Today I met a brilliant group of international parents who recently moved to Sweden with their partners and children. We got the opportunity to talk for 2 solid hours about the ups and downs of being expat spouses, international parents, resettlement coaches and general circus-taming that is raising kids. It reminded me of my very early days living in Stockholm with a very young baby and being so scared to leave the house just because somebody might speak to me in Swedish!? As well as discussing all the benefits of being abroad we also talked about how also reminded me of how incredibly isolating and lonely it can be to live in a new country, caring for a child on your own and without knowing the language. Someone today likened it to, “living on the fringes of society”.
I have been incredibly lucky to have met friends and felt at home quickly, mostly through social networks like Meetup and Facebook. It isn’t always that easy especially when neither you or your partner have friends or family to catapult you into an already existing social circle. It’s even more difficult when your partner or spouse trots off to work everyday to an already existing social circle and comes home at the end of day clueless to how miserable life can be without having ANY adult social interaction. Except, of course, when you couldn’t figure out the differences between filmjölk and mjölk in Swedish so you were forced to ask someone at the supermarket using Google translate and guesswork.
In these early days, it is so important to talk, talk, talk. Take care of yourself. Even if you don’t feel like talking or even going anywhere, make the effort to find social groups and get involved. It is transformative. Or, even talking with your partner or spouse. Encouraging them to understand how isolated or lonely you feel is very important before resentment sets in! Speaking from experience, you do not want to take a walk down that garden path.
Being an expat spouse, who is raising a family at the same time, is incredibly hard…maybe even thankless. There is support out there it’s just about finding it. Below are some links to social groups, networks and other articles about identity, self-care and well-being that you might find useful further reading.