Motherhood is beautiful: Meet Janka
Occupation: Physician Assistant, Emergency Medicine
Mom to: Martin and Oliver
The terms “natural beauty” and “energizer bunny” generally don’t go together in the same sentence. But they do when describing Janka Flaska. This accomplished mom of two is a physician assistant (PA) specializing in emergency medicine and a part-time assistant clinical professor at the University of Colorado’s Physician Assistant Program.
Janka’s parents were first generation immigrants from Slavakia and the Czech Republic who as she describes “were incredibly hard workers and came to America to give us a better life. They never stopped. Education was very important to them, and that was my focus growing up.”
Janka’s academic journey is extensive, starting with a scholarship to a boarding school in Connecticut, a bachelor’s degree in biology, then on to graduate school where she earned both a Master of Medical Science, Physician Assistant Studies and a Master of Public Health degree. As a young girl she participated in competitive gymnastics, practicing 3-4 hours a day and competing most weekends. In college, she rowed crew, played hockey and lacrosse. On winter breaks at home in Colorado, she escaped to Vail to snowboard all month which ultimately led to participation in halfpipe competitions in her early 20s. A tear in her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and subsequent evaluation by a physician assistant is what piqued her interest in a career as a PA.
Her academic and physical activity accomplishments are numerous, but she’s also active in her community. She is on her second term as a member of her local parks and recreation board and also served a short time as a city councilwoman. Being around Janka, you get the feeling that she really loves life and movement and fun are top priorities. When not at work, she’s seeking out an experience for her family, either a trip to the museum, a concert, a bike ride, a ski trip, or a get together with friends. Sitting still isn’t a regular practice in her household. “I could never have a desk job,” she jokes.
Thoughts on aging as a woman? I never thought I would be concerned about my aging appearance, but have started to notice my lines and my graying and am wondering how I will deal with that in the future. I still feel like I am in my twenties, (except for when I try and run) but am becoming aware that people see a 40 year old when they look at me. I love the idea of aging gracefully but also look at friends who color their hair and use botox and they look great! I wonder, should I be doing more of that? I also notice people, mostly celebrities, who have had terrible face jobs, and think thank God there is not the pressure in my world to do that.
I hope to be able to continue to be active as I get older, and to keep working. I think it’s important to keep your body strong, and your mind involved. Just going to work you are faced with unpredictable situations and a whole variety of people. It’s good for us!
Aging in general - I am pleased with being comfortable with who I am. Twenty years ago I was searching and looking to impress; its great to be at this stage where you do what makes you happy, and not care too much what others have to say about it.
Best part about being a mama? I love my kids so much, I had no idea I could love someone this much. You love your parents, and your spouse, and others around you, but this is just another level. I do remember my mom saying as much, that I wouldn't understand until I had my own kids, and I would just roll my eyes. But, of course, she was right.
I have historically been pretty detached and generally less emotionally available. Ever since we had kids I feel like it doesn't take much for me to empathize with others and feel their pain or their love or disappointment or fears. I find myself crying at stupid commercials that somehow strike a chord with me. I guess that’s a really great part of parenting. That I have this new ability to feel with, and for others. And, mostly that I know what it means to love someone so much.
What does the “future is female” mean to you? I haven't heard that term, no comment right now.
Any particular thoughts on the MeToo movement? I am glad to see it gain traction. It's remarkable that for so long women have had to tolerate so much harassment, and in particular, I am happy that so many voices and stories have been heard. I don’t see that this movement will so negatively affect courtship in the future. I think men and women can still express themselves and pursue a romantic interest without being overly aggressive. There is a place where both parties can be comfortable.
What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about parenting? That is takes so much time! And, that I really enjoy it. I imagined I would get through these first few years and then start doing all the other things that used to define me. But, I really enjoy spending time with my kids.
Your thoughts on raising resilient kids? It’s hard to find a balance between giving kids a place to be creative, play, take risks and avoiding over parenting, micromanaging and overscheduling. I was definitely "highly scheduled" growing up, and the resulting tendencies, both good and bad, continue on in me.
For example, I am not terribly creative, but do pretty well with a very busy day, and in a professional setting where algorithms predominate. My husband, in contrast, was raised pretty much opposite, and I see that our kids have this wonderful creative side that they clearly got from him. I want that to continue! I want our boys to not be afraid of hardship, or of taking on things that may seem overwhelming initially, so that they can start to learn some resiliency when dealing with adverse conditions. I want to push them into situations and settings that they may not elect, but am wary of "overparenting.” It’s how I got there, I think. Maybe raising resilient kids means giving them love and support and guidance always, and then trusting that what you taught them and the examples you set will transfer to them, and then just starting to let go as they get older.
I imagine the love and support will always be there, but my ability to influence them will start to wane; hopefully knowing that their parents are right behind them, always, can help them develop resiliency.
One of the doctors I work with offered this to me. His kids are early teenagers, and his wife in particular has really struggled with the transition and is butting heads with one of their girls. He commented that "she just needs to let go, because the cute little baby she knew is long gone, and this is a completely different person.”
I am trying to celebrate this very affectionate stage of my kids' lives, and hoping that when they start to become different people that I can honor that.
Best advice your mom ever gave you? When you see someone walking down the street, say hello. If you meet someone, put out your hand, look them in the eye, and introduce yourself. She also had a ridiculous cliche phrase that she loves, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It was so cheesy, and she would say it in English in the middle of our Slovak conversation, but she sure has lived by that, and I try to also.
My mom wasn't as much of an advice giver as an example setter; her advice was unspoken but nonetheless heard clearly. Work hard, don't give up, be careful with money, share with everyone, write thank you cards and say thank you.