FRANCE: Interview with Jacki

FRANCE: Interview with Jacki

Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

My family and I moved to Paris, France seven months ago on an expatriate assignment through my husband’s employer. Before moving here, we lived in many northeastern states in the U.S., including Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. If I had to choose a place to call home, it would be Boston. We loved attending college in Massachusetts and we have so many great memories there.

What language(s) do you speak?

English is my primary language, which has made life in France very difficult. I blame my father for my lack of French-speaking abilities (sorry Dad)! In the seventh grade, I had the opportunity to pick French or Spanish to study as a second language. I desperately wanted to learn French, my paternal grandmother’s native language, but my dad was insistent on me learning Spanish. Since moving to France, I’ve been trying to learn the language but often find myself using Spanish words instead of French. It makes for interesting conversation!

When did you first become a mother?

I became a mother in September 2009 to a beautiful little boy named HJ. Before that, I use to call the students I worked with “my kids” but after parenting my son for the last three years, I now realize that I was nowhere close to being a real mother. (more…)


Jacki, or “MommaExpat,” as she’s known in the Internet community, is a former family therapist turned stay-at-home mom in Paris, France. Jacki is passionate about issues as they relate to mothers and children on both domestic and international scenes, and is a Volunteer Ambassador for the Fistula Foundation. In addition to training for her first half marathon, Jacki can be found learning French in Paris and researching her next big trip. Jacki blogs at H J Underway, a chronicle of her daily life as a non-French speaking mom in France.

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KENYA: Spare the Kiboko, Spoil the Mtoto

KENYA: Spare the Kiboko, Spoil the Mtoto

I hunched my back to fit through the doorway of the mud and thatch hut, my baby in my arms. The woman inside welcomed me with a “karibu,” her own baby suckling at her breast. The hut was dark with only light spilling in from two small windows but my eyes adjusted quickly. It was decorated with free calendars and unsmiling photos of family members hung high on the mud walls, like so many other homes I’d entered in my two years in Kenya. As we spoke, through a translator who knew the local Luyha dialect, chickens wandered in the hut and were shushed away without a thought.

I had spent the past two days living with a family in a rural village with my baby and 3 year old son talking with local woman about their experiences as mothers. My son was outside playing easily with the children in the compound despite the language barrier.

The conversation was going well. Her 2 small children had entered the hut and sat quietly during our discussion. But at some point my son came rushing in, insisting emphatically, in only the way a 3 year old can, that he was ready to go. His whining was incessant. “Mama mama mama. Can we go? Can we go? can we go?!” The conversation stopped and everyone turned to view the spectacle. Summoning my best “parenting in public” skills, I lovingly (with an undercurrent of “you are going to get it when we get home”) told him to stop and that we’d leave shortly. This was met only with louder and more insistent, back arching whining.

I was embarrassed. I had done all that I could to avoid this scenario. Before we left for this particular visit, I got down on Caleb’s level, looked him in the eye and made him promise to behave if he wanted to join me (he had begged to come along). We agreed that if he couldn’t behave he would not be coming with me again. All of this to no apparent effect. (more…)

Mama Mzungu (Kenya)

Originally from Chicago, Kim has dabbled in world travel through her 20s and is finally realizing her dream of living and working in Western Kenya with her husband and two small boys, Caleb and Emmet. She writes about tension of looking at what the family left in the US and feeling like they live a relatively simple life, and then looking at their neighbors and feeling embarrassed by their riches. She writes about clumsily navigating the inevitable cultural differences and learning every day that we share more than we don’t. Come visit her at Mama Mzungu.

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