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.