Sunday, August 9, 2009

Visiting with an Egyptian mother

The other day we went to visit a friend of Super S's. The drive was like an hour and a half outside Cairo. It was a beautiful drive to a place called Ismailia, a very cute little city . Its famous for its locally grown mangoes and strawberries too. (Its mango season here now...100's of different kinds to choose from) 

In Ismailia there are lots of 19th century colonial styled houses and beautiful tree lined streets. The corniche along the water is decorated with outdoor gazebos, just a great place to spend a day or two... we'll be visiting again. It has a smaller town charm to it, although there is estimated to be 750,000 plus living there. But i guess when compared to Cairo at approx. 18 million, yeah its a small town.

What i want to share you with you is the conversation with the friend's wife.

Nice girl, mid-twenties, very cute, from the country side, rural area outside of Cairo. She's been married two years, has a two year old and 2 month old. Cutest little kids by the way.

With her brief command of English and my ever so broken Arabic we spoke for hours. In addition to the "how is America, how do you like living in Egypt" questions, the MAIN and ALWAYS asked questions "How long have you been married? How many kids do you have?" ruled most of our conversation.


"Yes its true I've been married 13 years and yes we do not have kids yet..."

"Yes we have seen doctors and we have tried many treatments..."

"And yes I agree it is all up to God...."  Along with many other comments in the 4 plus hours we talked.


"You can take the 2 year old with you, take him.... You can take the baby too. I am so tired, i don't know what to do. "

"The 2 year old does not listen, he is so active"

"I don't sleep." "My husband doesn't help me." "We don't get out enough.." (Again, along with many other comments in the 4 plus hours we talked)

Man! I was tired listening to her.

I tried to comfort and encourage her. But you know the sad thing is I always hear these same sad statements.

Is this a cultural thing? I mean do only Egyptian ladies have these complaints, of course not. I know Egyptians, Americans and a whole bunch of ladies from other countries that have never had any of these complaints, and Mothers who are not from here with these very complaints.

While some mothers do have these types of complaints, it hurts me to hear them, not only because I long for my own children. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel these mothers are unappreciative, no not at all. They are just struggling trying to find their groove with parenthood I guess.

I sometimes wonder if I were a mother, and I was not consumed did not struggle with infertility, would I say these same things? The answer is a definite no. For so many reasons..... I know that my husband would always be involved. I know I would try my best to raise them in such a way that they would listen and behave and I would try to understand their energy and stimulate their minds. And really I would appreciate the fact that I have children and would thank God everday for the blessing.

Now i imagine being a Mother is not always easy, i mean come on even those of us who are not mothers know this. Remember when we were kids? Our mothers, how we drove them cRaZy? Well some of us maybe...

Do i know that kids are kids and not perfect in everyway? Do i know that it would be trying at times? Do i know i would feel a rollercoaster of things positive and perhaps even negative sometimes? Do i know that my time, money and circumstances would change? Do i know my life as I know it would never be the same again?


Yes I am aware of all of these things.

Yes again.

Still I long for the day man... I will take all the things that come along with being a parent, good and bad challenging.

My hat is off to all you Mothers, your job is not an easy one, but it is one I want and I admire you so much for giving it your best shot always. I hope to join you one day...


  1. I love this post. I can't put my finger on why, but I'm going to think about it for the rest of the day.

    As well as how much I want to visit Egypt.

  2. I'm with Mel...great post! I Have a couple of close friends that I joke about trading off kids with when we are having particularly trying days but its more of a release for both of us. And, I would never, ever, ever say it to someone I didn't know well...not a good idea.

  3. yes it's unfortunate how common it is to hear so many complaints coming from mothers everywhere. I especially get very upset at women who are all pampered with nannies everywhere who complain about how hard it is to have kids. This girl you were talking to though, was young, and didn't have much time between kids, or even any time just enjoying her husband. If she has a 2 year old and got married two years ago... she had no time to enjoy her marriage or perhaps got married because she was pregnant. And if your husband is not helpful at all, or even worse, avoids anything to do with the 'caring' part with the kids... that would give me reasons to complain too. I just probably would not be offering up my kids to people, even as a joke, I always found that distasteful.

