a-rant-by-an-expat-mama
Immigration, motherhood, Our Relocation Journey, Parenting, Travel

A Rant By An Expat Mama

I am an expat mama, and I need to have a little rant. So here goes … everything.

What doesn’t help, is the fact that so many people assume we took the easy way out. I am fed up with all the passive aggressive comments and judgement that is heaped on us for choosing to leave.

I am tired, tired of defending my decision to leave South Africa and Zimbabwe and move to the UK. I’ve had enough. 

We don’t need anyone to agree with our decisions. We really don’t.

What we would appreciate though, is for those of you who judge us to just cut us some slack. And quite frankly, if you can’t, the gap of an ocean is going to be small compared to the gap of emotions between us.  

Cry Me A River!

Contrary to what people assume, the decision to leave and start again is NOT an easy one. It’s one that is racked with guilt, stress and even fear. Choosing to emigrate and taking your kids with you is even harder. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there and got the t-shirt, more times than anyone realises. 

Check this out: 

Move 1:

The first move was when I was 19 years old. I was young, naive, terrified and had hardly any money or work experience. I left Zimbabwe straight from school for the UK. It was 2001, Zimbabwe was in turmoil. It was when all the farm invasions and land grabs were starting, just when the chaos descended. Back then we, I speak for just about all my cousins, sisters and friends, (think an entire generation) left on what we thought at the time was a grand adventure. We left thinking we’d return one day when our adventure was done. Some did. Most did not. 

Move 2:

I’ve done it when it was just my husband and I. 2010, almost 10 years later, newly married to a South African, we left the UK behind and moved back to Africa, to Zimbabwe. To my family. That was easier, but it was still hard. Easier because it was just us and our cats and we were excited to be back in Zimbabwe. It was an exciting time. And at the time we were done with life in the UK – it was just when the recession there hit, circa 2009/2010. 

Move 3:

After having our kids in Zim, and building our house etc etc (a sob story for another day), we moved to South Africa for economic reasons. It was 2013. My youngest was 5 weeks old. That was extremely hard for me. Probably the hardest move which, when you consider the fact that it’s a two day drive door to door, or a short flight, and a similar lifestyle, it doesn’t compute that it was the hardest move, but for me it was. 

Move 4: 

Less than 5 months ago we left South Africa with our two little girls, and moved BACK to the UK. Something I swore I would never do. If you’d told me this time last year that I’d be moving back to live in the UK, I’d have told you that you were wrong. You know what they say about ‘never say never’ – seriously. don’t do it! Moving back this time was the hardest of all. It was definitely the most scary because with kids, and the benefit of experience, you have more of an idea of what you’re getting yourself in for. 

But no matter which way you do it, and at what stage of you’re life you’re in, it is so very difficult. 

So when we, and by ‘we’ I mean everyone who has ever picked up their family and moved them across the world, make that decision to leave, we make it for our own reasons.

Emigrating anywhere is expensive and it’s emotional! In case you are under any illusions, NO ONE emmigrates on a whim! It’s not something you do at the drop of a hat, and it’s not a decision you take lightly! 

Do you hear yourself? 

Whether it’s intentional or not, a lot of the questions that people who relocate get asked, or the comments that are made, are laced with condescension and judgment and are extremely hurtful. Especially if you leave Africa for a First World Country.

The people you leave behind fit into two camps. That’s it. Two. 

The first group are supportive, understanding, and sometimes even jealous that they don’t have the option to do the same. 

The second group are disbelieving, and take you leaving as a personal attack on them and their life choices. Yes, because we do it because of you! It’s this camp of people who I am mostly directing this post at. You. If you think it’s all about you, then this is definitely for you!  And so here is my little message to you:

We don’t expect you to understand. What we would appreciate though, is you to keep your judgement to yourself. I don’t even really care how hard that is for you, because however hard it is for you, it’s even harder for us. 

Everyone makes decisions about relocating for their own reasons. Those reasons may or may not be the same as someone else’s and you may or may not agree with them. But they are not YOUR reasons.

“Don’t be Kak, Be Lekker!”

Loosely translated that means, “don’t be a dick, be nice”. 

Here are a few of the patronising and stupid questions people have asked us in the run up to moving to the UK, or even since we got here. Some aren’t even questions, they are simply comments or statements of fact, mostly from people who have no idea of what life in the UK is actually like!  

  • How will you cope with the weather?
  • How will you cope with all the housework without a domestic worker. 
  • The houses are so small there, and they don’t have big gardens. 
  • Your kids won’t get to do sports. 
  • Won’t you miss your family? What about your mom? 
  • Your kids will have an English accent (or Aussie, or Kiwi – you get my point). 
  • What about the terrorism and crime? (Seriously – more than once!) 
  • There’s not discipline for kids there. 
  • You will both have to work, and you’ll be working for a boss, not yourself.

Seriously, you people need to think before you speak! I’m sure I can add to this list, but that’s basically the gist of most of the stupid comments we’ve had that I can think of right now.

If there are any other expats reading this who want to add to it, let me know and I will gladly update the post and credit you back. 

Do You Really Want To Know The Answers … The Reasons Why?

I think there are a lot of reasons why people choose to leave Africa. None of them are easy. I’m sure that we don’t have to go through them. But if you really want to know why, if you’re going to ask us these type of stupid questions, asking us to justify why we left, then please be ready to hear our answers.

And then don’t take our answers and disregard their importance based on your life, lifestyle and your choices.  

sarah-turnbull-quote-expat-life

If you really want to know and are ready to hear our honest answers, then accept them as valid reasons to us. We aren’t judging you for not leaving. We can, but we know it’s not fair to do that, because in spite of our reasons to leave, a part of us is actually jealous because we would have preferred to stay. But our reasons for leaving are valid to us.

I’m going to answer these questions in a follow up post so make sure you’re following me so you don’t miss them. Unless of course you don’t want to heat them. That’s cool too. 

8 thoughts on “A Rant By An Expat Mama”

  1. I feel you – we cane the other way? And the judgment we receive constantly in both the U.K. and here, in SA, is outrageous. As you said, it’s personal for everyone, and I don’t appreciate people scoffing and calling me stupid for moving! I hope you continue to enjoy your time, Mama!

  2. I think it has taken tremendous courage to do what you and your family have done. I know that is was not easy doing what you and your hubby did by going back to the UK. You hold your head high and dont explain yourself to anyone. Good luck always x

  3. We struggle with staying or going on a daily basis. I respect your decision and know how tough it has been for you all. I’ve had a similar experience this year albeit it not a whole moving across the ocean but it’s funny how people can think your decision is about them when all we are really doing is making the best decisions for our family.

  4. Not gonna lie, sitting here jealous. Wish we were there with you. You made a hard decision but I believe it is the best you could make! Ignore the naysayers….

  5. I love your honesty in this post. My friend you know me, I say if you can do it and live it go for it. I can imagine it getting hard at some point with so much judgement. I wish you didn’t have to leave because I am missing something massive in my life. But that’s my thing, I’m happy ou guys did and that it’s going as well as it possibly can go. You guys are brave. It’s not easy. I can’t imagine. I wouldn’t think twice but like you say it’s not possible for everyone. I just miss you terribly.

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