Mama B Of Ya Maamaa

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Mama B’s daughter screaming at a puddle because it made her shoes wet.

I first heard of Ya Maamaa on American Bedu’s blog and have been a follower ever since. Mama B’s posts are often laced with colorful humor which makes for an entertaining read. There is also the added benefit of  learning about Saudi-style parenting and motherhood, a subject that appears to be a rarity in the English language. Mama B, I wish you many more insightful writings on Ya Maamaa. Maybe one day you could turn all of your posts into a book hint, hint. Thank you for contributing to FHWS!

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YA MAAMAA BLOG QUESTIONS

Who is/are the creator(s) of “Ya Maamaa”? I am! And my kids I guess since they give me most of my material.

How and why did you create “Ya Maamaa”? A friend of mine wanted to start a blog about cooking, which would have been excellent since she is an amazing cook. We talked about it a bit and looked at some sites and the setting up of her blog and it looked like fun. I did try to start a blog once before this but it wasn’t about parenting, or being a Saudi mother, it was just random and I didn’t really get into it. But once I decided to write about parenting I loved it. And I love writing, I always have loved it. It’s just a lot of fun for me.

What are some examples of the main topics you write about? I write as a mother, not as a parenting expert as God knows I am no where near that. Most of my posts are about day to day parenting, school and the frustration that comes with them, some observations about my children or children in general. I am now collecting a few entries about useful things to do and games to play with kids. I talk about our daily adventures, recently when my daughter swallowed a coin! Then there are the blog entries that focus more on Saudi/Arab culture, some touch on religion and social issues. But that is certainly not the main focus of my blog, they are the entries that get the most views though.

What benefits do you expect readers to get out of your blog and/or your writings? I mostly hope they enjoy reading it. A friend of mine told me that when I first told her about the blog, and that it was about parenting, she wasn’t very excited to read it. But after visiting the site she found that she really enjoyed reading the entries. They made her laugh mostly and some made her think. I loved that, because she actually enjoyed my writing style and I engaged her even though the content might not be what she usually reads.

I would also like for non-Saudi/Arab/Muslim readers to see what we have in common with each other, that all mothers essentially deal with the same things and that a Muslim mother raising muslim children is not raising them to be intolerant, violent or hateful. I remember reading a news article warning about how Muslims are immigrating to the USA to raise little terrorist Muslim children there to breed American terrorism. I do not understand how generalizations and pure racism like that is ok but saying one word about Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine is anti-Semitic. But I guess Muslims aren’t considered people like Israelis are, history has proved as much.

What are your hopes for “Yaa Maamaa” in the future? I hope people continue to read it and I continue to enjoy writing it. I didn’t much think about the future when I started. It was just a way to vent all my parenting blahdi blahs so that my sisters can get a break from listening to me drone on about things related to being a mum (it didn’t help much though). I guess once people started reading and Alhamdulilah my ‘views’ are growing it has made me think more about writing as a career. So somewhere in the back, back, back of my mind, there is a little tiny part of me that hopes that “Ya Maamaa” will be the catapult that launches my super successful writing career lol.

Is there anything else you would like others to know about your blog? Just that I hope you will enjoy it at least half as much as I enjoy writing it. Also, I am really grateful for the people who are loyal “commentators” on my entries because it assures me that I am not only speaking to myself!

PERSONAL QUESTIONS

Your nationality and country of residence: I am Saudi and I live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

How long have you lived in Saudi Arabia? All my life, except for a 4 year stint while I went to university in London, UK and then another year and a half when my husband studied for his masters in the UK as well.

Are you married to a non-Saudi or a Saudi? I am married to a Saudi.

Do you have children? I have three. A boy aged 7, a girl aged 4 and another boy aged 1.

Is your husband involved in raising your children? Very much, from doing homework to disciplining to playing games. The kids seems to think he is more fun than I am, I think they are wrong lol.