  4. I agree with you. It's a beautiful post and I know it to be true.

  5. A very wise post..and one that every mom and hopeful mom should read. I applaud you for your patience with this young mom..and your willingness to sympathize with her given your struggles. I can see that you always strive to see things from more perspectives than just your own..and that is a wonderful, rare trait. Very much to your credit, but then, that's my Wishy! I am sorry in her casual remarks she inflicted such pain.

  6. I love your ability to try to put yourself in her shoes and your restraint to not just take her up on her offer.

    I like to think that I would have been just as good of a mother without IF, but truth of the matter is that IF has taught me things so far beyond what I could have ever imagined. I know that if/when I become a mother I will have a much deeper appreciation. I will be great and I know you will be too.

    I'm sorry you had to listen to her comments for so long and that they stirred so many feelings.

  7. Lovely post. I nominated you for an award on my certainly deserve it. =)

  8. I don't think that her offer for you to take her kids was the usual joking that people do with infertiles/childless people; sounds to me like she really would be happy with the respite.

    I wonder where all the family help is? Isn't Egypt supposed to be a family-centered society?

    The rest of the post: beautifully said.

  9. Egypt is an extremely family oriented society. Extended families always help each out, especially when it comes to children. This girls family lives far away, like 3 hours, she does not drive and she is not able to get them as often as she would like. In fairness, her family does visit her alot and she gets much repsite when they are visiting. And for the record, she was kidding when she offered me her kids....although she may have let me take the 2 year old temporarily, LOL!

  10. I can relate to this. In Morocco same deal. How long have you been married? Any babies yet? When I say no, they say why not? Then we get lots of ass.vice. Which is very annoying but I smile and say okay we'll try that. AAAAAH it's exhausting! Yes I agree with you mums do an exhausting job, but I think IF has taught me to never complain and to never take it for granted for WHEN we finally get there. I just remind fertiles, well at least you have children, that usually shuts them up!!

  11. a sister in alex8/11/09, 6:31 AM

    You know, I was just thiking about this the other day, subhanallah. :) What I decided is that starting a family is a much more decided thing for us in the West. One of us makes the decision to get married, and then the decision to ttc.

    Unlike here, like you were saying, where there is this automatic assumption that as soon as she is married, the kids are on the way... package deal!!

    It's so sad... Because I think that mothers are less enchanted about motherhood, and fathers less involved because of it.

  12. a sister in alex: You are exactly, exactly right. Sad but so true in many instances.

  13. I think that when infertile women are in situations with mothers who constantly complain about their children we think about our own situations. We fantasize about what will it be like for us when we have children? What we learn from mothers who are less than enamored with motherhood allows us as perspective mothers to say that things will be different when we are parents. I think that we must learn from the "mistakes" of others because we can't make all the mistakes ourselves, however being a perspective mother and not a mother I don't know what my situation will be like. I would like to think that I will be a wonderful mother, but I do not believe motherhood is a perfect fuzzy bunny land where I won't get overwhelmed and make my own mistakes. I think that sister in Alex is correct that the cultural component is something that influences the situations of other women. In other news I left you a surprise on my blog.

  14. I'm guilty of saying such a staement. I, of course, didn't really mean it. But it wasn't said of out of frustration, it was said out of humor. Now, I realize it wasn't funny. I can't wait for you to be a mother. I know you will be one! I believe, love!

  15. I don't know - I've had lots of people say that to me! They better watch out - I might take one of them up on it sometime. Especially my SIL with her five kids - she said she might not notice if we just took one back after we visit.

  16. I will never know what it would have been like to have children easily and effortlessly, but I do know that having worked very hard to have my daughter does affect the way that I feel about being a parent. I am aware every day of how incredibly grateful I am that she's here, and how sad I was when I was struggling to conceive, and that does make it so much easier to weather the little storms of toddlerhood. You can call it appreciation or you can just call it awareness of my good fortune. I think that in cultures where children are just assumed, they are also highly valued by society, but also to some extent taken for granted. I don't know if that makes sense.

    Good post.

  17. I appreciate my kids every moment,but that doesn't mean I don't complain about being tired. I'm one of the lucky ones whose husband helps out with everything.
    I'm glad your hus will be involved and your going to be great parents. I hope that one day you find yourself complaining about the fatigue of being a mom, and enjoy every minute of it.

  18. I, too, had to say "Inshallah" repeatedly through gritted teeth.

    My hat is off to you, a woman of grace and sensitivity.

