When you live your life dictated in many ways by water, it can often seem like you ride the waves with the expanse and as an expat, no matter how assimilated you may be to the culture you’ve chosen to house home, there’s always an undercurrent riding inside of you, one that makes you question the whats that you do, or the how that you do it. The overriding question though is more often why, related intrinsically to the question of who.
At the moment, the peace which fills my soul on a day-to-day basis was undreamt of a year ago. We were living in Istanbul, in an apartment we found challenging, with few family or friends nearby, soon-to-be parents to two-under-two and wondering how we’d juggle it all. As with everything in the history of our lives built together, and to be honest much of mine from the time before that, everything seems to happen so quickly, gut feelings guide the paths of our feet, and so it was to be that we’d buy a house we’d seen only once, had never had surveyed or least glanced at, in a village we had visited that same once time only, in a county we knew little about, ‘cept it had the prettiest of litter bins scattered about and we thought who couldn’t be happy when even the bins make you smile! Our journey from Istanbul tenants, to Göllüce ‘home’ owners, to Iznik residents took in total ten weeks, start to finish; I’m not sure it’s sunk in even yet.
A few weeks back I spent almost a month in the UK with the boys. Supermarket trip? No problem! Parent-child car parking, double-baby-seat trolleys and an equipped changing room. Rainy days? No problem! Soft play centres with fresh filter coffee, craft centres with make-your-own candles; and for me an extra special treat, on-call-aunties/uncles/grandparents to share the fun with, enjoy my kids with. Coming back to Turkey having been immersed in my other world always feels like I’m making sacrifices. Save quite this time. This time round, though the niggles of “home”sickness still trickle on through, coming back to Iznik has enriched our lives quite unlike anywhere else really could. My kids have the freedom to be children everyday, we have the freedom to be parents. And on top of that, an unexpected blessing, I have the space to be me.
Being a new Mum is tough, no matter the support network or the provisions of your country. You’ve no sooner got used to your body no longer belonging to you than you’re given it back, more misshapen than before, only to find your mind has been taken in its’ place. From the day you bring your baby home to..well, I’m not sure of the end point, if there is one…you, as in the person you once were with a name besides “Mummy” with a body besides breastfeeding boobs, you no longer hit on your radar of self. You stop seeing yourself in the mirror through your eyes, see instead the Mum who is staring back at you, and it’s her you become, it’s her you focus all of your energies on.
Life is peaceful and calm (if with two-under-two that is possible!) and because life is good, because my babies are able to pick flowers while eating stones or draw pictures with sticks twirled in water, I can finally hear the voice from behind Mummy in the mirror: it’s not just my kids who are free here. In just over five years, I’ve swapped high heels for walking boots, wine for more coffee, and Tesco for the local raw milk. I chose Islam as my life path, God as my guidance, and G as my companion on the way. Waking at five replaces dancing ’til four and travelling means pushing the pram. Every aspect of normal has spun on its’ axis and the Mummy the mirror’s balancing act. If the most liberating step I’ve taken for me was the begining of wearing of hijab, the greatest liberty I’ve taken for my hijab was in swapping the sea for still water.