The Expatriates’ Mother Network

I never thought that moving abroad would result in gaining more friends than I had before I left. I thought my journey as an expat would be lonely and that I would struggle to find like-minded people. Instead, I have met many soul mates and genuine connections from various backgrounds and cultures. When I became an expat, I became a part of a dynamic network that would grow even stronger and larger when I had a baby.

As an expatriate mother in Indonesia, my life support system is my fellow expatriate mothers. I connect with these women through WhatsApp messaging, Facebook and social meetings. The most surprising part of this friendship is that they do not necessarily live in Indonesia and I haven’t met most of them face to face, and probably never will. And yet, these women are behind me, and will undoubtedly cheer for me, offering round the clock support, 24/7, no matter where I am in the world. Wow!

The value of this global community cannot be overstated. Although most husbands are the expats with the careers bringing their families into new countries, it’s the mothers who will influence where and how her family will live when they get there. Women are, by nature, very open and sharing. When you bring lonely mothers into this mix, especially those who are away from family and are living abroad, the vulnerability fuels this innate trait of ours to gather and over-share everything. Intimate details, long stories of struggles and joys. Questions and fears… we are all sharing our innermost thoughts daily, and shaping critical decisions for our families – big decisions such as which condos to rent, which schools to enrol with, where to shop and which doctors to see. It will even influence social welfare and lifestyle choices.

I have been an expat for seven years and three countries now. With my knowledge and experience of expatriating into new destinations, I am a true believer in this network and its strength. Before my move to Jakarta, I had already tapped into the power of this network as a member of a Singaporean mothers’ Facebook group called “Stork’s Nest Singapore,” which has over 10,000 members. By simply introducing myself, I made connections that would serve a lifetime of purposes. When it was time to leave to my next posting at Jakarta, I used my existing network of friends and social networking to discover a similar Facebook support group called “Jakarta Moms Support Group.” This was the only tool I needed for my move and a new group of 1,000 women were within my reach. I moved virtually into Jakarta before I moved physically.

Through this single connection, women who sympathised and understood my fear of moving to Jakarta welcomed me and made me feel at ease. They understood my anxieties and offered me advice on how to maximise my new life here. They detailed the safest way to bathe my newborn with clean, filtered water. They reassured me that I could readily purchase the specific lactose-free formula for my colic baby and gave me advice on what critical items to ship across. An international move with young children is so stressful, but knowing that there were other mothers out there who understood my fears made the move much less daunting.

These networks reach further than online and exist all over if you are willing to get yourself out there. I found solace through friends I made at the ANZA and BWA welcoming coffees. Connecting to associations within your new country is essential for your well-being. They are a great place for new expats because everyone there is looking for a new friend or has someone they can introduce you to. They also organise regular social events that you can attend without actually knowing anyone.

What I’ve learned is that these networks are a loneliness buster. As an expat mother, I need the support of someone who understands my unique struggles. Yes, I have friends and families back at home who can definitely answer my questions on how to soothe a teething baby or how to overcome my sleep deprivation problems. However, due to the time difference and lifestyle variations between my hometown and my current city, these support networks are not enough. I need to have a “posse” that shares my struggles and lives through my frustrations, every day. Only my expatriate mother’s network will understand the feeling of being stuck at home because of the traffic. Or not having a car for the day because my husband has taken it for his important meeting. And then the sheer agony of rushing a sick child to a hospital in a taxi where the driver doesn’t understand me, only to meet a doctor who seems to be practicing medicine taught from a Dummies Guide handbook, and a hospital that doesn’t have the critical medication prescribed. In the middle of these situations, I can quickly text my “Yummy Mummies Jakarta” WhatsApp chat and have a handful of women offering help on what to do next. A friend will send her driver to pick me up. A woman whom I haven’t even met yet will send me the medication that I need and another mother will offer to have my other children over to her place for dinner while I’m away.

And so, with each international move, and fellow expats moving abroad, this network grows. I now continue daily chats with women in other expat locations and forums, migrating our network across the globe.  As a member of this powerful network, I love nothing more than sharing its ability to reach out and help another expat mama in need. I know that no matter where I move to next, these women will also be there for me and will continue to help me on my next adventure abroad. I too, will be there, extending a helping hand to others in need.

This article was originally published at Indonesia Expat

Hiring a Nanny in Indonesia

One of the advantages of living in Indonesia is being able to hire a nanny for your children. Expats, however, sometimes imagine nannies to be a cheery “Mary Poppins” lady with tactical child-minding powers and a skillset to cure all childhood issues. The reality of a nanny in Indonesia may be far from this foreign perception. Skills like first aid, child discipline, and childhood play are not always a part of the package. Becoming a nanny in Indonesia requires no specific vocational training or work experience. Continue reading

Living greener in Indonesia

Sometimes I think that the only way I can live as an environmentally-conscious member of society is to hide away under a rock and reject the advances of modern civilisation. Of course, this isn’t realistic but the issue seems so large that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. When I first moved into my condo in Jakarta, I was told that our building doesn’t recycle. Apparently, all of the rubbish from our condo will eventually be sorted and magically make its way into a recycling centre somewhere. As an expat it’s difficult to find answers, so I accepted this explanation and carried on with my life of non-recycling. Eventually it ate me up and so I started to make incremental changes to our household.

Trying to live greener in Jakarta takes time and effort. It involves more planning and foresight. However, with the right resources, it is possible. Here are some tips on how to live as a greener family in Indonesia. Continue reading

Why I love condo living

Having a family with three young children, I dream of living in a house with an endless backyard. I imagine my children’s feet stomping on the grass and laughter filling the air as their sunlight-kissed bodies explore their tropical surroundings, while my husband is grilling on our outdoor BBQ and I’m sunbathing on a lounge relaxing the afternoon away. Of course, the reality   is very different to this, but it’s my fantasy! Continue reading

Is it all worth it?

Ok I’m going to be real now. Is it all worth it? I’m sitting at home alone and thinking. I’m missing all of my friends. I’m listening to songs that remind me of my friends back at home who I continue to love but unfortunately it’s been so long, I know they’ve moved on. I want to pick up the phone and call them or send an email to say how much I still love them, but time has passed and it’s probably just going to be awkward. Continue reading

Dear expat friend

 

Dear expat friend, what can I say? You came out of nowhere and have now left so suddenly! But before you leave, I wanted to say….

Dear expat friend, thank you for adding me to that Facebook mother’s group, before I set sail on my new expat posting. You were a friend of a friend, and we hadn’t even met. That little gesture eased my nerves and ensured that I had an immediate network of support. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, or how much I would need this group of women, but you knew.

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Bring On 2018!

Reflecting on 2017 and my whole time in Jakarta so far, this year was a great year! I feel like I’m genuinely at home and will try to make 2018 an even better one!

The first year in Jakarta was a blur because I arrived with a 20 month old and newborn baby from Singapore. It would have sucked no matter where I was, because I had two babies and quickly fell pregnant again! I hardly had a chance to sleep, let alone get to know my new home. Continue reading