My Parenting Anxieties as an Expat
Right now I have a lot of parenting anxieties. One is over our transient lifestyle moving from one country to another every few years with our young children. Another is over my absence from my children as a full-time working and studying mom – when I’m not home, I’m at work; when I’m home, I’m studying.
Can anyone else relate?
My twin children are in 1st grade and about to finish up their second (and final) term. A new teacher has come into the picture…(thankfully) with very structured daily homework assignments and weekly quizzes…Quizzes?!…and a very clear goal of getting the children to 2nd grade level reading and spelling by the end of the term. All of this is wonderful, makes a lot of sense, what a blessing, terrific….and time to PANIC!!!
How am I going to spend enough time with my kids to go through their homework? Will I have enough reserve of patience to be encouraging? How am I going to impose the strict rule about no tablet time until afterhomework when they are with the housekeeper? How am I to maneuver between two very different personalities, learning styles, and confidence levels when the kids are constantly comparing themselves to one another’s abilities (one can spell and is excited about school work/one can’t and doesn’t want to; one still needs to do math with fingers/ the other is a natural whiz?)
Anyone else have similar issues with parenting anxiety when raising twins or between siblings?
Walking in the Shoes of the Basotho
Meanwhile, throughout Lesotho, where we live, there is a large migrant adult population who must leave their families behind to go work for long stretches of time in the mines or textile factories in another area of Lesotho, or even as far away as South Africa or other countries in the region. Sometimes, they move around with their families and are transient depending on job availability. Sometimes they go away on their own and are absent for months and years from their loved ones.
For the Basotho, they mostly leave their families behind in the care of other family members, mostly with the paternal side of the family given their patrilineal culture. As I imagine what life would be like in the Basotho culture, as a wife and mother I would be living with my in-laws under the authority of my father-in-law for all family decisions. I imagine that parenting anxiety exists, albeit, very different. Here’s how…
My concerns for my children would be challenged not only by the quality of their education, but also by their access to adequate healthcare; the family’s limited income to pay for daily necessities (until the next time my husband comes home with more money); the home garden suffering from drought; and the decision to send my daughter to school, but not my son because we need him to be a herdboy and tend to our livestock until we can sell them. Time to PANIC?
If I take this exercise further, I begin to imagine how can I convince my father-in-law to agree for my child to see a medical doctor instead of a traditional healer. And even if he agreed, how will I get my sick child to a medical facility when it’s a day’s walk away and there is no public transportation even if I had the money to pay?
If there is no work for me, should I trade sex for money or goods to provide for my family? What will we eat if the garden is dead? Will it rain soon? What will happen to my son if he doesn’t get the education he needs to become more than a herder or a laborer in the future?
Can anyone else relate?
Parenting anxieties are indiscriminate across the planet. We all have them at one time or another and for many different reasons. With each location my family and I live as expats, I learn to walk in many different shoes (or bare feet) of the people whom we share our community. With each day, I gain a greater understanding of the challenges that parents face around the world. And, these varying experiences are often on my mind.
Do you or others in your community relate to these two experiences living side by side? What are your current parenting anxieties?
I’ve always had trouble knowing where to fit in. I have never known which box I was supposed to climb in or which label to stick on my forehead.
I was born in Surinam, but most of my life I have lived in the Netherlands.
My parents had a strong sense of culture and raised me accordingly.
We lived in a small town in the northern part of Holland that did not have many people of color.
Needless to say, things outside of my home were very different to things inside.
In my home there were loud voices and singing, dancing and vibrant music.
Outside of the home it felt like I needed to be ashamed of my mother’s loud voice,and I tried my best not to speak too loud.
Around my family I felt at home and liked my braids and dark skin.
Outside home, old ladies would sometimes come up to me and touch my ‘strange’ hair, and make me wish my skin wasn’t making it impossible to blend in or disappear.
There was lots of loud laughter in our home. My mother would read Anansi stories and we would laugh hysterically.
Outside of the home, I could not explain to people why any story that starts with: “Dear God, can you make everyone that laughs at someone else drop dead instantly…” is going to be a really funny one.
In Surinam culture it’s very important that children learn to respect their parents and older people. You never talk back, you never raise your voice and you always look down when you are spoken to by an adult.
