The expat mum struggles
I have been an expat for quite some time. I became one at a very delicate age (17), but it didn’t break me. Although I did sacrifice some things that “local” kids did because I fought the cultural shock by studying compulsively, I don’t regret a single one of the choices I’ve made in my life.
However, becoming a mother as a squared expat (living in a different country to where I first moved as an expat) was a bit more than I could handle. I spent some gruesome weeks adjusting to the change and was, in my opinion, not far from being clinically depressed.
But then again, here I am, a cubic expat mum of two who’s done pretty much everything that she’s set out to do. I’d say I’m in the best place I’ve been since my kids were born. How I went through that transformation is a subject for another post, but I certainly did come across lots of difficulties in my journey.
I wanted to see what other expat mums went – and are going – through and if what keeps them up at night is different from what kept me up at night.
I decided to gather some data (to please the inner scientist in me) on the subject. So, I created a very short survey and I sent it to a few groups where expat mums hang out, and to my friends too. I got a staggering 70 answers to the survey, which is far from being enough to have some kind of statistical relevance, but enough to paint a picture.
In the survey I did some demographic profiling in the form of easy multiple-choice questions, and then I asked mothers to choose which aspect of being an expat mother was the hardest.
I had some fun analysing the data! And that’s how “the four types of expat mums” were born. I wondered what the best way of showing the results would be. “Why, an infographic, of course!” I answered. And without further due, here are the four types of expat mums infographic.
The four types of expat mums
All by myself expat mum
This was the most common type of expat mum and the one that I identified the most with (until recently). These mums have a hard time dealing with the weight of the responsibility they carry upon their shoulders. They feel stretched thin with tasks, worries, practicalities and organisation. To make things worse, expat dads often travel for work regularly. If you recognise yourself here, grab my guide to know which apps I use to simplify my life!
It’s hard to adjust expat mum
These mums have a hard time adapting to the new culture they’re immersed in. Language is the main issue they mention as the culprit of their problems, since it affects every aspect of their lives, from socialisation with friends/kids parents, to work and even helping the kids with their homework.
I worry about the kids expat mum
This type of expat mum worries about the education of their kids and their detachment from her own culture. She feels that navigating a foreign schooling system is long and tedious, and it’s hard to find a school that matches her values. She also suffers from her kids not being able to spend lots of time with their grandparents.
Stuck expat mum
This last type of expat mum feels stuck in her expat experience. Interestingly, they’re quite bivalent. They either don’t work (or gave up their careers to follow their spouses) and feel demotivated in their new country, or they are working expat mums and feel trapped in their jobs because they don’t have the flexibility they’d need to feel they’re giving their best both at work and at home.
What type of expat mum are you?
So, which type of mum are you? I modified the survey (link) to reflect the categories I found. Take it and I’ll update the infographic when I hit 200 entries!
Now, I would now like to reassure you. I’ve presented a lot of negative or worrisome facets of expat motherhood. I did this exercise only to figure out what we need help with since in order to find solutions we must first acknowledge that we have a problem!
However, trust me, you are already awesome. Expat mums are one of the most important forces of change in the world right now. Being one is tough, but you’re doing a hell of a job and it will eventually pay off.