SAHM in Palestine (help help! can anybody hear me?)

I like these colors. We buy spices fresh from a guy who only sells spices (and ropes for some reason) and they taste amazing. Nothing like what I could get in the states…fresher

saffron, cardamon, tumeric, cumin, cumin seed, bay leaves

Isolation and being a SAHM.
When I got pregnant with Sufyan I knew I would stay home with him. I have never regretted this choice but the transition from full time teacher to full time mom was difficult. Friends dropped away to be “replaced” by mom groups. Mom group politics with their mompetitions, mompetitors, mommy cliques, mommy business cards, mommy and me classes, Mommy Holier Than Thou and Mommy More Natural Than Thou made me eventually decided these groups were
not worth the effort. The isolation of being a SAHM (mom-solation?) is a fact, though, and women need to be aware of this pitfall when deciding to stay home so they can: A) demand more of their community and B) prepare emotionally and mentally.
Plus the demands on my body from my sleepless infant (
thank you Dr. Sears and Mothering Magazine for the insane idea that bed sharing is for EVERY mother and child if only the mother is wholesome/patient/in-tune enough; I’ll be sending you my therapist’s bills) to birth recovery to nursing and not being able to maintain my yoga practice made the transition to SAHM challenging.
***By the way, any mother of young children you know whether SAHM or no needs a big hug and you to show up with dinner. And a chocolate bar. And time for a shower. If she says “no no no, I’m FINE” she’s lying.***

Of course I mean it when I say it was worth every second of hardship. For every difficult moment there were 10 incredible, heart wrenchingly beautiful, God-is-on-earth-and-is-in-the-eyes-of-my-child moments. Ah, sweet sweet agony.

Mom-solation in Palestine.
But here in Palestine my isolation is different.

All day most days my 2 kids and I see only each other until Baba comes home. We go to the parks and they’re empty. We go to the grocery store and its me and the employees and sometimes some single other people. No moms. No families. No opportunities to make mom-with-kids-friends. I wave at the mom who walks her 2 year old past our house every day and she just eyes me suspiciously. I’ve made 2 play dates with the mom across the street (not the one with the kid who tried to beat us up) and she hasn’t shown up. This weekend I went to a family get together and met a mom with 3 kids all older than mine and the first thing she asked me was, “Are you considering day care?” “No, but I was hoping that there would be other stay at home moms or mom groups or something here…?” I replied. “No,” she smiled, “there’s nothing.”

She’s right. There’s nothing. Kids are everywhere here but they are nowhere to be seen. After 2 months of taking my kids to the park during the week I have met other kids exactly 1 time. I finally understand that Ramallah’s children are mostly in day care or preschool.

So day after day, most weeks, its just me and the kids and our voices and the wind and the view of the hills. Right now we have cousins visiting and it has been AMAZING to see my kids play with them. They LOVE each other. But they are leaving in a couple of weeks and then its back to our voices, the wind and the view.
I have had moments of losing my mind. I have had moments of despair and thrown the words “I WANT TO GO HOME” around. I get lonely and look at the clock: my friends back home are sleeping. I get lonely and reflexively turn on the radio to hear NPR in the car but of course every voice is in Arabic or Hebrew and it sounds like a wall to me. Even my comfort foods don’t exist here. I have no idea where one finds a piece of sourdough toast, though maybe I will try that store I keep seeing called, “Toasty Yummy!“. But since this is Palestine and things are not always what they seem its probably a home appliance store. Anyway its a good bet they don’t sell toast.
In conclusion, feeling lonely. No end in sight. Losing my mind.

On the bright side, all this time with my 2 kids has made me a better mom to 2 kids. I have honed my art, so to speak. Of course I maintain what I have always said is true, that motherhood cannot be done in a healthy, happy way in isolation. Its meant to be done in community with other families. But all things considered, we are doing ok. SOMEONE SEND ME A PIECE OF SOURDOUGH TOAST.
Here is Laila getting the gold medal for the cutest 15 month old on earth:

And here is a herd of goats crossing the road in front of us 2 nights ago. You might say I am fascinated with the goats but LOOK AT THEM!