At school the teacher would say: Look at me when I talk to you!
At home my parents would speak to each other and family members in Sranang tongo, their native tongue. They would speak to us in a mixture of Dutch and Surinamese, we spoke to them in Dutch. With my sisters I spoke in a mixture of Dutch and Surinamese.
At school I spoke Dutch and there were so many things I could not talk about or explain because there was no word for it in Dutch.
At birthdays, we had parties with lots of family and friends coming in from everywhere, staying for dinner and sleeping over. My mother would cook lots of food, aunts would help in the kitchen and the house was filled with all of these wonderful festive smells, and we would eat until we could eat no more.
When I was invited to a party of one of my friends, we sat in a quiet circle with mostly old family members having a polite conversation and we were given a piece of cheese with a little vlag stick (it’s a Dutch thing), everyone left before dinner and there was absolutely no music.
Growing up in these two cultures thought me how to adapt. I learned how to behave and what was expected of me in each situation. And because I was such a people pleaser, by the time I was in my teens, I could blend in anywhere and everywhere. and I knew what was expected of me. I also had lots of interest in different people.
The people I called my friends were a variety of ages, colors, cultures and mixtures and I loved every one of them.
Still, I always felt different.
I’m an adult now. I married a man whose skin color is the exact opposite of mine (no matter how much sun he gets). My children are of mixed culture. Their skin color is a mixture of ours, their hair is mixed, curly but not as curly as mine, dark but not as dark as mine.
My husband sometimes plays his (terrible) Dutch songs and I sing and dance with my children to old Surinam children’s songs. When we celebrate there’s lots of family and lots of food but no music, because my husband says he can’t have a conversation with music in the background. I teach my children to respect their parents and older people, but I also teach them that it’s okay to speak up and look people in the eye.
I mostly speak Dutch, but when emotional I turn to my native tongue, although my kids hardly understand what it is that I’m talking about.
I think here. With my own family a perfect mixture of black and white, Dutch and Surinam, east and west, I fit here.
Do you have a mixture of cultures in your family? How do you adapt?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of The Netherlands.
Photo credit to the author.
When you become a parent things change.
Saying that children turn your life turns upside down, inside out and back again is most definitely not an understatement.
Bodily changes, sleep deprivation and related mental breakdowns aside, one of the major changes is the relationship with your own parents. Because in a weird way you are suddenly equals. You are both parents.
Granted, your parents might have a bit more experience on the job, but you might consider yourselves employees of the same company now.
You are the newbie and they are the old stalwarts who will insist on explaining how the coffee machine works. Even though it has only one button. And just like in the office, you each have your own way of going about the daily job that is parenting.
It was my father who pointed this out to me when he remarked that I was a very different mother to my children than my mother was to me.
Of course this is true, mainly due to the fact that I’m NOT my mother (no, really, I’m not my mother, I might have started to look a lot more like her, use the same phrases, and have taken up some of her habits, but I AM NOT MY MOTHER).
Characterwise my mom and I are poles apart. She is one of those patient, focused, well-organized, grownup creatures we all secretly wish to be. And I am an impatient firecracker, who is working on a million things at once and who can never be bothered about matching socks.
But I have to admit that my parenting style is different too. Some of it is deliberate and some not.
For instance, I never deny my children a food or beverage using the words ‘it will make you fat’, opting instead for ‘it is not healthy’ or ‘it is bad for your teeth’. I know this is no guarantee for avoiding any body-image/food–related trouble but I like to think it gives them a better chance for avoiding the damage some of us (myself included) went through.
Neither do I use spanking as a means of punishment. My parents spanked, but I quite frankly don’t see the point. Within a few years withholding privileges and time outs will probably looked upon as barbaric and the toddler shock collar might be all the rage but for now the “Go to your room and no movie” or “Pull out all the weeds from the garden” work for us.
My girls enjoy a greater amount of freedom then I did at their age. For instance there are A LOT of unscheduled play dates. Especially during summer, it is not uncommon for me to walk into the kitchen and find myself confronted by five children. My friends were welcome to come and play, but there had to be a call and confirmation from both sets of parents in advance. Permission still has to be asked and we need to know approximately in which house they’ll be. But planning… nope.
