When families move abroad, quite often one of the partners follows a career path and another chooses to put that career on hold. What would it feel like to go from a busy working schedule to a full time stay at home and care for your kids mode? There’re, of course, benefits to this – you would get to spend much more time with your kids, bond with them and become even closer. You would, however, need to find ways to make this transition easier for you.
I talked to an expat mother Estelea, who was used to a hardworking life prior to their family’s relocation to Philippines, where she’s now taking care of their two small kids.
1. Please, tell us more about your children – how old are they? Where were they born?
My daughter is 4 ½. I was working and living in India for the first half and my pregnancy, then we moved to France to welcome her.
My son is turning 3 next month. He was born in Bangkok, where we were living at the time and where the facilites happened to be far better than the French ones. If ever you think about giving birth naturally in Thailand, Bangkok is the place!
2. What childcare arrangement were you used to before becoming expats?
When my daughter was born, I took a maternity leave of 9 months, so no nanny. We recruited one when I had to resume work. In Asia, lots of nannies are live in and work 6 days a week. Not ours, she has a normal week schedule, her own place and week end are totally family made.
3. Do you get any help with the kids (nanny, daycare)?
The kids are attending school every morning, and we also have a nanny part time.
We are lucky to live in a country where helpers in general are far less expensive than in Europe. We would never be able to afford a nanny back in France, let alone Switzerland. And the Philippines have reputed to have the best nannies. I can only confirm, as we’ve had the same one for 4 years.
4. What do you like the most about being able to spend much more time with your kids, than before?
I feel very privileged to spend so much quality time with them. Taking them to school, and moreover picking them up ☺ We have our lunch date every Thursday, and I have a “gouter” special time with each of them. I love to listen to all their stories, I don’t feel as frustrated and guilty as when I was a full time working Mum.
My favorite time ever: mornings. I love when they tip toe into our bed. When I was working, I was already on my way to the office when they’d wake up. Now I can get (almost) as many hugs and cuddles as I want! And this is priceless.
5. Do you miss your busy working life? Did you find other ways to keep you occupied (that is when you get free time from taking care of your kids)?
Which kind of answer do you want? The cheesy and very positive one or the real one?
OK, let’s get real then: I do miss work! Or to be exact, I do miss the intellectual stimulation that (should) come with work. Of course, my kids are incredibly mature, but still ;)
Free time.. There are only so many manicures and massages you can do in a month ;) I found the intellectual stimulation I was craving for on internet. Have you heard about the free online courses offered by Coursera? I attended a few of them, in my field of work and beyond. The content of the courses and the discussions are usually very inspiring and energetic. And no one ever talks about pee nor poo, which is refreshing I must say..
And I have my blog. I can’t believe how many great people I met virtually! I feel supported, challenged, and writing is really helping me in stopping to count my blessings. This blog is a snapshot of our years in the Philippines, for the kids to remember how it was to live by the beach for years..
6. What piece of advise can you give to other working mothers, who are considering becoming trailing spouses and putting their career on hold?
You’ll have your up and down, and don’t believe all those Mums who’ll swear it is the best time of their life e-ver! When you are so used to be “someone”, it’s a bit hard to suddenly be reduced to “wife and Mum”. Especially in the expat world, when the first question you’ll be asked is usually “what does your husband do?”.
It’s only when I got rid of my obsession of productivity that I really started enjoying my life as a “trailing spouse” (brrr.. the word trailing actually still gives me the creeps!). Then I let go of my watch and my Linkedin premium to make the best of our time here:
It’s a unique chance to take my little ones by the hand and broaden their horizons, literally. Before I know it, they will be attending school full time, and I ll be probably depressing… Just kidding, put your career on hold! you’ll always have time to work, no worries. But this time spent with your children, while they still love you unconditionally, is the most precious present ever. So carpe diem ☺