was compelled to organize an event tailored to busy moms who don’t want to lose themselves in loads of laundry and diaper duty.

“A few months ago, I read that book, and I was appalled at myself that I didn’t know that Iran used to be a normal country. When I finished reading the book, I said to my husband, ‘Did you know that Iran was a normal country? And he said, ‘I think that’s common knowledge, Jane,’” she recalled.

“It’s not like I live under a rock. I’m a well-read, educated person. I have a bachelor’s degree, but I still didn’t know that.”

Upon reflecting on the books she has read since her children were born, it occurred to her that they were all pregnancy or parenting books.

“I couldn’t handle the idea that my entire life had become carpool, snacks, lunches and after-school activities. I love being a mom, but there just has to be something more to life than just that.”

Farkas hopes this upcoming event, sponsored by Aish Toronto, the Prosserman JCC and the DANI Toronto, which helps special-needs adults develop life skills, will inspire women to “take care of themselves, the community and eventually the world.”

She said this introductory seminar will touch on a range of different topics, including how to start a blog, honing your time-management skills, mom-friendly fashion tips, and the importance of being accountable and improving the world.

Children are welcome, of course, as there will be programming led by certified early childhood educators running simultaneously, which will keep moms free to enjoy the lectures, break-out sessions, a catered sit-down lunch and a raffle.

The raffle alone is worth the price of admission, Farkas said.

“I have a storage room full of stuff – way over $3,000 worth of stuff.  I have hair straighteners, gift baskets, jewelry. It’s insane.”

But it’s the women who will be addressing a capacity crowd of 100 mothers that lends this seminar credibility.

The keynote speaker and the inspiration for the event, Marina Nemat, who often speaks out about her experience being imprisoned and tortured in Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, will talk about making the world a better place.

Farkas has also invited Margaret Wallis-Duffy, founder of a multidisciplinary wellness centre called Wallis for Wellness; Ro Little, the president and CEO of mommyblogdesigns.com; Dr. Tara Bloom, who focuses on feeding and nutrition for infants, as well as fertility issues; Jessica Kaplan, M for Mendocino’s brand director, and Kathy Laszlo, co-founder and co-director of DANI Toronto.

“Margaret will be talking about making sure that mommies are well and mentally healthy so that they can provide for their kids,” Farkas said.

“Jessica, who is the brand manager for M for Mendocino… is going to present about spring trends just to help mommies put together an outfit that goes beyond your Lululemon outfit. Or you can go to Ro’s session, who’ll talk about getting online, how to start a blog, how to make money from a blog.”

Farkas added that she didn’t realize until recently that the seminar takes place on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, so she invited Jody Spiegel, the director of the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program at the Azrieli Foundation, to present a short Holocaust memorial video to commemorate the day.

For more information or to register, visit mommytalks.ca. Tickets are $18.

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