I won’t even begin to describe the difference regarding electronics and their use. Remember I was born in a time when a phone with push–buttons instead of dial ones was considered cutting edge. The mobile phone was something straight out of a science fiction movie. Plus I lived in Africa, where there was no such thing as TV. Although we did in fact own a television the only thing it played where VHS cassettes (remember those!?) which were sent to us by friendly relatives left behind in Belgium.
The one thing we do have in common though is that we both do our best.
We do our best to ensure our children grow up happy. We try to avoid ‘mistakes’ of the past. We try our best to make sure the little humans in our care grow up to be level-headed adults and can only hope our pottering along will turn out all right in the end.
Do you ‘parent’ differently compared to your own parents? If Yes, how so?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes. Photo credit:Eric Danley. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Daria and her music speak to our mission, here, at World Moms Blog, and she has also supported our #Moms4MDGs campaign. We recently invited her friend, Lisa from The Squishable Baby, to give us the full scoop on Daria’s World Music!
Have you ever been in the car and a song comes on the radio that brings a huge smile to your face? No matter what mood you are in – good, bad or indifferent – you feel totally at peace and happy. And if you could just bottle up that song and play it over and over, you would? Have you met someone who must have a voice from Heaven? Whose beautiful voice advocates peace, tolerance and love. Someone whose voice celebrates the human experience in all its differences?
I am lucky enough to know someone like that. Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou makes children happy through her music that advocates peace, love, and multiculturalism. As a homeschooling family where art and music are at the core of our curriculum, it’s easy to see how Daria makes such an important contribution to this world. You go on her website where there are a myriad of resources for you to teach, enjoy and spend quality time with your children. I can’t think of anything better than someone whose very foundation and message is love. And she does it in a way to educate about others and celebrates everyone’s differences.
We listen to Daria’s CDs in the car all the time. The kids know the songs by heart. They are written in different languages and are about different topics but all of them have the same undertone; to love one another and to celebrate the differences (whether good or bad) that exist in each one of us. This is the message all children should be receiving in a world that screams intolerance.
It’s time to start raising a generation of children that can respect and love the differences in others; no matter the customs, religions, colors, heights, weights, etc. These are the messages in Daria’s songs. Daria has become a part of our lives and our homeschool in a big way. We use her website a lot.
When I am teaching about a subject or an area of the world, we listen to music from that area. We look at art, and then we see what Daria has in store. Daria always has fun crafts, coloring pages and special songs available on her website. It’s there and free for everyone. The items on Daria’s website are so fun and enriching for children … and adults. I learn just as much from Daria as the kids do. The most important thing is that we do everything together. It‘s a way of bringing our family together.
Here are examples of crafts we made from Daria’s website. The kids had fun making and playing a Cajon and a Didgeridoo (instructions given on Daria’s Website) from Peru and Australia, respectively. The instructions were clear and also allowed for some innovation and creativity! Check out all the fun we had making and playing the instruments.
You can see the full review I wrote about Daria here.
Daria empowers children. She makes them want to be better for the world. No other music artist I know will provide children with such fantastic family-friendly upbeat music that they can dance to; and an overreaching positive message of hope and peace, while promoting and providing a well-structured, well-rounded multicultural education in the musical arts unmatched by anything else. I am so proud of Daria and everything that she has done to bring different cultures to children in all parts of the world. I am honored that she calls me a friend. — Lisa
For the last 20 years, Daria has traveled the globe sharing her music of hope, love, multiculturalism and tolerance. In the United States she has won several national awards; including, The National Association for Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA), a Parent’s Choice Award, and a Children’s Web Music Award. Her songs have been used in educational curriculum the world over, including Australia (respecting others), South Africa (teaching on tolerance) and the United States (a special song written to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).
You can visit Daria on the web: Facebook Twitter Website Pinterest
This week’s Saturday Sidebar Question comes from World Moms Blog writer Multitasking Mumma. She asked our writers,
“How do you explain disabilities and mental illness to your children?”
Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…
Meredith of Nigeria writes:
“I tell my children (ages 4 and 6) that God makes everyone differently with their own special gifts. They see lots of disabilities on the streets of Lagos. I tell them that not everyone can be made the same because the world would be SO boring. In that respect, they accept the people they see. So far, that has worked out pretty well. :)” (more…)