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Our grandmothers battled for the right of women to partake fully in the economy and to be seen as equals, to be seen as human beings.   Yet, in the past few years, well-educated career women seem to be choosing to become stay at home mums (SAHM’s).

Feminists seem to view this as regression of all that was achieved over fifty years ago.   Why is it that this generation of women are returning to rearing their own children and is it necessarily a bad thing?  Surely, if this is truly their choice, it should not be questioned as we should believe that these women are intelligent enough to make that decision?

For some couples the choice that one parent will stay at home is based upon the fact that they would rather their children where raised with their family values, by someone well educated and in a close knit family environment.  These parents would like their children to develop with a social conscience.

It is unfortunate that, in general, it is the woman in the relationship who has to lay her career on the wayside for a few years, as men are still the main breadwinners in most families – although the numbers of men spotted in playgroups appears to be on the rise.  However, if the choice to stay at home is based purely on the fact that childcare costs far outweigh the financial benefits of both parents working or that women have to downgrade their careers due to the needs placed upon a family, then that is something our government needs to work on.

From a feminists point of view it would seem to be utter madness to choose to leave yourself totally vulnerable.  Gloria Steinem, American feminist and journalist, is quoted as saying ‘Most women are one man away from welfare’.  When looking at it from this perspective, it is worrying that women are not returning to their careers.  What, then, happens to these SAHM’s if the relationship fails and they are left to raise their children as a single parent?  SAHM’s are financially, totally reliant on their partners.

The other concern, of course, is that our daughters and sons are brought up believing that a woman’s place is in the home and that women live for their children.  How can we expect our daughters to be ambitious and strive towards a career which will ensure self sufficiency, yet choose the path of least resistance ourselves?

Sabine Salmon, president of the association Femmes Solidaires, said in an interview with Lizzy Davies in the Guardian , that during school visits over the past two years her employees had noticed more and more French schoolgirls expressing a desire to stay at home. “It’s a very worrying indicator,” she said.

Whether women choose to return to work or not, something has to give.  There are two choices – loss of career advancement or loss of time with your children.    Which choice is the right one?

There is something that hides away inside me, a fear that only arrived after the birth of our child. The fear of loss.

The realization that life is very precious and way too short was one of the unexpected hangovers of my childbirth experience.

Before we had Little Bear, living as an expat was exciting and held little concern for settling down.  Of course, I missed my family, but it never dawned on me just how many short precious years you have with the people you love.

That every year you are away from them and do not get to share your life with them is a loss.

That the people we love do not live forever.

We are still not entirely sure what our plans are, we enjoy being expats but I know that I do not want our children to grow up without any close family in their lives.   I want Little Bear to have those special moments only a grandparent can give, knowledge and acceptance from a close uncle or aunt and many precious memories of fun with the cousins.

It does not seem fair to bring him up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) here in England.   England is the middle ground for us right now.

This is not to say that I want to be living on any family’s doorstep, but to at least be within a reasonable distance (time and cost wise) of each other. Only seeing each other once a year – if that – just does not cut it when you have a little one who is building a daily bank of memories of his world!

At times I feel guilty for falling in love and having a child with someone from the exact opposite end of the earth to where I am from.  Burträsk in northern Sweden and Cape Town in South Africa are literally poles apart!

Talk about complicating your life!

Should I feel guilty for having a child in a foreign country?   Will it lead to him being more open minded and accepting of others,  with a diverse range of friends and and and adventurous spirit?  Or could it go the other way and give him a craving for stability?  I guess we will just have to wait and see!

What is the impact, on a child, of living in a nuclear family opposed to an extended one?

Right now I am sister-sick.

These days I have a dull thump in my chest, which I try to ignore as best as I can.  I miss my sister so much it physically hurts.   She is the one person who knows me better than anyone else and is always there for me no matter what decisions I make – good or bad.  And believe me there have been some whoppers!

I miss chatting into the wee hours with her, I miss having a cup of tea and talking endless drivel with her.   Worst of all I miss giggling with her until my tummy hurts.

Sisterly love

Image courtesy of Mrinkk @ Stock.xchng

We were pregnant at the same time, but were living so far apart that we missed enjoying it together.  Knowing we were going through exactly the same things at similar times made us feel closer though.  In some respects we are so alike we could be twins – we often find that we are reading the same book or  buying the same perfume or products without having previously discussed it.

This sadness always worsens around now.  Somehow the knowledge that my favourite time of year is just around the corner creates, along with excitement, a huge hole in my heart.

I have not spent Christmas with any of my close family for over eight years now.  And although I am very lucky in that I get to spend most Christmases in a snowy landscape in northern Sweden with my partner’s amazing family,  who have always made me feel completely at home, I still feel my lips quivering and tears brimming  when calling my Mom or my sister on Christmas morning.

