If you’re embarking on a new life as an Expat Partner and you’ve already been a First-Time Mom, you might be surprised about how many similarities there are.
Excited to be starting a new adventure?
Thoroughly wrong-footed and out of your depth?
Exhilarated one minute and full of anxiety the next?
Read on to find out 5 reasons why being an Expat Wife is remarkably similar to being a first-time Mom!
#1 ”Is this your first time?”
You remember the days when you were just about over the toilet-bowl section of the pregnancy, and you were (according to legend) starting to “glow”?
Remember feeling like you were the first person in the world ever to get pregnant? Certainly, the first person to do it so well.
And EVERYONE was interested! Your husband fondly stroked your belly. Your Mom brought you cups of tea. Work colleagues were on the edge of their seats as you told them what sort of fruit your little munchkin resembled now. “He’s the size of a grape. Now he’s the size of a peach. Now he’s a watermelon and he’s a bit heavy, but he’s STILL THE CUTEST!”
When you’re a First-Time-Expat-Wife people also simper over you. They say, “Is this your first time?” in a slightly sinister way. And they nod knowingly. They KNOW what’s ahead and you don’t.
The thing is, remember your SECOND pregnancy? That one where you were pretty much on your own? That happens too.
“Oh, you’re moving to Islamabad? Well, you’ve done it before, I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Despite having a toddler in tow and being dead on your feet.
#2 “The COFFEE mornings”
Nothing is more excruciating when you’re a first-time Mom that the endless Coffee Mornings.
Remember steeling yourself to meet the jolly Moms you were thrown together with at the ante-natal class? Telling yourself, ”I need to go. I must meet people. I’ll just stay for half an hour and if they’re mean, I’ll leave.”
When you’re a first-time expat you’re just as clueless and desperate to meet people who know a tiny bit more than you.
Instead of finding out about the exactly how long to sterilise soothers for or which brand of cotton wool is the most absorbent, this time you NEED to find the name of a decent family doctor and clothes in western sizes.
You’re also pretty desperate for an adult conversation as your husband has dumped you in an unfamiliar situation where you’re completely out of your depth and waltzed off to work. Again.
You drink a LOT of coffee.
#3 The “Who has it harder?” row.
Remember having your first baby and suddenly you were home all day with a crying baby and no adult conversation? Oh, and up all night with a crying baby and no sleep?
Remember your husband walking in after a hard day of realising he was the ONLY breadwinner and he was suddenly responsible for feeding, clothing and housing THREE people?
Remember that row, about who had it harder? How the other person just doesn’t understand?
Well, here you are again, my friend. The “earning” spouse is solely responsible for bringing home the bacon – and you’ve all got used to bacon that comes with free international school places, help at home and a housing allowance, so there’s quite a bit of pressure.
You, on the other hand, are responsible for “making friends” and settling the kids you feel so guilty about because you have wrenched halfway way across the world from all they hold dear.
You’re also responsible for finding food your family will eat in a place with tiny shops, and a pest control man the dog doesn’t hate, to deal with the cockroach infestation. AND an outfit for Little-Johnie’s Book Day. AND AMAZON DON’T EVEN DELIVER HERE.
Who has it harder?
(Your kids will be SO fine, by the way. Stop worrying. They will have the best time ever.)
#4 “What did you say your Husband does?”
Remember going on maternity leave and feeling a bit smug about not having to get up on Monday Morning? How lovely it was to have a little time to yourself? And then the baby came and scuppered your daytime-Netflix habit, and spat up on all your clothes.
And suddenly one day when the boredom of crying and coffee and Mr Tumble got too much, you longed for the peace that came with catching up on emails, the buzz of a deadline, the pat on the back for a job well done.
You started to wonder where the real you had gone. You were someone’s Mom and someone’s wife. But the real you had gone on sabbatical. And you missed her.
Well now you don’t only NOT have a job, you also can’t even have a bank account in your own name. Or a phone contract. Not that you could pay it anyway because, did I mention? You can’t have a job?
And suddenly, “Who does you husband work for?” is a perfectly valid question to ask an intelligent, educated, (formerly) independent woman in the 21st Century.
#5 The Mom Friends
When you’re a first time Mom you make friends with people you never would have even spoken to before you had a baby. In fact, apart from similar-aged kids, there might be nothing else in that tiny interconnecting section of the personality-venn-diagram that you have in common.
Well, this time you meet people from every walk of life. You might speak different languages and have different beliefs. They might not even know who Mr Tumble is.
And you are desperate for them to call back. As well as feeling like you’re a first time Mom again, you also feel like you’re waiting for the call to go on a first date.
“I really thought she liked me.”
“Maybe I seemed a bit desperate.
“I could really see us together.”
And then Halleluyah! the sun comes out! The phone rings! The new-prospective Mom-friend calls. And you meet for coffee.
And soon you see that it’s these crazy relationships with these strange, brave, resilient women that make this international experience at first bearable, and then the best time of your life.
You meet people from places you’ve never heard of, and the share food you’ve never eaten, and you pick up phrases that don’t translate.
Your kids pick up weird accents. Have conversations you can’t understand with language teachers at Parents’ Night. Hang out with friends from all over the world at celebrations for every known religion and culture.
You take family trips to places you formerly only dreamed of going to for your honeymoon.(“What do you mean, you miss Center Parcs? This is Bali!)
And it’s utterly amazing.
Just like being a first-time Mom, it feels like the hardest and best thing you’ve ever done. And you feel a million times stronger because of it.
It would still be nice to have a bank account, though.