~ Role Reversal
This week, and from now on, my work schedule has changed so now I have to report to work an hour earlier. My lunch hour has been reduced from an hour to half an hour, but I get out two hours earlier. Monday I felt the effects of this change on my body, but it felt great to be able to pick my daughter up from school. I cannot tell you the last time I did that. She was definitely surprised to see me.
By week's end I was working independently. My mentor went on leave for a couple of days midweek and not wanting to start over with someone else, I just decided to take a stab at it. The day went fine and the time passed quickly.
Next week marks my sixth month--three months to go. Still not feeling as though I am emotionally ready. Thank God for oxytocin. I constantly feel split in several different directions--trying to attend to everyone else's needs, worrying about our immediate future (I have no paid maternity leave), upset by the way things have turned out while simultaneously working overtime to keep my spirits up, and grappling with chronic fatigue.
Syed is doing the best he can without a permanent job. I wish I had more energy to keep his spirits up, but I am simply drained. The vast majority of my energy goes into keeping myself motivated, going to work everyday and staying concentrated on task, engaging my children whom both seem exceptionally moody these days, trying to cook healthy, hearty meals when I can and keep the house somewhat organized. However, the bulk of the household work falls to him and the kids. He irons my work clothes each evening, rubs my back and abdomen nightly (which is priceless for this old pregnant lady) and plays school and work chauffeur everyday.
Up until recently, I was in charge of household accounting and negotiating problems/issues mostly because of the language barrier. Syed speaks no English. However, somewhere during this pregnancy I unofficially resigned from those duties and am just concentrating on working and attending to the bare minimum of household issues. I have no energy or strength to do much of anything else. I am the first one in the bed every night.
Our lives are so different from what they were like in Africa. For this reason, I cannot wait to return. Here, in the States, our marriage has endured a complete role reversal. While necessary for our survival, it has put such an incredible strain on everyone. There, my husband took care of everything. Here, it feels like I take care of everything. In Africa, I did not cook, clean, negotiate/solve problems, or even talk to anyone outside the family if I did not want to. Syed did all the grocery shopping (as is customary in his ethnic group) and drove us everywhere. Here, I do all the driving, talking, and shopping. So after nearly two years outside of Africa, I am exhausted, he feels emasculated, and we are all eager ready to return. My daughter especially. She left so many friends behind that she is anxious to get back to. She asks everyday for our departure date. The only thing I can offer her at this point is ". . .after the baby's born." I cannot give birth there. Many foreign women have done it, but I do not want to incur the risk.
My daughter so eloquently explained to me that although she is American, she does not feel comfortable here. She said that the most peace and tranquility she ever experienced was during her time in Africa where she could ride her bike without fear, raise her animals, and be a regular kid. I have to agree with her. The violence and constant fear of victimhood is overwhelming. Where we live, which is not a crime-ridden area that I know of, I could never entertain the idea of her walking to school by herself, although she is old enough to do so. She is driven and picked up everyday. If she goes outside to play with the neighbors, Syed or I are out there keeping an eye on her. We live in the city and there is no room to raise the animals that she once enjoyed (chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, and a cat). For all the technological advances and conveniences America enjoys, we are so poor in so many areas namely quality of life.
Now, I do recognize that many Americans live in beautiful parts of the country (outside the Matrix), grow their own organic food, home school their children or enjoy good quality public schools, but for so many us that is not the case. If I were to stay here indefinitely--which I know I am not--that would be the only way I could live, out in some countryside somewhere.
But my countryside, here or there, will simply have to wait for the moment. Until then, I have been listening to the motivational speaker Les Brown. I really enjoy him. The material I have is old, but timeless. He incorporates humor and I found myself laughing out loud perhaps for the first time since I don't when. This weekend I decided to take the initiative to get out of the house. We drove a ways out and went hiking in a nature reserve, kayaking, and then relaxed on the beach before making our way home. It felt good to breathe some good, clean air, stretch our legs, and work our arms will embracing nature.