Monday, 2 November 2009

To blog or not to blog.

Life as an expat can be a lonely one. Particularly if you are at home with 2 small children to look after for much of the day and don't totally understand the culture in which you find yourself. Even more so if, although you speak Bosnian up to a point, it is nowhere near the standard needed for anyone to enjoy a relaxing conversation with you without having to concentrate very hard and wincing occasionally. There aren't many other expats in Tuzla, let alone expat families, let alone expat families with 2 children in the same age range as my two.

It is safe to say that I spend a lot of time on my own with my boys. There isn't much else to do around here, so we are at home at home. Organised activities for children are few and far between. No playgroups, music classes or jungle gyms for us here (at least that I have been able to find out about). The playgrounds are tiny and badly maintained and inevitably just a bit scary for a mother with two adventurous climbing little boys. We've just entered the season of mud meaning that every time we go out there is a World War 1 battlefield mudfest outside (and shortly afterwards inside too). We do know other people, Bosnians, with similar aged children but they all work full time, making arranging play dates difficult to do during the week. Other friends, without kids of their own, also come round on a fairly regular basis and we do really enjoy it, but nothing is quite like having other children of a similar age for the boys to play with.

Every now and then I read a post with envy, people say things like 'for once, we didn't have any organised play activities this afternoon'. I am desperate for some organised play activity, it would be wonderful. Organised play activities serve many purposes. We get out of the house. There are other adults there. The boys get a chance to do something different. And when we get back to the house, there are all the toys etc. that haven't been played with for a while so are interesting again.

Anyway, this isn't intended to be a post that waffles on forever about how hard it is not to have other Mummy mates. I've actually got used to it. We all have. I'm much better and more resourceful and working out things for us to do during the week, and the boys are that much older making it easier for me to find things for us to do too. No, what this post is all about is the importance of blogging to someone who is quite isolated, like me.

There has been a whole load of stuff written in the last week about Mummy Blogging. Is it too competitive? Too commercial? People are not enjoying their blogs, agonising over whether accepting advertising and reviews is selling out or not. So I wanted to wade in with my size 10s (actually size 7 and currently clad in some rather funky flower print trainers which I like very much, but I digress) and stick up a great big banner and shout from the rooftops 'WHAT MAKES BLOGGING BRILLIANT IS THE COMMUNITY!'.

I started blogging in June 2008, primarily to keep family and friends up to date with what we are up to, and to stop having to write the same emails to different people over and over again. This is my 280th post. I found that I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. Eventually I found the British Mummy Bloggers group and joined it out of interest. Suddenly there were all these other Mummys, writing, online about their experiences. I found myself potty training alongside Maternal Tales and Moaning Mum. It was wonderful to be able to share poo horror stories with them and get some support to push through the worst of that particularly joyous time of bringing up children. Now I'm trying to stop everyone peeing outside all the time (triggered by the wee race the boys had over the fence as a funeral cortege was making their dignified procession from the mosque next to our house) and am finding that Single Parent Dad has got similar problems. Some bloggers have got terrific ideas for things to do, Zoe Toft providing the idea for today's activity, making penguins.

I also found that the blogging community engages in blogs by leaving comments. I know that some of my family and friends read it (Mum tends to call me up after reading in order to discuss the days post, my mother in law amazes her son by knowing more about what the boys are up to than he does), but they tend not to comment. It is the other bloggers who comment and start a bit of a dialogue. For me, who can be feeling very alone and far away, this dialogue, two way conversation and individual connection to others is immensely rewarding. I read their blogs, they (occasionally) come and read mine. I know what is happening in their lives. It is my coffee moment, the time when I share experiences and feel a part of a community.

So, although I can see why people might feel that blogging is little like the old school playground where there are a few big cool kids who know everyone, who might come and talk to you or who might not. But, these kids are now all grown-up, and don't behave like kids can do. I have found the community to be kind and immensely supportive. I can see why people find blogging competitive or have a perception that it is all about the freebies (or looking down on those who take up the freebie offers). But like all things, blogging is what you make of it. I know why I blog, it is because I love that community, I love feeling connected to other people and I really enjoy writing my posts. The freebies, well no one wants to send them to Bosnia anyway, and as Susanna in A Modern Mother mentioned in her post on the topic, no one is going to get rich blogging. The 'best of' lists? Always nice to be mentioned but they don't actually mean anything.

