We currently live in Kisumu, located in Western Kenya, Barak Obama’s ancestral homeland. (See here for more on the city). I’m originally from the Chicago-area but have lived in Philadelphia, Boston and Washington D.C. My husband grew up in Southern Africa, as his parents moved around doing development work.
In an eerie coincidence we moved to Kenya when our son was 2, the same age my husband was when his family moved to Kenya. His father had landed a job as a Country Director, same title my husband now has.
What language(s) do you speak?
English, bad French and Swahili that my 3-year-old son sometimes has to correct.
When did you first become a mother?
I first became a mother relatively later in life but quite early in my marriage (2009 if you’re looking for specifics). Because I was a little older we thought we’d get a jump-start on trying, and were a bit surprised when I got pregnant the first month. I think I took about 4 pregnancy tests until the disbelief dissipated.
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
I was working but am about 2 weeks away from my second child, so I’ve recently stopped (partly because we’ve temporarily moved to the capital city to have the baby and partly to spend some last precious days with my first-born before he’s hit with the jarring realization that he is not, in fact, the king of the universe). I was working at the same NGO as my husband doing research on a variety of development programs to assess how well they are actually working. I’m still contemplating my options after number 2 arrives.
Why do you blog/write?
It’s funny – I have a whole welcome page on my blog explaining why I’m actually a very unlikely blogger (kind of a technophobe, horrible keeper-in-toucher, not a natural “moment collector” etc….).
At first, it really was a vehicle to keep in touch with loved ones back home. But increasingly it’s because, I’m guessing like most of you, I enjoy writing. It helps me organize my thoughts and express myself in a way that I don’t think I otherwise could. I doubt I’d process my experiences or make sense of them in the same way unless I wrote.
Plus, lately more and more I want to connect with other women who are grappling with the same issues that I am. Especially as an expat – far from family and longtime friends and in a culture with norms that sometimes clash with my own – it’s important to find community wherever you can. And lord knows just being a mom has its own disorientation, so it’s always helpful when you can connect with others who share your doubts and fears and joys.
How would you say that you are different from other mothers?
I don’t know that I am. I think most of us ride that same roller coaster of profound aching love to hair-pulling frustration, but we all cope with it in our own ways. Like a lot first time moms, even after three years at this I’m still trying to figure things out.
So, maybe I’m different in that I still haven’t settled on any one parenting philosophy. I’m someone (maybe because I’m a Libra or the middle child in a set of triplets, who knows?) who tends to see most issues from all sides. But when all the parenting advice stresses consistency, this tendency to waver is a huge liability. But I’m working on it, and I’m hoping I’m not alone here.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
I think the biggest challenge, and this is very much related to the last question, is that there are fewer guideposts and way too many debates. To Ferberize or co-sleep? To solely breastfeed or introduce formula? To spank or use time outs? Should we be Tiger moms or Free Range moms? It’s head spinning and there’s a lot of judgment no matter what you do.
Many of the women I know in Kenya don’t face any of this. (Probably our own mothers and grandmothers didn’t either.) They do what their parents, aunts, cousins neighbors do, and there’s not a whole lot of discussion or indecision. And because everyone is pretty much on the same page, there’s a lot more ease in letting neighbors and friends help discipline and play with their kids, which reduces a mother’s burden a lot.
In some ways it’s wonderful that we can pick a parenting style that suits our own values and the temperament of our child. But in other ways, it’s simply overwhelming.
How did you find World Moms Blog?
I’ve been mining the mommyblogs to search for “my niche” and community and stumbled on someone who is a writer for this site. I can’t relate to a lot of the mommyblogs because there’s a lot about living in the West that does not apply here, so I was thrilled to find a community of women who share some of my experiences. And amid all the self-indulgence and product placements of a good part of the mommyblogging community, it was refreshing to see the Social Good and Human Rights features of this site!
I’m honored to be a part of this.
This is an original, first-time post to World Moms Blog from our new writer and nearly-mother-of-two in Kenya, Mama Mzungu. She can also be found writing on her personal blog, MamaMzungu.