Welcome to the sixth session of the Traveling Parents' Forum! Today I've got several incredibly knowledgeable moms joining me to share experiences moving abroad and/or living abroad with children. Here you'll find tips for giving birth abroad, deciding to move abroad with children, and experiences adapting to life as an expat family.
Throughout the series we'll be sharing our tips, favorite products, and looking to each other for advice to make traveling with little ones easier. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience please write it in the comments below! Also, if you have written a post(s) on a similar topic feel free to add the link in the comments. You can also join our group Pinterest board to post your own articles or ones you've found helpful. Just follow our Pinterest accounts and message me to add you to the board. The more information we have the better we can travel - at least that's what I think!
We'll be chatting about a new topic on the third Monday of every month. Today's topic is ‘Moving Abroad or Living Abroad With Children’
February 22: Living/moving abroad with a child
March 21: Child jet lag
April 18: Traveling without your child
Having lived abroad for the past six years, I like to consider myself a bit of an expert on this topic. Our first temporary home was Copenhagen where we were lulled into a false sense of security arriving at the end of a beautiful warm September - just before the worst winter in 47 years. My memories of those two years will always be of amazement at just how adaptable children really are when it comes to life abroad. Beforehand I had imagined mine to be mostly wailing and weeping at missing people and places back at home. They didn’t really. In fact I think I definitely found it more challenging at times, and could often be found weeping and wailing (usually over English adverts for various supermarkets).
Then we moved to Munich where our family of four became five, my children overtook me in both language and skiing skills, and don’t really remember much about life in the UK anymore. Will we move on elsewhere? Perhaps, or we might even go home - watch this space…
A few words of advice to those considering a move abroad themselves…:
Don’t Rush into things – it’s easy to just say yes to school places, houses and the like, but as much as it’s tempting to do so, please don’t rush into these decisions. Without such things feeling absolutely right, you might be setting yourselves up for a lot of unhappiness (not to mention expenditure when you need to make a change) in the long run.
And speaking of schools… If you plan to live somewhere forever, absolutely consider local schooling. Your children will not only learn the language in no time, but make their lifelong friends here away from the more transient world of international schools.
Preparation – watch films on, read books about, and if you can, make a pre-visit to your considered new homeland. It’s hard for a child to imagine what a new country can be like, and all these things can really help!
Learn the Language together – Easier said than done, but this can be a fun thing to do as a family, from sticking post it notes on things all over the house, to free online programmes. If you are a struggling linguist, then console yourself with the fact that within months your children will overtake you anyway…
Do push yourself out of your comfort zones and prepare to say yes a lot – how are you going to make new friends if you don’t make yourself go to things that you might not have chosen to at home? Don’t just stick to expat circles either, make yourself go to local functions and events.
And last but not least, enjoy yourselves. If like us, you are only moving abroad for work reasons, then who knows how long your contracts will last anyway in this ever changing world? See as much as you can and do as much as you can, because you may well back home before you know it.
Please have a look at my Moving Abroad and Starting a New Life as an Expat Parent posts, you may well find them useful!
Emma has three children. She blogs over at Bavarian Sojourn and is writing from Bavaria, Germany. You can find more from Emma on her blog, Pinterest, and Instagram.
We never expected to have a third child, much less while we were living overseas but it’s certainly been an experience for us. Not one that we will regret, but I was thankful to have had my first two babies in the UK. I used to be critical of the NHS system, especially the wait times, but at least I knew what to expect with a maternity record I could keep and a clear schedule of appointments.
In Abu Dhabi, UAE where our son was born, there’s no one system. Some people see a gynecologist for their antenatal appointments, others register through a hospital. Some clinics scan and test you to death every few weeks, others provide the bare basics. At the time of my pregnancy only one reputable hospital was midwife lead (our preferred choice), but it was closing its doors to non-UAE nationals, forcing expat patients into a largely untested and arguably under resourced private system.
If people ever tell you about their wonderful birthing experiences in Dubai, remember these are two different cities – not that far apart but when you’re in labor it may as well be the other side of the world! If I’d had a planned caesarean a Dubai hospital would have been my preferred choice, but our son came on his own accord in the middle of the night at the public Corniche Hospital in Abu Dhabi as planned. I’m just so glad I knew what I was doing as post-natal support is not really provided, and they seemed to want to poke and prod him for everything under the sun.
All that said, we do love our expat life in the UAE, and I honestly don’t think just now I would exchange it for anywhere else in the world. Yes, the summers do get very hot, but life just moves indoors for a while. For a sun lover, the mild winters are just amazing and worth the weather extremes.
There are so many other young families living here, I have found it very easy to make new friends with like-minded mum’s who are also fairly new to the ‘stay at home mum’ gig. There are loads of International Schools and a plethora of after school activities to choose from. Our older two kids are really happy here with great friends from all over the world. We live near the canals and beach front of Al Raha Beach which is great for taking walks, bike rides, trips to the beach and the kids would live in the swimming pool if they could; we are never bored.