This is not to say that I haven't had my moments wondering what the hell I am doing with this blog. It is time consuming and I have more than enough work to do as it is. Then there is the on-going identity crisis: am I a Mummy blog? An expat blog? A blog about Bosnia? Who knows, who cares? I am what I feel like being at that particular moment. I enjoy blogging, I enjoy writing about what I want to write about and I enjoy the feeling of being a part of a community. I hope that the others who are in more of a quandary will find their way to enjoy their blogs too.


Pippa said...

Hear hear! I blog for blogging's sake not because I want free stuff. Although if someone wants to offer me a holiday/new house/new car then I might not say No!

Very Bored Housewife said...

Well said, I blog for exactly the same reasons as you. Living in a foreign country with small children can be very isolating and blogging is a great release, a good use of time - well better than ironing anyway, and a great way to keep in touch with the rest of the world.

I love your blog. xx

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Its not all bad though, this is why I blog:


Anonymous said...

You know how I feel about blogging - I started for one reason but have carried on for another - I think I look at it in much the same way as you do - I enjoy it - that's all there is to it - and I too love the blogging community - I have had my doubts as to whether I should - should I be making more of an effort in my 'real' life rather than my 'blogging' life??? but, a thankyou defiantely goes to you - for your blog - it is funny, interesting, thought provoking and you definitely played a part in making me feel welcome in this blogging world - so thankyou Emily

London City Mum said...

FM - much the same sentiments here, even though it was thanks to you and Yummy Mummy at Bloomin' Marvelous that I finally got my act together and started blogging myself.

Agree that whole purpose of blogging is to enjoy it, much like many other things in life. The community, other bloggers' stories and the comments never cease to amaze, surprise and/or make me laugh. I do not care if others don't 'get it'.

And when you are next in London PLEASE get in touch and we can arrange a proper play days for the troops. You know where I am!


Anonymous said...

Very well said! Your blog is absolutely wonderful. There is a great community spirit and hopefully the network will continue to grow and remain a gret support to many. Hopefully the debates of last week have done some good by getting issues out in the open so they can be discussed and then forgotte, That way we can all carry on with what we do best - which is blogging and forming part of a wider supportive network. :)

Gail Mowat said...

Blogging has become much more fun since people started leaving comments on my blog, I started reading lots of other hilarious blogs and commenting on those, and although I feel terribly geeky doing it, I really enjoy an evening spent trawling around the blogosphere. We don't have any telly here or english language book shops, so I tend to be on the internet a lot. And I agree with you, being part of an online community is oddly comforting when you live in a strange place far from home, where often you don't have many like minded people around. We have a community here in Almaty, but it is very small and you can't always be as straightforward or open about things as you could with your best mate who lives nearby and you have known for donkey's years.

Gail Mowat said...

Blogging has become much more fun since people started leaving comments on my blog, I started reading lots of other hilarious blogs and commenting on those, and although I feel terribly geeky doing it, I really enjoy an evening spent trawling around the blogosphere. We don't have any telly here or english language book shops, so I tend to be on the internet a lot. And I agree with you, being part of an online community is oddly comforting when you live in a strange place far from home, where often you don't have many like minded people around. We have a community here in Almaty, but it is very small and you can't always be as straightforward or open about things as you could with your best mate who lives nearby and you have known for donkey's years.

gail Mowat said...

sorry, didnt mean to send that twice! definitely not interesting enough for that ha ha

nappy valley girl said...

I entirely agree. Although I didn't actually start blogging for the community (I didn't know it existed and just wanted to write something fun) I have gained so much from that aspect of it, particularly since moving abroad. I love reading other blogs and have learned some really useful, moving and amusing things from the comments on mine.

Your blog is excellent, and who cares whether it's Mummy, Expat or Bosnia? (Personally I don't particularly want to read blogs which are only about motherhood - I want to get to know the whole person.)

katehercegbosna said...


I was born in Bosnia, but I live in Germany. Everyone wants to leave Bosnia. Why are you their?
For how long are going to stay their?
and their are usually in the catholic church some things for children: singing and so on.