  19. I think it's a universal affliction. :p

    I had an (infertile, online) friend who got the "take my kid, please" line once & pretended to take the woman up on it. She knelt down beside the kid & said, "Sure! I'll take you home with me. I have a nice puppy you can play with." The kid looked confused & the mother looked totally shocked. I'll bet she never used that line again, lol.

  20. This woman has a two month old. A two month old and a two year old. I appreciate what you are saying about how painful it is to hear about the difficulties of parenthood on your side of the fence. I had years of infertility under my belt, and I had worked as a preschool teacher, with two year olds and infants. I thought I understood what being a parent meant. I thought my husband and I were prepared. All of the things you said, basically. You don't want to hear about the hard times, trust me, but lets just say that sometimes when you have a new baby, or babies in my case, no matter how much help you have or how prepared you were, you can feel like you are drowning. Seriously drowning. And I have my husband along side me every step of the way. This woman may be reaching out for help, she just wasn't very thoughtful in her choice. She probably can't lean on her husband the way I could :( I sincerely hope that your dreams of parenthood come true for you, very soon.

  21. I don't have kids yet (recurrent miscarriage and PCOS) but I wonder if she might suffer from post-partem.

    I come from an eastern culture similar to one in Egypt and I know there can sometimes be an expectation to procreate even if a woman doesn't want to. So much pressure from the husband, in-laws etc. It's one thing to want ac hild by choice... but another to not want a child but be pressured into it before you're ready.

    Your post really makes me think about how we all have our own struggles, some of us, like you and I, with infertility and some who are mothers who perhaps were nto ready or did not want that task.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

    (Here from Stirrup Queens)

  22. I agree the complaints are common. Sometimes it isn't so much that we don't appreciate...but that we feel like horrid mothers. I can't speak for all women but I know that when I have said "I don't know what else to do" I am basically saying "I have failed and my kid will end up in the penitentiary by the time he is 14 years old". And my husband is very involved but that doesn't take away that feeling that *I* have failed. If something ever did really go wrong I wouldn't blame my husband, the very first person I would blame would be me. Because I am mom. I should have done better. And I think that is very common with women who do appreciate their children very much.

    It is kind of hard to say what we would or would not do as a parent. I had a HUGE list of things I would never do or say to or about my kids before I ever had them. That list has been cut by 90% lol.

    I have to add though, I have no idea what it's like to be in your situation. I imagine hearing us women complain would make us look selfish or unappreciative. Or even make parenting look scary (my sis won't have kids due to her friends). But I applaud you at your honesty and will certainly stick in the back of my head the next time I go to complain. It can be helpful to hear that other side at times.

  23. I love this post. So true of many american families as well. I really do tire of hearing how rough it is being a Mom and I PROMISE myself that those words are not going to come out of my mouth ever. :-) It took so much work, money, tears, heartache and the amazing miracle of modern science for us to even have a kiddo on the way! Infertility absolutely has changed how I view children forever.

  24. Here from the roundup...

    Ugh, it's....I'm sure it's partly just conversation...partly exhaustion....but why do people say such things? I have a 20m old and 26m old and sometimes, yes, it's flipping insane and sometimes it makes you want to kick your own ass, but....after IVF and adoption, I don't think I will ever really feel BURDENED by my children. IF changes you in lots and lots of bad ways, but it changes you in that one important way, too...that you really know what a gift a child is.

    Good luck to you! :)

  25. I wonder how much of this is a cultural difference in understanding of infertility? Living in Japan I got the impression that there wasn't all that much open discussion of infertility and that you just "ganbare" (the equivalent of "good luck" and "don't give up" all rolled into one). There's a stoicism to the Japanese people and a privacy as well. The idea of having any real open discussion about infertility just doesn't seem likely to me. As a result, I would imagine that the response from many people in Japan might be just more comments along the lines of "ganbare" and then a discussion of their own parenting issues (much like the scenario you describe) rather than lending a friendly ear or offering any sympathy per se... I'm just thinking out loud here. Thanks for the food for thought.

    Here from the round-up!

  26. we all have to struggle to find that groove and man, is it difficult. I'm still learning the ropes, as it were. Mommydom is hard. I thought for sure my husband would be the dad who wouldn't help, but I've been happily wrong about that. I can't wait to hear how helpful your hubby is. :)


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