What Does Your Husband Do?: The Secret Identity of the Expat Wife

Of all the questions a modern woman expects to be asked when meeting someone for the first time, “So, what does your husband do?” is not one that would’ve been on my radar. In fact, it would have grievously offended my pre-expat-wife self.

What do you mean, what does my husband do? How is that relevant to who I am as an individual? How does his career, his role, his position – define me? 

And yet, after expat-wifing for 5 years now, it’s a question that no longer causes me to bat an eyelid. In fact, after being asked my name, my kids’ ages, where we live, my often-spoken, almost pre-rehearsed line about his position at X company dances at the tip of my tongue, waiting for its inevitable release.

I am a dependant. I am someone else’s Plus One. I am so-and-so’s wife or so-and-so’s mother. The homemaker, the baby-caretaker, the healthy-toddler-muffin-baker.

Continue reading

We, the Mama Martyrs

We, the mama martyrs, will never admit that this is who we are.

We, the mama martyrs, are terrible at accepting help. We think we are somehow lesser mothers, or not entitled to sport that badge of honour, if we don’t do everything – everything – ourselves.

We, the mama martyrs, will make excuses, over and over, for why we have to keep essentially torturing ourselves, and running ourselves into the ground, because it is for the sake of our children, and more importantly, because that’s what a good mother does.

We, the mama martyrs, need to stop. We need to stop.

mama

Continue reading

Don’t Let Me Forget Their Littleness

Here I sit, between them on my bed, the toddler on my left and the baby on my right. They’re fast asleep, peacefully dreaming of the things little ones dream about. If I listen closely, I can hear their steady, soft breaths, and see their little chests rising and falling almost in unison. In this still, quiet moment, I beg the universe:

Don’t let me forget.


Don’t let me forget the way her fine, silky baby hairs tickle the tip of my nose as I breathe in her perfection, or the way she giggles as I bury my head into the cushiony folds of her chubby neck. She smells like milk, soap, and baby powder, even though I didn’t put any baby powder on her. She smells like love and hope and some magical, mysterious ingredient that only babies possess. Continue reading

Hey Sleep-Deprived Mama, Take Yourself Out On a Date

If you’re a sleep-deprived mama that stays up late for no reason, I get you.

No, really. I get you.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that at one point, someone has said to you: Okay, you’re sleep deprived – it’s essentially all you ever talk about, so why are you still up now that the kids are in bed?

My very logical, rational husband doesn’t understand why, despite the fact that I haven’t slept for longer than a two-hour stretch over the past couple of months, I still stay up well past the kids’ bedtime. You say you want ‘me-time’ – but isn’t sleep the ultimate ‘me-time’? he asked me once.

Before I had kids, the concept of ‘me-time’ was pretty stock standard. I’d take the full hour lunch break at work and walk through the shops with no agenda whatsoever. On the weekend, I’d set off to the gym on my own for an hour and then stop by my favourite cafe and grab a cappuccino. Sometimes I’d get more than one bout of ‘me-time’ in one day. It was great.

Me and myself had the perfect amount of quality time together.

26133626 Attractive woman with a gorgeous warm smile

Continue reading

Dear Motherhood, I Miss Me 

I wanted to run away from my kids yesterday.

Everything just kind of came crashing down all at once. There were several factors at play. Suddenly, I just felt tired. I felt alone. I felt like everything was on me, and that I had no way out.

Motherhood has this way of consuming every atom capable of feeling love in your body, and then multiplying each and every one at an exponential rate. It can make you want to sacrifice everything, and anything, for another, without having to think twice. It is exhilarating, beautiful, fulfilling.

But motherhood also has another side, which we feel guilty talking about. We shouldn’t really talk about it, right? I sound ungrateful. I’ve been blessed with the privilege of raising these amazing children. I shouldn’t complain. I could have it a lot worse. I should focus on the positives, because the negatives will just bring me, and others, down.  

