How to build your expat mum support system

We’ve reached the end of the 5-post series. And I couldn’t be happier!

The series has been viewed 6000+ times, with “Why being an expat mum is the hardest job you’ll even have” being by far the most  popular.

Until now.

Because in this post, I’ll be showing you what I developed over the years as an expat mum to be able to live serenely and happy: my own expat mum support system.

The expat mum support system

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the hardest parts of being an expat mum is the obvious lack of direct family support system.

After going through a rough beginning in expat motherhood, I slowly (but steadily) started to figure out how to thrive as an expat mum without the almighty family support system.

Instead of wishing things were different, let’s take is as a fact. This is your reality now. You most probably chose it, so you’ll have to just deal with it. Like we all do.

But wasn’t it great if you had a framework to work on? Like the blueprint of the strategies that other expat mums adopted before you? I’m glad to tell you that you now do.

After going through a rough beginning in expat motherhood, I slowly (but steadily) started to figure out how to thrive as an expat mum without the almighty family support system.

Without further due, let me introduce you to my expat mum support system.

The Expat Mum Support System Blueprint
The Expat Mum Support System Blueprint

The first thing that probably comes to your attention is that the expat mum support system is not exclusively composed of people. Unlike local mums, who may rely on friends and family to complete the support system, we need to get creative and find other ways of finding balance in each of the 8 categories of the expat mum support system.

I should stress that some of these categories will need people to be well balanced (Luckily! We don’t want to be eremites), so you will need to connect and find a handful (at least) of people you can trust and rely on.

Why don’t we take a look at the categories (or branches – doesn’t it look kind of like a tree?) and dig a bit deeper on each one to find out what they’re made of?

Expat mum support system – Branch 1: Mindset

I cannot begin to express how much this category matters in your journey towards a happier, healthier and more fulfilling expat motherhood.

Everything is so much easier when you are in the right state of mind. And things can get ugly pretty quickly if your mind doesn’t want to cooperate.

I often determine the health of my overall mindset by thinking about going on a plane. You should know that planes and I are not best friends (ha! I chose the wrong path being an expat). But, my apprehension levels change with the state of my mindset. When it’s well balanced, I could even take a plane with no issues at all (I wouldn’t love it, but I’d do it without too much stress). When my mindset is all messed up, well, let’s just say a simple plane ride becomes a living nightmare.

You may have something similar. Something you are apprehensive about. Think about a time when you did that thing and it didn’t bother you too much. Now analyse how your mindset looked like at that time. Did you feel at peace? Were you generally happy? Did you feel in control? Chances are the answer is yes.

I’ve identified 5 expat mum limiting beliefs that work against us in our quest towards serenity and happiness. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into them right now. But, if you do want to learn more about them, read until the end and you’ll find a neat little gift that will make you happy.

Expat mum support system – Branch 2: Purpose

This one is quite self-explanatory and true to all people, really. If we go through our expat motherhoods without something to look forward to, without any motivations to work hard and be happy, we’re probably going to end up depressed.

This is the opposite of what we want and need, of course. So, regardless of why you are an expat (trailing spouse, romantic, foreign assignee, adventurer, etc), you should find a purpose for living the life you are living.

Maybe you’re happy as a stay-at-home expat mum, then rock that, make plans, think about how you can become a better mother.

Perhaps you love being an expat mum, but you need another dimension to your life. That’s awesome! Then find something to do with that other dimension. Is it work? Is it a hobby?

Who knows, perhaps you would love to work as well, but can’t for any given reason (no jobs, visa problems…). Then volunteer! There are tons of ways you can bring value to the world.

I like to think of purpose as a driving force for evolution. When you have a purpose, you change, you adapt, you learn to achieve it. And by doing so, you evolve. And we all know that in order to survive, all species must evolve.

Expat mum support system – Branch 3: Emergency Plan

You probably never thought about an emergency plan when you lived in your home country. I bet you have several people in mind you could have called if anything happened. I think I’d be right to assume that you didn’t think about that too much either when you became an expat. But a little (or big) warning sign lit up inside of you when you became a mother.

And I get it. For me, it happened when my husband started travelling a lot for work. The first few trips, I was terrified. What if something happened in the middle of the night? What if something happened to me in the middle of the night? Would my children wake up to a wounded (or worse) mother? It gave me the creeps.

So, I sat down and decided on an emergency plan. While there are ways of outsourcing this, this branch is one of those who invariably needs a bit of human help. While you could always rely on the public emergency systems, it’s best to have a couple of people whom you can call at any point.

Other expat mums make for excellent emergency contacts since they know your feelings and are probably in the same situation. Find yourself a couple of them, possibly living nearby. Once you strike a friendship, you’ll be able to be each other’s emergency contacts.

And what does this bring you? Peace of mind. And that’s priceless. Heck, it even let me have a good night sleep when my husband was not around again!

Expat mum support system – Branch 4: Automation Systems

This is one of my favs! I love all that’s techie and streamlined. So, I love to find apps and other kinds of automatic systems that will make my life easier.