Wish you the best

Kate Morris said...

I find it fascinating to read about your life in Bosnia, opens up a whole world I know nothing about.

WeDoAdventure said...

I never really thought about blogging to get free stuff - I guess I'm missing a trick there!

Clearly, I'm not a mummy - although I'll be a uncle for the third time when the overdue one arrives! - but it's great to hear your perspective on life over here. So let's hear it for blogging in Bosnia!

cartside said...

Hear hear.
This is just why I blog. I just love it. I don't care about freebies and if I feel like it, I'll go for it. Sometimes, I get a bit competetive - not in comparison with others, but just wanting more readers, it never lasts long though because at the end of the day, all I want to do is blog. If someone reads and even comments, fab. If not, so be it.

Margie said...

I really enjoy your Mummy/Expat/Life in Bosnia blog, with its outsider on the inside perspective. You always give me a reason to smile. And today your post makes me appreciate that raising girls is free of ill-timed "wee races."

Chanda said...

I'm alone here too! Except with two dogs instead of friends..and speaking very little Bosnian. I'm scared to leave the house (fear of their driving) and I am worried someone will try to talk to me and I can't talk back to them! Somedays it's like prison. Thank goodness for satellite tv and internet.

siobhan said...

I have also felt very isolated since I stopped work to stay at home with the kids. A blogging is a way of connecting with other like-minded adults, and on days where you see no-one but the kids, a comment can really make your day. I started my current blog just as a way to vent, and it really has just become a hobby. It can be very cathartic.

Mwa said...

I couldn't agree more. That's exactly why I blog as well. That, and getting my feelings and creative urges out somewhere. I may not be an expat, but I sometimes feel like one, being the only stay at home mother in my circle of friends and family. Blogging has saved me as well. I would love to live in a country with organised play dates, but Belgium doesn't have that either.

Lovely post. xx

chair said...

Blogging is a great way to keep your spirits up!

TheMadHouse said...

I just wish that people wouldnt be so quick to judge others. It takes all sorts and it would be very sad if all blogs were the same. I love your blog as it takes me into a world that I wouldnt otherwise have any view of, so keep up the good work!

Dan said...

I disagree.

Ok, no I don't; but I thought I'd mix it up a bit:)

the community is where it's at. and it's also about finding the community that's right for you.

I've been incredibly lucky with the one I've fallen into. I count many of my blog buddies as among my best friends.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of soul searching now and again, but as you say; the important thing is to blog how you want to blog.

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

I think of you as 1 of the 'cool kids on the block' You got known & became popular so quickly! I dream of 20 comments on a post!!
I started blogging for the same reason as you; to write abt my experiences for friends & family (& my parents & in-laws know more abt my children's conversations & incidences than my hubby too!)I wish in a way they wd comment. None of my friends & family back hme who raed my blog comment at all. BUT like u I've discovered the great blogging community. I even have a couple of cyber penpals! (my husband thinks this is quite weird!)
I don't like the whole competitive thing, & it's not why I blog, tho I do get sucked into wondering how to increase my readership etc, not that I look at stats that much or even understand half the techy advice on the BMB discussion threads! But it makes it feel so much more worth the effort if you know people are listening, reading & responding. That's what I wnt, not a certain position on the Tots 100. Anyway I don't have that much time to read loads of blogs & post lots of comments wch is what one needs to do.
Re kids' activities. It was like that here for us the 1st yr & a bit. Football the only thing on offer & anyway only one term per yr. the schls were/are the only places with jungle gyms. Basically what is on offer is entirely dependent on what an ex-pat decides to offer. I take 5 kids to the 2 tennis courts in the park for a lesson once a wk, a mum set up the ballet wth a former Albanian classical ballerina cos her daughter is v gifted but individual lessons too expensive. That's the wqy to do it, but without other ex pats or facilities such as a tennis court it's difficult. Another dad ha set up a little bike grp to meet this Sat to bike around the park (wch i s really just trees, little paths,not a manicured park) I'm impressed u have learn tBosnian so fast. Ive been learnign 6 mth snow (ALbanian) but it's so hard. I fi'm not in a shop, petrol station or cafe my vocab drie sup & I'm floundering!