25202180 i love my momThe truth is, at one point or another, you’ll feel it. You will. You’ll feel trapped. You’ll get tired of being so completely depended upon. You’ll miss your freedom. You’ll think back to when you were just you, and only really had to take care of yourself, and you’ll miss that. You’ll miss the luxury of thinking to yourself, “I think I’ll go to bed now”, and then rest assured that you will only wake up when you decide you’re ready to do so. You’ll miss sitting in a cafe reading a book for three hours. You’ll miss shopping alone, without any time restrictions and without having to do the mommy-jiggle-shake-bounce while you try and lull that ticking time bomb baby to sleep as you hurriedly examine ingredients lists and price tags. Continue reading

Where Aren’t You From?: A Third Culture Kid’s Identity Crisis 

The question “where are you from?” is a difficult question to answer.

Yes, of course, sir. If your daughter is Egyptian, then your granddaughter is also Egyptian.”

The immigration officer greeting us at Cairo airport warmly assured my father that neither my daughter nor I needed a visa to enter our country of origin. He handed back the crinkled copy of my birth certificate – a document which, despite me having only lived in Egypt until I was three and a half, and despite the fact that I had not set foot on Egyptian soil in over 18 years, was all that was required to legitimise my, and apparently my daughter’s, claim to Egyptian heritage.

My husband and I had decided to surprise my parents and accompany them on a trip to Egypt, my place of birth and my first nationality, in October 2014. Our first daughter was 7 months old at the time. It was a significant trip for me, not only because it had been so long since I’d been back, but more so because I found myself constantly asking the question:

Am I really Egyptian?

Continue reading

The Universality of Motherhood

The universality of motherhood has a tremendous power to unite.

Let me tell you a little story. Earlier today, I decided to take the girls down the road to a nearby mall. Tuna appears to have outgrown all of her clothes overnight so I needed to take her shopping.

It’ll come as no surprise that shopping with a toddler and a baby is not the most peaceful of activities. Eventually, Puff started crying because I’d been so focused on trying to get Tuna to try things on (which I confirm is torture for both the parent, and the child) that I’d forgotten to feed her since we left home. So I put her in the stroller and swung Tuna onto my back in the carrier and headed to the parents’ room.
You see – we’ve only been here just over two weeks. I still haven’t figured out the protocol in Jakarta when it comes to nursing in public. It’s a new place. It’s a different culture. I want to respect my surroundings as much as I can. I’ve nursed in public before with a nursing cover, but so far, I haven’t seen anyone else do the same. Plus, the baby and I both hate the damn thing.

The parents’ room was large with several changing stations and places to sit. Tuna ran around and kept threatening to head straight out the door while I desperately tried to get her to sit still so that I could keep an eye on her while I tried to calm my baby. I frantically started searching for the nursing cover in my bag when I noticed a mother sitting across from me nursing her baby, without a cover, and totally comfortable.

That was all the confirmation I needed. Forget the cover. You didn’t have to ask me twice.

I relaxed and settled into it and the baby was happy. The lady and her friend interacted with Tuna. We all exchanged smiles at each other. The toddlers high-fived each other. Tuna tried to run out the door again at one point and another mother guarded it and tried to distract her while I changed the baby.

We didn’t speak the same language. We came from different backgrounds. We didn’t know anything about each other and didn’t necessarily have anything in common.

Except that we were all mothers. And in that moment, we were all part of the same village.

I love that the universality of motherhood transcends language, culture, religion, and things that sometimes divide people.

It was a simple, everyday situation, but it made me appreciate that despite all of our differences, so many of the things we go through as mothers, are the same.

So, thank you to the mom that made me feel like it was totally okay to nurse without having to cover up because she knew that sometimes using a nursing cover results in a shrieking baby who attracts even more attention than if you tried to nurse without one;

To the mom that stopped to help me clip the back strap of the baby carrier because she knew how wriggly a 4-month-old can be;

To the mom that held my toddler back from jumping onto the road while I was loading up the taxi because she knew how you never have enough hands when you’re with the kids;

To the mom that gave me an empathetic smile while I tried to wrangle a tantruming two-year-old in the supermarket because she knew that kids choose only the most public places to have the most demonstrative performances;

To the mom that gave me an understanding look while I carried the toddler on my hip and pushed the baby in the stroller, because she gets that sometimes the big one wants to be the baby for a change;

Thank you.