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?

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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.

I’m Done Waiting To Lose Weight

We finally got some professional family photographs taken last weekend. Truthfully, I’d been putting this off over and over again because I wanted to wait until I’d lost the baby weight after having #2 so that I could look somewhat presentable in these photos and not have to look back, 5 or 10 years later, and cringe at myself.

But recently, a light switched on in my head and made me think to myself: you know what? I’m done waiting to lose weight.

I’m done.

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To the New Mother of Two

One of my very best friends had her second baby just over two weeks ago. And while I’m by no means anywhere close to a seasoned mother of two, it’s amazing what two extra months can teach you.

I’ve found that those that have been through it tend to focus on how things will get easier in the long-term. Just get through the first year, and it’ll all start to fall into place. Yes, it’s a small age gap, but you’ll so appreciate what good friends they’ll be when they’re older! 

That’s all well and good, but for me – I needed to hear that things would get easier, or at least that I would get better at them, soon. Like, really soon. As in, tomorrow. Next week. In two weeks. Maybe in a month or two, max. I needed someone to tell me that there was a light just around the corner, and to reassure me that I wasn’t far off. Continue reading

I Need My Mama Tribe

I need my mama tribe.

I remember when I first became a mother, and someone asked me if I’d made any “mommy friends” yet. I brushed it off with a casual, “ah yeah – I have a couple, I guess,” and didn’t give it much more thought.
I didn’t know that the small handful of mommy friends I had at the start, which has now grown into a sisterhood of women that support, love and encourage each other, would become my strength and my sanity on my most difficult days.

Have you found your mama tribe? I hope you have. Whether it’s just the two of you or twenty of you; we need our mama tribes.

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Oh, how we need our mama tribes.

Because you need that mama who knows how sleep deprivation can turn you into a scary and unfamiliar version of yourself, and will ask you – no – TELL you that it’s time to go get caffeinated together, kids in tow to terrorise fellow cafe patrons, matching messy buns so that together you can both get through the rest of your day without eating your young.

Because you need that mama with whom “workout chic” or “pyjama vogue” is always an acceptable dress code. Let’s just agree to turn up in gym clothes so that we can appear to society to have just completed an arduous boot camp session, when really we’re going to go devour cinnamon rolls together and complain about our achy backs, you’ll say to each other.

She’s the one that you don’t have to dress up for, put mascara on for, or even brush your teeth for. And she’ll still want to hang out with you and your raw, un-hairsprayed gorgeousness anyway.

Because you need that mama to talk to about poo for half an hour. You’ll send each other pictures of the contents of your kids’ diapers to get a second opinion as to whether those are chunks of undigested watermelon or something more untoward; she’ll get as disproportionately excited as you when you tell her your toddler is no longer constipated; and you’ll lament your potty training woes with one another.

Because sometimes you need to turn up to a play date with your mama tribe, knowing in advance that the likelihood of you breaking down and crying is approximately 99.7%, because things have just been that difficult lately. So you soldier on through your morning with your kids, counting down until 3.00pm, but once you’re finally with your tribe, you hand someone your crying baby and someone else preoccupies your toddler while you open your heart, cry, get hugged and feel heard.

Somehow, you walk out of that play date feeling like superwoman, because they’ve told you how you’ve got this, but more importantly, you’ve got them and they’re here for you.

There’s that mama that has seen you at your worst, and doesn’t judge you or think less of you. She’s seen you lose your patience with your toddler. She’s seen you shamelessly bribe them so you can just have a couple of minutes to yourself. She’s been there with you when you’ve clumsily tried to detonate a tantrum and then tells you afterwards what a great job you did; how you did everything right and that you’re a wonderful mother.

Because we doubt that we really are wonderful mothers, don’t we? Motherhood can be such an isolating experience sometimes, and you can feel like everyone else has is so completely together, except you. It’s so easy to feel guilty, helpless, overwhelmed, and frustrated. And then these incredible women, these sisters you didn’t know you had, will step in and remind you that we’re all going through it. Everyone struggles sometimes and no one really has it all together. Despite having their own things to deal with, they’ll drop them and do what they can to give you what you need.

I need my mama tribe. I’ve been thinking about every single member of my mama tribe lately, and how so very lucky I am to have found them. Thank you for sending that text message exactly when I needed to hear those words. Thank you for pre-emptively telling me I shouldn’t feel guilty about something you KNOW I’ll feel guilty about. Thank you for bringing me food, laughter and company while I was housebound recovering from a C-section. Thank you for loving my babies the way you love your own, and for just stepping in and making things easier without being asked. Thank you for *just knowing* what I need in a certain moment, because hey, you’ve probably been there too.

We need our mama tribes. I need mine. You need yours. We all need each other. Ladies, you know who you are <3.

Today, You are 2

Tuna,

Today, you turn two years old.

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It’s been exactly two years since that day we met in that freezing operating theatre. I lay there, with your Papa standing in his chalk blue scrubs by my side, when, although numb from the waist down, I felt the exact moment they took you out and you took your first breath. Your first cry was moments later. And although it felt like an eternity at the time, in a couple of minutes they had wrapped you up in blankets and placed you in my arms.

In those early moments with you, one of the thoughts that kept crossing my mind was that at one point, I thought I’d never get to meet you. Continue reading

Love is Sweatpants and Take-out, Actually

In case the marketing everywhere miraculously hasn’t reached you yet, it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend.

And maybe you’re like me.

I grew up watching Disney movies and rom-coms. Prince Charming, happily ever after, adorable meet-cutes, gigantic, suspenseful, highly emotional grand gestures, perfect lines in the perfect moment, so on, so forth, et cetera. Ah, that warm fuzzy feeling. That whole, “oh-my-gosh-that-perfect-guy-is-so-perfect!”. That sense of hope that one day, you might have someone bulldoze through crowds of people at a busy international airport to stop you from getting on that plane so that he can perform a heartbreakingly beautiful soliloquy about why you two belong together. Sigh.

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