Being a mama abroad? It’s not been an easy ride so far. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Welcome to my blog and my very first post.
I have been living in the UK for many years now and got used to a different culture, traditions, and way of life pretty well.
Or so I thought. That was until I became a mum. When you become a mum, your life is turned upside down completely. It’s challenging regardless of whether you are abroad or in your home country close to your family.
It’s an entirely new, life-changing experience, you need to adjust and put all your energy into your new role of being the best mama for your newborn baby.
But when you are abroad, things are slightly different. And maybe a little bit more difficult.
Apart from the usual issues, such as sleep deprivation, baby’s crying without any apparent reason, feeling isolated, breastfeeding issues if you want to breastfeed, the emotional rollercoaster, etc., you may find yourself dealing with other challenges as well.
On the other hand, raising your children abroad also has some benefits. So, it’s not all dark and gloomy.
In this post, I want to share my ups and downs of being a mama abroad, living in the UK.
So here they are.
These are the things that I found positive about being abroad and raising a child.
When you live abroad in a country that doesn’t share the same language as your countries of origin, your kids will most certainly speak at least two languages.
In my case, I’m hoping it will be three; English, Slovakian and Albanian. Me being Slovakian and my other half Albanian, we speak to our daughter in both our languages as well as in English.
I will be delighted if my daughter learns all three languages. Fingers crossed all goes according to a plan. I think it’s a great gift for her to be able to speak several languages and I will be a very proud mama once we accomplish this.
No interfering and unwanted advice from parents
Do the things like “You should do this”, “You have to do that”, or “Don’t do it like that” sound all too familiar to you? Then you are not alone.
Many parents have the tendency of giving their children ‘advice’ on how to raise their grandchildren. While to them it may look as if they are helpful, and many times they are, don’t get me wrong, other times it can be a bit annoying and irritating.
Although I love my parents with all my heart, the way they raised me, my brother and my sister is slightly different than the way I want to raise my daughter.
Parents don’t realise that things change over time, and what was standard practice when they had little children, may be seen as outdated now.
So, even though I miss my family while living abroad, being away also means that I don’t have to listen to unwanted advice as much as I would if I was at home.
Now let’s look at some challenges of having my baby abroad.
Travelling with a baby
When you live abroad and want to visit your family, you will have to travel to get there. And in most cases, it will be by plane.
My daughter is only eight months old, and we have already travelled to Slovakia twice. For the first time, I travelled with my brother, sister in law and my partner, and it was great, but the second trip I went solo with my baby.
And I can tell you it wasn’t much fun at all. I thought I know what to expect after my first flight with the baby. But you can’t predict an infant’s behaviour, can you?
You don’t realise how many things you have to do single-handedly because your baby has decided she doesn’t want to stay in a pram with all the exciting stuff going on at the airport? By the end of the flight, I was exhausted and relieved that it’s finally over.
Even though, I love to travel, travelling with a baby is an entirely different story now.
Not having grandparents and family around
While I don’t agree with some of my parents’ advice about parenthood, it’s still upsetting to think that my baby won’t have her grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunties around as much while growing up and my parents won’t enjoy their granddaughter as much as they would love to. I think for me that’s the biggest downside of having a baby abroad.
The good thing is that England and Slovakia are not that far apart and we visit each other at least few times a year. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for people who are thousands and thousands of miles away from home.
No help with a newborn or a housework
There is no one to call to look after the baby when you just want to take a moment for yourself, to recharge your batteries so that you can function like a normal human being again.
My sister had a baby only a few months after I had mine. She lives only 10 minutes drive from my parents home. She can enjoy all the luxuries of having a mum close.
My mum cooks at home and brings the food for my sister sometimes; she irons her baby clothes while there, looks after the baby while my sister can take a small break.
Boy, how jealous I get sometimes. These are little things people who live close to home take for granted and people who live away miss so much.
Yes, my family came to see us when my baby was born, but instead of enjoying some time off, catching up on some much-needed sleep while my mum cooks and do some housework, we were also making daily shopping trips with my sister. She was pregnant at the time, and couldn’t wait to stock up on her baby clothes while in the UK, as it’s cheaper here than in my country.
Different practices and advice regarding parenthood
It comes without saying that every country will look at raising children slightly differently. And it all starts even before the baby is born, during pregnancy.
You are only seen by a midwife in the UK, while in Slovakia you see your doctor. There is no such thing as having vaccines during pregnancy in Slovakia, while in England there is a whooping cough vaccine.
In the UK, you are allowed to go home the next day after you’ve had the baby, in Slovakia, you stay in a hospital for five days.
Baby piercing in my country is normal, and most baby girls have their ears pierced right after they are born. In the UK, it is quite controversial and viewed as subjecting a child to unnecessary pain.
Advice about sleeping, dressing and feeding a baby varies among different countries and cultures.
So, what advice do you follow when you live abroad?
I came to a conclusion that it doesn’t matter. Do whatever is most comfortable for you as a parent. Healthy babies are growing up all around the world with so many different methods of bringing them up.
It can be confusing at the beginning before you find your way around motherhood, but you will eventually find a system that works best for you and your baby.
Choosing a name for the baby
Selecting a name for my baby was a huge dilemma throughout my whole pregnancy, and it was our last minute decision.
I wanted a name that would be quite international. I had to consider that she will live in the UK but also how the name will sound and pronounce in my and my partner’s country.
And let me tell you, choosing a name to be a good fit in 3 countries isn’t easy. My other half left the name choice to me, and I was happy with that, but toward the end of my pregnancy, it seemed like an impossible task.
Whenever I came up with a new suggestion, he said it’s old-fashioned in his country or gave me some other reasons why not to choose the name. Or it was my parents who had some objections.
Maybe I shouldn’t have listened to what my parents thought, but it just put me off the name altogether whenever they said something negative about it.
We finally decided on a name two weeks before my baby was born, but then another dilemma. Do we choose a middle name as well? That’s a common practice here in the UK but not in our countries.
In the end, I was glad that we had up to 6 weeks to register our baby’s birth in the UK. Enough time for some indecisive parents.
And the story goes on…
So, there you have it. These are some of the benefits and challenges of having my baby abroad. I am sure I will add some more in the future. It can be hard at times, but it’s all worth it in the end. Seeing my baby thrive and smile is the most rewarding part of being a new parent.
Do you have some other points to add and offer your view of life with a baby abroad? Please get in touch in the comment box below.