While this was exciting, it also put me in the position of being the sole breadwinner of our household. The first year wasn’t easy, but we cut back on many of our expenses and our relationship actually grew stronger as a result. After all, he was in school every day, and I didn’t feel like he was sitting at home just spending my money. Right before our wedding, Can finished flight school and the agonizing wait for a job offer began. This time was horrible for us, as it upset Can to see me calculate our monthly bills and pay our expenses while he had nothing to contribute. The few times we would dine out, I would slip money or my credit card to Can to pay with, so he could save face in front of the waiter. Every morning when my alarm would ring at 6:30 a.m., Can would cringe and feel terrible that it was I and not him going off to work that day. I was patient during these difficult days. As an American living in Turkey, my job prospects were good. There were always schools looking for English teachers, people wanting private lessons or companies and students needing help with editing and translating. I tried to think what it would be like for me in America, if Can was in more demand in my home country than I was. In Turkey I just had to bat my blue American eyes and speak with my American accent and job offers just rolled in. Can was not idle during those months and spent his days going from airline company to airline company with his CV in hand. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long for him to get an interview. About a week before we learned we were pregnant, Can got a job.
July was a good month as we celebrated both Can’s job and our pregnancy. The only drawback was that Can would spend the next five or six months training in Germany and Antalya. We worked it out so that we could see each other about every two weeks, with Can flying home during the two-day breaks that they were given. We seemed to have everything figured out when my complications began. Can had to leave then, and I was on bed rest for my second month of pregnancy. This was the longest I had ever gone without working, and I went crazy. Instead of resting both my body and mind, I spent almost every second worrying about the baby, dealing with homesickness and missing Can. My new doctor recognized this and ordered me to go back to work. I never thought I would say it, but I was so happy to start working again.
We were fortunate that Can’s salary was enough that we could live comfortably even if I chose not to work. We couldn’t splurge on sushi every week, but we could pay our basic expenses and live well. I talked honestly with the school I worked at about my situation, and they agreed to take me back on and give me a lighter workload. My first trimester was not easy at all. Along with the bleeding, I also had severe morning sickness. Many of my friends were shocked when they found out that I wanted to go back to work during this time. I dealt with it by waking up a little earlier than usual, eating a slow, bland breakfast and letting my body adjust to the day. I usually was ill before leaving, but I was probably the happiest nauseated pregnant woman in the world. As long as I was throwing up, it meant that my baby was still there and I hadn’t lost it. The first trimester was so touch and go, I was happy for this unpleasant reassurance.
At work I was able to take it easy. At the school, I primarily worked with middle and high school students, so I didn’t have the physical demands placed on me that working with younger children required. I spent my days doing something, rather than staying at home obsessing over my pregnancy, feeling lonely and missing Can. It was so hard to be apart during that difficult time, and it definitely put a strain on our new marriage. Can kept his promise and came every two weeks, but it wasn’t enough. Thankfully my doctor was right and the bleeding stopped after my third month, and he gave me permission to fly to Germany to visit Can for a week.
This time, it was Can who was waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for work while I slept in and explored the German countryside at my leisure. It was Can who paid with his own money when we went out to eat and who gave me euros when I went shopping. His pride had been restored, and there was a lighter step to his gait and calmness in his personality that had been missing for months. He hated being apart from me when I was pregnant, but we both knew that he needed this job. As an American, my independent upbringing worked to my advantage here. I was able to draw on those survival skills and still keep our relationship strong. Since I had lived in Turkey alone before we met, I could handle all of the day-to-day issues. I had a wonderful support network of friends who are like my family and would do whatever they could to help me while Can was away.
Many expats find also find themselves in similar situations as mine. Work is easy to find for us, while our Turkish partner struggles to find a job. We sometimes unknowingly take on the position of breadwinner without realizing how this might hurt our partner’s pride. Finding middle ground is essential here, both financially and mentally. In my case being sensitive to Can’s wounded pride and being patient while he looked for a job really helped strengthen our relationship. Now, I feel like I can leave work at any time, and he can “repay” me by taking care of me in my time of need. Talking openly and honestly about these issues is also critical, so that you and your partner don’t hide feelings and resent each other. Especially with the state of the world economy today, you can never be sure when you might be placed in a similar position. As far as working during pregnancy, it varies from person to person. For me, working saved my mental health and was probably better for my unborn child. I was just thankful that I had a choice. If I had found out about my pregnancy when Can was jobless, leaving work would not have been an option. Work issues can either strain a relationship or make it stronger. This is especially true for expat relationships, where proper consideration must be given.