Raising Boys: Taryn & Miha Kljakovic

Taryn Kljakovic is raising her son Miha to value empowerment for both men and women

Picture / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

As one of the founders of Women’s Collective, an ongoing series of events designed to empower women to come together and connect, Taryn Kljakovic knows a thing or two about the importance of sharing ideas and experiences, and she, alongside her wife, Sasha, is raising her 2-year-old son, Miha, to be aware of the conversation around empowerment for both men and women.

Having worked in the entertainment industry for 10 years — she has a full-time senior position at Sony Music — Taryn felt compelled to direct her skill set towards something that benefitted her community.

“About three years ago, I was grappling with my position in the world in terms of what I was doing to give back,” she says.

“I thought ‘what am I doing beyond paying my taxes?’ I’m a very spiritual person, but I don’t go to church so I didn’t have that outlet or sense of community. I thought women needed to get better at having informal networks the way men do — a lot of deals are done in bars, and women tend to think that being great at their work is going to be enough, and these days it’s not really. I think learning is so important, because information is power, and when we can get together and have that informal network in addition to learning, we can go into the world and impact change.”

For Taryn, it’s important to her that as he grows, Miha is aware of the issues that women face, and to honour his feelings. “I think that boys can be raised thinking they have to be tough all the time, and to show any emotion is to show weakness,” she says.

“We have a real problem with men and suicide in New Zealand because they’re taught to bottle everything up. So the most important thing I want to instill in him is to honour how he feels, to talk about it and process it — it’s amazing, he’s learning self-regulation for his emotions right now, so I’m there for him, but he’s learning how to cope with hard situations and therefore building emotional intelligence and resilience.”

Taryn doesn’t subscribe to a “one-size-fits-all” ideology when it comes to her own life.

“My hope for women is that they understand they can design their lives however it suits them and their families. I think society can project expectations on others too much, and I think that’s possibly something that being gay has given me; there are fewer expectations on how it’s going to unfold as two working mothers with a child. So it gives me more freedom to design life to be the way that works for me.”

Some of the best advice she has received was from a taxi driver, who told her “the best thing we can do for our children is to continue learning”. “I was blown away by that. I want to be someone my son is really proud of, and to show him it’s really important to me to be a leader to my family.”

When her wife, Sasha, an ED doctor, was pregnant with Miha, Taryn notes it was interesting working against what she called their “natural roles”.

“I’m typically more feminine and she’s typically more masculine, to help people understand in ‘regular’ terms, so for me to challenge myself to support her being the one staying at home was really empowering, and same for Sasha doing the opposite. She didn’t enjoy being at home, so she waited until Miha was 6 months old, then couldn’t wait to get back to work.

“What that’s done long-term for our family is show our son that both parents are just as good at looking after him, which I think is important so that he’s demonstrated a quite egalitarian set-up — my career is just as important as Sasha’s. We also have a pretty even split on household chores, and I hope he’ll model that in his own life, so if he gets, say, into a heterosexual relationship he doesn’t expect his wife to do everything.”

Taryn says she can already see a performative streak in Miha, which she says is ironic given her profession of managing artists at Sony. “I’ve got this weird feeling he may end up being an artist — how ironic would that be, I’d be a ‘momager’.”

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New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald

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