Rebel with Cause said...

Just found your blog after reading Sunday Times article by India Knight. I was fascinated to find you are in Tuzla with your young family and learning the language. As Sebro-Croat is my mother tongue any help you need, just shout (lilly dot 1 dot work at googlemail dot com)

My sister came to London with her then 9y old daughter who knew no english. Within 6 months she was writing English essays at school. So, my advice is, get kids into local schools /nurseries. Sorry if they are too small- read only this post so know nothing more about their ages. You will be amazed how they will teach you and how proud they will be to do so.

Mud, o glorious mud! When I went back home first time with my husband he remembered on return that in the space of 3 days he had to clean his shoes more than he does for a year at home! Wellies are great.

I will be coming back. Good luck to you all.

Lorna Harris said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one with an identity crisis. I constantly ask myself what sort of blogger am I, expat or mummy? But I realise it's more important to enjoy the writing and not worry about my identity!

Great post.

Lady Mama said...

I completely agree! Blogging IS what you make of it. I've enjoyed so much the friendships I've built with other mum and dad bloggers. I know how isolating it can be as a stay at home mum in a community where everyone speaks my language (though a foreign country) and social activities are available, so I can only begin to imagine it must be very hard where you are. Great post.

A Modern Mother said...

Well said. At least this give us all something to write about ;-)

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Pippa - I'd not say no either. A holiday? Actually I can be bought with much less. A good book is all I'm after. Or some nice handcream.

VBH - Definitely better than ironing. Hate ironing.

TTWT - Blogging isn't all bad at all. I don't understand the techie stuff, can't be bothered to get to grips with it. We should all be starting a Blog for the fun of it movement!

Kathryn - thanks, and I always enjoy your blog. Great to see that small boys can grow into lovely boys.

LCM - Will do! Looking forward to it already.

RS - You bought it all out into the open and I think everyone has got lots of their chest now. Back to the network building.

GM - I do feel you are a fellow Eastern European (more or less) as so much of what you write about rings true for here too. Got to love the ex communist states. I enjoy an evening in the blogosphere enormously too. Guarantee that someone will make me laugh!

NVG - I'd never have believed someone who said that I would really enjoy the blogging because of the community. I'm not known for my technical ability - not on twitter, chat rooms remain a mystery and I've never been on Mumsnet. I also prefer blogs that aren't purely Mummy ones and really enjoy yours. So does my Mum by the way, she moved to DC with 2 small children in 1980 and she likes to read about your experiences which echo hers in so many ways.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Kate - Thanks for the tip. I've seen the church in Tuzla so I ought to pop in to say hello. We've been here for one year, probably stay for one more, and we enjoy it.

Kate Morris - Glad you enjoy it. Thanks.

WDA - Think you should start a new uncle blog genre. I like reading your perspectives too - Mostar and Tuzla are very different places!

Cartside - Exactly my thinking. I love the comments, but am not going to get my knickers in a twist if people don't. Some posts will attract lots (er this one has rather taken me by surprise) others will get hardly any. No idea which will be which.

Margie - Oh the wee races drive me nuts. They have also taken to digging holes, peeing in it and then making wee pies. The joys of boys...

Chanda - I was thinking about you the other day! Did you find a house to live in? We need to catch up - I promise not to talk to you in Bosnian!

Siobhan - I agree. It really is cathartic. A rant on a blog gets it out of the system and stops me getting really demented in real life!

Mwa - I always think of you as an expat. Why doesn't Belgium take on board the playdate type thing? We should get our lot together and introduce it!

Chair - it really is!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Dan - it's not like you to disagree. You do like to follow that crowd... ;-). I've met a few people through this blog and they have all been fab. The Bosnian British Mummy bloggers meet up has not achieved quite the numbers I was hoping for... Guess I'll have to wait to come back to the UK to meet everyone.

