Spoilt Mother?

Here is something interesting. Over the last few weeks since I started up on twitter again I have read a lot of criticism of stay at home mothers in Saudi who have full-time nannies. The comments and opinions were that there is no reason to have a nanny if you don’t work. Another one I read a lot is why have children if you are not going to take care of them. That mothers with nannies are spoilt and unfit to be mothers. And that being a true mother is taking care of your children with out the help of a full-time nanny.

If you are a reader of my blog then you’ll know I am a mother who has a nanny (or two when I have a baby in the house) so I thought why do I have a nanny? I know I need one but obviously people out there don’t think I should need one. I felt like, even though the judgment wasn’t passed directly on me, that I was within the group they thought of as a bad or spoilt mothers. So why not explore in this post the reasons I feel that having help in the house has made me a better mother. Also, I am sure this will generate good conversation so here we go!

Firstly I would like to address the “stay at home” part. I think because I do not have a paying job I fall under that category. As I explained before on my blog even though I don’t have a 9-5 job I do have a lot of obligations that keep me busy. I do volunteer work which obviously I don’t get paid for and isn’t a daily thing but it does occupy a large chunk of my life.

Another aspect is my family. In my extended family we are responsible for each other (Mothers, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, fathers, uncles, cousins) so we visit each other, we help each other we are in each others lives. Sometimes at the cost of being 100% in our children’s lives. This means almost never doing the morning school run for example because I visit all the rest of my family when the children sleep therefore I don’t get to sleep early. So I need a nanny to wake them up in the morning and take them school. Do I feel bad about this? yes and no. I would be lying if I said I wanted to wake every day at 6 am. But it’s the small conversations that the kids have on the way to school that I am sometimes sad I miss.

Then we have the situations when someone is ill, for example when my grandmother went into hospital while I was on vacation with the children and my husband. I came home early from our vacation and spent the rest of the time in the hospital with her, only coming home to shower and change, till she passed away. After that I spent as much time as I could with my mother and aunts. Had I not had a reliable nanny with me then their vacation would have been cut short as well and I would have had to drag them back to Riyadh to sit at home all day. There was no way my husband could do a skiing vacation with the kids alone. We were not about to let the 2 older ones go out all day without one of us around and we were not going to drag our 3 year old out in the cold all day. The whole family would have had to go home at nap time. You get the picture.

Did my kids miss me? Yes. Did this effect B’s mood and happiness? Yes, for a short while and now we are getting back on track. Do I regret this? No. Had I not had great help at home then I would have had to leave the hospital and not spend time with my grandmother. The only time I would get to spend with her ever again. Had I not had reliable help I would have killed myself worrying if the kids ate, or slept, or were being looked after properly when they finally did come home. Yes my husband was there but he has a job and can’t sit there all day with them. My children had school holidays during this time and had I not had reliable help I would have either had to bring them to the hospital or leave my grandmother to take care of them.

I will always remember that during the lead up to my sisters wedding my great aunt was very ill. My mother was very close to her and she was probably one of the only people who my Aunt let feed her and give her the medication and be around her that closely. My mother spent every moment she could with my Aunt up till the wedding day. She saw the preparations and was involved but not as she would have been had she not spent all the time with my Aunt. That always spoke volumes to me and set my priorities from the beginning. It’s the bigger picture. And we all understood this. When I am old and need love and attention and help I pray someone will choose to care for me and make me their priority.

You may think that we have our priorities mixed up. That I should choose, what I call my mini tribe (husband and children), over my larger tribe. A tribe is a tribe and if I want my children to have the amazing support system we all have through this horrible time then they have to understand that this has to be done. That they’re responsible for each other and me and their father always. Because we do prioritize the whole over the individual it means my grandmother was never left without one of her family with her ever the whole time she was sick. Because in the grand scheme of things she needed me more. And I needed to be there more. And thank God I could be.

Now these are the extreme situations. But even when I am home and all is well and I am not meant to be anywhere God knows I am thankful for our nanny. She can watch my 9 month old while I put my 3 year old down for a nap. She can pick up the older 2 kids from school if I am running late. While I am helping my 9 year old with his math (which I am appalling at btw) she can listen to my 6 year old read her book so that homework doesn’t have to go on for hours and hours. If we are in the middle of a game or still some homework (as unfortunately is the situation these days, Homework overload!) and my 9 month old needs to go down for a nap I can continue what I’m doing while she puts him down.

