One of my biggest fears when I was pregnant with our first child was that I would be completely alone. Becoming a parent abroad was daunting. You know what I mean you live abroad, you do have your husband and the friends you’ve made but it takes a village to raise a child right? I was worried I would be so far away from my own mom and not be able to figure things out and know how to do the whole motherhood thing.
Make sure you look for the right kind of support. Especially if you are not 100% fluent in the language or familiar with the health system in the country that you are in. This will help with the preparations for childbirth, during birth and recovery. Maybe a doula is something that you can consider (read this post from The Expat Child about why a doula can be beneficial). Once you are all home and you start you new life as parents you will recognise these three great things about becoming a parent abroad.
Boy was I wrong. Sure there were days that I just wanted to go crazy, all alone with a baby that needed to be held every waking minute of her short life, not being able to eat or shower, but doesn’t every mom go through that? And maybe I would have enjoyed having someone else watch my baby while I slept or exercised. But honestly becoming a parent abroad was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
You get to do it your way
I am not sure if this varies from country to country, but in my country there is a certain way to do things that you are expected to follow. It is normal to expect all sorts of visitors right after giving birth, it is the norm that the baby is taken away to sleep in the nursery, after the first 6 weeks you should be up and running and having an active social life, and a long etc.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with any of that per se. It is absolutely perfect if that is what you want, what each mom and new family wants. But it is terrible if it is imposed by societal norms as the way things should be. Everyone should be entitled to do things their own way, after all it is your life, it is you who are becoming a parent.
Obviously going against the tide when things are always done in a certain manner can be exhausting! And just to imagine having to fight all that while dealing with postpartum hormones and finding yourself as a new mom and getting to know your child. I can’t imagine! Becoming a parent abroad means that there’s no one you have to fight and nobody to disappoint.
Your local friends likely expect you to do things different from them anyway since you are a foreigner and your family and friends in your home country are too far away to feel affected by your choices, especially in the cases in which you decide to do things in a way that is not the “normal” way at home.
Of course being at home you have a larger support network, and it is more likely that you have a village that can help raise your child, but at least you know that your choices are 100% your own and you get to decide on what terms you become a parent and raise your child. This for me is invaluable and has help me define who I am and who I want to be as a mom, without the influence of lots of should’s and must’s
You can choose the best of two worlds
There is not a single place on Earth where everything is perfect. I do believe that if we put together some things of one place with some things of the other we could come up with a perfect Utopia, but that’s just never going to happen. Becoming a parent abroad gave us the chance to learn about a different culture, understand how children are born, raised, and how family dynamics work. We already knew all this from our home country and all the years that we lived there.
We actually got to pick and choose! There were things in Sweden that we didn’t really like in how a family should function and a child should be brought up, and there were things that we loved! The same way for Mexico there were things that made us cringe just to think of and other things that we were sure we wanted to pass on to our children. What a fantastic opportunity! becoming a parent abroad let us make our very own mix and put together the best of two worlds.
You get to adjust to motherhood at your own pace
Being able to adjust to motherhood at my own pace was the best thing that I did. I didn’t have to conform to a certain time period before I was out and about, before weaning my child, before sending them to day care. It really didn’t matter. It was all my choices, what I wanted and what I decided was best for us. I am not saying you can’t do this in your home country, of course you can, and you should! But again, the pressure and the social norms can make it a little bit difficult and give you something you have to fight about, or even question.
When I think to my life before moving abroad there were so many things that I never questioned, simply because that was the way things were, and that was that. Becoming a parent abroad made me see that there is no single way things should be. Not just in parenthood, but in life. I had the chance to question and think about what it is that I want, what it is that I believe in and what is important for me.
If you are about to become a parent abroad, I am by no means saying it will be easy. Because it won’t. But what I mean to say with this post is that you can turn this into the best way to become a parent for just you! Have you become a parent abroad? How do you think your experience would have been different if you were not abroad?