A Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband and three children. Trainer in inte...
Is being an expat mom more confusing?09 January 2014, by Olga Mecking
Are expat women judged more than local moms? I had a rather traumatic experience with being judged and so have been thinking about this topic a lot. And nowhere is this judgement as visible as in the case of parenting.
Hence, this article asks a slightly different question: is being an expat mom more confusing?
When you become a mother
When you become a mom, suddenly the world becomes a very confusing place. Everybody is so keen on giving you the best possible advice and you soon find yourself overwhelmed with the different do’s and don’ts.
The advice you’re getting is often contradictory. Your parents tell you one thing, your in-laws another, and your friends and doctors something else entirely. And then, you have your books, articles and Internet forums. Sometimes, it is hard to say who is right.
Being an expat parent
Now, imagine that you find yourself in a strange country. Your family and friends still provide you with contradictory advice, but on top of that, you’re also dealing with cultural differences in raising children.
Your expat friends come from different countries with their own traditions, and so once again you get different answers to your questions.
It's all about choices
Cultural differences are real, and many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by them. What's more, being confronted with other parenting choices will make you question your own choices.
Whether you are an expat parent or not, I believe that having choices is never a bad thing. The choices may seem overwhelming, and often can make you feel unsure of your decision, but it is always better to have choices in parenting than to raise your children in a certain way just because "everybody does it this way" and "we’ve always done it this way."
Being an expat parent doesn’t necessarily have to be more confusing. Being away from your home country with its unique traditions of parenting can offer you some perspective and free you of societal pressures that may be prevalent in your country. Having distance on parenting issues can help you find whatever works best for you.
This may well depend on where you are and where you’re from. Some traditions may seem more confusing than others, because sometimes they seem to be really weird, and are perhaps even discouraged in your home country. Sometimes you may find that the way children are raised in your new country isn’t so different after all!
The local factor
But there is much more to parenting than just the way you raise your children and this is where, for me, it can really get confusing. There are formalities to be taken care of, doctors to be found, and, later, schools to be picked.
Each country has different requirements for documents and certificates. The healthcare and educational systems are different. I think it is more confusing that while you can either adopt or ignore other culture’s parenting practices, you can’t ignore formalities and official requirements.
Your children may not need a certain cultural parenting practice, but they do need a doctor and they need a school. They need passports, possibly visas, birth certificates, and thousands of other formalities.
And everybody who has ever dealt with bureaucracy knows how confusing it can be.
So, while being an expat parent can be very confusing and overwhelming, it doesn’t necessarily have to be more so than being a parent in your own country. There are aspects of being an expat parent that are more confusing than others.
Every expat family is different and a lot depends on how culturally distant the countries are from each other and how a family reacts to being confronted with the multitude of information they encounter when they become parents.
What were your experiences with raising children in a different country? Was it confusing or not?