Confessions of an Expat Mom
…or should I say “mum”. Five months ago, my family relocated back to Singapore. It’s been two years since we’ve lived here. This time around, things are different. We have a baby. So I am officially an expat mum.
It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything on the blog, let alone something relating to Pilates or fitness. My time for the past five months has been devoted to James, our now eight month old son, and setting up our new life in Singapore.
Yes, I flew 10,000 miles alone with my 3 month old baby.
It all started with a 26 hour journey half way around the world. Alone, with a three month old baby, I put on a happy face as I entered the first class cabin of Singapore Airlines. I know, I know, first class seems a bit much. But it was the deal I cut with my husband; if I fly alone with James, I have to fly in first. Deep down though, despite the luxurious accommodations, I was terrified. Terrified to be bringing a baby into first class, spending the entire flight on edge that at any moment this little monster would start screaming.
James was an angel and slept almost the entire journey. The flight attendants even set up an entire bed just for him. Gotta love a cabin that only has two of the eight seats occupied. Word of advice for mammas traveling on a long haul flight with a baby? Cash in all of your airline and credit card points for a business or first class seat.
Landing in Singapore, I finally took that deep breath I had been waiting for since we left the US. Steve greeted us at amazing Changi Airport and our new life began.
The dreaded move in day.
Our container arrived about three weeks after James and I arrived. Yes, that meant we were all living out of a suitcase (or 7) in temporary housing for 19 days. Most of which were without Steve, who was traveling for work. It was the worst 19 days of my life. So I will not elaborate.
The day came that I’m sure Steve was dreading; showing me our new house that weeks before I arrived, he had picked out. Good news is I loved it. Bad news is I was going to have to manage move in day alone; Steve would be in China.
The truck arrived and as one would hope the team unloaded faster than I could keep up. One would hope; not me. I had no idea where anything was going. So before I could even decide where I wanted the toaster oven that we couldn’t even use due to its American voltage, we had dozens of other appliances stacking up. The result? A whole house literally dumped into the rooms of our new home.
Home is where all of our furniture is.
After probably 2 weeks everything was in its place. Our high rise Tanjong Pagar condo was now beginning to feel like home. This so far has been the biggest difference between Singapore 1.0 and Singapore 2.0. (1.0 refers to the first time Steve and I lived in Singapore, 2012 – 2014. 2.0 refers to our current stint). The first time around we were in a tiny furnished apartment; it felt more like a hotel. We were both always itching to leave the island and go on an adventure. Now, I look forward to our weekends home, lounging on our Pottery Barn sofa. We have the space to host guests, to let James run free, and even a few outdoor patios!
Don’t get me wrong. One of the major advantages to living in Singapore is the travel we get to experience. And to have James along with us is something that I am so grateful for. James has already banked stamps in his passport from Thailand, Vietnam, and Australia, and will soon get some from the Maldives and Indonesia. After all, this is exactly what being an expat is all about.
The true confessions of being an expat mom.
When news first came out that we were moving to Singapore with our new baby, the first question out of everyone’s mouth was “…but your family will be so far away! Do you have any idea what it’s like to not have any support system?” Well, yes, actually I do. Living in California, our family was still on the other side of the country. So what was another ocean, right?
But I will be blunt now; in Singapore we have a live in “helper”. A good helper can do it all. She is a maid, a nanny, a dog walker, a cook, a shopper. I will not hide it; I will be completely honest. Beth, our helper, is the glue that holds our house together. I will not lie and say I am the glue. I do not do it all. Far from it actually. In fact, I am a better mother because of Beth. I am amazed when I look at friends and family back home, and they do do it all. They are superheroes. I may be selling myself short, but I really don’t think I could do it. Not without Beth.
Since James, I have put my full time career on hold. You probably have noticed a lack of Pilates and fitness inspired posts, a very slim teaching schedule, and more and more photos of James. So why the need for Beth? Well, like I mentioned earlier, to help me be the best mum I can be. I am happier, healthier and stronger because of the help she gives us. We can go out with friends, without thinking about a babysitter. I can workout without feeling guilty. I can have some alone time to enjoy a long shower. And I can go out to teach a few classes. The time I then spend with James (and let’s not get confused or the wrong idea, I am with him most of the day) it is more cherished because I don’t feel like I am being put on the back burner. I will never be ashamed of admitting I have help. I never forget how lucky we are to have the opportunity to live in Singapore, where we can have this help. I also think about how hard it is going to be when we do eventually repatriate back to the US. Which is why we must stay in Singapore until James can take care of himself…so at 5 years old, right? They are pretty self sufficient by then, aren’t they?
Adventures with a baby; not so adventurous.
There are some pretty crazy places to go in this part of the world. Tree houses in the jungle, beach chalets with no locks on the doors, dusty temples in the equatorial sun, and endless hours snorkeling the world’s best reefs. Well, we quickly realized after our first trip to Phuket with James, that these trips are few and far between. When the simple task of washing a bottle becomes a 20 minute endeavor, you think twice about where you want to travel.
Kid club? Check. Shady beach and pool cabanas that shield you from the sun? Double check. Overpriced big name resort that purifies its own water? Jackpot! All things that we would have run away from in the past are now at the top of our list.
The ultimate expat mum adventure? Bringing your helper on your holiday. Now that sounds like a plan.
There is no place like home.
Every now and then I think about home, and what we are missing, and what James is missing. He doesn’t get to grow up with his cousins, or his grandparents. There are no Sunday dinners with all of them. His only perception right now of them is on a screen. We don’t get to keep a car seat permanently installed in a car, let alone drive him to soccer practice. And I do miss that. I am so grateful for everything we have here in Singapore, especially Beth, and the time that I get to spend with him, not working full time. But I do look forward to the new experiences we will have as a family back on the homeland.
We will see you this summer! James and I will be back Stateside on June 30th. We will spend a week out in NY on Long Island with my family, and then a few weeks in Houston, and will finish the trip in Boston in August where we will be reunited with Steve!