No one knows how to make a home away from home quite like Ania, our June CultureBaby Mom. As a diplomats wife, she packs up baby, husband and household every 2 to 3 years to transport them somewhere on the globe, finding schools, friendship circles, joys and challenges anew each time. She chronicles her adventures at The New Diplomats Wife and shared with CultureBaby how she makes all this moving look so effortless...next up for Ania...Copenhagen!
How have you adapted your life and your parenting style to frequent moves and living overseas?
Our little one is about two and change now so truthfully, we’re still adapting our parenting style as we go along. The thing that makes it easier for us is that well, so far, this is the only life that she has known. I do think that when kids are younger it’s easier as they haven’t yet had a chance to put down roots of their own with schools and friends – I know each time we go it will get a little harder. That being said, I hope our daughter will grow to love the spirit of adventure and experiencing the different lives that the world has to offer as much as we do.
From a more practical perspective, I’m not sure that we’re any different from most parents. We try to stay flexible, not be thrown by the unexpected, and we try to keep some things constant so that they remain familiar and comforting to our daughter. All of that, and a sense of humor of course! Parenting is no fun if you don’t have a sense of humor!
How has this lifestyle changed the way you experience live Stateside?
This lifestyle has definitely changed our experience of home. On one hand, we definitely always appreciate being back, and the older we and our daughter get, the more we realize that time with friends and family is always precious so we try to make that a priority when we’re at home. After all, when the adventures end, they are our foundation that will remain.
We’re always a little surprised too when we return stateside. It is and will always be our home, but we’re always just a little on the outside when we come back. We don’t always know the popular culture lingo, we’re surprised at how big everything is, how “always on” services tend to be. It always takes us a bit of time to get back in the swing of things and sound up to date!
Tell us about your professional life and how you balance it with the personal...both as regards raising a child and as regards moving for your husband’s career?
I’m a big believer in “having it all” but I do think that what “all” is constitutes something different for everyone so it really becomes a question of what is right for you – and your family – at any given time. It’s not always possible to have everything you want at every moment, but it is likely that we will have more than what we need.
I’ve been extremely lucky to work for a great, young company that has made it possible for me to pursue my career while we move abroad to different places. It does mean that sometimes I have to consider different paths but my end goals are the same. If anything, the experience of living abroad has allowed me to build up a different and international side to my experience that I wouldn’t have received otherwise.
And finally, like any working mom, you have to be alert to what needs attention. Sometimes, I have to step back from a work opportunity because my daughter needs more of my focus; sometimes, we focus on my husband’s career or sometimes on mine…and don’t forget to have your own personal needs in that evaluation too. So often we run to our work or family, that it’s easy to forget that every once in a while, sometimes you need something just for you – a little pocket of time or other indulgence. It doesn’t have to be a lot but it does have to be something only for you.
What is one nugget of wisdom you learned about raising kids from another culture?
That having kids doesn’t have to be that complicated. That’s not to say that parenting is an easy job – trust me, I know it isn’t. But I think we get so much pressure from outside sources, and books, and marketing, and news channels and you name it to do things this way vs that way, to write down everything, to have the right stuff, to have all the routines nailed down. But the truth is, a lot of places in the world make do with a lot less of that, and what they don’t have in “stuff”, they make up for in time and community involvement and attention. And I think when it comes to raising kids, that will win every time. So I guess I’ve learned from other cultures to take the time to do better when I can, to not get too worried about all the “gear”, and to be confident in the choices that I make for my children because they’re the best ones I can make given my own limitations that I have.
Is global citizenship for your kids important to you and how do you (or how do you plan to) encourage it?
Absolutely – I think with our daughter’s young age, the easiest way to encourage citizenship is actually get out there and see what’s happening in the world. It’s important to actually experience places you visit - we encourage our daughter to say “Thank you” and “Please” in the language local to where we visit, to share things that she might have brought, to get out there and play and chat with people we meet, to pick up any trash we might have left behind… They’re all small gestures, but I think they lay the groundwork for being an aware and considerate global citizen as she gets older.
What CultureBaby item do you like best and why?
I love so many items from the Culture Baby store, especially the various kimono pyjamas, but with summer around the corner, I would have to say the Moroccan Tunic is top of our list. It can do double duty as a belted dress or a loose breezy cover-up for all of summer’s water activities – and I love that it’s made from material pieces that might have otherwise completely been overlooked. And the colors…children should always be in colors in the summertime!