I am a happy, lucky triple mom. I have three children raised in the mix of three cultures, two countries, and two continents. For me personally, expat motherhood in India is extremely challenging and fulfilling at the same time. I too believe I can find many more women like me who took a leap of faith, followed their hearts and settled down far away from their native place and adapted in different cultures. In their own way, at their own pace. To live their lives the way they want to live. Each of us knows that every day is full of challenges and sometimes it gives double strength and sometimes… double sadness. That’s how it works when you do not have grandparents, aunties, relatives handy, who can once in a while give you a hand and (literally) little break from happy-go-lucky screaming, child madness, little ones’ fighting, crying, (and so on..). Living abroad we – expat parents – can mostly count on ourselves. But living abroad can also make us more resilient parents as expat life shapes us and helps to become a stronger mom, dad, parent. Although sometimes it is difficult, I must admit that such experience strengthens the character and builds a strong bond with your children and your partner as well!
Expat motherhood in a nutshell
My experience of motherhood started with a fairly painful path. Nothing truly prepares you to become a mum. Nothing. And if you’re to become an expat mum – double trouble. Expat motherhood had hit me hard as I made up my mind I would stay with my husband in India. I knew it would not be easy, but we both stuck to the decision that we wanted to go through everything together. Three children were born outside my native country and you can believe it or not – 6500 km from home is not peanuts. 6,500 km from home in a hot climate, between people who have a completely different experience, understanding, approach and to you and the child – can easily test your patience. Many times. Many. Many.
About ten days after my first child was born, many thoughts were crossing my mind. I was about to realize (and almost convinced myself) I’m not the one who is able to fulfill all Indian motherhood standards. That I was far from being beautiful and nice at the same time, that maybe it’s better just to give my baby to those who know better. They know better how to take care of my baby when to cuddle when to feed, how to hold, breastfeed, what clothes to put on, and how to give a bath. To be honest, I have nothing to getting advice that is given in good intentions, but – as it is said in India – there are two things that are completely free over there (and which you will get even if you do not want) … air and “good advice”. And this “good advice” from many aunties, uncles, neighbors and other good souls – you will get in thousands in India. And many of them will not even suit you, your baby, or your family-style. The point is that You are the one to choose what your family looks like, you are the one to keep everything in moderation and listen to what the heart and mind are telling you.
As time passes, I laugh a little at all these comments, Indian superstitions, face painting with kajal but believe me – when the day was blending with night, and my time to the toilet, food, and dressing timings were dictated by feeding and calming the roaring newborn – there was nothing to be laughed at. I was a low-mood, silly, lonely new mother who slowly stopped believing that she would be able to raise her child for the next year, not to mention the next seventeen (and above!) years. I felt as if all the weight of my family is on my shoulders.
Basic and first grasp of parenthood in India
In a country like India, especially young parents, especially with their first baby, meet with criticism from both the closest ones (especially women) and strangers as if they really were not able to take any logical decision about their baby. It all the time amazes me, as instead of enjoying parenthood with all beautiful things to learn as new parents, people get into stress on how to fulfill all family demands. We all know in India, it is quite easy to have indiscreet (or very direct) suggestions that may make you feel embarrassed or even silly. Where do people get this self-confidence that pushes a stranger towards a parent with a child and tells them what, when, how to take care of the newborn? Is this still within the limits of cultural differences? Is it beyond that? Till now I can’t believe we managed to exchange the “traditional” roles when I became the breadwinner and my husband stayed at home to take care of kids. Indian rollercoaster!
“The better, the smarter, the more beautiful” games
(let’s leave it behind)
My dear women! My dear Moms (Indian, expat… or just Moms)! We have many things in common. We are all women, we all have children, we want only good for them, we all love them for life. In general, we should understand each other, because we are all about the same – the happiness of our families. Unfortunately, as I see, even more than bonding – many things divide us. Just one careless comment, one careless note – and bum! We start fighting sarcastic games. We play “my kids are better, smarter and more beautiful than yours” games. Why is it so?
And I wonder why (and from where?) this whole criticism comes into picture. Everyone (us, parents) is going through the same or pretty similar moments. Well, raising children is comprehensive and complicated. Demanding and stressful. Why do we parents have to make each other feel tensed? What makes us consider ourselves as better ones? Why is it so easy to judge? Till now I can’t get this logic.
I want to share one really good parenthood secret 😊 the parent is able to go through a lot, and we do it much better in friendly circumstances. Such a pleasant environment is easy to setup. It is just enough to show understanding, comfort, and when asking for help or advice – support. Do you see a mother shopping at the store with a child throwing a tantrum? Do not show your faces. Come and ask if she needs help. Do not give parenting advice, all you have to do is say it goes away, and your children have already gotten out of it. Do you see children watching cartoons in the restaurant while parents are in deep conversation? Do not say anything, let them enjoy the moment of silence and carefree moment, maybe they do not often eat a hot meal together. Be patient to expat moms, if you know one. They may be double lost as it seems. Fear for a new location, different culture, loneliness, fear for a child’s connection to their own culture. Nobody will understand a mother like another mother. Also, critics do not taste as bitter as the one served by mothers to other mothers. Why is it so easy for us to be bitter to women with whom we have so much in common? Let’s leave it all behind.
I would love to hear your comments on this! How about you? How do you think we can help to build mutual trust instead of being enemies? Do you have any more suggestions or a question that I haven’t answered? Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of yours? Any comments? – please share your experience. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.
photo sources: picjumo