More Adjustments
My kids have been sick almost nonstop for about a month. I know its the adjustment to life here (new germs. new allergens. new foods. new people. new stresses.) Before the move I knew I would see my kids get sick here and be more scared than if I was comfortably back in Austin with the Children’s Hospital in town. Because any sickness here feels like an unknown, I automatically think it could be anything–a cold or bird flu. How would I know?

Tonight I am a little nervous for Sufyan. I keep thinking about his cough. What if it gets worse or his fever higher? Where do we go? Someone explained to me once where the hospital is but it involved Arabic street names and, well, I haven’t gone to see it like I should have. I should have gone there but I’m afraid of what I will see…

We once took Laila to a drop in clinic here to get a urinalysis, and the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. The place was poorly kept and poorly lit. The waiting room chairs had holes and seemed exhausted from all the years of people sitting in them waiting and worrying. The actual patient examination room was so scary that we didn’t let any part of Laila’s body touch ANYTHING. Not one thing. Diaper change mid-air. The first thing I noticed was the used sharps bucket sitting on the floor. What if Sufyan had walked in ahead of us and reached in for some reason? Kicked it accidentally? It happens. Then I noticed a needle cover left on the examining table and a messily folded old cloth sheet. No disposable paper sheets here. No hand washing sink.
The best thing about medical care here so far is that it’s pay as you go (no insurance and its relatively affordable) and our doc makes house calls. So Laila will probably never see the doctor’s office and so much the better not only because of the above but also because she is absolutely phobic of doctors and their offices. That’s another story.

Sufyan was sick on Easter and I stayed home with him while Faris took Laila out to see the extended family and have dinner at a nice restaurant

Faris and “the Doot” ready to go. The dress was a gift from Auntie Zeina.

Daily life.

just sitting…oh, here she comes….

world’s best, most patient big brother.

sick, but still action ready.

I see these guards every day. Guys like them are stationed literally all over the city to guard important persons or embassies.

Speaking of comfort foods, my dad always made us Peek-a-boo eggs for a special treat. Now I do it for my kids sometimes, and since loaf style breads are not easy to find here this is a pic for my dad: a peek-a-boo egg made with “pita” bread!


10 thoughts on “SAHM in Palestine (help help! can anybody hear me?)

  1. OH my goodness… My heart breaks for you. When I started reading the beginning, I thought, "Yeah, being a SAHM is tough and sometimes lonely!" And then you went on to explain what it's like where you are NOW, and I just felt like such an ass. It's AMAZING what you're doing, and I don't know how you're able to keep going as strongly as you are. We may not be physical neighbors, but we're virtual neighbors. I don't know if it helps to reach our virtually, but we're here for you. And if there is something we can ever actually do for you (more so than offer digital support), please let us know. Hang in there. You're an amazing mama.

  2. Your experience there reminds a little of the cultural differences in the Thai culture, which is half of my husband's family. Most Thai mother's don't stay home with their kids. They go back to work. The kids either go to day care or the grandmother takes care of them, which is usually the case. Mother's aren't isolated like SAHM here in the States, but like you, I wouldn't trade it. I'm keeping you and your little flock in my heart. Praying that you will find the support you need at the exact moment you need it.

  3. I was wondering about that when you posted photos of S and L at seemingly abandoned playgrounds. Where were all the kids? Now I know. That must be so hard! And on top of that they've been sick. I'm getting ready to mail you a envelope/package of stuff- what are you really wishing you had over there…should I attempt to send you some toast?! 🙂

  4. I guess that's a pita-boo egg!Can I send a loaf of sourdough via your inlaws? I wonder how long it would sit before you get it? Petrified sourdough might be better'n none.

  5. Laila is straight up awesome! I am feeling for you and my heart aches. I would be clinically insane because you know how selfish I am if I don't get my "me" time it's just ON! You, on the other hand have dealt with this so gracefully–I am in awe. I am glad you are sharing. I am glad you are voicing what so many SAHMS can't. Palestine must feel like another planet. How hard it must be to not SEE FAMILIES. I am at a loss but I know that no matter what, you will grow from this. You already have. You are my hero–as always. You are able to get out of your comfort zone in a way that most of us never will. You are in my heart.xo-Lizzie

  6. Just found your blog and really enjoy reading. This one really strikes home to me too. As if being the mother to little ones isn't hard enough, you have so many extra challenges. Hang in there!

  7. Pingback: Interview (full text). Life is like this…. | Piles of Laundry in the Holy Land

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