Moving countries is simple. Moving countries with kids is complicated.
In my twenties I would happily hop, skip and jump to any new country. New place, new people, new fun. I swore never to be one of those party pooper mums who used kids as a scapegoat for their own laziness or travel paranoia. ‘Well Flossie has just settled into nursery so we can’t…’, ‘Rupert has so many friends here, there is no way we could leave…’, and even ‘Annabelle hates languages at school so we just couldn’t…’Photo by Russel K Photographs
In my experience expat or well travelled kids learn new languages faster (read more on ExpatChild.com, an excellent website for expat parents). They are more willing to try new foods. They are generally more open to different cultures, ideas and customs. Travel broadens little minds to big ideas.
I want my kids to experience the warmth of the Lebanese people, to see the sun go down on the Indian Himalayas, to taste Shanghai’s street food, to breathe in the Swiss mountain air.
Moving young children abroad perhaps doesn’t necessarily disrupt their lifestyle like it might do for older, exam cramming teenagers.
Having said that, recently I’ve caught myself guided by the party poopers’ mantra, whose paranoid excuses now seem like balanced arguments. Not long ago I delayed a move to Nigeria with my newborn and toddler. My baby was very sick and my toddler was suffering indirectly from all the change, stress and disorder. I brushed the move abroad aside. Bad timing. More recently, with a healthy, happy baby and an equally joyful little boy I decided to delay the move indefinitely.
My apprehension, justified or not was taking its toll. I was losing sleep. Psoriasis flared up in ghastly red pools all over my legs. I was vomiting. I’ll spare you the rest.
My expat destination priority list as a twenty something included fun bars, great restaurants, avant garde culture, unique shops and cute cafes.
Now my list includes just two essentials – good healthcare, low crime. Nothing else really matters. I’d rather be bored, lonely or skint than fear for my kids. I’d rather wonder ‘ooh what if…?’ than be wracked by guilt for my own selfishness.
I still like my espresso martinis, I go crazy for a good matcha latte and I buzz with excitement when Mr Amex takes me to a good department store. From what I hear Lagos offers all of the above. Just last week I opened Vogue to a feature on amazing Lagos.Photo by anokarina
But what about healthcare and crime levels to set my paranoid mother’s mind at ease? Expat buddies without kids roll their eyes like I’m some net curtain twitching granny. Meanwhile, British friends with kids look aghast that Nigeria would ever come into the equation. ‘Nigeria with kids? For **** sake, I know you like to give the kiddos an adventure but can’t you just take them to soft play?’
Is it just me? Am I being an idiot?
Expat buddies with kids are the only ones who really understand the choices we make as parents. Weigh up the risks and opportunities. Is a move in your family’s best interest?
No doubt I’m wrong and I’m missing a really, really great party. But for now, I’d rather be a bored, lonely and skint party pooper mum.