Welcome to my first ever guest post! I’m proper excited to play host to my lovely friends writing, as she tells you all how she finds parenthood in a country completely different from her home. It’s a subject I find fascinating and I hope you will too. Now over to Mum In The Middle East…
Hi! I’m another Becky and I’m raising my two and four year old sons in Istanbul, Turkey. We’ve been here two years and so my youngest was just 3 months when we came. I was part of Becka’s NCT group with my first born and I feel so blessed our group bonded so well in that first year of motherhood, and we could support each other though everything. It was so incredibly difficult to leave England and leave my friends… but that’s a whole other post 😉
So why do it? Well, even as a child, I dreamt of travelling the world, living in far off nations. After being lucky enough to travel a lot when I was younger, when my husband and I got married at 23, we knew we wanted to live abroad. The Middle East always intrigued me and I had always liked hotter climates and different cultures. My husband just had this feeling about Turkey and so we thought, let’s just go on holiday there and check it out. I am actually half-Greek and grew up in Athens so the food culture and climate is not dissimilar.
We ended up absolutely falling in love with Turkey- from Olu Deniz, a stunning blue lagoon beach, to Yalova a more traditional town complete with stunning countryside. After visiting every year and some of our other English friends moving to Istanbul we finally decided to go for it in 2016, as some other people we knew were also moving. It was very difficult to leave our friends and family but we knew that we would regret it if we didn’t go for our dream. We knew we could always go back to the UK.
Living in built up Istanbul is not for the faint hearted I must say.
It’s crowded, polluted and manic, but it also so full of life, history, culture and some of the most wonderful people on the planet!
Our neighbourhood is simply amazing, and we know all the shop keepers, neighbours the simit seller (sesame seeded bread rings, yum!), the cafe owners… Turks love children and although my kids took a while to get used to all the attention, the Turkish culture is one who honours kids as important. Sometimes the flip side can be that kids up a bit spoilt here and this can be a challenge to us as we learn how to raise respectful children that do not think they are the centre of the universe!
Thankfully our apartment is spacious with a long corridors for my boys to run in, and we have a small terrace big enough for paddling pool with a view of the sea. We also live three floors up with no lift in our apartment AND at the top of a hill. The early days with a pram and no car were very hard to get used to. But for every cloud there is a silver living (even if you have to really hard to find it!) and after sweaty walks with the sling up the hill, the view from the top took my breath away.
I think the biggest thing I found hard was getting used to life with no car.
No boot to keep my buggy in, no quick way to get wherever I want. Thankfully the public transport here is excellent with boats buses, trams and minibuses – a little boys dream! Now they are older, life here is so much easier.
I love parenting abroad because it broadens my kids horizons and gives them a global perspective on the world. My eldest now understands he is English and that he has roots in England, but turkey feels like his home. If my kids had been older when we moved it would have be so much harder for them to settle and I am grateful they didn’t suffer any homesickness. On that subject, culture shock and homesickness are part of anyone’s story who live abroad and to be honest I really struggled (and still do) with both.
A big bonus to living in Turkey – great holidays in places like Bodrum and Maramaris are so cheap and easy in the summer. In Istanbul, we get four seasons! We get snow in summer and heat in the summer. I couldn’t live somewhere hot all year round I love autumn and snuggly jumpers and hot chocolate!
The food here is amazing, so much fresh fruit and vegetables. I like to think it has helped my kids tastes develop broadly. Don’t get me wrong we still do our fave beige dinner of fish-fingers, chips and peas once a week but, for example, at my sons preschool they have things like lentil and tomato soup, rice, stewed veg, stuffed grape leaves, olives, salad every day! Delish!
Kids don’t start school til they turn 6 here which I quite like. You can do what you like up til then. Foreign families can home school but Turkish kids can’t. We decided to do part time Turkish preschool for our eldest. He started when he was three and settling in was very hard both for us and for him. Luckily his teacher is kind and now, at four years old, he goes four days a week and speaks and understands Turkish really well and is happy and settled. One day a week, if we have the energy, is a bit more homeschooly with trips or activities (we have the world’s best car collection museum here!) or sometimes it is just a chill day as living cross culturally and thinking in a second language is tiring. I keep Mondays as down time for me and the kids. We want to keep the kids in Turkish schools at least for the primary education so they learn Turkish naturally. Although hard in the beginning I know it is going to pay off in the future when they feel part of Turkey with Turkey friends and not like an isolated foreigner.
I’m lucky I am married to a primary school teacher so we are teaching my eldest to read and write in English at home so he doesn’t fall behind.
I think living here has just slowed down my parenting in so many ways. We have so many activities and toys for kids in the UK – don’t get me wrong I love and miss those things… but we have embraced a slower childhood and we are all the better for it. Parenting abroad has made me appreciate simple things that we might have missed in England – learning about the seasons. We appreciate nature in small ways living in a city – a snail on a pavement, feeding stray kittens, collecting conkers, jellyfish in the sea.
And what are my hopes for the future? I want to be here long term. We have no plans to leave. Hopefully we will all be fluent in Turkish and get into a good rhythm of visiting England once a year. We would also love to host more of our friends here and show them our life in Istanbul. We have our first family of four coming to stay next Easter and I can’t wait!
When Becky writes about her life, like she has above, it really does sound wonderful. A simpler life where materialism is slow, healthy fresh food is in abundance and all four seasons are experienced. Once Lucas and Sienna are older, I plan to visit my lovely friend for a little girlie weekend, maybe get some of the other mums from our group involved too! You can follow more of Becky’s life with her little family over on her Instagram feed – MumInTheMiddleEast
If you are parenting in a foreign country and would like to write a post for Becka’s Bubble about your life and parenting in that country, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment below or find me on social media!