You don’t have to be an expat to feel isolated as a mum.
As I prepared for the second visit to my hometown as a mother I could not help but romanticize the journey. I mean, I knew the flight with a child in tow would be “difficult” but still I fantasized about my toddler drawing for hours or quietly playing with the iPad. Hahaha!
It had been over a year since I had been home. The jet lag, the packing, the lugging, spending over 24 hours in transit, family ‘disagreements,’ all these had faded into the fog of my brain like my daughter’s newborn days.
It was not my life’s goal to move from America to Australia, but I happened to plan a trip there on a girlfriend’s whim and ended up staying for love.
I adored the country immediately; there are a lot of wonderful things about living in OZ; free healthcare, paid annual leave, low gun crime… however everything is a compromise. I miss the convenience of the USA, the shopping, food selection, and cheaper cost of living.
My husband and I were realistic with our partnership and we decided that we would not live in the USA unless our quality of life could be equal or better. Makes sense, and it’s a pretty tall order anyway. He has a career he loves while supporting my dreams, a big family who are all geographically close, and the weather is far superior to my hometown of Buffalo, New York (also home of record breaking snowfalls and icy-cold temps.)
You can compare economy, government, and weather all day long but for me the heaviest collateral damage was the people. Specifically my people.
My Australian husband is wonderfully supportive, but he’s one person and cannot make up for everyone I left behind. He bears the full brunt of my waves of homesickness like a rock but it’s a lot of extra pressure on him.
I’ve been lucky enough to create a new, wonderful group of friends in Australia – true friends who I can call on for anything. They are not replacements, but priceless additions. Still it’s a strange feeling knowing I can never call up my mother while in a pinch.
Life in Australia was exotic and exciting until I had a baby and moved to the burbs. Well, hello reality! Suddenly when I looked around everything familiar seemed oceans away.
You don’t have to be an expat to feel isolated as a new mum, because unfortunately there are any number of reasons you might feel alone. Maybe you moved to a new area or your family lives interstate, perhaps you don’t speak to your relatives or maybe your friends don’t have kids… Possibly it’s just the shock adjustment of becoming a new mum that makes you feel a little bit like an alien.
Isolation is relative. The author of this article lives a four hour drive from her hometown but her words could easily be my own. If you are a new mum, you know it’s not the physical distance that makes you feel alone – sometimes a trip to the supermarket may seem unachievable without help.
Please remember that it’s perfectly normal and necessary to have a village raise a child, but it’s not like the old days, though, so you may need to create your own.
It might seem like hard work at first but once you have support from mum friends in place life will be so much easier.
Here are five ways to carve out a little support network of mum friends.
1. Learn to ask for help
It may not come easily or naturally but it’s a necessity. Ask anyone and everyone you think could give you a hand whether it’s doing the dishes or watching your kiddo. Offer to trade favours, bake or swap babysitting duties. The more you ask, the easier it becomes – and always try to pay it forward.
2. Go to your mums group
Just give it a try, and keep an open mind. We’ve all heard the horror stories about the judgy mum, or the extreme hippy mum, or the annoyingly perfect mum – just give everyone a chance. Recognize that other mums are trying to survive the same as you are. Be honest, patient and be yourself.
3. Find a crèche or occasional care
Look, I know this option costs money but see if you can cut your grocery budget or make a sacrifice elsewhere – it’s worth it. My daughter has been in a 5 hour a week occasional care centre since she was 8 months old. Best 50 bucks a week I have ever spent.
4. Make sure to keep in touch with your friends
As many friends in as many ways as you have time for. Send a text, a two second email or give someone a quick call. Even your childless friends (they always have better gossip anyway.) Sometimes I just want to hear about someone else’s life even if I have no news of my own. Best free therapy ever.
5. Go online and meet local mums / moms in your area.
Hello Mamas – need I say more?
Mamas – Tell us, how do you stay social?? ~ Dawn