My son was born in 2014. And even if my husband and I planned for his arrival, countless times on our parenting journey made me wish I had family nearby. From my unexpected C-section recovery up to issues finding a reliable nanny – these are just a couple of little things that we encountered (and still going through) that would’ve been easier to manage if we only have family members nearby to count on.
It probably didn’t help that I only have a few friends in Ireland (that are also busy with their own lives). Or, the fact both myself and my husband are working full-time in a demanding industry. And even if I can say my husband and I are doing a good job being hands-on parents or providing support to each other – there are days when it is too much to bear.
Being an Expat with a small child added to the equation can be tough. And if you are like us, you have probably experienced one (or ALL) of the things below.
Lack of family support nearby
I can’t count the number of times I wanted to have my parents, particularly my Mom, nearby. In particular, on days when the nanny suddenly sends an SMS she can’t go to work or whenever my son gets sick – having an “extra pair” of hands to rely on makes a HUGE difference. Apart from not needing to file for a leave off work (especially when there’s a deadline) – just simply knowing someone’s got your back or that you have someone to give you the space to take a breather really helps.
Don’t get me wrong – I knew the drawbacks of this lifestyle before I decided to do it. And I am not dependent on my parents for survival, too. But I soon realized that no matter how tough you are or no matter how independent (you think) you are, there are days when you will think of your parents and wish they are around to guide (and help) you go through the challenges of life. And parenting is definitely included!
Your kids will grow up not knowing other family members
We try to go home to our home country at least once a year. It is expensive, the 16-hour flight is long and tiring – but it is also the only way for my son to re-connect with the rest of our family. Sure, technology is there to help bridge the distance but it is never the same as personal interaction. And even if my son is mostly friendly with people he just met, it still takes time for him to “like” grandma.
In fact, the first couple of minutes at the airport is ALWAYS bittersweet. Just imagine my Mom’s excited face and eager arms to hug him stretched out to his direction but reciprocated with tears and screams. Probably because in my son’s mind, he’s asking, “Who’s this ‘person’ trying to get me?”
It CAN BE hard teaching them your local language (if not the same as your new home country)
Our native language is Filipino. And while my husband and I speak the language at home, my son “barely” knows it. In fact, there are instances I tried (still trying) to speak to him using the language to ask him to clean up his toys but all he did was to stare back at me as if I was communicating in an alien language. The moment I translated the words in English, he picked up his toys and did as he’s told.
And it is not just us having this problem with raising their kids, too. I have friends who are Expats as well and we share the same sentiments how challenging it is to teach our native language to them. From TV shows to nannies, our child(ren) are exposed to the local language (in our case, English) making it almost “impossible” to have time to teach Filipino naturally.
I haven’t given up hope. I am still trying. And even if he can’t still converse effectively in our language, he started showing “signs” he understood when we talk to him in Filipino – so that’s a good indicator.