My children are able to do different things during the week and on the weekend because there is more than one or two adults to supervise them. My son goes to football 3 times a week. My daughter goes riding twice a week. My 9 month old goes to my grandmothers house (to see my eldest aunt) or to his other grandparents for an hour in the mornings. My 3 year old gets to have age appropriate play dates and not have to tag along with his 6 year old and 9 year old big brother. My life doesn’t have to stop for the 1.5 – 2 hours my 3 year old son or my 9 month old son is having a nap (they nap at different times and nothing I can do can fix this! believe me we tried to coordinate). I can go down to the basement where the children’s playroom is with them because there is another adult listening out for them.

When I lived in London I didn’t need all the help I need now for a few reasons. The first being that a parent or nanny is not expected to stay with the child during the play date. So I would drop S off to his friends and pick him up when it was time to come home. Secondly we didn’t have our whole extended family living there so they didn’t have a full schedule of people they wanted to see. It was actually very lonely for them after being used to being surrounded by cousins and friends but easy for me because a bus would come to pick S up in the morning. An hour later we would walk the 3 minute walk from the house to J’s nursery and drop her off. Then we would pick the children up from school when they were done and walk home. And that would be the end of our day. Having said that I had a live in housekeeper on the weekends because I want to go out and have dinner and have fun with my sisters who were living there at the time and not have to rush home.

The nannies are not raising my children for me. As I said before in a post I wrote as a response to an attack that was made on this site about having a nanny; an involved mother will always be an involved and attentive mother even with an army of nannies. And a neglectful mother will always be neglectful even if she were locked in a room with her child. Everyone I know has help with their children. Many of them full time but all are, I can honestly say, involved mothers. My sisters and I had nannies as we were growing up and everything good that I am or that I have learned I learned from my parents. Although our nanny was a big part of our lives till she passed away we had no confusion as to who our mother was and who we went to when we needed support.

And I understand the insanity of seeing a mother walking in the shops with a filipino nanny trailing behind her carrying her child, who the mother barely says a word to. But I also see the haggard looking parents with their kids in tow at the grocery store after a long day at work and I think now I am sure they would be grateful to have someone help them at home, watch the kids while they went out, or even better went out to get the groceries for them. Now if the issue is badly treated staff then that’s another thing but it is possible to have full time help, still be a good mother and not treat them badly.

The funny thing is every family in the block I was living in when I was in London (in Camden town) had either a nanny or a housekeeper. Not all full time but they had them every week day. Most of the kids who got picked up from the school my children went to were picked up by nannies even though most of the mothers weren’t working but they had younger children they were caring for.

There are hundreds of child care options in London. Nanny shares where more than one family share a nanny (as the name suggests lol), Part time nannies, live out nannies, daycare that are 5 minutes from your house etc. If we had the option of live out nannies here it would be perfect! It’s a huge responsibility having to take care of someone in your house who has left their family and country to come stay with you. Not to mention the price you pay of loosing a lot of privacy in your daily life. But for my life as it is it is worth it.

I am thankful every day that when I first have my children I can get a nurse to help me out. It’s customary here for a new mother to move in with her mother when she gives birth for the first month and sometimes more so she can have help. I did that with my first born then I felt that with my second I wanted to be back home with my eldest and not leave him for a month or move him away from his father into my mothers house so I got a nurse. A qualified nurse whom I was paying to help me. So even though I was no less exhausted from the 3 hourly feeds at least during the day I can feed the baby hand him over and roll over and go to sleep after a night of hardly any sleep! No need to fully get out of bed to change him. That on it’s own is a blessing. It gives me the chance to be more rested, more focused and in general a better parent.

We used to live in big familial communities and have tons of people to help out with every aspect. People to watch our kids, help with the cooking, care for the kids when the mother was sick and people don’t have that anymore so we substitute. No one knows my children better than I do. They don’t go to anyone else but my husband or I when they are upset or need some support. Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

My Grandmother (Allah Yr7amha) was an amazing mother. She lived in a house full of people who helped her take care of her children. She was a bedouin woman and this is the way it was done. The woman who took care of my mother lived with us till she passed away and we all called her Yumma (meaning mother). My mother again had no confusion about who her real mother was but loved her ‘nanny’ all the same. We don’t live in those communities anymore unfortunately but we don’t believe in the whole ‘go do it on your own’ philosophy. It takes a village. And believe me had living in a big house with my mother and sisters and children and husbands and little dog been an option I would jump at the opportunity. And I would totally expect them to help me with my kids as I would, in an instant, take their kids off their hands for as long as they needed a break for.