Keri Lives in Abu Dhabi, UAE with her husband and three children (aged 6, 3 and 1). You can find more of their travel and expat adventures at BabyGlobetrotters.Net as well as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
"I can't comment on moving with children (at six months postpartum the idea just scares me stiff!) but I can share some thoughts on what it's like to live abroad with a baby and what it's like choosing to start your family in a country that neither you or your partner grew up in. We were living in the Netherlands for nearly 18 months when we found out we were pregnant. It was planned and hoped for and we were very excited, however, when it became a reality rather than a little dream, I started to question our decision to start a family in Amsterdam. Primarily this was because I felt a lot of anxiety in the first trimester of my pregnancy and the scary unknowns seemed to be multiplying. So for a few weeks I considered returning to the UK to give birth, however, this decision was reversed as soon as I met the midwife team who would be looking after me throughout my pregnancy and hopefully the delivery, as is the system in the Netherlands. I also took a lot of comfort in finding out more and more about how the Dutch view pregnancy and childbirth; it's not an illness or a "medical condition", you are encouraged to have a home birth unless there are complications though opting to have a hospital birth with your own midwife is possible and generally the most popular option for first-time mums, and the mother's well-being - emotional as well as physical - is a primary concern throughout pregnancy. This level of care continued after the birth of my son thanks to the wonderful "Kraamzorg" system they have in the Netherlands which sees a maternity nurse being sent to your home immediately after the birth (or you'll have a maternity nurse in the hospital if you or the baby need to stay in longer) and it is there job to assist you in those frightening first 7-8 days as you and the baby learn to breastfeed (or formula feed), bond and recover from the birth. Mine would make me the most wonderful fruit salads as I got the hang of nursing Otis and she cleaned my bathroom every day! I know I'm focusing a lot on the birth of our baby rather than our overall experience of living abroad with children, but it sort of highlights my main point about living in a country that is not your own: information is key! Find out as much as you can about the healthcare, schooling, welfare, culture and traditions of a country so you can be aware of them and adapt to or adopt them as you see fit. My first reaction to getting pregnant and living abroad was "I want to go home!" but now I actually think I was very, very fortunate to give birth in the Netherlands and I jokingly tell all my British friends who are planning on having children to come over here to have their babies so they can benefit from such a wonderful system! I now see us living in the Netherlands as something that will enrich my son's life. He will get presents from both Sinterklaas and Father Christmas, he will grow up cycling to school every day, he will enjoy holidays in the UK and he will of course (hopefully!) grow up speaking two languages. But you do have to make a bit more effort to be aware of what's going on so that you or your child/ren don't miss out or feel left out. For example, we started our son in daycare at four months so that he could be surrounded by native Dutch speakers as these early months are crucial for him learning that sounds that will become languages. Maybe if we'd been living in an English speaking country we would have waited longer to start daycare, I don't know. I'm also making an effort to learn Dutch songs and nursery rhymes as I don't know any and I want to be able to sing along with my son when we go to his friend's parties etc. And every week I find myself Googling a question I have about the Dutch school system or finding out what a new acronym I've come across stands for. I don't expect us living here to make life easier (though I have to give the Dutch credit for making a lot of things very easy for us foreigners!) but I do think it will make all of our lives much richer and more exciting."
Frankie has a 6 month old and blogs about Amsterdam, travels, and writing on As the Bird Flies and Travelettes. Frankie is writing from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You can find more from Frankie on her blog, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
When we first moved to Vilnius, Lithuania it was just going to be a two year stint so we could have a new experience of living and working in Europe. Prior to moving (and during our first several months) I would have never expected that we’d decide to stay a third (and fourth) year, nor would I have thought that we would plan to start a family in Vilnius. But we did, and it was a great decision for us.
I was incredibly pleased with my maternity care and the care during and immediately after giving birth. I’ve written a whole post about the experience here if you’d like to learn more. As for raising a child in Vilnius, so far everything has been great. Vilnius is incredibly family-friendly (and mom-friendly)! We currently don’t have immediate plans to move away from Vilnius.
This all sounds marvelous, but raising a child abroad does have its challenges. Though we haven’t struggled with raising a baby abroad, we do struggle with a bit of expat family guilt as we have two sets of very loving and eager grandparents (and an aunt and uncle, and many many relatives) who want to see Baby ISO grow up and play a very hands-on role in his life. We are so lucky to have such a supportive, involved family, yet it is a constant discussion of whether or not we should move closer to home. In the meantime, we send lots of photos, Skype once a week, and visit home for a few weeks twice a year.
I have a 6 month old and am writing from Vilnius, Lithuania on In Search Of. You can find more on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
What positives and negatives have you experienced living abroad or moving abroad with children?
Also note that I won’t be posting on Wednesday; we only returned from Madrid yesterday, so it’s been busy!Follow Elizabeth @ In Search Of's board Traveling with Children on Pinterest.