It’s well known that being a single mum is tough and we often hear of the struggles these hard working women face but a lot of them will admit they rely on the support from their family and friends to help them raise their child, as do couples with children. I recently read a post by Constance Hall (Australian blogger) who referred to this support network as her ‘village’. I was quite literally raised in a small village by my mum, dad, grand-parents and an abundance of close family friends who took it in turns to care for me and entertain me.
Being a new mum to a gorgeous, easy going five month old baby boy with a partner who contributes just as equally to parenting as i do and living in Australia, an incredibly beautiful and diverse country, you’d think i have it all. But as with all expats living overseas and raising a family, most of us are missing the crucial components of that village… our families. The grand-parents, the aunties and uncles, the cousins and the lifelong family friends are all thousands of miles away and that can be hard to swallow.
It’s no secret that i have absolutely no idea whether Australia will be our ‘forever home’ or not. Having lived in the UK, Thailand and now Australia and longing to live in at least another 5 countries… it’s clear i’m having a bit of an identity crisis! I’m worried that my child will grow up only knowing the majority of his extended family through facetime on a mobile phone, that i will never find it in me to leave my child with friend’s that i have only known for a few years just so that Dan and I can have some time to do something nice together. And, i shudder to think that our families might grow to resent us for our choices, although they would never let it show.
Everything parent related is completely new to us, but it’s made even more daunting by the fact that having only lived in Australia for a few years we cannot go on our own knowledge and experience from when we were children or the recommendations from trusted family and friends about various things. For example, what child care services to use in our area, what GP or how the healthcare system works in relation to our child, about child support benefits etc, we have to rely on the advice from strangers online or from new friend’s and those in my mothers group. I can’t just pop over to ‘nanny’s house’ to put my feet up for half an hour or have a ‘this is what we did in my day’ lecture, Brax won’t go to school with the children of the mother’s i went to school with nor will his ancient primary school teacher tell him about how they used to teach his mummy when she was little (and what a perfect student she was!) and Brax can’t grow up playing with his cousins in the back garden, running around the paddling pool naked during our two-day British summer.
I might sound foolish to make these scarifices, but with all of that being said, there are some huge positives. Brax will grow up adaptive to change. As Brax is already entitled to two passports, he will have the unique perspective that he does not just belong to one country, nor is he obliged to stay within the borders of that country. Being born in an immigrant nation like Australia he will understand his identity is about so much more than where he was born. Whilst Australia and England are both English speaking countries and both part of the Commonwealth, culturally they still have their differences, especially when comparing a city like Sydney to the UK village i was born in. Consequently, he will be accepting of cultural differences from an early age, which is great cos’mummy has friends all over the world!
Brax will see his grand-parents and his cousins on visits home and long family holidays and these will be unspoilt, quality times together and he will have friends on opposite sides of the world. Dan and I will have support from our new friend’s and even strangers, we will just need to make sure we ask for it. Whilst we will always value our family traditions, these new friends will bring fresh and unique ideas to our lives as parents.
Most importantly though, Brax won’t be raised by a village, he will be raised by a bloody Army deployed from all over the world! 😉