One of the hardest things about being new expat parents is not having your family and oldest friends close by. Having just enjoyed a week of healing magic with my Mum visiting, I advise other expats to seek support, wherever you can …
Image: Flickr / Neal Fowler
What I’ve learnt in my five weeks of being a parent: It’s the hardest, most rewarding, ‘job’ imaginable.
My sense of my own ability as a Mum is in constant flux. For the first two weeks of our little one’s life it was all about recovery, under the guidance of our Kraamzorg and with the constant presence of my husband. She mainly slept. I figured she was an easy baby and we were excellent, natural parents.
Then week three arrived.
Help came to an end, my husband had to return to work, and our baby found her lungs. Waking up every three hours (minimum) in the night for feeds switched from novelty to a task almost impossible to stay awake for. I started to feel I couldn’t see properly in the day, that someone might have been hitting me over the head with a sledgehammer, that we in fact had a sad baby – probably my fault – and that I was in all likelihood slowly losing my mind.
For new parents in their own country this would be the moment to call your parents, or very closest friends, and get some reassurance, a hug, and someone to hold the baby long enough so you can take a proper length shower. For expats, this is the time to assess what support network you have instead. Because, my god, if you’re like me you need it. Whether it’s friends, your childbirth class group, or other Mama groups (like Amsterdam Mamas) – don’t feel shy about getting in touch.
Last week, my Mum flew in from the UK for a week long stay. Or, as my husband & I like to describe it, the cavalry visited. To give him credit he was trying his best before, but we’re both flying blind when it comes to parenthood. What we needed was someone else to tell us everything was going fine, we were doing great, everything was totally normal … and yes, to make that cup of tea and let me have a proper shower. By the end of the week, I’d reconnected with our gorgeous little one and my own sanity. I’m back to loving the adventure of Mummyhood – even the bouts of unknown crying – and have the strength to meet all the needs of our little girl.
The reward? … this:
The new little smile that melts my heart.
So, to all parents – expat or otherwise – if you ever get that feeling of being fuzzy round the edges and no longer yourself, definitely get support. I don’t know what I’d have done without my Mum. And for what it’s worth: you’re doing a great job. Everything is perfectly normal. Now go have a nice hot shower.