Living abroad with a baby can be difficult, especially without family support in the early months. Jenine is a Canadian expat living in Perth – she shares how she went about building her own village while living overseas.
Having a baby in a foreign country brought a whole new level of loneliness.
Not only was I missing the love and support of my family and friends from back home, but I had very few friends here, and most didn’t have children.
The friends I had, whether through work or social outings, simply didn’t understand the challenges of pregnancy or life with a newborn. Despite my best efforts, I ended up feeling isolated, and alone, in my journey to Motherhood.
At first I thought I could handle it. That it didn’t matter if I felt this uncertainty and anxiety around being a first-time Mum in a country so far from my own. But I soon came to realise the absolute importance of having a village of support, a need that has only grown as my children have grown older.
In today’s global society, more and more parents are finding themselves in this situation. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to build your village, to ensure that you, and your children, enjoy the friendships, company, love and support that come with it.
This one is harder than it sounds, but really, a simple post in a Facebook group (for example, search in Facebook the name of your city, and “Mums”), and then put up a short post introducing yourself and that you’re new to the city looking to make some like-minded Mummy friends. You could do the same in any other groups local to your area or interests, such as Being Neighbourly groups, or the Mums With Bubs Fitness Healthy & Happy Support Group. Let go of the fear in posting, and just put it out there! You could meet some amazing people and cultivate lifelong relationships.
Attend a class
Any class! Check your local library, ask your obstetrician, speak to your midwife, or Google search for anything that peaks your interest. Then join in! Getting involved with your community in this way opens up a whole new level of connection with people you might not have crossed paths with otherwise. We’ve often joked that the fitness classes I run are like Mothers Group, but without the coffee and cake! And if you’re in a rural community and there isn’t much on offer, then head online. Many different sites offer Mum and baby activities you can do from home, with a supportive community completing the tasks right along side you (which is the case with the New Mama Lifestyle program). By learning new skills you’ll improve your confidence, meet new people, and feel more involved.
Find a Grandparent
Did you know that surrogate grandparents are actually a thing? With so many of their own children living abroad, many families are deprived of the love that comes from helping each other, and grandparents are no different! I’ll never forget being in a cafe when my son was a baby and my daughter a toddler, and this lovely couple beside me started a conversation. Their daughter lived in the US with their grandkids, and seeing me with my children brought tears to their eyes – and with my parents living in Canada, I was crying too! Search for “Find a Grandparent” online and see what you can find. You might be pleasantly surprised!
I’ve had a few clients who have developed amazing long-term relationships with their nannies, and whom have become the main support for Mum through multiple pregnancies and births. During pregnancy, you could hire a Midwife or Doula, and there are also Postnatal Doulas who will care for you in the incredibly challenging Fourth Trimester once baby has arrived, providing a level of care and support which is invaluable. Unfortunately in Australia, hiring an Au Pair is a short transition, as legally they may only assist you for 6 months at a time. We went through three different Au Pairs, and found the transition too disruptive for our family.
As our children were already used to saying ‘see you later’ to family on the other side of the world, the emotional upheaval of saying goodbye to our Au Pairs was just too much! In the end, the stable relationship we were able to develop with our Nanny was well worth the extra cost. Ask around or search online to find someone near you!
Start a conversation
This one seems way too simple, right? But you never know where one conversation could lead! I’ll never forget meeting my neighbour for the first time. I didn’t realise exactly where she lived, and we’d seen each other many times before. But one day, we saw each other and had an actual conversation. She had her toddler and I had my baby, and then we realised we lived right next door to each other, and had lived side by side for 3 years without having a chat! If only we had spoke earlier, we could have saved ourselves a lot of stress. Our support for each other has made a world of difference.
We now regularly exchange meals, have each other’s kids over for play dates, and are there to lend an ear or a hug anytime. So the next time you’re out, just talk to the Mum you share the path with. Who knows where it could take you!
The thing to remember is we’re all in this together. Despite the cultural differences across the world, Motherhood is a journey we can all relate to! We need each other’s support, as do our children. It is vital for our emotional and mental health to have people around you that you can rely on, and who care.
So please, know you’re not alone. Know that support is out there, that you can build a village around you, even if your own family is on the other side of the world.
BIO: Jenine Dilts-Bayman is The Mums Fitness Expert: Founder of the New Mama Lifestyle online program, The Healthy Live Collective, and Mums With Bubs Fitness. Her aim is to empower, educate and support women towards better health, connecting them to their bodies, their babies & their communities!
For more information on programs and locations, check out https://jeninediltsbayman.com/ or you can find her on Instagram & Facebook at @MumsWithBubsFitness