I got married when I was 22. I got pregnant about 5 minutes later and had my fourth and last child when I was 32. No I have not been a working mother in the traditional sense (the traditional sense being having a paying job!) but I have felt lucky I have access to all this help. Would I be able to get on without it? Yes. But having nannies means I can parent my kids in a way closer to how I want to parent them. One of the rule I know would go out the window had I not had help is the ‘no electronics during the week’ rule. My kids are totally capable of entertaining themselves but if you have kids who are 9 and 6 and 3 that are running around like mad people jumping off of everything that’s a foot or more off the floor onto anything they think is soft enough to break their fall you need more than one set of eyes to keep an eye on them.

And yes there are mothers out there who care for their children all on their own and manage to get them all to their respective activities and keep their children’s individual social lives going. I know it’s doable and they are perfectly happy in their lives and do not want any help ever. If I can do that while also seeing my mother at least 5 times a week and my father (they are divorced) a few times a week as well and visiting my eldest aunt also at least 5 times a week and seeing my sisters some evenings and going out with my friends and going to the DS school once a week and working on the campaigns and marketing for the school and volunteer in my children’s school as part of the PTA and start my own business and be able to just chill sometimes and read a book and spend some time with my husband sans children then I’m all in. God knows it will save me money!

I don’t think motherhood should be a death sentence to the rest of the aspects of who I am. Although it is the most prominent one, having help lets me maintain other aspects of who I am.

Then And Now, The Loss Of The Superwoman.

Have you seen this?!

All I can say is wow! I mean she was in the front seat and basically just pushed her pants down to make room and the baby came out! All deliveries should be like that! Although I would definitely opt for the hospital and the drugs and the doctors. I always pray for a fast delivery but always always add “in the hospital” to the end of that prayer.

At nearly 30 weeks everything around me seems to be about pregnancy or birth. I am sure this is all in my mind, like when you learn a new word and suddenly everyone is using it all the time. At my grandmothers this morning the conversation turned to pregnancy and birth. My grandmother is a bedouin woman and many of the women who were there today are also bedouin women. Meaning they are no-nonsense, made of steel. give birth alone then walk back home kind of women.

The conversation was about how women used to do everything as normal right up until delivery. One of my aunts was telling us about a woman who would jump up on her camel at 9 months pregnant. Apparently she just hopped on and off like she would any other day. Then they told me the story of the woman who went out to get fire wood and came back with her baby AND the fire wood.

I remember my grandmother telling me the story of when she went into labour with one of her children but she had visitors over at the time and felt it would be rude to tell them she was in excruciating pain while sitting with them and having polite conversation. It’s only when one of the visitors notices that my grandmother kept clenching her fists and looked uncomfortable did they get up and leave.

They discussed at length why women now have so many complications during pregnancy and how they can’t do anything at all during. How they women are not made of the same stuff anymore and maybe it’s because women aren’t active anymore.

It was then that Baby B walked into the room and straight for a hot cup of coffee shouting “Patuccinooo”*. I jumped up and raced to grab his hand before poured it all over himself. The reaction in the room was instant! Every woman in the room simultaneously shouted at me to “SLOW DOWN!” and “ALLAH YHDEEKI DON’T MOVE SO FAST!” and “SIT DOWN BEFORE YOU GO INTO LABOUR!”.

I burst out laughing at the irony of it all! When I pointed out to them the contradiction they laughed and my aunt said “That was women then, you are not those women so sit down”.

So yes. Women used to give birth with MUCH less of a fuss than we do now but along with all the super woman birth stories are an equal amount of tragic stories that end with the death of the babies and sometimes the death of the mother.

So in your opinion is the way it used to be done before all the medical intervention better or are you happy to have your sterilized room and flowing drugs? Do you think women had less complications then? Or more still births and losses of babies? 

*Little side note; I had a very very distant cousin there who flipped out at me giving my son the foam from my cappuccino and no matter how much I explained to him that he is not actually drinking the coffee he kept going on and on about how bad it is for him to have caffeine. The irony in this situation is that this is a man who had just said to me “You’re lucky your kids sit in their car seats, my daughters refuse to. I wish they would but I just can’t get them to”… Seriously… you’re in your 40’s… your kids are in their 5’s and 3’s… if you can’t make them do stuff now God help you later. And I’d give my son an espresso any day over letting him ride in a car without being strapped in. 

