Monday, September 06, 2010

Expat Mum Expectations

It's about time I shared a little about being an expat mom.  Living in Cairo was one thing as a single and then another as a married person and now still another thing entirely as a mother.  I think regardless of where you live, you want the best for your children.  You want them to have every opportunity; you want them to have the ones you never got to have.  It doesn't really matter what country you're from or what country you live in now.

So I guess I'm like every other mom.

The problem is that as a new expat mom living in Egypt, one has also to come to terms with her own expectations of what is best for her child.  

And what the reality is.

The reality is simply that not everything that is available back home in the States is available in Egypt.  You start to look for jarred baby food only to realize that only one brand of jarred baby food exists in Egypt.  You try a number of different kinds of diapers and wipes, even though you may not be able to read the packages (they might be in any language like Turkish or Russian, French or Arabic).  You look for baby clothes similar to what you'd find back home only to find that #1 baby clothes are either a fraction of the cost (and a fraction of the quality) or #2 baby clothes are about the same quality (and double or triple the cost).  When your newborn develops a cough at only two weeks old, you go to not one but two pediatricians only to find that he or she is prescribing antibiotics for your child (a BIG no-no in America for a baby that young) for that cough even without actually hearing the cough.  You go for almost 3 months without leaving your house more than twice a week when your husband is home with the car.  So you never see your friends because, well, you're not sure if you can brave the traffic now that you have a little one because what seemed exciting when you were single and childless now just seems stupid and terrifying.

So, yes, the thought that you might be a failure as a mother trying to raise her children overseas crosses your mind.

And then you wake up one morning with this feeling that...well, if you don't just do something that you might scream.  You HAVE to get out of the house.  You HAVE to get your son used to the stroller because you've forgotten what the world looks like outside during the day.  You are FINALLY able to get more than 4 hours of sleep at night and you begin to feel like a person again.  You start to cook again because you're tired of spaghetti and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (and Chinese take-out or pizza).

And then you realize everything is going to be okay.

You'll slowly become a part of the world again.  You'll feel like a human again, taking part in normal everyday activities (okay maybe not normal back home, but it's a start to do what's normal in Egypt).  You don't care so much about how your hair looks or if your makeup is perfect, but you can at least enjoy your child and each and every moment with him.

It won't always be easy.  That's just the reality of the world in which we live.  The simplest of tasks can sometimes take more time and effort here.

This is my life.  I take one day at a time.  And I stop to breathe in the moments when I can.  I dream big for my son, myself, and our family as a whole.  But I still give myself the benefit of the doubt and remember that I am just me.  Sometimes just getting through the day is enough.

And sometimes something extraordinary happens.

He smiles at me unexpectedly.  He leans forward in the stroller with his face to the wind while we take a walk.  He learns to sit up by himself.  He raises his hands up to reach for me.  I wake up in the morning to the sound of him singing in his bed.

I am a mom.  I am an expat.  

This is my normal ordinary extraordinary life.


  1. Erin- I love this post- I can so totally relate.
    I have been reading through your blog since i saw your post on babycenter. Its so nice to find somebody who is going through a lot of the same things I am.
    Hope all is well

  2. Cami- I am glad you feel that way too. =) Hope things are going well with your new little one Salma and that adjusting to having 2 kids and not just 1 is going well. Take care!


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