In research for my article I was having a look regarding how people might view expats all over the world. And it really is diverse, trending from “they are so lucky” (as if work, determination and taking the risk to just do it has nothing to do with it) to “they should have the decency to at least learn the local language” and “as if there would be not enough people of our own that could have done that job”.
It made me remember my own experience when a journalist interviewed me while living and working abroad and after talking about my career and my achievements of which I was feeling quite proud back then he cut right through it and asked: “do you feel bad about stealing the jobs of our people?” Now I can see the fun in the situation but back then I initially froze not knowing what to expect next from the two quite massive men sitting in front of me in a moving fun fair wheel.
Truth is that we are very quick at labeling and judging others but few of us stop and really look beyond labels to who people really are and in this particular case how people moving abroad do experience this major life shift of moving, working and living in another country. And I qualify it as a major life shift having in mind that moving and changing jobs are considered among the top 5 stressors in adult life according to psychologists. On top I know from my own experience that it can be quite heartbreaking especially when you see your kids screened out from any social circles just because they are foreigners.
Being an expat mom myself at some point in my life and having lived those experiences from behind the scenes, I could tell you that the world doesn’t always look as glamorous as it looks from the outside eye. I have recently talked to a few friends, expat moms and the personal challenges they are facing raising kids in another country.
They have told me similar stories:
“When I heard my husband got the posting message to Bucharest, Romania, I was happy for him but a little bit sad for myself…
there will be too much uncertainty about the life , the people, the environment and much more ….. not sure how can I handle them all …. plus a daughter to take care with changing the school and meeting new friends , new teachers….. what kind of life is ahead of us ?”
“My kids cannot interact with other kids in the park because they do not speak the local language; and they are so happy when all of a sudden they meet someone that speaks our language”
“Leaving the grandparents behind was the most tough for them. The first year my younger son was barely speaking to us”
“I had to quit my job in order to move here and support my family; it’s not going to be easy to get back in the game once we are back home”
So next time you meet someone that moved from abroad consider putting on the glasses of kindness and compassion, knowing that they are just people like the rest of us facing joys and challenges on a daily basis but essentially looking for what we all do: connection and perhaps an encouraging smile.
For ages, us women live nights of quiet desperation doing our best to keep our families together and giving everything to our children. And oftentimes in this process we forget who we are, what our dreams are, that we are also meant to shine and just be happy. And sometimes we do need a little bit of help but we rarely take this time to ask for it. I’m here to share with you that it doesn’t have to be like this and that balance can have a place in our lives. Just dare to take the first step.