Paradise At Our Feet*

*A man came to the Prophet PBUH to ask permission to go to war with him. The prophet asked him if his mother was alive and the man replied yes. He was his mothers only son. The Prophet told him to stay close to his mother and serve her for “Paradise lies at your mothers feet”

We are celebrating the 1 year anniversary of World Moms Blog this November. To celebrate, Jennifer Burden, the editor in chief of WMB, has asked us to write an entry about something in our own culture and motherhood so I am going to write about motherhood in Saudi culture and in Islam in general.

Our relationship to our mothers and grandmothers in our culture and our religion is something that has been on my mind the last few months. My grandmother has been unwell for a while now and it has been difficult not being in Riyadh where she is all the time. She has been in the hospital for a few weeks now. It all started with a break in her back caused by osteoporosis so it was a question of keeping her still so the break can heal while trying to make sure the edema doesn’t get too bad because she isn’t moving and trying to manage her pain without the medication having an effect on her blood pressure.

Since she first went into hospital we have come a long way (Thank God) and the pain is much, much less than it was and she is going back to her normal self. During the whole time she has been in the hospital she has never been left alone for a minute. My aunts and cousins have been there around the clock. We all take shifts of sorts so that someone is always there.

The western nurses found this all very strange to begin with. I would sit with my grandmother as she slept and hold her hand while one of my cousins or aunts held her other hand as it comforted her and eased her anxiety. We could sit there for an hour sometimes. We’d whisper to each other and talk and maybe watch TV while she slept. We wouldn’t let go till she let go first.

It’s a nice feeling. One day while my grandmother was napping they came in to do her physiotherapy. When I got up to leave the room so they can start, a nurse looked at me and said “we’ve finally saved you, quick run before she asks for you again”. She didn’t get it one bit. I paused and thought of saying “no, you don’t get it. I love being here” but I just smiled and left the room.

When i am old and frail I want to have as many people around me as my grandmother does now. Enough people to take care of me while not having to give up their life for me. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to have another girl. To say mothers and daughters are close here in Saudi would be an understatement. Now I am not the best person to keep in touch over the phone, none of my sisters are either. But if my mother and I are in the same city then I see her almost every day. If I am not having dinner with her then I will pass by her before I go out or after on my way home. If I don’t go to her house I would see her at my grandmothers house which I also go to almost daily.

This is not a chore, or a burden or something I am forced to do. It is also not unique to my family or my mother and I. My mother goes almost every day to her mother and so do all my aunts. Our lives are deeply intertwined in that way while at the same time I lead a totally independent life to hers. I make my own decisions, have my own “mini tribe” (my husband and kids) time, I have my privacy in my own home. My grandmother respected the privacy of her daughters in their homes and my mother does the same.

The beauty of this is that we all want to be with our mothers. The bonus is when you have many sisters as I do when one of us cannot be with her there will almost always be someone else there who will be with her. It does get tricky when you are an only daughter though. Although the majority of them will tell you that they enjoy all the time they spend with their mothers it could sometimes get restricting when there is no one there to cover for you when you want to veg out at home or when you are traveling for a long time. It is not that my mother cannot function without one of us there or that the world would end but it’s just not done to not be with your mother for a long period of time.

If this makes it sound like our mothers are demanding they are not, this is just the way things are and have always been and I hope will always will be. I want to take care of my mother when she needs me to as she took care of me my whole life. And I want my children to take care of me as well. The reality is I will probably expect more from my daughter than I will from my sons because, as a woman to another woman, we can share more than I can share with my son.

I always said I don’t want J to be an only girl so her life is not restricted when I get old and sick but seeing as the little one in my tummy is a boy the most I can do is promise her to do my best to keep healthy till she and her brothers have enough time to get married and have more girls to take care of me with them! That is the best I can do. (I am not having a fifth child on the off chance it will be a girl. With my luck it will be a boy. Or twin boys!)

A man came to the prophet Mohammed PBUH and said : “O’Allah’s apostle who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” The prophet said “Your mother”  The man asked “Who is next” The Prophet answered “Your mother” The man asked again “Who is next” The Prophet said “Your mother” the man asked for a fourth time “Who is next?” The prophet said “Your father”. 

– This article is part of the World Moms Blog Link Up