Maybe I’m the only mom that has ever been nervous about raising and caring for a child in the developing world. I try to calm my anxiety with reason—millions of moms have raised their babies in the developing world in worse conditions. I shouldn’t have a problem. Right after my daughter was born, the reality of living in Africa became real and I honestly don’t feel equipped for the challenge.
I was raised in suburban America where moms are armed with Clorox wipes and send their children to perfect-private-prep schools. You rush to the doctor if your baby has a cold. Fear is rampant that your child might not turn out perfect and you, as the mom, have to make sure that doesn’t happen. Much of the Western world is afforded the luxury of being able to offer their kids the best of everything— the best education, healthcare, nutrition, and all the right opportunities. Fortunately, my own mom was a homeopathic—homeschooling—health nut herself and desired resilient children over perfect ones, but it was still hard for me escape the mentality of the culture I was raised in. In truth, I know that is not the life I want for my children or myself. I like being excused from the rat-race of the American soccer mom. I like the idea of my children being able to experience the world and understand what it is like to live as a minority. I want resilience over perfection in myself and in my children.
I want children that aren’t afraid to take risks. I want children that are brave. I want children that can think outside the box. I want children that face challenges with faith and self-assurance. I know that living overseas has the potential to be the “best” environment for raising thinking, compassionate, well-rounded children, but currently I am not feeling equipped with any of the qualities needed— bravery and faith— to face the challenges of Africa myself. Everything seems to make me afraid and question our life instead of empowered to be the resilient mother I want to be.
What about the healthcare? What about all the germs? Will my daughter ever have any friends? If we stay here long term, where will she go to school? Will she learn to play sports? Will she feel isolated from family and friends? We only have one car, how will I get around town with a newborn baby— mini-bus? That can’t be safe.
I am a 6 on the Enneagram personality test. If you aren’t familiar with the enneagram you should get familiar—it’s really fun. I love personality tests in general but what I love the most about the Enneagram is that it doesn’t just measure outward behaviors but inward motivations. There are 9 different personalities with key fears and motivations. The 6 wants security and safety most. Being a 6 is a rough life when it comes to the unknown and my fears have gone to new levels since having a child. There is way more at stake for me. I can come up with all kinds of horrible-worst case scenarios in a matter of seconds. You add the Africa factor into the equation and my worst-scenarios are practically laughable. I recently started articulating my worst-case-scenario-daydreams to my husband—it helped him see what was bugging me and I was able see how ridiculous I was being.
When I started writing this blog, I realized that not only was I ill equipped for the challenge of being a mom in Africa, but I was ill-equipped to write anything meaningful and encouraging on the topic. I am still in the midst of navigating everything that is on my mind. It helps to feel like I am not the only one out there that has faced the challenges of an overseas mom, but I don’t have five steps or neat hacks for actually navigating these challenges.
I know that most of the women in this Taking Route Community have being living and raising kids overseas way longer than I have. You probably have had to face these fears as well as unique fears of your own. I need your strength and wisdom. I need your tips and advice as I start this journey of my own. Take a moment to write in the comment section below what you would say to a new mom—like myself—that is just starting on this journey of being an overseas mom.