The challenge of expat-parenting

Usually they say that “it takes a village to raise a child” and it is referred on the very first moments and months with a newborn. But then all fades into a fuzzy cloud made of coming back to work and getting used to the fact that you have one (or more) kid. No gray spaces between “it takes a village…” and ” you’ve made your bed…” (hai voluto la bicicletta e ora pedala in italian) as we, the parents, could immediately pick up the new routine and start it like a pro.

That’s not so easy and not so evident. The journey of becoming a parent is a never ending path made of terrific days and very shitty ones where you think on how the heck you came up with those kids and your screams make you feel like the Nazguls from The Lord of the Rings. Then you feel very ashamed of what you thought/said and you think you are not the kind of parent you would like to be. Then, if you are lucky, you absolve yourself saying you’re not perfect but this is another story.

What really matters here is the fact that being an expat and a parent is something you didn’t expect to be so complex. And it’s not because you are in a country that’s not yours as this is usually something you already overcame. In my case, I really love to live in Brussels and I can’t imagine myself parenting in Italy (for a long list of reasons that maybe sometime I will share with you). But I still feel that I need something that I don’t have at the moment: a social network.

your screams make you feel like the Nazguls from The Lord of the Rings

I know. It’s ridiculous to think about it in these terms, isn’t it? We are swamped by social networks. But I’m sure you know what I mean. The simple, easy, direct contact with a real person who can rescue you by just saying: ” My kids want to have a pijiama party so we thought about inviting yours!” or “Would you like to come at home tonight for a pizza dinner for the kids and a gin tonic chit chat for the parents?”. I mean, this sort of amazing, sudden and lifesaver rescue. Without thinking too much on it. However, for some lucky folks between us this is actually very possibile and it happens! (I want to know your neighbors!! Mine are a bunch of party-all-night-on-fridays-youngesters. I let you take stock of the rest)

Or better, IT HAPPENED. Because now with the pandemic all this is just a memory. We are afraid of letting our kids see each other because if they catch the virus, we will catch the virus and who will help us???

Unfortunately, living in a big expat city like Brussels can sometimes be hard in this sense as you can meet a lot of people/families with whom you get along super well but then suddenly leave the city or the country and you won’t see them anymore. And all the relationship, the trust is gone with them and you have to start from the scratch again.

I really love to live in Brussels and I can’t imagine myself parenting in Italy!

Ok, I don’t want to sound too pathetic but, honestly, how many times this happened already? I can count at least 3 and I can already predict another 1 or to 2 to happen soon. I mean, it’s life but oh, how can it be easier if we would be able to shoulder one another on a much more steady base!

Nevertheless, we don’t despair. We have wonderful moments as a family of four and we enjoy even more the company of other families/friends when it happens to meet them. We have our rescue places like the Baby Café Haricot Magique in Brussels, where we can find a safe space for both parents and kids and obviously we have our travels, it doesn’t matter if they are now restricted just to Belgium as we are discovering the beauty sourrounding us. We would just need a bit more of social and common “shouldering” and our life will be perfect.

But you know, dreaming is not prohibited yet!

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