What are the things you like about Saudi Arabia? I like the social and familial network I have here. I have yet to see the same kind of relationships anywhere else in the world. You are never alone. And while that can be suffocating sometimes, more often you are surrounded by the love of your family and friends. My kids have so much love Alhamdulilah from so many people. They were so alone in London! We were together everyday but it is not the same as being here with their cousins, their grandparents and their aunts. Here they see them on a daily basis.

I love the excitement that comes with all the change we see happening in our country. Such as the changes in education and the competition we see growing between the schools. The fact that education is available for all. I love that most of us find a balance between our religious beliefs and the world we live in now. I love our King. I love that Macca and Madina are here in our country. I love that women are gaining more rights as given to them by Islam. I appreciate that there is a long way to go and I resent that the West is holding us up to their standards as if their standards should be universal. As I said in an interview I did with American Bedu, We are not in need of saving by the west. We are very aware of our problems and are fixing them ourselves. If this is not happening the way the West would like or as fast as the West would like or to the degree that the West would like, then it’s a good thing the West doesn’t have to live here 🙂

What are the things you dislike about Saudi Arabia? The weather! The lack of activities for children and teens (or adults for that matter). The lack of emphasis on other things besides education for children. There are hardly any sports clubs (loads of gyms, but I am talking about places where kids can swim or take gymnastics lessons, etc).

When I was in London, every area would have a leisure center. They would HAVE to have one. These centers would have a pool, a restaurant, some exercise equipment, and some rooms for classes to be given. I would love if we had something like that here. It is such a struggle to find activities for the kids to do, and the weather is not ideal for going to the park for example.

I won’t talk about the restricitons on women, not because they don’t bother me, but because they have been discussed over and over again and I feel I will not be able to add to any of the discussions at this point and it won’t be useful. I do commend and respect the people who are trying to do something about it, for example the campaign to let women drive called Nahnu (We The Women).

What would you like to see improved in Saudi Arabia? Ongoing improvement in education and in social services. More awareness about safe driving and keeping your children in car seats or booster seats. It is crazy how many kids I see hanging their heads out the windows on highways. It just kills me. I do hope, one day soon, to start an awareness campaign about the safety of children in cars and the importance of care seats and booster seats. My son is 7 and is getting teased for being in a booster seat and peoples’ advice to me is take him out of it so he doesn’t get teased. So, for the sake of my friendships (because they probably wont want to speak to me after I give them a huge lecture on the importance of car seats) I will someday soon do a campaign.

Do you feel trapped in Saudi Arabia or do you feel comfortable living in the country? I do not feel trapped. I feel bored…but not trapped. But then again, I am not working. There are many women and men who feel empowered by what they are doing in their day to day lives because they are making a difference in the country and it is a difference they can see because of all the change that is happening. I know being a mother is important and God knows you don’t ‘get off work’ at any time but I still feel like I have not done much. Maybe this is because I come from a family of strong women who have all worked hard in some way to better their country.

What do you think about the abaya and is it a problem for you to wear it? Honestly, I have no problems with it. I hate that it is black but its great for when I want to go shopping or to a restaurant and don’t feel like getting dressed up at all. I just put it on over what ever and go out. In Jeddah, there are more and more colored abayas showing up in malls and on the streets. They look great! I saw a bright purple one, not exactly my choice of color but anything is better than black! I would prefer if we could just dress the way we wanted as long as it was modest, but I do believe that in a culture like ours, getting rid of the abaya completely (as opposed to being more lenient on style and color) would cause a lot of problems within the communities. Contrary to what people believe, if they were to tell us now that we can all shed our abayas and go out wearing what ever we want, it would be the minority that would actually do that. It is part of our culture now. Ask as many women as you can and the majority will say they would keep it. That is actually the way it is with many things that the West view as suffocating and intolerable. If the government goes too fast in one direction without the million steps in between, they would be (and are sometimes already) viewed as too liberal. So on the inside they are labeled “too liberal” and on the outside the are labeled “dictatorial and too conservative”. The way forward is a tricky balancing act. Take for example, when KAUST first opened, what did the people focus on? The quality of education? The advanced technology? The amazing opportunities for the students and for the country as a whole? Nope, they focused on the faced that is was Co-Ed. How frustrating that is! That the government was able to form this amazing university and the biggest publicity it got was because it was mixed!

