Throughout our lives, we are faced with many challenges. Some are major life challenges and some are simply small challenges in our day-to-day living. These may be small, but they are challenges nonetheless, and when many of them accumulate one can end up feeling down, angry, lonely, hopeless, or even desperate.
Moving to a new country where you don’t know anyone and you don’t speak the language is certainly a challenge. When I first moved to Zurich, I decided that the first thing I needed to do was to learn German, so I went ahead and enrolled in intensive German classes. Eight months later (and a few thousand francs as well) I was on the tram, and an announcement was made about disruptions in some of the lines. As the announcement described alternate routes and solutions, I found myself totally clueless about what had just been said and what I was supposed to do. Although I had reached quite a reasonable level of German, the announcement was made in Swiss German, so it turned out that learning the complicated German grammar for reading and writing was just not enough. Now, eight years later, even though I can read novels in German, Swiss German with its countless different dialects continues, to a large extent, to be a challenge.
Switzerland is a beautiful country with one of the highest standards of living worldwide. Coming from Egypt, I really do appreciate the efficiency of how everything is taken care of to the minutest of details. To be frank, though, this has sometimes been challenging for me. Being very punctual all the time to catch the train, meet friends or make it to a doctor’s appointment is almost always a challenge (especially once the twins came along). I also gave up on following the recycling schedule of what to put out, where, when and how. I just take my recycling stuff to the big dump on Saturdays.
As I was slowly getting used to life in Switzerland, I got pregnant, and just as we were getting adjusting to the idea of having a baby, we discovered that they were two and not just one. Nine months later – with the last three spent lying in hospital – we were blessed with our gorgeous Giggles and Cuddles. It was a difficult pregnancy, as I was at a risk of premature delivery as I started my 23rd week, but luckily we made it to full term and they were both born happy and healthy.
Needless to say, having two babies who both needed to be fed, changed, soothed and put to bed at the same time, all day, every day, is not easy, especially when one does not have family support. Also challenging is dealing with crankiness, tantrums, biting, fighting, and defiance as you have not only one but two toddlers who are going through the terrible twos. Sooner or later these phases come to an end, though, and despite the fact that there will always be challenges with raising children, things do get easier overall.
The challenge of being without family here in Switzerland is one that will unfortunately remain. One needs family – not just when it comes to support with the physical effort, but also for emotional and psychological support, which with time is equally, if not more, important.
One aspect of having twins that will also remain a challenge is giving each one my undivided attention. There is barely any one-on-one time with each girl, to give full attention and to talk about her fears, concerns and worries. One constantly has the feeling that they are not getting enough hugs, kisses and pampering. We try our best to be sensitive to each one’s needs, and we pray that they will always have a loving, healthy relationship with us as parents and also with each other as sisters and best friends without excessive jealousy and/or rivalry, but it is not always easy.
So yes, life does get challenging at times, but we also grow. With time, we learn to somehow navigate through the trials. We realize that nothing lasts forever, that we either change or adapt to certain things or that sometimes we have to just accept that things are the way they are and move on. More often than not I find myself praying: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
By Didi in Zurich
Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.
Illustration by Laura Munteanu
Laura has studied journalism and advertising, and has been worked as a journalist and an illustrator. She has illustrated for magazines, websites, charity and diverse campaigns. She lives in Zurich with her husband and eight-year-old daughter