Real Talk

Raelene Clarke Makes A Home Away From Home

Expat mom Raelene Clarke talks about raising four daughters in a foreign but familiar land, through yoga, saying “po” and “opo,” and her activewear brand that empowers young girls, Koa.

“I have learned that I can do it all, but not all right now,” says Raelene Clarke, a mother to four young girls. Like many modern parents, she juggles multiple roles on the daily, be it reading her kids a bedtime story from her homeland, South Africa, where she was born and raised, to practicing yoga regularly.

“My picture right now is still very much about prioritizing my mom role and enjoying the luxury of being stay-at-home, which was not a title I always cherished,” Raelene admits. “There were days when I was feeling like I was not getting time to make my ‘dreams’ come true.”

“In other words, I am slightly off balance—but on purpose,” she concludes. “And this somehow works in a beautiful way, because the priorities are clear.”

Finding her footing

Raelene Clarke’s family recently moved to Manila due to her husband’s work. Raising young girls in a foreign land, Raelene recognizes her huge responsibility as their parent to instill in them the values and traditions from both her heritage and her husband’s (who happens to be American), while allowing them to explore and embrace the local culture of their current hometown, the Philippines.

She shares how in South Africa, it’s common to greet each other by saying “Sawubona,” which means “I see you.”

It’s a simple greeting, but one that instantly fosters recognition, acknowledgment, and connection, cultural differences aside, and she is glad to see that her children are exposed to a way of life that holds similar values. Raelene loves the Filipino tradition of saying “po” and “opo” and calling people “ate” or “kuya” as a way of showing respect.

Mindful Movements

Without having to sit them down or initiate them into the practice, Raelene is happy to see her kids have taken an interest in yoga, something she does daily.

“Yoga is a great introduction to self-regulation and helping the kids bring awareness to their internal world—one that can be filled with many, many feelings waiting to be processed, such as feelings of frustration, anger, boredom, excitement, worry, or happiness,” says Raelene.

“The practice of sitting still (which doesn’t come easy for kids—all the more reason to start early in life!) really helps them process the feelings and create the internal space needed to be able to choose how they will respond, as opposed to reacting in unawareness,” she adds.

The practice of yoga, as a whole, allows adults and children alike to be more attuned to their bodies. Sitting still and being present connects them with their inner selves. “Knowing when to push and when not to go with what feels good for you—I think that’s an incredibly important life lesson,” says Raelene.

Confidence Counts

Alongside raising her family, Raelene recently launched her children’s activewear brand, Koa, made of charcoal bamboo and created especially for young girls as a way to help them build confidence
in themselves. It all started with a report she read that said girls between the ages of 8 to 14 lose 30 percent of their confidence compared to boys—and Raelene didn’t want her children to be part of that statistic.

“The loss in confidence leads them to dropping out of competitive sport, comparing oneself with others, thinking others are cooler, smarter, or prettier than they are,” she explains. “It also leads girls to not have the confidence to say that’s really on their mind, instead, following the crowd to avoid sticking out.”

“Koa’s role has been to bring awareness and articulate these behaviors—to encourage young girls to find their voice and not be afraid to use it, to understand that being afraid is okay,” says Raelene.

Ultimately, for Raelene, she knows that these principles are good as empty words when not put
into practice or used as a compass in the way to navigate through her life choices—be it in her
parenting style or the way she runs her business.

“I know that all the lessons don’t have an impact if I don’t model it,” she says. “So I am therefore driven by the same values in my everyday challenges as a parent and as I continue to build Koa.”

Written by Patti Sunio


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