Do you think non-Saudis should change anything about themselves in order to fit into Saudi society? I think that when they come here they should know about the restrictions we have and be prepared to adhere to them as we adhere to their laws when we go to their countries. It annoys me when a non-Saudi comes here for work and is getting a very high salary, living a very comfortable life and complaining about the place that made all this possible in the first place. If you are not prepared to abstain from drinking, to dress as the custom and law dictates and to respect the culture then don’t come. I think these are basic decencies that we all should have when visiting other countries. I don’t see this as changing things in themselves particularly as much as respecting the country and culture they are visiting. I do think foreigners should have the freedom to practice their religion while respecting ours and I do think they are all entitled to their opinion and to voice their views as long as it’s done in a respectful way.

Do you think a non-Saudi man/woman can be happy in Saudi Arabia? Yes, I know people who have lived here for many years and found happiness here. I think that question can be asked about anyone living anywhere.

Do you think a non-Saudi woman would have any problems living alone without her husband or her family in Saudi Arabia? A Saudi woman would have a problem living alone without a man or her family here to be honest. But I know some people who do. Getting things done is much more difficult since we depend on men a lot here for basic daily life.

What do you think non-Saudis should know about Saudi men/women? That question is a very vague one and I am not sure how to answer that. Not all Saudi men and women are the same so I cannot tell you what you need to know about them. I think if a non-Saudi comes here they should make an effort to meet as many Saudis as they can. Especially if they live in a compound since they can fall into the trap of living in their own little bubble and never really interacting with people.

As a Saudi, how do you feel about Saudis marrying non-Saudis? I think it’s a person’s basic human right to choose who they will marry. Islam does not put a restriction on marriage based on nationality, only based on religion. My sister is marrying a non-Saudi. My cousin is marrying a British woman.

What is your advice when a non-Saudi man/woman meets their potential/future Saudi in-laws?
I am not sure really…I guess the same advice as I would give to Saudis meeting their in-laws. Be polite, respectful and be yourself. I assume if you are at the point of meeting in-laws then you have spoken in detail about their beliefs and their culture and what is expected and what is not expected, etc.

What advice would you give a non-Saudi considering marriage to a Saudi? Unfortunately, you do hear the horror stories of non-Saudi’s marrying Saudi men only to come here and find that either his family don’t approve or don’t know. Or that he has another wife. Or that when they arrive his treatment changes towards them. Or other equally terrible things that happen. I think women should be smart and vigilant, maybe meet or speak to his family before coming. Educate herself on the laws and rights she will have here. Speak to her future husband about the important basics of life such as how they are planning to raise their children, how often the children will be visiting their family outside of Saudi, will she have a driver or not? This is important here, etc. Just read and ask and don’t come into any situation in life with your eyes closed. My cousin is marrying an English woman and she has visited Saudi, met his family, they all love her and they are going in with open eyes. I think a tell tale sign for women is to see how he treats his mother and sisters and what their role within the family is. If she can live that kind of life then great, because more often than not, that is how they will treat their family.

Use this space to write anything else you would like to say: I would like to thank Tara for asking me to do this interview, I enjoyed answering your questions. I also hope that people would visit, comment and ask questions on my blog and other Saudi bloggers sites in order to get different points of view because nothing is ever black and white. But unfortunately, good news is no news! I would also ask people who have had and are having good experiences in Saudi to come out and talk about it because there is so little out there about the good side of Saudi Arabia outside of their ommunities.

Photo Credit: Mama B

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Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

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