BY CAROLA (GUEST WRITER)
How Becoming A Parent Amplified My Longing For Home
How long has it been since you’ve seen your parents, your in-laws or spent some quality time with your extended family? Conversations with my friends usually circle back to the usual topics at this moment in time – home schooling and working from home but also how our families are doing. Most of my friends still see their parents or in-laws regularly, having either formed a bubble with them to help out with childcare or running errands for them, scheduling socially-distanced visits on a weekly basis.
As an expat living in the UK, not seeing my family and my mother is something of a norm for me. In a normal year, I probably see them once, or twice when we visit during the school holidays, and we phone each other regularly or use modern technology to overcome the obstacles of hundreds of miles between us. Family to me are my people – they are the silent but steady force behind me, a stronghold that lets me get on with life, but is quietly in the background, always ready to talk, to laugh, to cry, to share and give advice. I am fully aware that not everyone has a good relationship with their family and I am very lucky with mine. It doesn’t mean we always see eye to eye, but they are unconditionally supportive of me and my little family unit. And that is utterly priceless.
Whilst my wonderful bond with my family is a shining beacon of light in my world, it also means that I miss them terribly and especially since becoming a mother myself, I often feel pangs of homesickness and a longing to have them close by, that is the reality of expat life. I can’t ring my mum and ask her to give me a hand with the kids when I am feeling totally overwhelmed. I am unable to take advantage of brothers, cousins, aunts and, worst of all, I feel unable to voice those feelings of loneliness to people around me.
“Surely, you knew what you were getting yourself into when you moved to a different country!”, “Just face-time them!”, “The flight’s not that long!”, “Just move back!”
Those are just some of the comments I’ve heard since beginning my expat life and, although some of them mean well, they aren’t the solution to occasional desperate longings for my family support. Before Covid, when my mother visited and stayed for weeks, I indulged in blissful moments of watching her with her grandchildren, but also enjoyed a few more moments to myself, knowing my kids were looked after and safe whilst I took an extra five minutes in the shower, cooked without having to play referee in yet another sibling argument or, the biggest luxury of all, went for a quick walk around the block with my partner. Just the two of us. I don’t want someone to have my children for weekends or weeks so I can disappear. It’s those small moments of support in everyday life I crave and need.
I speak to one of my friends who is Brazilian and had to cancel her flights home last Christmas. Her Fernweh* is on par with mine, albeit the journey she faces home is in itself a bit of an odyssey. Like me, she terribly misses her family and Covid has made her life a misery in more than one way. A constant sunseeker and serial globe trotter, my friend, a single mum of one, lives for travel and yearns for the help of her parents with her son. “My parents miss us and I miss them. Having help with a young child from parents is invaluable and I don’t have that here. Now I can’t even go back home to spend a few weeks with them.”
Another friend of mine, mother of two under 5s, had to cancel journeys abroad to see her family numerous times, too.
“I have resigned to the fact that we’ll just be communicating through facetime for now. Who knows when the borders open again, and when it is safe to travel. I am grateful everyone is safe and well, but it doesn’t make it easier. I miss seeing my family, I miss being back home, I am so upset my parents are missing out on seeing their grandchildren even more so now than ever before.”
Expat mums don’t need sympathy or pity – we know we made a choice and know to live our lives in gratitude for modern technology, the invention of aeroplanes and the gift of travelling and living wherever we want to. However, especially in times like this, the fact of not having our immediate families around is amplified and we are desperately waiting for the times we can see our loved ones again and hold them, watch our children spend time with their grandparents and hang out with our siblings and their brood.
We’re made of strong stuff, and we adore the friends that have become our family wherever we are. Don’t hold it against us that sometimes, we just need and want our own tribe and experience a bit of Heimweh**.
* Fernweh – German untranslatable expression for a longing to travel and to be somewhere else
**Heimweh – German for homesickness
We hope you enjoyed Carola’s guest post on expat life!
Carola is a writer, content and copywriter and published author. When she isn’t posing in high heels and leopard print for Instagram, she is writing poems, short stories and articles. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @chameleoninhighheels , or on her blog page www.chameleoninhighheels.com