x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

The search for childcare drove me to stay home

Experiments in finding the right childcare proved to be a leveller for the superwoman.

I am a superwoman and mother. I can have and be everything. OK, I am being crushed under the weight of my delusions.

The past six months since the birth of my daughter have been transformative and beautiful. Yet my ego has taken a battering as I realise that, no, I cannot have, be and do everything.

Hoping to return to work after three months, I never imagined how cruel the quest for a reliable source of care for my daughter could be. Call it The Nanny Sagas,a three-act play.

Act I: Screening potential nannies in East Jerusalem is a painful and flawed process. Aside from the linguistic and political balancing acts, the options are meagre. Find a Palestinian granny who will no doubt love your child. But will she be able to move to change her nappy? Plus, you have to bring the baby to her home - I discovered that the request to have a nanny come to you knocked off 90 per cent of the applicants.

So I turned to the vivacious ladies who lunch - expat mothers. These women are in the know, connected and make motherhood look like a Vogue fashion spread. Acting upon some recommendations, I settled on a part-time Filipino nanny, who entered my home with a Mother Teresa glow. I was overly eager to please her, thinking my niceties would be reflected in the quality of her care. I offered the use of my computer and tolerated her painfully inane love of gossip.

The dramatic end to Act I came when I returned home early from a dinner party. With one flight of stairs remaining, I heard angry shrieks from my apartment. Desperately running to my door, I pounded for the nanny to unchain it. Without pausing from what turned out to be a fight with her boyfriend, she continued screaming into her mobile. I angrily pursed my lips as I realised my daughter was in close proximity, sleeping in the baby swing. The nanny waved and continued yelling as she disappeared into the night. A text came an hour later with a smiley face and an apology. I deleted her number.

Act II: I brilliantly believed I could bring my daughter everywhere with me, including on interviews. Thus, from refugee camps to posh offices, Palestinian women embraced my daughter. Israeli women oohed and aahed and offered advice in solidarity.

I told myself I was grooming my daughter for social greatness - until I interviewed an abused young woman and her mother. Five bitter neighbour women were chain- smoking relentlessly as I brought my daughter into the room. When one woman leaned over my baby with a cigarette dangling precariously from her mouth, I knew my days as the roving reporter mother were over.

Act III: Day care. No two words are more false. The first day my little traitor did not even give a backwards glance as she touched her new day care teacher sweetly on her face and shrieked with joy. And how adorable were the twins in her class, with their curly hair and... was that snot dripping from their noses? I shrugged it off and ran to my interview. When I picked up my daughter later, she refused to even look at me. As if that were not bad enough, her nose began to drip and she started screaming. She spiked a fever, and the sleepless nights I thought we had left behind us re-emerged. More worryingly, she seemed afraid to let me out of her sight - a real personality change. How could I possibly return her to day care?

So the denouement is, I have given up my superwoman dream. My gut tells me the most important thing right now is simply to be an amazing mother.

Tanya Habjouqa is a half-Jordanian, half-American writer and photographer based in East Jerusalem