Maria is an Italian friend of Expatclic. We “met” her when she was living in Myanmar, and she often contributed to our forums with interesting thoughts and experiences. She then moved to London, her husband’s hometown, and had a second child. Perfectly settled and happy, she is now packing again to follow her husband in his work. Destination: Swaziland. Read this beautiful interview where Maria shares her feelings. Thanks a lot, Maria!
You lived in Myanmar, where you worked with an ngo while raising your child – how was the experience? How is Myanmar for families?
I loved Myanmar. It was difficult at the beginning. We went there with my son that had just turned 1 and we timed our arrival with the hot season…40 days over 40 degrees of temperature, continuous power cuts so no air conditioning. It was shocking. But then the rain came and we started settling in and it was great.
I am a very social person and I suffer a lot when I have no social network outside my family…I need contact with friends and interesting people so the beginning of a move is always harder for me than it is for my husband. But as soon as I started establishing a social network I was happy.
Myanmar people are so gentle and lovely and adore children! It’s the perfect place for a young family. Amazing places to visit and lots of other families so it was really easy to socialize. A downside is that it is an expensive country and we saw the changes happening when we were there. In fact we saw Aung San Suu Kyi being released and all the opening of the country to the outside world. Although these were positive changes for the country they slowly made our life more difficult. Prices started to rise exponentially, the demand for international school places became higher than availability, traffic increased from one day to another making it so much more difficult to go anywhere. We saw all of this and realized how lucky we had been to arrive when we did. But it is still an amazing country.
You then went back to your husband’s country, England, and had a second baby. How was it to get adapted to London after so many years away?
It was easy. We had lived in London before so I already had friends and a social network to tap into. Without that it would have been much more difficult. Also, London is the perfect place to have a baby as there are so many activities for mothers and babies and it is quite easy to meet people and make friends. It depends a lot on your character though as English people can be quite reserved.
I love London, I think it is an amazing city. The problem is that with two little children the opportunities to take advantage of all the city has to offer are limited, and babysitters are very expensive so you end up doing very little. Sometimes I feel it is not worth it. But I will miss it so much.
Was it difficult for you to find a job and to go back being a working mother?
Yes, it was. I thought I would find a job much more easily instead it took some time and quite few interviews. But I found the perfect job. Basically it is not career oriented but it is interesting, it doesn’t demand long hours and it is 4 days a week. Not the job of my life but I learned a lot and it allowed me to leave when I needed to do pick-ups and drop-offs school and child minder. But, mind you, with two working parents and no family around London is hard! I am always on the move, always with the feeling that I haven’t done or haven’t remembered or haven’t achieved and if one thing goes wrong (like one child gets sick) the whole system collapses…I feel I have been racing the whole time and didn’t get very far. I need to stop and reboot (if you know what I mean).
You are now about to move to Swaziland for your husband’s work: how does it make you feel to leave your job and face the new country?
A combination of feelings of course.
Swaziland, wow! I have never been (and vaguely heard of it before) and I have no idea what to expect. I think it will be beautiful and we will probably have more help to “run the family”. Hopefully we’ll not be stuck in traffic every time we want to do anything outdoor and hopefully life will be a bit less frenetic but, on the other hand, who knows. It is so small I might find it claustrophobic and we’ll be away from friends and family…again. And the first months will be hard and lonely…BUT, what I haven’t mentioned yet is that my husband has been very unhappy in London for quite some time as he really didn’t enjoy his job so I feel that this move and change will be very beneficial for him and give our family the opportunity to experience something quite extraordinary. I am very happy to give this to my children; I think they are very lucky.
As for me, I wasn’t ready to leave my job. My boss is lovely, my colleagues are really supportive and we really do team work. I find it quite unique. Leaving this is hard. But then, I feel that the move is the best thing for my family and jobs come and go (or at least in the UK, I guess I couldn’t say the same for Italy) but my family is always with me and this time this is the right choice…I think 😉 I also still have the desire of adventure that led me to choose this line of work many years ago. I guess this helps.
As you can see I am confused and pulled from different sides but I am optimistic.
Indeed you are, and you say that you’ll definitely find a job, which for you is very important. What do you think could happen if you did not find one?
That cannot happen. If I don’t find one I guess we’ll have to leave after one year – this is the implicit deal my husband and I made – and I really hope we don’t. I am not giving up my career completely; I even feel I would be a very bad mother if I did. It is the way I am, I need to work. I don’t need to go higher and higher, I am not ambitious at all and I would love to work part time but I need to do something interesting, that keeps my mind challenged and busy.
The good news is that it looks like there are serious possibilities for me already so I am not too worried and I need some time to settle the family anyway. It will be all right.
All the best Maria, and we can’t wait for you to tell us about Swaziland!!!