Right now I have not seen either of them for a year.  We are split over three different continents – Africa, Europe and America.  Arranging to get together is neither cheap nor uncomplicated.

When I first moved overseas it seemed a lot easier and I would sometimes only see them every second year, but since my sister and I have both had little ones in the past two years it has got so much harder.  I see photos of my little niece growing up and I know that I am missing so much of her life.  She will not recognize me when we meet again and I will not have any real part in her growing up.

The same goes for my little boy.  It makes my heart so heavy to know that my sister and my Mom do not know him.  They don’t get to see his funny dance moves or hear him singing ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring’ to himself.  But this is the huge downside to living life as an expat, although it has many rewards. Thank goodness we live in a world where instant communication via Skype and email is available! I have no idea how early pioneers managed!

So all I want for Christmas this year is a big hug from my sister or at least a set holiday date so that we know when we will be seeing each other again!  Luckily I am getting a really SPECIAL treat this Christmas time, my Mom will be joining us on our trip to Sweden this Christmas!  A gift I can hardly wait to receive!

Two of my favourite sisterhood quotes:

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.

– Author Unknown

A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.

– Isadora James

 

Do you live far away from your family?  How do you overcome the barriers of being so far apart?

Courtesy of Phill4 on Flickr

Courtesy of Phill4 on Flickr

Last Sunday John and I got to spend some real time together.  More than we have had for a good number of months.  A wonderful friend volunteered to take Aaron off our hands for a few hours.  It was BLISS!

Summer decided to visit our island and thus, my mood! It was beautiful and warm as we crossed the bridge hand in hand, it felt like a first date.  Me in my heels and a little dress.  Heels…wow, did they feel good.  I never seem to get around to wearing them anymore, possibly in fear of toppling over while running to avert my toddler from walking himself straight into the river.

We sat outside along the river and lunched on steak and humitas – my favourite corn dish.  After the first Caipirinha (which was delicious), we were totally relaxed.  John was not worrying about his up and coming exam, I was not worrying about my, now overdue, assignment.  We tried to avoid talking about our little bear, but you know how things go. We found ourselves chatting about what an obviously bright and intelligent toddler we have, as do most loving parents.

After a few glasses of good Shiraz, however, we moved onto deeper discussions of our future plans together and how we would like to improve as parents.  Finally moving on to some of the more memorable times of our first year together in Amsterdam.  I blame this totally on the red wine!

For a few hours we got to stop and watch the world go by for a change.

I realized after that lunch, that John and I had been connecting on a much deeper and sweeter level than we had for a while.  Silly things seem to get between you in the mad daily rush of ensuring that everything is done.  Why was there water left on the bathroom floor after showering?  Where are the clean socks?  It is only once you step away from it for a while that you even notice it.  Having a baby has been a beautiful part of our lives so far, but it is easy to forget what you treasure about each other.

I heard a beautiful quote recently –  “The best thing that parents can do for a child is to love each other”.

So from now on John and I will be dating once again, well at least once a month.    Any volunteer babysitters?

Tips to Rekindle Romance

  • Remember why you fell in love. Did your heart skip a beat the first time you saw him across a crowded room? Remember your first weekend away, or when he introduced you to his best mate for the first time? Recalling what attracted him to you in the first place can help when things get tough – and they always do when the pressures of family life get too much.
  • Use kind words. It’s easy to take each other for granted, especially with the demands of work and kids. Often that means snapping over little things and getting angry over nothing. Try to be nice to each other and give each other compliments when possible.
  • Make time for each other. It doesn’t have to be a weekend away or even a fancy evening out. It could even be a once-a-week romantic meal at home once the kids are in bed, with the telly switched off and a bottle of good wine on the table. Try not to spend all the time talking about the kids or complaining about work, use this space to get closer together.
  • Do something nice for each other. Offer to take the kids out on Saturday so he can watch a football game with his mates, or stay home and babysit so he can go to the pub. He’ll enjoy spending some time alone, and hopefully he’ll reciprocate. Spending time apart and giving each other time alone can be an effective way to nurture a relationship.
  • Renew your vows. Letting the whole world know why you chose him can be an exhilarating feeling. And anticipating some wedding night fun and frolics can be exciting too!
  • Get physical – without having sex. If you’ve been together for years, it’s easy to go to bed without kissing each other goodnight. Get physical again by holding hands or giving each other foot massages without the pressure of sex. Close contact helps couples feel closer, and hopefully passion will follow – eventually.
  • Get kinky. You don’t have to swing with Charlie and Edna next door, but it might be worth getting in some massage oil or sexy lingerie to re-energise your lovemaking and rekindle those fires…

Originally posted on www.aworkingmum.co.uk