Friday, October 6, 2017

on being a (temporary) expat stay-at-home mom

 
While I am not technically a traditional stay-at-home mom because I am on parental leave and will return to work in five months, I am a mom who stays at home with her baby. Honestly, never in one million years did I think I would ever be a stay-at-home mom, but then again, for a long time I didn't think I wanted to be a mom at all.

We made this decision mostly for practical reasons. We are expats living and working in a foreign country. We had no idea what to expect in regards to childcare, and we had to make up our minds about my employment for the 2017-2018 school year in October 2016 despite the fact Ruby was not due until May 2017 because of how our international school (and all of the others too) does its teacher recruitment.

While Ruby & I had a rocky start, I have to say I very much enjoy being home with her now, and I think a lot of that has to do with our unique situation as expats.

Let's get the most obvious benefit out of the way, which has nothing to do with the fact that we are in Taiwan: time. Being home, I have got to be there for it all. The first smile, laugh, babble, roll. That is certainly something I will cherish forever, and how lucky am I that I get to be home for it all for the first 10 months of Ruby's life?

Beyond the most obvious benefit of time, there are some other unique pros and cons to my situation as an expatriate SAHM.

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PRO: FINANCES
Taiwan has great maternity and parental leave (especially in comparison to America). I received full compensation for four months after Ruby's birth, which amounted to more than $12,000 USD, and I will continue to receive 20% of my income for another six months. Coupled with Sean's salary, we are not even close to hurting financially even though I am not working. In fact, we are still able to live and play well and continue growing our savings account.

PRO: HELP
Due to our financial situation, we are able to employ a part time nanny. We spend about $600 USD monthly on her services. She works three eight-hour days babysitting (and cleaning while Ruby naps) and one two-hour day deep cleaning. I think this is the biggest reason why I am so happy being a stay-at-home mom. Three days a week-- every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday-- I get eight hours to myself.

During this time, I often hang out with friends, grab coffee and write in Starbucks, grocery shop or run other errands, or explore Taiwan on my scooter. Truthfully, we could spend a lot less on a full time nanny, but we love our nanny and are more than happy to pay her an above average wage because a. she is fabulous with Ruby and we trust her completely and b. we have become great friends and know we are helping her family (and extended family in the Philippines) so much.

CON: A SMALL COMMUNITY
Most of my friends here are teachers, and they have full time jobs. I am so lucky because I do have one amazing friend who is a SAHM, but sometimes the lack of people to spend time with during the day feels stifling. I don't have a tribe of other expat moms to hang out with or talk to. To give you an idea: besides Ruby, Bubu, and Sean, the person I talk to the most on a daily basis is our friendly garbage man, and he doesn't even speak much English. While I don't think I would ever be the kind of person to join mommy groups, I do have friends and family back home who have young kids, and sometimes I wish we could spend time together. 

CON: LACK OF TRANSPORTATION
I love my scooter, but I am not about to drive around my five month old baby on it. We don't have a car, and I would not want to drive a car in Taiwan because, hello, parking, but that means we rely on cabs. In order to get anywhere, we first have to walk five minutes down the street to Family Mart, a convenience store, use a machine to order a cab, wait 5-10 minutes for the cab to come, then try to communicate to the driver where we want to go. It is quite an ordeal, especially if I try to take Ruby somewhere by myself because I have to deal with her stroller. There is also the fact that I have to hold her while we drive, and the American in me is not really okay with that.

I am so fortunate to live in a beautiful neighborhood with great parks, a lake, a store, and our school. I can easily get out of the house and walk on beautiful sidewalks through Japanese gardens, but I can't run errands with Ruby during the day or go anywhere that requires transportation. Sometimes, that is really annoying.

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With everything laid out like that, I know any complaint I have is minor in comparison to everything that is so awesome about this situation. I also know that it cannot and will not last forever, so I am doing my best to enjoy this special time in my life.




2 comments

  1. It does sound like a special time - you have named all the reasons why I we are considering starting a family abroad as well! Just seems like a no-brainer, and as you mentioned, TIME - that is the most important thing of all and something you can never get back or be repaid. Very cool.

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    1. Where are you at in this great big world? I am so glad we decided to start a family here instead of back home in America. Everything would have been so much harder than it needs to be.

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