Living abroad, no family close by, a small (practically tiny) social circle, it’s hard being an ex-pat mum.
In the past, and even now, the majority of first-time mum’s are near their parents. Whether that’s within the same city, country, or even across the country, it is usually within a few hours car or train journey. We missed that trick. I knew that we had decided to move countries permanently and I knew that we would eventually have a family. We never considered just how much support extended friends and family give when you have a small child.
Ex-pat parenting benefits
I’m not going to start with the negative aspects of being an ex-pat mum. There are far too many positives to raising a family in a different country, with a different culture, a new way of life, and maybe even a new language, to dwell on the negative aspects too heavily.
- You get to raise your child without uninvited input from people (family) with differing parenting ideas.
- A broad range of positives from your homeland with any additional benefits of the country (or multiple countries) where they are raised.
- Potential to introduce a second (or even third) language at an early age.
- Appreciating the short(er) visits from friends and family, when they happen, rather than feeling obligated to spend a prescribed amount of time every weekend making your way around the family.
- Introduction to the tolerance of others and different cultures at an early age.
- Maybe, even learning the new language alongside your child(ren)
There are more, but these are some of the primary reasons for raising a child in a different country. Merely the benefits of raising a bilingual child are well-documented.
As you can see, there are more than enough plus points to bringing up children in an environment that differs from the parents homeland. I wouldn’t give up these benefits to my little boy, despite the obstacles that being an ex-pat mum throws in our way.
Ex-pat Mum (or Dad, or couple) – The Challenges
Despite the advantages of raising a family in another country as an ex-pat (or immigrant), there are some hardships that we have to face.
- Family and close family friends make for great babysitters (most of the time)
- Parental burnout is a bitch when you feel overwhelmed
- The company for myriad occasions when going out isn’t an option.
- Couple apathy is heart-breaking.
- Awareness of your own history, you probably don’t know everything about your background. Having the keepers of the family history around helps to pass it along.
- Loving family in close attendance.
I am a first-time (and only time) mum. When I first had my baby boy I was in a state of panic. I had done the preparation reading and researching, but everything I did, I assumed I was doing it wrong.
I was lucky, my sister was here on holiday when my baby was born, and my parents came to meet their grandson four days after I came home from the hospital. However, when everyone had gone home, everything was on us (my Honey and I). I was overwhelmed, my Honey was exhausted, and our gorgeous baby was perfect (apart from the whole idea of sleep).
I can count the number of times that we have been out, just as a couple, on one hand. In almost three years, we have been out on a date together a whole five times. Only two of them were Wedding anniversaries Forget ‘date night’, who can afford to hire a trusted and vetted English speaking childminder, with the physical and mental strength to watch our boy, for more than three hours (the local agencies have a minimum three-hour hire), then pay for the said date?
It takes a village…
You’ve probably heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”, and it’s not wrong. There are two inferred meanings in the well-used homily.
One meaning is that for a child to grow up as a well-rounded individual, they need the impacts and effects of growing up in a diverse environment, where they can interact and socialise with the full spectrum of humanity in their immediate vicinity. That means everyone in their community from the elders through grandparents, parents, older kids, peers, and their juniors.
Another meaning is that it takes a diverse range of people to help the parents to raise their child.
My thoughts are divided on the second meaning. I’ve already mentioned that raising your children abroad allows you to raise your brood without uninvited parenting techniques from well-meaning, but pushy relatives.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
The problem we face most is that it was never meant to be this way. When we moved to Cyprus, my in-laws lived here. They were in a different city, but at least they were here if we desperately needed them. Unfortunately, two months after our boy was born, we lost my Mother-in-law. It was sudden and thoroughly unexpected, and as a consequence, we also lost my FiL, who moved back to the UK and became … distant.
Even though we face obstacles we never imagined, we don’t manage to have a night out as a couple, and we sometimes lose sight of each other in the mire of looking after, loving and raising our son, we wouldn’t give up the benefits to living our best lives as a family abroad.