It’s 7.30pm. Baby’s asleep, G’s in work and the flat is quiet and calm. With less than 40minutes until the Ezan’s evening call signifying the breaking of the fast for the faithful, the streets are quiet too. Inside my neighbours houses, tables will be being set, soup being reheated, finishing touches added to the evening meal. The bakkal on the street corner does a roaring trade in pide, the traditional bread which accompanies dates and salads in all muslim homes this month. My meal tonight’s for one, so I’m not rushing around; instead I’ve made coffee and am breathing in its smell.
Hours like this are novelty times, these days. I remember in the beginning when M would sleep for two, three-hour stretches in one and I’d do nothing, so on pins was I to be there, free when he woke. Now, with his naps being minutes more than hours and increasingly less frequent, there are so many things I would do with that time!
Currently, there is a half-made ring-sling sitting pinned on the chair, and a recovered, but still in pieces, office chair in M’s room. In the kitchen, the makings of muffins and tonight’s fun will be ironing-led. By my bed sit three books, bookmarked in three different places, each a different tired-factor read. They’ll likely remain for a week or so, before the bookmarks are removed and I attempt to start them again. And this blog, with its so many different facets, it needs a new face, some organising, some time.
Friends were round this week. Two with children, one pregnant first time. One of these women, went back to work (15years ago) with a baby weeks old; the other, whose youngest is three-month baby, plans to restart in the office next month. The pregnant friend plans to work continuously – and through the labour if she can! These women are my friends, yet as we talked the other day, I felt out on my own.
I’m a Mum. That’s my job, it’s my role. It’s my responsibility to provide M with everything that he needs – stimulus and exposure to new things, rolling as he tries to turn over, clapping as he tries hard to crawl. Being his Mum requires my attention being devoted to him, my actions being geared toward him, every moment of his waking day – over and above feeding time.
These women, my friends, they’re both fantastic Mums and the third will be too. Their children are bright and articulate, happy and balanced, have good bonds with their parents. Their children thrived on the upbringing they were given.. their choices worked for them. But these women, friends with whom I have faith, expat-life and culture in common with, ask each and every time we meet, “still not working, then?”, knowing that I’m not, “..so what do you do with your day?” The notion that my day can be filled – is fulfilled simply looking after M.
A recent survey suggested that were women who stay at home to bring up children paid their equivalent job worth, their take home salary would be in the region of £35,000. That’s over 10,000TL a month! Yowzers! Are we worth it?
Typically, M and I rise at 7, thought he’ll have been in bed with me, nursing on and off, since 5am. We head to the kitchen and I’ll empty the dishwasher while the coffee brews and he gurgles his way through telling me about his dreams. Then it’s playtime. For the next two hours it’s solid, one-on-one. We rattle and read and roll and laugh and smile and touch and rattle and read and roll and laugh and repeat ’til he starts to drop. He feeds around 9 and will sleep ’til 10. In that time, I grab a shower, breakfast and run the vacuum round. When he wakes it’s massage time. M strips off, well, with a little Mummy help, and plays “how gummy is my smile” while I rub and massage his body from head to toe. At this stage in a baby’s development, their muscles work harder than they ever will again, most likely. Whether it’s trying to crawl – using tummy, leg and arms – or scratching his gums, waving his arms around to try touch or practising his bounce in his newfound toy; the entire time he’s awake, M is moving and his muscles are sure to get tight. So we massage them all over, for 30 minutes post-nap and he giggles and smiles and is just now starting to laugh. Naked baby. It’s fun, you know. Refreshed, it’s playtime again and then we head to repeat.
M averages four naps a day, now at five months; between the hours of 7am and 8pm, when he usually goes down to sleep, he sleeps a total of 5hours max, and that’s a very tired day. In that time he sleeps, I could, it’s true, edit texts, freelance write or some other form of “work”. But doing that would mean that washing that needs folding or the ironing sitting there goading me would need to be done when he’s awake. Sure, it’s not the end of the world if he entertains himself – and he does, rest assured – but I like that he doesn’t have to. I don’t have deadlines to meet or calls to return. If he needs me, wants me even, the ironing can wait and I’m always there. It’s my job.
Taking into account the night feeds, and the wake-at-a-change-in breathing-sleep that leaves all Mums knackered, night feeds or not, that 10,000TL a month, works out to 13.80tl an hour, shitty nappies and all. When you look at it like that, the salary aint so great after all.
My friends worry their brains would go dry, they’d feel trapped in the home. I can’t imagine any other job, ever, coming close to being as challenging or giving more freedom than the one I do now; there is no job that could leave me as fulfilled, as on top of the world happy, give me a greater sense of accomplishment than being here to rub clove oil on teething gums and hear his first belly laugh. But- more’s the pity- weekends aren’t part of the package, so right now I’m going to enjoy this bonus coffee time (M slept early), then fix the chair (inshallah!) while the iron heats up and settle in for the night: Ironing is the best excuse for movie night, ever. Fact.