6 fears that keep Expat Mums Awake at Night
Updated: Apr 10
I will admit it was pretty easy for me to write this list.. and I've got loads more that didn't make the cut! It's so easy to worry and compare about anything any everything as a first time mums and family dynamics are no different. I personally resonate to each and every one of these points and I don't want it to be a moany poor me post because that's not what this is at all. I want to share fears I have as an expat parent, that I'm sure some of you have too, and to let you know, you are not alone.
My parents live in Hong Kong, and my 2 brothers each live 3 and 4 hours away respectively. I am grateful that my husbands family are all relatively more local but I do wonder whether being brought up away from a set grandparents is going to have an effect on my child's upbringing. I'm much closer to my own grandparents now that I live in the same country as them. Growing up, most of my friends were also expats, so it was pretty normal in HK to not have immediate family around apart from a handful of times a year. Friends filled those roles and spaces that grandparents and older family members traditionally hold in day to day life. We had a helper growing up, who took care of me and my brothers while my parents both worked. Did my mum feel the same way that I do now, when she was raising us?
Ironically, now that I have settled in the UK, arguably a more normal location in the world considering I am British, the majority of my family have only met Jacob once. It makes me sad, and I know it makes them sad too. I know this is massively emphasised by the pandemic, but that's the reality of Jacob's life so far. He's had more months in a pandemic than out of it.
Many rational (and irrational) fears creep into my thoughts when I'm tired or having a tough time, and I sometimes feel like I'm the only one in this position. And that can be quite lonely. I thought it would help other expat mums to share some of my fears!
FEAR NO. 1
Your family won’t like your child as much as other geographically closer children
I'm going to call this an irrational one but I know I'm not the only one who worries about this. Seeing photos on WhatsApp groups, hearing stories or just hearing your family talk about other kids can make me feel really sad when I realise that they can't do all those normal things with Jacob. I know that it's crazy to think this, but guess what, it's still on the list!
FEAR NO. 2
Your child won’t get the relationship with your family that you want for them
I think there is some truth to this worry. Although if the pandemic has taught us anything it's that distance is no longer an excuse. I zoom with my parents most Sunday mornings to just watch Jacob play, and watch him eat his (second, sometimes third) breakfast. Maybe being an expat has prepared my relationships for zoom and making extra effort via text / phone call. Being far away means you have to double down on the time you do get together.
FEAR NO. 3
Your family cannot give you the support you need from afar
This is a sensitive topic for me as it's not only about my child, its about me. Support comes in many forms, and becoming a parent leaves you no time for those who don't show up for you 100%. Whether it be a small favour or a half hour to yourself, the support you need can't always be given via zoom. No matter how badly you both want it!
FEAR NO. 4
Your family gets jealous of other, closer, family members
With a set up like mine, where half of the family is close, and half is far, its easy to imagine that there might be some sadness knowing that some family members get more contact than others. Not all the time, but yes, it happens. We are all human!
FEAR NO. 5
You are not allowed to be sad about this because ‘what did you expect?’
I feel this is a general theme of motherhood. Anyone who talks about how difficult motherhood is, (unfortunately especially to people who don't have kids) have this overwhelming air of, you chose this life, what did you expect? I feel that it is completely valid to mourn a lack of relationship, even if you knew it was always going to be this way. Guess what, hypothetically it might not be too bad but in the day to day, this can get me down.
FEAR NO. 6
You often feel jealous of other family units that all live in close proximity
This is a big one for me. Babysitters are a particularly sensitive topic for me as we don't really have any. For one it means no free childcare during the week. Jacob is in nursery full time so my husband and I can both work, and time off for one of us means double the strain for the other to make up for it. We do in fact have 1 event this year (a wedding so I'm not holding my breath) where we are hoping to go without baby for the evening. But I do find it hard sometimes to hear about other families, having options for family to watch the baby while parents get to take a break at the same time (groundbreaking, I know). I try my best not to get sad, but guess what, it sucks sometimes!
I could go on. I know I am looking at this with rose tinted glasses, there are many benefits and added stresses to having immediate family around. The thoughts (like everything really) are often worse when I'm exhausted and looking for ways I sometimes wish my life were different.
But on the other hand, I know that everyone worries about something, that their parents are close but don't visit enough, that their extended family is too involved, that they don't like particular parenting skills, that they don't want to home hop every birthday and christmas, that they don't have space for everyone to come over at the same time, that someone has to always be first, or that they don't want to tell their inlaws that you're not comfortable with them babysitting.. I like to look at it as the grass is always greener.
I know as well as anyone that all my worries wouldn't go away if my family were living next door. One thing I do know for sure, is all us mums will always be up late worrying about something, and you are most definitely not alone ❤
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