The emotional challenges of living abroad

Sure, living abroad certainly has it’s many perks. But it is also has it’s challenges. Rarely do we hear or see about these though, as people tend to share only the great moments in life on social networking sites. For most of us who choose to live abroad, the hardest part about being away from home is the separation from family.

We moved from Australia to the Netherlands, literally the other side of world. So just popping back over to my parents’ for the weekend is no longer possible. I really do envy those who can go home to visit family whenever they like. Hell, I envy those who can see their family once a year.

As Australia is so far away, and the flights are so expensive, we can only get back every 2-3 years; Even then it’s pushing it. We own our own house which needs to be maintained and we also like to enjoy the occasional european family holiday during the summer break to relax and recharge after working hard throughout the year. Therefore, saving for four return flight tickets to the southern hemisphere is challenging.

I have a large family who all live back in Australia. My two sisters have eight children between them. My parents have ten grandchildren. I also have fourteen first cousins who now have children of their own. I have missed many milestones, birthdays, weddings and births. My Nanna passed away recently and I was unable to attend the funeral, or to be there to support dad as he lost his last parent. I have a niece in Australia who is turning two this week and, not only am I unable to attend her birthday celebrations, I am yet to actually meet her in person. Thank god for Skype or she wouldn’t even know who I was. I long to see my children play with their Aussie cousins.

When we do finally get to see my family members, saying goodbye is always difficult. From day one of each visit, we are already dreading the pending goodbyes. As it is not just goodbye and see you soon, its always, goodbye and see you in a couple of years. Children grow so quickly, and in those couple of years, so much changes.

But the thing that really tugs on my heart strings, is the fact that my parents are separated from two of their grandchildren. Telling my parents that our family were moving to the other side of the world was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. My parents are wonderful people with very strong family values. They are also the most amazing parents and grandparents, yet they now only get to see two of their grandchildren every three years. My parents are unable to witness important milestones and events such as birthdays, school concerts and Christmases. More importantly, my children miss out on having their nanna and poppa there to hug them and tell them in person how proud they are of them. We are however, lucky to have one set of parents (grandparents) living close by who are able to be very active grandparents. This doesn’t make it any easier though. I feel as though I have deprived my parents of somthing very special and I still experience a lot of guilt, particularly on special days such as Christmas.

I apologise that this has been quite a depressing post. I just wanted you, the reader, to know that living abroad is not always ‘peaches and cream’. It can be extremely emotionally challenging, particularly when children come into the picture. I’m sure many of you who are living far from home can understand the pain I am describing.

I often wonder, as someone who values family as much as I do and loves my home country as much as I do, how is it that I could have made the decision to leave? Then I realise that I still have those same family values. It’s just that I have a family of my own now and they are my priority.  We chose to move in order to make a better life for us, for our little family.

Thankfully, due to advancements in technology, the world has in a way become smaller.  I keep in regular contact with my parents, sisters, nieces and nephews via Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype and the good ol’ land-line telephone (international calls have become much more affordable). I also began writing for this blog, which helps me feel more connected to them, even though we are worlds apart.

So to those of you out there who are struggling, those of you who are terribly homesick and wondering what on earth you are doing away from home, just know you are not alone. There are so many of us struggling on that same emotional roller coaster, which can at any moment unexpectedly drop from a high to a low, then climb back up again. But I have faith that the roller coaster will become easier with time.

Try to re-focus on the reasons why you chose to leave in the first place and the opportunities that your new home offers.

Kristen

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9 thoughts on “The emotional challenges of living abroad

  1. Its always difficult on both sides but we do know that your children grow up and have to make their own choices in life and live their choices. XX

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  2. Kristen, thanks for a great post. I have a blog that is pretty much exactly like yours, but I’m not very good at writing like you. (Feel free to check it out if you like though.) I’m also always too busy to write because my children are very young still, so they are time vacuums.
    I can relate to much of what you wrote. Sometimes even going on Facebook makes me sad because then I have friends and family back in America doing things that makes me miss America. Facebook is such a double-edged sword because at one side it keeps you connected and another side it reminds you of all the things you miss!! WhatsApp is the same.
    Anyway, you’ve inspired me to write something in my blog, thanks!

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  3. I came across your blog via Dutch Australian, and I completely understand everything you’ve written here! My mum has only two grandchildren, and yep, these two precious kids are mine and we live in NL. We left Melbourne for Eindhoven almost two years ago when the kids were 4 & 2. Sometimes I feel terrible that they only get to see them via Skype – a bit different to living 5 minutes away from them in Melbourne where they saw each other all the time. But like you, we made the choice that was best for our family and we are all fortunate that we can live here as there are lots of positives. Anyway, thanks for writing this! I really related to it 🙂

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  4. I can certainly understand, except my situation was the opposite. I’m Dutch, born and raised, and moved to the US 24 years ago. Last year, we sold the house, packed up the kids (then 6 and 4) and the pets, and moved back to the Netherlands. One of the main reasons I wanted to move back was so my parents could get to know my kids. I don’t regret the move for even a second. I’m sure my husband (who’s American) is now feeling what I was feeling back in the US, though.

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    1. Dear Anouck, such a similar situation! Our children are now 7 and 5 and we also moved with our two Aussie cats :). At least now that you have experienced living abroad, you can understand better how your husband may now be feeling. Kristen

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