Dear Liliana,

Dear Liliana,

 

 

I met Malik in Istanbul University while doing my PhD in molecular and cell biology.  While we dated, we agreed that we could get married while still being students, but that we would not have children until we finished our degrees.  Three months after graduation, I got pregnant and was so excited to have our first child.  At almost the same time, Malik was offered a postdoctoral position at UC Merced.  At first we were both happy, but as time passed, I became anxious about leaving Turkey.  Keep in mind that at this point, I was only three months pregnant and I didn't want to leave my family.  But because I love Malik so much, I decided to accompany him to Merced.  

 

For the last six months of my pregnancy, I stayed home alone and had no friends.  Plus, the American medical system is so strange.  Because I had language and cultural barriers, I felt so isolated in Merced. It's such a small city compared to Istanbul.  As it turns out, I had a beautiful baby girl and love her very much. But Malik works so many hours in the lab.  When he comes home, he has his dinner, barely talks to me and then goes to bed.  I don't know what to do.  Maybe something is wrong with me because I keep getting feelings of sadness.  I attribute this to missing my family who isn't here to help me with my baby.  Sometimes, I even have thoughts about returning home without Malik.  What is worse, I am beginning to resent my baby as being the cause of my problems.  No one knows how I feel as I feel ashamed to tell anyone.

 

Please help me.

 

 

Azra


 

Dear Azra,

 

Thank you for sharing your experience with me. Believe it or not, I know how you feel and I have heard stories similar to yours from many other friends throughout the years.

We love our husbands, we support their careers and we follow them overseas and build a safe nest for them to come home from their labs when they are exhausted or disappointed by the results of their research. We listen to their complaints, cook for them, comfort them, take care of our homes and our children, dedicate all of our time to our new families, and sometimes end up forgetting our own goals and dreams until we start feeling sad or resenting our loved ones for putting us through all this. Like you are feeling right now.

 

Well Azra, I think we “loving partners” need some kind of wake up call. Truth is, we chose to leave our countries and join our partners in their academic adventure in the US. And it’s actually okay to step back for a little while in order to take care of a new family and support your partner’s chance to succeed – but only if it’s for a little while.

 

I understand that you are a scientist yourself and I am sure you are a talented one. Once your little girl gets older and is able to spend part of the day in childcare, you will get some of your time back. Prove to yourself (not your husband) that you are able to make the most of that time - even far from home, even with few or no friends at all! Enroll in a class, look for other women like you (there are many of them in all the UC campuses, even if the system still does not do enough for us), and see if there are any available work opportunities for you to regain your own professional identity.

 

Your partner is absorbed in his world right now, fighting for his place in the sun. UC Merced is as competitive as the other UC campuses and his energy is limited. Accept the fact that, for now, you can’t really rely on him for all the things you may need, but you can rely on yourself. Back in Turkey, when you accepted Malik’s offer to come to the US, you proved to be bold enough for such a challenge. Be bold again - use all of the tools you may have to get in touch with local people: your food, your craft talents, your identity as a mother, your science skills. Own the decision to come here. Build your own adventure in this country which, believe me, is friendly and welcoming to foreigners most of the time. Things will get better little by little as you understand them better. Days will become more pleasant and full if you don’t just wait for your husband to come home, but start going out with your little girl, exploring places and taking advantage of all the opportunities out there. Study the language to become more independent and regain control of your own life. It’s really up to you. Good luck!

 

Love,

 

Liliana