Our story so far, looks somewhat different than those of our close families and friends back home. In almost 6 years of marriage, we are in our 5th year of living abroad. Noah was born in Abu Dhabi. He went to his first nursery in Spain and is now back in the Middle East about to celebrate his second birthday. Living an expat life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs and many emotions. Various peoples reactions when they find out where we live or what our future plans are….is interesting… to say the least.
“You’ll have to come back to the UK when Noah is at the school age.”
The first time someone said this to me, I saw red (and also inwardly I screeched- I’m a teacher dang it! Don’t question me about educational stuff! Cringey looking back now but yeah I did actually scream that in my head). The more I have listened to others , those living in the Uk especially, I now get why some think this would be the most logical and best choice for us to make. There is definitely a culture of: Your-children-have-to-get-into-the-best-primary -school-in-your-catchment-area-or-else-their-entire-lives-will-be-messed-up. Ok slightly dramatic, but its how some people act regarding a 4/5 year olds destiny. Living abroad does not mean there aren’t great options for education and whilst I am not an advocate for homeschooling (mainly because I can barely get Noah to agree to part with carrying 8 cars each time we leave the house let alone envisioning being in charge of educating his stubborn self…ironic eh that I write this as a primary school teacher!? Anyways I’m digressing…) in my opinion the social skills and emotional connections Noah experiences is the most important kind of learning he will do early on. My hopes are for Noah to grasp the significance of accepting others who look, act and live differently that he does. And along the way I get to learn too.
“Must be nice to escape the rat race and be so chilled”
This is the most frequent phrase (or variations of it) that we have heard and yet still shocks me that because we aren’t in the 9-5 “rat race” back home, some people genuinely believe we must be carefree. Whilst we may not be living the daily grind in the cold and rain- it is still the hamster wheel over here- working Monday- Friday (except technically its Sunday-Thursday over here…confusing right!?), paying the bills and living for the weekend. Just because we don’t have mortgage payments doesn’t mean theres nothing to be anxious about. Sometimes all I do is worry that we aren’t providing Noah with a ‘normal’ upbringing…a family home that he can form those childhood memories in, decorating his bedroom in whatever he’s obsessed with (currently it would be Cars). Or that he isn’t growing up round the corner from his grandparents and cousins. But like every mama I have to trust my heart and know that the decisions Lewis and I make- well they are to better our family and ultimately to give Noah the life we maybe couldn’t if we chose to live back home.
Disclaimer: Living abroad is FULL of advantages- Pool at the weekends even in December definitely makes the top 5!
“Why aren’t you more tanned?!”
This makes me laugh and pine for the mama-free days where this could actually be reality….but alas as I work most of the sunshine hours and HELLO mumlife!!No more needs to be said. I do however need to work on changing from a pasty white (not my hottest look as my husband likes to refer to me as Casper).
Oh to be back in Goa/Bangkok when it was all about sunning the milk bottle legs (and Noah was still a twinkle in my eye!).
“You must have a lot of free time having a nanny!’
When people pass comment on this it makes me a little sad with a dash of anger thrown in there too. Yes we have a nanny (which is the term used here for childminder) who is a Godsend (LOVE YOU JENNY!!!) and who Noah utterly adores. However she works during the week until we come home from work (no later than 4.30pm) and if we do want to hightail it for a cinema date- it’s a monthly occurrence. No Noah overnight trips to the grandparents (missing family is one of the biggest drawbacks for expat life but thats for another time, another post). A choice and a sacrifice that we make but one that is still terribly tough at times.
It is safe to say there is not one road that should be deemed to be normal or acceptable anymore when you become an adult and are meant to show that you have ‘grown up.’ Gone are the days where one is expected to get a job, get married, buy a house and have 2.4 children. The world is made up of different unique individuals which lets be honest- if we were all alike and wished for the same things….SNORE.
Yet that doesn’t stop us being judged or THINKING (my problem the majority of the time) we are being judged for the decisions we make. I have discovered this has maximised since becoming a mama. Not only do I feel judged for the choices I make about my life, I’m now being judged (or think I am!!!) on the decisions I make for another human being. We are all guilty of feeling judged but also doing the judging. I judge people way too quickly…far too quick. Before I know them. Not knowing anything about them. Never knowing what struggle is going on currently in their life. And that’s half the problem isn’t it? Noone really knows another persons full story before commenting or passing judgement.
Maybe we all need to take 10 next time we see someone having a whale of a time, not having the everyday stresses we experience or being carefree. Maybe we need to think that despite their story not looking like ours , we really don’t know what’s going on. It is still their daily grind. It just looks different than our own.