Monday, September 27, 2010

Recovering From Small World Syndrome

My world has gotten smaller the past couple of weeks. Coming back from the States has brought me back to the type of lifestyle I led just after my son crossed the three-month threshold.

But let's be clear about two things first:

I don't live in a particularly small world. After all this IS Cairo, a city home to around 20 million people.

I am NOT small-minded. Yes, I am that girl from small-town USA who fell in love with a non-American and moved halfway across the world to marry him.

The fact is that with a 10-month-old intent on discovering every nook and cranny in our house, well, his immediate safety has become my whole world.

And I really mean my WHOLE WORLD...

My son is into everything these days. From the moment he slid out of my lap after nursing that first day back from the States last week, he was off and running.  At least, if you could call crawling at that pace running.  

In the living room. This means leaving baby-sized hand prints on our TV or pulling everything out of the two drawers underneath it. He's already broken the stain-glassed window lamp that I brought back from Yemen. Yep, that's irreplaceable (as in, I will NOT be going back through what I went through the first time to get to Yemen to replace it). 

In the master bedroom. He is daily demolishing the tower of shoe boxes my husband has lovingly collected over the past six months or so. I vaguely remember warning him (my husband, that is) that just this sort of thing would happen the moment our son started to crawl.  

How great to feels to be sooo right!  

(Pause a moment...breathe...take another deep breath and save your son quickly from chewing on the foam inside of said boxes that might cut off his air supply)

In baby's room. Well, I have basically eliminated anything dangerous or off-limits on the floor. So right now the only things there are his 3-rings and an over-sized Goofy we received as a gift when he was a newborn. Let's just say that they are neither (1) a deterrent nor (2) a distraction from his take-over-the-house schemes - which basically includes exploring anything and everything OTHER than that which was so obviously placed there for his use.

Let's face it, they make look young and helpless and stupid. But they get smart REAL fast.

So as you can see my world looks really small right now from the outside, but somehow it still manages to fill up my days.

But I still long for more...

It has been a challenge since becoming a mom to know how to broaden my world without sacrificing the time with my son and the attention he needs to get through the day. I mean, I want to put him and his needs first, but there is still a longing in my heart for connection with other people and some sort of social life outside our home.

And I think this is normal. After all, we as human beings were not meant to live this life alone but rather in groups and in communities. 

But shouldn't I still be able to interact with the world or contribute to it in some way? Yes, I know that living in a smaller world now than I have been used to in the past makes this more difficult. And I am more than happy being a SAHM and have no desire right now to return to work. That is enough for me, usually.

But don't we ALL want to make a big impact on the world?

We want to achieve something great, regardless of whether we're a mother or not. And the fact is that sometimes being a mom makes us put those dreams and that world on hold. It's part of the sacrifice we make when we become moms, at least for a little while.  It's hard to venture off to conquer the world when you have a newborn at home that must be fed every 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  That's just the reality in which we live.

But how can we manage it? How can we successfully be a part of a world outside our front door without risking the futures of our little ones?

For me, this means starting small. There are a few things I try to do to make my small world a bit bigger.

1. Get out of the house every day.  A friend of mine told me this early on (maybe even while I was still pregnant) so it has always been my goal to not spend any day entirely cooped up in the house with my son. My expectations for this are pretty low, because whether we just get out with the stroller for a walk around the neighborhood, take a trip to the nearby mall, or something more adventurous like visit our friends across town, it all meets the basic goal of getting out.

2. Stay in regular contact with family. Skype and Internet telephone are my best allies in accomplishing this.  We have a Magic Jack hooked up to our computer 24/7 and it does wonders to being able to call the States regularly.  It also means that because it is always on that they can call us here too (very nice feature).  We reserve Skype for video calling, the perfect way for first-time grandparents to get a glimpse of their young grandson.  It's not quite the same as face-to-face, but it's definitely the best substitute for now.

3. Connect with other moms. I didn't have a lot of friends in Egypt before I had my son, but now I realize why they're so important.  You certainly can't do this alone, or if you do, it can get really lonely sometimes.  It IS possible to connect with moms online at sites like Circle of Moms and Baby Center's Community (especially the groups for your child's birth month). But honestly speaking it is no substitute for face-to-face relationships. I have met some moms through Yahoo groups for foreign women in Egypt and even tried to put together a playgroup earlier this year.  Yeah, we met once (but I DO have a couple of ladies who want to keep it going...we'll see how that goes). And I found out last month just before we went to the States about a Mom & Tots group associated with the international church on our side of town so now that we are back on Egyptian time I think we'll manage to make that meeting this week (instead of sleeping through it like last week).

4. Do something for me. I blog. I read a new book. I download the latest episode of my favorite TV show and watch it during one of his naps. It's not much but it keeps me sane.

5. Do something for someone else. This is still a work in progress for me (as in I'm not really doing it now but it's my goal to be doing this.) For a while I was baking once a month for a Sudanese school here, quite a challenge I must say with a baby less than 6 months old but definitely something I'm glad now that I was able to do. I think with my son getting close to a year old that I could definitely do more with this...more to come later.

So that's it.  That's what I do to get over what I call "Small World Syndrome."  It's not a bad thing and certainly not contagious (at least I don't think so).  It's just a way of finding some part of myself that hasn't been lost in becoming a mother. It's not conquering the world or anything like that, but it makes my life, well, more livable.
And regardless of how small a world this may seem, I will still just try to enjoy every moment with my son. I will sit down on the floor with him and teach him how to play "let's roll the ball." I will sit down on that step in our living room and guard it so that he doesn't fall headfirst down it, teaching him gently to turn around and go down the step feet first...a million times. I will sing song after song for him just to watch him bob his head up and down to the music. We will go for walks together around our neighborhood and catch a taxi to wander around the local mall.

And when he finally gets tired and takes a nap, I will take care of me. I will eat. I will take a shower. I will read a chapter in that book I've been saving for weeks. I will sit down and write a bit about whatever is rolling around in my mind.

Because even if my world seems a little small right now, it's bound to get a little bigger any moment.

Because I want to contribute something to the world that IS out there somewhere.

Because it can be difficult to feel so isolated at times in this little world of mine.

And, well, because I just plain like to do it.

Who needs any other reason?

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