This is the fifth post in the Global Women Discuss Love, Loss, and Family Abroad series and deals with juggling family expectations and life abroad. So far in this series, we have discussed moving abroad with children, balancing careers and family, dealing with the loss of loved ones while living abroad, and getting everyone on board before you uproot.
Mansi: Moving abroad, leaving behind things that you are comfortable and familiar with, is always tough. As if juggling your life wasn’t hard enough by itself, you must also now worry about maintaining all your relationships back home while forging new ones simultaneously. What do you do then?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have tons of friends, but may not always be as good at keeping in touch with them as you’d like to be. Especially for the strugglers out there, the first thing that I have personally found helpful is to do some mental weeding. It does sound harsh, but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that everyone has a limited amount of time, energy, and space in their lives. When you move to a new place, you will need to spend more than the regular amount of all of these things on adjusting, forging new friendships, figuring stuff out. Therefore, it is important to have your priorities, both in terms of people and tasks clear in your head.
Once you’ve identified the people you do want to devote time to, even with your new life, try to be aware of and respectful of their needs as well. Some need to talk to you every day, some you can talk to twice in a year and still be great friends with. Judging what they need from you can go a long way in making everyone involved much happier, even if the give and take don’t always match. The same goes for family. Identifying needs and trying to align them to the best of your abilities is what makes the difference. The effort counts.
At the end of the day, at least for me, juggling expectations is all about a desire to maintain your relationships and an understanding that involves some give and take. Things won’t be perfect, they rarely are. But if you try hard enough, you’ll likely reach some percentage of the way above fifty, at the very least. And in most cases, the people involved will appreciate your efforts and make some on their own, so together you’ll get there.
Question: What are the key things to help one juggle expectations of loved ones at home with life abroad?
Cristina: I was only 20 years old when I moved abroad and to be honest, I didn’t feel that my parents had expectations. They just wanted me to be happy I think. And I was. They supported me in everything I did. Sixteen years later and as a parent myself, I think that they probably missed me a lot and wanted to see me more often, but they never made me feel that I should do things in a different way.
Nicola: I think as you get older and if you add children into the equation, there comes the point where you realize that family back home also need to manage their expectations, rather than you always managing theirs. You generally move abroad because you think it is a good thing to do either emotionally/financially/career-wise, etc. Of course, it’s hard, but you have your own freewill and your own life and as your children get older your focus shifts to what your children need and what works for you as a family.
Rosemary: Lots of phone and email conversations and always remembering birthdays. Sending photos, videos, having photos and videos of family members and friends (from home and past countries lived) all over the place, so they were always in our faces.
Vanessa: We have had very little difficulty with this because my family had low expectations in the first place. I found that family talked to us more when we lived long distance (first in the US) than when we lived forty minutes down the road. I’m also the third child in my family to live long distance, and our extended family has always been far from us.
There is a desire that we stay in touch through Facebook and schedule times to catch up on Skype, and I’ve gotten three of my family members on WeChat, but my parents, siblings, and relatives understand life can get busy. My husband’s mom has had a bit more trouble connecting due to technology difficulties and her work schedule, but they both continue to make an effort to catch up. Just recently, my editorial staff covered this in our latest magazine issue, and the tips recorded were useful to me even, especially in making a regular time with specific guidelines for the sake of my children.
Lisa: We keep in contact with family and friends via FaceTime on a regular basis. We also keep them in the loop when it comes to birthday parties and we will FaceTime while our kids open cards or presents so they can feel more connected. My kids see their grandparents three to four times a year (in person), so we are fortunate that they have a close relationship.
Olga: Just do what works for you.
If you want more information about what fellow expat moms wish they had known before moving abroad, download your free ebook here!
This post was cross-published on the Expat Coffee Club so be sure to head over there and show those ladies some love.