In “Dr. Bucket in Bishkek,” her contribution to Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering, Saffia Farr writes humorously about trying to find prenatal care in Kyrgyzstan. Having lived in southern Egypt, Denmark and Kyrgyzstan, Farr is now based in a converted cowshed in the UK. She is a full-time mum to T aged 5, B aged 3 and J, just 1. Her first book “Revolution Baby: Motherhood and Anarchy in Kyrgyzstan tells of the adventures of being pregnant and a new mum in a remote and unknown country. She is currently working on her second book, a mum’s diary. You can find out more about her writing here.
The day begins at 6.45 when three-year-old B appears at my bedside asking “is Daddy still at Moldova?” I love the way he talks so matter of factly about Moldova. Most adults I chat to have never heard of the country but my boys discuss names of obscure places as if this were completely normal. We’ve looked on the map for Moldova and seen that it’s further than France but not as far as Bangladesh. I like the way my children have an awareness of the world. When T, now 5, was born we were living in Kyrgyzstan. Now, with three children and T in school we are based in the UK. Matthew, my husband, a water consultant, still works away on short term projects. Therefore we’ve stayed an international family, my children speaking fluidly of other countries and understanding their differences.
It’s pouring with rain today so the school run involves shoving arms into crackling raincoats and tugging a stiffening cover over Baby J’s pram. In the village the tips of the daffodils are browning but which and pink blossom hangs thick and luxurious on the trees. There are many adventures I miss about living abroad but I do enjoy the changing seasons of home, watching our new garden develop.
I’ve become so inspired by gardening that I volunteered to do a Gardening Club at B’s nursery. Today was my day to help. Gardening with lots of toddlers and pre-schoolers helping is challenging. Today we planted carrots. The children loved filling the tub with soil and took turns sprinkling the seed – I asked them to spread the seeds all around the pot so they put them all in one spot in the middle. We put on a covering of soil and watered the pot. Job done. I turned around momentarily then looked back to see one little girl hacking at the pot with her trowel, churning up our beautifully sown seeds! Goodness knows if they’ll grow. I’m not having much luck so far: the bean plants have died; potatoes didn’t come up because they rotted – the children love watering – and only two sweet pea plants look vaguely healthy. It’s a difficult balance between letting the children be completely involved and enjoy themselves and trying to get things to grow so that they can experience the whole gardening process!
Matthew calls from Moldova at tea time – he does have this habit of calling at the worst moments, wanting me to have chirpy conversations while the boys are spitting milk across the table and J is crying because her yoghurt has been interrupted. I know he misses us and wants to hear our voices but I find it frustrating that in his time zone he seems to forget the reality of having to concentrate on three children. Modern technology has changed the dynamic of staying in touch when someone is abroad. T can now work the webcam and turns it on while I serve up tea so Matthew is practically in the room. Yesterday he called at a particularly frantic moment so I told him he was welcome to join in family life and left him watching the boys fighting over who could have the Lego tractor while I went and changed J’s nappy before the poo smeared any further up her back.
The working title of my next book is “There’s Always one Pooing” as when people ask what it’s like having three children, that’s my answer! The book is a diary, an amusing but poignant insight into a mum-of-three’s life. I hope it will be therapy for other mums. It’s always such a relief to me to chat to my friends and discover that they are struggling with exactly the same issues and circumstances.
By 7.30pm there is blessed silence. Unfortunately, Matthew is out at a client dinner in Moldova so there’s no chance of us sharing an adult conversation. We often find it difficult to talk when he’s away – even the ease of communicating over the Internet can’t overcome the practicality of different time zones. I’m happy to tidy, write and iron in silence; after twelve hours of talking, this is my luxury.