The Generation That Doesn’t Belong

I’m sitting in a café right now, tapping away at my keyboard, fully embracing the cliché of a struggling writer punching out yet another piece of their soul while surrounded by the wafting aroma of Aceh Gayo coffee being slowly extracted, and swatting at the occasional mosquito I’ve come to accept is part of life in the tropics. The window to my right overlooks a stream of sputtering motorbikes, punctuated occasionally by large SUVs with glossy, tinted windows. Even on an early Sunday afternoon, there is no reprieve from the tightly packed traffic on Jakarta’s roads.

Like many of you, today I’ve been reading about an upsetting, extreme example of what clinging to the oversimplification of identity can result in – and it got me thinking about my own sense of identity, and what identity even really means to me; what it might mean to my children one day. And now I see that this piece has been wanting to burst out of me for a while.

Roughly a week ago, while I was still on holiday in Egypt with my family, I went on a grocery store run with my father to pick up some last minute items for the journey back home. Like a bona fide Egyptian girl should, I always stock up on big, sturdy jars of tahini to take back with me to Indonesia because there isn’t a guarantee that it’s always in stock at my usual store. Continue reading

I Won’t Tell You That You’re a Good Mother

I’m not going to tell you that you’re a good mother.

I won’t even tell you that you’re doing a good job.

Because when I do, you’re going to think back to this morning when your toddler threw that sticky clump of oatmeal at you, and you snapped. You just snapped. She’s small. She’s frustrated. You’re the adult here. But you didn’t recognise your voice as the anger and helplessness rumbled in the pit of your stomach and you growled furiously at her. You didn’t feel like a good mother then.

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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.

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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.

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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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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

Mama wins today.

“Mama wins today,” I smugly said to my husband over dinner tonight.

He smirked at the conviction with which I made that statement.

“Mama wins today,” I repeated, as I proudly looked at the settled, alertly awake newborn in my arms, the happy, albeit exhausted, toddler on his lap eating a nutritious meal I had prepared, made from scratch with fresh, wholesome, food-blog-worthy ingredients, which involved oranges, greens, purples and pinks.

Are you a brand new mother, mama? Or have you been a mama for a little while now, but have no idea how to handle the stage your child is currently going through? Or are you, like me, trying to navigate the treacherous new path of being a mother of one more than you previously had? Or are you a veteran mama that is just going through a more trying time than usual?

If so, then maybe you’ll understand my sentiments.

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