Thursday, April 19, 2012

Egyptian Expat in Cairo -

Nanny-less diaries

I didn’t come up with this one! Though I wish I did..

I’ve been nanny-less for almost ¾ of my nine years of mommy-hood. And the short bouts in which I had house-help, the price tag for the service came quite high: my money, my jewelry, and most of all, my sanity.

Somehow I got by.

As a matter of fact, I still am getting by, with three kids between 9 and 3 and a house in child-unfriendly New York. A little bit of toughening up and loads of spillover whining sessions, I somehow get by. But it’s my friend Yasmin Shafei, who so creatively and so aptly coined the term as she navigates Cairo with two little ones and no house-help.

Mind you, YS is no spoilt brat. She also braved New York City with kids and came out of it with fond memories. She breezed through the big fat apple with no help, and she survived. She even liked it and didn’t bother to complain; which admittedly, I did lots of.

What is it in Cairo that makes the job ooooh soooo hard?
I’m finally living here in my parents’ house… A dream I thought was banished to the lowest drawers of my consciousness since marriage to the UN uprooted me from my home.

I have a cook, a cleaner, a couple of “pass-par-tout-s”, and my sister’s driver at my disposal.. I even got lucky with a sitter I’ve known for a couple of years and she works full time with my kids. Yet I’m drained!
My friend Noha asked me this morning: you actually live alone with 3 kids in New York?

By alone she means without house-help. That statement in itself tells me a lot about family structure for young families living in Cairo where a father ultimately comes fourth after mami, driver, and house-help. If you add grandparents and aunts to the mix, the poor man is left to dwindle his fingers over shisha every night with his friends .
That’s an exaggeration, but in many cases it is sadly an accurate description of Cairene family life.

Six months ago, I would have frowned my brows and given her – what I would hope would look like- an arrogant condescending emoticon –like look. I would have sneered a little and so haughtily explained that I had it all under control and I was no spoilt daddy’s girl.

The only truth that remains today from that perspective is that I never was a daddy’s girl. Other than that, I have a new found admiration for all those hands-on new mommys who stretch themselves so thin, in a city of 88 million humans, double that number in stray animals and less than a fifth of it in resources.

A typical day for a new-age mom in Cairo starts somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30 AM. For a night bloomer like me, this is simply inhumane. School days for multi-child families ends anywhere between 1 and 4 pm. And that’s when the traffic torture begins.

My kids all finish at 1 PM sharp.. Ideal right??? Too bad I have to do two simultaneous pick-ups from 2 different locations. End result??? Lots of sprinting, panting, apologizing and angry unwelcoming kiddie faces envying each-other depending on who got picked up first!

Sundays the boys have swim class, Tamara has Ballet, all 3 have Arabic and that’s just the weekly kickoff day.

I sat in Grecco café this morning with a dozen moms after drop-off and I listened carefully and silently acknowledged: Living Nanny-less in Cairo is an unparalleled adventure. As much as I applaud Yasmin’s courage and enthusiasm, I think that 6 weeks from now, as I shed all my social luxuries and support systems away and board that plane back to lonely New York, I will pray real hard for her to find help and keep it. For she needs that here in Cairo more than I ever will in NY or Europe or wherever the UN decides to dump us in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Yay a "new" post ;) I remember your FB post about the irony of having all the built-in support and being more exhausted in Cairo than you were in NY. I think the key is that life - of any sort - is more taxing in Egypt than it is here. But that's one of its charms...