Back in the early ’90s, if anyone had suggested that I, an independent, career-driven feminist, put my gazillion dollars’ worth of education on hold to be a stay-at-home-mom, I’d have jacked them. That’s not how we were trained to roll. However, one thing my younger self didn’t realize is that sometimes circumstances make your choices for you.
In the eight years I’ve had offspring dependent upon me for their survival, circumstances have dictated that I take two tours of duty as a stay-at-home mom. One turned out well, the other, well, not so much.
My first tour was in Turkey with my oldest son. A full-time teacher in a Turkish school, I taught up until my due date and planned to return the next school year when, my husband, the Turk, got a job transfer requiring us to depart our bustling metropolis for a village in the middle of bumble. With a new tiny Turk in tow and stuck in a seaside village, there was absolutely no place for me to work. It was harrowing, but with the help of my lord and savior Martha Stewart (her reruns were some of the only English programming available and thus I became addicted), my neighboring Turkish moms and the interweb, I made it through that tour. By the end, I’d become a pretty bad-ass Turkish-style mother, but it wasn’t enough to turn me and after our repatriation two years later, I ran back into the workforce like my ass was on fire.
I didn’t voluntarily re-up for this second tour of duty. I was drafted. I probably should’ve trained before returning to the trenches, but it all went down too fast. My recruiter—aka The Turk—sucked me in by suggesting I was just taking a couple months off to get our 2-year-old through a major surgery. Unfortunately it’s morphed into an open-ended tour. In the months since being deployed to the front (aka school drop-off, playground, library), it’s become clear that being a stay-at-home mom in Turkey is vastly different than doing it American style, and I suck at American stay-at-home momming.
1. I don’t have enough exercise-wear.
In our Turkish village, you never left your home because there was no where to go. If you went outside to play or walk, you wore the standard Turkish mom uniform: a floral scarf jauntily covering your bad hair day and a sweater vest (I never got down with either but I enjoyed the low fashion bar). Here in the United States, every damn day school pickup requires a new look in color-coordinated workout gear. Last week, I even overheard one mother mention she was wearing a yoga-dress. I don’t even understand what that is. While it’s clear most of these mothers did not just dash over from the gym, in their matchy-matchy Sporty Spice outfits, they all look good in their attire. I can’t rock that look. I tried. The Turk laughed. I’ll just wear my jeans.
2. I hate playgroups.
In Turkey, the closest thing to a playgroup was the people you might run into on the beach or playground. The kids would play, you’d chat, and you’d never see them again. That is social interaction the way I like it. In America, it’s a different story. It seems if you don’t want your kid to act like he’s been raised by wolves, you need a playgroup to socialize him. But playgroups are full of people who don’t get out and do much besides playgroups so before one is over they are already planning the next, and soon you’re sucked into regular dates and forced friendships. This is not conducive to my personality. I like to socialize sporadically and remain anonymous. Thank you.
3. I don’t enjoy mom-talk.
Back in Turkey, when you got together with the other broads you gossiped. None of this “let’s talk about motherhood” crap. Here, I’m overloaded with mom-talk. From the playground to the library, there are millions of Chatty Cathys waiting to pounce. (Full disclosure: Sometimes on the playground, I speak to my kids exclusively in Turkish so moms think I don’t understand English and therefore won’t talk to me.) Sure, I can talk babywearing and lactation like a tree-hugging, granola mama, but that does not mean I enjoy it. I want fart jokes and politics. My soul needs to banter about the business of books rather than the business of boobs.
4. I don’t like to play.
American mothers spend way too much time playing with their kids. Turkish mothers do not play with their kids. That’s grandma’s job because mom is busy. I like that thinking. Ain’t nobody got time to visit the Island of Sodor and chat up Sir Topham Hatt every damn day. Sorry boys, if you want to mount a high-stakes game of Uno or set up a Lego man war room, hit me up. I can orchestrate a deadly attack of Ninjago on Chima that would make Colin Powell take notice, but I’m only giving you 10 minutes.
5. I enjoy going to work.
In Turkey I felt the same way. I’m not good with isolation. I like having conversations with other grown-ups that have nothing to do with poop schedules (though, full disclosure: I’ve had a few poop-schedule discussions at work, and there were no infants involved). I like to wear work clothes and accessorize with more than a hair tie. I enjoy the comradery of voicing distain for management with coworkers. Isn’t that why we go to work? (I never claimed I was a good employee. I just said I liked to go to work.)
I never guessed I’d be better suited for motherhood in my husband’s culture than in my own. Regardless of my suckage, I’m here now and I’m going to make it through, somehow. And I’m going to need more yoga pants.