10 Tips for Maintaining your Sanity While Raising Children in Istanbul

1) Life is different. Embrace and enjoy this. If you try to recreate your British/American/Indian/Iranian life here in its entirety you are going to make yourself miserable! That being said, don’t feel like you have to go all Turk or you are a wimp. Find a balance of enjoying the things you like from home and embracing some new things that will spice up your life a little.

2) Learn the language. Easier said than done, especially with little ones. But there are ways….For example, Fatmagülün. I’ve found learning more and more of the language helps me to not feel like a two year old that has no idea what’s going on. Then again, my husband, who has really great Turkish, says it’d be nice to not understand some days.

3) Wear your baby. The other day I set out with a stroller to go for a run by the seaside. What was I thinking? Istanbul is not designed for strollers. For example, my building has an elevator, but then there are three steps outside of the building. Not to mention the zigzagging and going up and down sidewalks one has to do to get anywhere. I’ve found carrying my baby is very easy and makes her and me feel more safe. Now, how to get out and run? Hmmm. Still working on this one.

4) Make friends with Turks. I’ve mentioned before that I love Turks, and that helps me to love it here even on the hard days. If you stay in an expat bubble you are missing out!

5) A little organization goes a long way. For example, don’t wait until your baby gets sick to have the doctor’s number in an easy to find place. Another idea is my husband has about 60 passport size photos of all of us in the family. These are requested for everything it seems, so it’s super convenient to already have them printed out and ready to go. Organize important information now so you are ready when surprises come up…and boy, they will.

6) Embrace the culture. People will touch your baby. People will find you fascinating. People will offer you tea. If you expect people in another culture to follow the rules of your culture, you will be disappointed. That being said…

7) Set-up and maintain boundaries you are comfortable with. I generally let strangers touch and hold Ellie, but that’s because she loves the attention and I’m there. However, I have my boundaries. I don’t let everyone hold her, and I don’t let them take her farther than six feet from me. I have phrases in Turkish I’ve used to communicate in a nice way that they can hold her but don’t go far and no, no, do not let her have your tea!

8) Breastfeed your baby. My friends have told me that most Turks prefer to breastfeed for two years if possible. So, there’s no shame in nursing your baby longer than what may be typical in your home country if you’d like. The reason I find this particularly helpful is because people will touch your baby, and your baby will encounter germs. Breastfeeding will help load your baby with anti-bodies and keep him or her happy and healthy.

9) Get a cleaning lady. My husband and I can’t afford to do this at this point, but I know many people who do have a cleaning lady. It’s reasonably priced and will free you up to do other things you may enjoy more.

10) Make friends! Oh, I’m with you sister. Is it worth it to get coffee with a friend if it takes 3 hours round trip and your baby could possibly have a blow-out on the way?! Yes! It helps to spend time with others, talk to an adult for once, get a little caffeinated, etc. And, if something crazy does happen, you could always blog about it. It’s great therapy, I promise.

These are just a few ideas. What do you find helpful for maintaining your sanity?


About Melissa

Melissa is a wife, mama and fan of all things Turkey. Among other adventures, Melissa loves living life in Turkey while raising her daughters. On IstanbulMoms you can hear about her adventures and escapades, tips for success, strategies for untangling the culture, and ideas for enjoying life in Istanbul to the fullest.

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