Being a mom abroad was not in my plans when I moved overseas. When I moved to Korea, my goal was to become a full-time, solo female traveler. I never could have predicted my life abroad as it is today–a wife and a mom of two.
My plans were to live, work in, and travel Asia for one year. Then, I wanted to move to Oman to teach at a university and travel the Middle East. And eventually, I wanted to go and do volunteer work in Tanzania for an organization.
Love found me in Seoul and in a short span of time, life happened. Do you want to know the short version?
Four months after dating my husband, I got pregnant with my first princess, Amira. When she was six months old, he proposed and we announced our engagement. If you want to read about our proposal story, please like and comment.
Months later, we found out I was pregnant with our second princess, Sabriya.
Amira had just turned one a couple months prior and I had started to feel like I was getting back into the groove of life. I had received a job offer in Spain and was in full anticipation of relocating to and exploring Europe.
But what do you do when life happens, again?
You count your blessings, make adjustments, and keep it moving. But, I would be lying if I told you that it was all bliss. Being a mom abroad has its challenges, raises concerns, and of course, there are benefits, as well as, sacrifices (I was heart broken to have to back out of work contract in Europe. Oh, the travel opportunities.).
What have been my personal challenges being a mom abroad?
#1 – I don’t have a physical familial support system. This is a major downside to starting a family abroad. Giving birth while living overseas meant that my mother wouldn’t be present for the delivery of my baby and her first grandchildren. It also meant that I would have to figure a lot out on my own; whereas, if I were in my or his home country, then I would have some help and support.
#2 – We didn’t have anyone to relieve us when we needed a break. My husband and I do it all. Our dates have been family dates. Until recently, we didn’t have anyone to relieve us. I wept when I realized we hadn’t been on a date sans a baby, since Amira was six months old. Statistics consistently show that when couples have children, marital satisfaction and personal happiness decreases. Did you read that? Your personal happiness is likely to take a dive due to the demands of parenthood.
#3 – I haven’t had time to nurture personal relationships or create new ones. With a toddler, an infant, and the time difference and others’ work schedules, there has been little time to call and catch up with family and friends back home. On occasion, I have felt socially isolated even as an introvert who loves her alone time. For example, I moved abroad a single lady with a lot of free time and the thought of having children was far from my mind. It was a lot easier meeting people then. But the relationships I first formulated when I got here are nearly nonexistent. As an expat mom, it is a challenge making like minded friends.
#4 – I am learning how to not let the parent role consume my life. It took a friend telling me what I wasn’t saying out loud. That it wasn’t healthy to let the mother role take over my life. After a while, I felt like I had given up so much of myself trying to be the “best” mother. I stopped doing a lot of things, including investing in myself and my interests. This only led to an identity crisis within myself. I struggled with who was before I had children with what I felt I had to give up and become because I was mother. But, then I realized who I was at my core hadn’t changed. Becoming a mother was an added dimension, not my sole identity.
#5 – I am a woman who still has aspirations outside of motherhood. Growing up, I got messages that being a parent comes with a lot of sacrifices. This is true to an extent. However, if I set my dreams aside in the name of motherhood, what am I teaching my children? I want them to know they can achieve whatever they aspire even when it feels impossible and especially, when they step outside of their comfort zones.
I write all of this to say that 2017 is a fresh start and I am defining it as the year for me to be intentional about the things that matter to me, to live life authentically, and especially to not limit myself by societal role expectations. Being a mom abroad has its challenges, but there are benefits too.
Are you a mom abroad? What have you struggled with the most? And, how are you triumphing over your personal challenges being a mom abroad?