Paradise - my other British Balkan Blogger. Can't believe you think of me as a cool kid. First time ever. I'm feeling rather chuffed about that and that I really must grow up from my 14 year old self at some point. We do have tennis courts here (good ones actually) so I should just get out there and organise something. Once they get to 6 there is stuff here for them to do, but my eldest is ever such a shy lad and never wants to do anything new. As for vocab, I'm finding that mine includes such words as dragon, potty, dance, kite, snake, pirate - you know all those useful words but the words for office continue to escape me. My Bosnian is awful but I give it a go. No idea if people understand me. x

Rebel with a Cause - Are you also from Tuzla? The mud at the moment is just dreadful, all over the playgrounds. Thnaks for the advice - the boys are actually in a Bosnian nursery and have been for a year. The eldest is very shy and hates making a mistake so he is finding picking up a new language very difficult, but we are getting there. I'm ever so proud of them though, they are real super stars. I always need help with your language, the cases are destroying me!

LH - You have identity crises too. Yay! Lets expat/mummy blog it together and see where we end up. I've given up having an identity crisis, and just write about what I feel like now. Much less stressful!

LM - Sometimes i think it might even be harder to be in a foreign country where they do speak your language, you don't realise how different the cultural differences are and can get frustrated. x

MM - Exactly. Your post on this was great too. x

Chanda said...

We didn't find a house in fear of spending our money then being broke. So we found a bigger apt. It is the second floor of a house with an older couple living downstairs. I think I am getting more and more miserable the longer I am here!!! Hopefully it is just a homesickness phase.

angelsandurchinsblog said...

Another post I'll direct anyone to who asks the question 'what's a blog' or 'why blog?' or even 'what's the point'? I love your posts, and find them a great way of finding out about a different country, written by someone who I feel has a similar perspective on it than I would. Even if express it all far better than I could. Thank you, and it will seem that you were there such a short time once you're 'home' again, and you'll probably really miss it - plum vodka, mad old men, and all.

The wife of bold said...

Spot on as always, i blog because it's fun and escapist and i also have made some wonderful connections with other mummy bloggers that has really made a difference to my days as a SAHM. I do feel guilty when i have a backlog in my google reader though which adds a little stress but i wouldn't be without my blog x

The wife of bold said...

Spot on as always, i blog because it's fun and escapist and i also have made some wonderful connections with other mummy bloggers that has really made a difference to my days as a SAHM. I do feel guilty when i have a backlog in my google reader though which adds a little stress but i wouldn't be without my blog x

Rebel Mother said...

Will you see me under all these comments?

I think blogging is a lifeline to many people and a creative way to network, as well as no more quills and parchment!

Love the sound of your flowery shoes.....mine have pink flowers on them!


Absolutely Write said...

That stuff about not having friends around really hit a note with me - when I moved down south 2 years ago I was shocked by how much I missed having mates 'on tap' and I felt very very lonely. Blogging can be marvellous therapy, and fill a real gap.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Chanda - oh do come round for a cup of tea and a gossip. Whenever you want!

A&U - it will seem like a dream when we get back. Sometimes I really look forward to it, but other times I don't want to return at all.

WoB - see I don't have a google reader which means I can't get guilty or feel any stress. Thank goodness for being a bit of a technophobe!

RM - yes yes! Always see you. Like the sound of the pink flowers very much. xx

AW - it is difficult when you move and does take a while to adjust. I hope you are feeling more settled now. x

Maternal Tales said...

Hello darling - have been away in Norfolk for a few days visiting grandparents so missed this post, but glad I scrolled down. It's great. Yep, totally agree with you - the whole community thing is amazing and somethign I had absolutely no idea about when I started blogging. I thought blogging was just about writing - which is great of course, but the one thing that I could never forsee was the 'meeting' of other people and actually making friendships, even though I have either never met these people, or don't even know their names. My husband thinks I'm bonkers, but I'm on my own a lot too, so I don't care what he thinks when he's on the other side of the world!! Just off to read your newest post now. Big kiss x

Iota said...

I echo everything you say especially about what you politely describe as the 'community' (whereas I described my fellow bloggers as 'quirky oddbods'). And I am like you, in that I frequently have blogging identity crises.

As an expat blogger, I do occasionally have a twingette of jealousy when I read about bloggers who have met up in real life, and have found they like each other as much as they knew they would. That's not a possibility for us is it? But I've decided that I quite like that too - I'm not sure I could keep up with everyone if I had to socialise with them in the real world as well as the cyber world.