Depending on how much free time you have (I know, you’re a mum, you don’t have much of that), you’ll need to deploy more or less of these systems.

To give you a feel of what this branch is about, think of all the tasks you do in your daily life. Think about how much you like them. There are probably a lot that you wouldn’t mind living without. Those are the ones you should tackle first.

Automation systems could be anything from outsourced help (think of cleaning), to automatic grocery shopping and delivery at home (I love those veggie boxes that deliver different fresh food every week), to automatic notifications, to babysitting, to Apps or automatizing your finances.

Pretty much everything can be automatized and streamlined these days.

And that will save you tons of time, which means you’ll have more free time for yourself and your family (yes, you too deserve to have time for yourself).

Expat mum support system – Branch 5: Relationships

No woman is an island

– John Donne (sort of)

And as an expat mum, you’ll have to devote a lot of energy to the cultivation of friends. Making friends (and keeping them) as an expat is a complicated matter. But with time, you’ll learn how to make them and keep them for life (even if you haven’t seen them in years). You will learn a new way of making friends, and you’ll learn the painful reality of losing some of your long-life friends who stayed home.

But friendships are not the only type of relationships you’ll be creating. You need to cultivate your relationship with your children and your spouse. I’d argue that in becoming an expat family, you have greater odds of developing strong bonds to your nuclear family than if you had stayed in your home country. An expat family (while they may well have many good friends) is the only constant structure in the ever-changing expat scenario, so it’s normal for its components to grow closer and stronger with time.

Being an expat mum, it’s easier to lose yourself in your many tasks. Strive for maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse (that’s where automations help a lot too). Plan dates, do things together, and talk a lot!

Expat mum support system – Branch 6: Support

Regardless of how well your mindset is and how well organised you are, there will be times when you’ll need a little bit of extra support.

In those cases, it’s great to have people to turn to.

It could be anyone: from local to home friends you stayed in touch with, your partner, your parents, and other expat mums.

Being geographically dispersed, finding a large and cohesive group of mums to talk to can be hard, but don’t you worry, I’ve thought about that too! You can join The Expat Mums Society on Facebook where almost 300 (for now) expat mums hang out, give encouragement and share their wisdom.

Expat mum support system – Branch 7: Cultural Attachment

Living in a completely hermetic expat bubble is not great. You’d miss out on a lot of great things that your host culture has to offer.

Broadening one’s horizons is one of the best things about being an expat, so take advantage of it!

Embrace your host culture, assimilate the traits and habits you love. Try to learn the local language. Local people will respond to you much more positively if they see you making an effort. Plus, the mental exercise of learning new languages protects you from mental decline!

As an expat mum, you have an excellent opportunity to create your own personal culture. A blend of all the great things you’ve been picking up in your expat adventures and your own home culture. Expose your children to all that. Teach them that different is normal and good. Teach them to be open and tolerant. Instil in them your home culture, but let them thrive in your host’s country one as well.

Expat mum support system – Branch 8: Wellness

Last but (definitely) not least, you need to think about your personal wellbeing. You won’t function well, won’t relate well, your mindset will be all messed up and you’ll feel like crap if you don’t.

Your family needs a strong mother. You can’t be one if you don’t take care of yourself.

Save some of the time you gained from your automation systems for yourself. And make it a habit. It doesn’t need to be much. Brewing a cup of tea and drinking it in peace with no interruptions every day might do wonders for you. Maybe you started working recently and feel overwhelmed. Use part of your paycheck for a monthly visit to the spa.

Don’t forget to move and to think about what you’re eating. You may think that all that chocolate is a reward for working so hard, but you’re actually hurting yourself. I’m not saying you should diet (I’ve never dieted), but you should be mindful about what and when you’re eating. And if you have cravings, try to figure out what is causing them instead of giving in.

And have fun! Expat motherhood doesn’t have to be boring, dull, an endless list of duties and tasks. Use your time wisely! Have fun with your kids, go roll on the snow or dive in the sea. Start a hobby. Heck, you could start an expat blog! It’s a great way of cementing your memories of this great period of your life.

Do you want to start creating your own expat mum support system?

For the sake of brevity, I didn’t go deep into each one of the branches of the expat mum support system. Heck, this post is already 2200+ words long as it is!

However, you probably noticed on the expat mum support system mindmap that each branch had a little “+” sign next to it. Yes, you guessed it! There’s an extra layer (or two) inside that mindmap waiting to be discovered.

So here’s my gift to you: I’ve created a FREE mini-course called “Build Your Expat Mum Support System” where I go into more details and actionable steps to start creating your very own expat mum support system.

It’s free, it’s cool, and it’s filled with lots of info and worksheets. And it’ll give you a taste of how you can structure your support system and how to start building it, right now! I hope you enjoy following it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it.

Enroll in the FREE course “Build your Expat Mum Support System”

Now go and start building that much-needed support system. And let me know how it goes!

expat mum support system

FREE CHEAT SHEET

How to build your support  system

Alone, exhausted and overwhelmed? You need a support system! Download this FREE cheat sheet to learn the 8 seps I used to create mine and start loving your expat motherhood.

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