How being an expat mummy is not always easy

I am not going to complain. I love my life in the UK with Grumpy Boyfriend and Baba. I am a very independent woman. When I decided to land in London 8 years ago with two (massive) suitcases, I didn’t look behind me and what I was going to leave.

My mum always told me to do my life and not take decisions for my family but for myself. I am barely homesick. Of course, sometimes I see a beautiful French movie or I read a good book from my favourite author and I wish I was back into the Frenchie land for a moment. But it never lasts. My life is in London. I love it this way and I would not change it for anything.

But since having a baby, being an expat mum has its hard moments. There is no time when I am on the phone to my mum that I don’t feel guilty. Coupable because my decision to leave abroad means that my family can’t see my son on a regular basis. Of course, there is Skype. And we go back there at least twice a year.

But every time I talk to my mum, I can feel the sadness in her voice not to have her petit-fils with her or being able to give him a big cuddle right now if she wanted to.

A typical guilt moment happened a couple of weeks ago. My mum is rubbish with computers (that’s probably why I am too!). Her internet is always slow or there is something wrong with her tablet. She lives in the countryside, in a very boring place. That’s probably one of the reasons why I escaped to London in the first place! So when we arrange to do a session on Skype, it’s always a mission.

Two weeks ago, she was visiting my brother, who happens to have both a good internet connection and some brains to work out Skype! So I jumped on the occasion and we promised to talk together. De plus, I could also see my brother and my niece. I was really looking forward to it! Time arranged at 6pm.

I knew that Grumpy Boyfriend’s auntie was visiting us that day, but it was my only chance in a long time to talk to my mum and show her how Baba changed. I also imagined that la tatie anglaise would have left us by then. To cut short a long story, the conversation carried on and basically, the auntie was still there at 6pm. I texted my mum and said it would be fine. I was sure that Auntie would understand if we skyped while she was at home. But my mum didn’t want to bother. ‘We will do it another time. Don’t worry’. And it didn’t happen. Another occasion missed.

I was gutted and angry. Auntie sees Baba every fortnight and my mum barely has a chance to witness him growing. And then the guilt. I should have arranged it another time… Or should I have pushed for it?

Next time I talked to my mum, she was saying how fast Baba was growing up (I always send her some pictures and videos so that’s she doesn’t miss that much). Again, I could feel a bit of sadness in her voice. It was clear she would have loved being here to share those moments.

But that’s the harsh reality of being an expat mum. Your family doesn’t get to see your kiddies as much as they should. And I feel bad about it. It’s my decision to have left my country and somehow, I feel like I am punishing my family, especially my mum. I am certain that she would love to see Baba more often. Even if we are not that far geographically, we have our own lives and we can’t visit each other every month.

And yes, we have Skype and other wonders, but it’s not the same… And when I send my mum some pictures, she sees him changing into a nice toddler. But the milestone she sees on the photos are more important moments she missed: the first time he rolled over, the one we went to the park when he was starting on solid food. And I feel bad about it. It’s like I punished my family.

Who wants to have grandchildren they can’t see whenever they feel like it? Who wants to see their daughter coping on her own with a newborn while she is still healing from the birth?

I am not complaining. I am very lucky to have Grumpy Boyfriend’s family to be here and support us when we need. They are great, to say the least. And I have many friends that I can count on as well. They are the reasons why I don’t feel like I need to join a playgroup. I have them and it’s enough. They might not all be mamans, but they get me and I am happy this way.

It’s just that I feel like I am the worst daughter on earth sometimes… Hopefully, Baba will fully embrace his Frenchie side. And even if he doesn’t see his French family on a daily basis, he will still feel part of this gang!

How is it for your folks who live far away from your family? Do you feel guilty that your relatives don’t spend much time with your children?

This post first appeared on Meet Other Mums on 19th August 2016. You can view that version, and my other posts as a member of the #BlogSquad, here.

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  1. September 6, 2016 / 6:41 pm

    I can completely relate to this. I moved to Canada as a newlywed and returned almost five years later with two mini Canucks and a whole lotta guilt. Ironically we always joked that if Toronto was in France it would be the perfect scenario but it’s all relative to your current situation. Now we’re back and seeing the kids develop an amazing bond with the grandparents I know it was the right decision but we very nearly didn’t come back.

    I know it’s no consolation but you are much nearer to your family than you think, and just look forward to all those amazing school holidays in France (or better still, in London while the kids are in France haha)

  2. September 6, 2016 / 10:14 pm

    Totally relate as another expat mum! It is difficult.

  3. September 7, 2016 / 3:35 pm

    I live 8 hours from my family so not sure if that counts as far or not – but it feels far for me! I try to stay in contact through frequent calls and going home for the holidays when I can.

  4. katherinebetts
    September 8, 2016 / 12:13 am

    I’m an expat Mum/Mom… From the UK and moved to the US two years ago. It’s tough and my little girl misses her grannies and cousins so much! My Mum is visiting next month and we are all super excited. What did we all do before skype and FaceTime? It’s a game changer. I myself starting blogging last week so if anyone’s interested…

  5. September 8, 2016 / 4:56 am

    Another expat mum here. I know how it feels. Expat life means a lot of guilt. Guilty before your relatives, guilty before your kid/kids. It’s not easy, but I think we should try not to focus on this aspect of living abroad. 🙂 x

  6. September 8, 2016 / 7:01 am

    I am an expat mother too then – if you count leaving Wales for London. It’s still a long journey back as we don’t drive and we now have to travel into London just to get out of it. I miss my mother a lot and wish we could see her more than a few times a day. We FaceTime a lot but it’s not quite the same and when we did visit recently my daughter seemed a bit confused that my mother wasn’t inside the iPad. #Stayclassymama

    • thefrenchiemummy
      September 8, 2016 / 7:46 am

      That’s so cute! It’s great that you seem to see your family as much as you can. Thanks for reading x

  7. The Culinary Jumble
    September 8, 2016 / 7:10 am

    Totally agree – I am an English expat in Sweden and sometimes it is hard being away from “home” and your kids not seeing both sets of grandparents regularly. However, I actually don’t miss the UK at all and know that the move here was the best I could ever have made for my kids!

    • thefrenchiemummy
      September 8, 2016 / 7:47 am

      The same feeliing here about leaving France LOL Thank you for readng, hope to see you soon x

  8. September 8, 2016 / 1:36 pm

    I hear you hon..I had my baby all the way over in Singapore…miles away! And in the end I was like…what am I doing??! Then moved back when she was a year old. But having said that France is a lot closer but still it does tug on your heart strings I bet. Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xx

  9. September 8, 2016 / 7:27 pm

    I sometimes feel I should have spread my wings a little more, so on the flip side of your story, you have broadened your horizons and should be proud of the life you have created for your famile. Must be so hard though, I’d miss my Mum terribly.
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

  10. September 8, 2016 / 8:41 pm

    I’m not an expat, but I may need to be if the wrong person wins this damned election (Rhymes with Rump)! I can’t imagine how we have possibly survived without the Mrs’s mom–she is close and so helpful with little and big. We were two clueless mama’s. Thank goodness my parents are NOT in the picture (this will someday be several posts worth, I am certain!) #stayclassymama

  11. September 9, 2016 / 2:03 pm

    It really must be hard – my mum lives over an hour away and I already feel that’s too far. My sister lives over in Dubai and we Skype all the time – I know that she really misses us and feels guilty at times about us missing out on time with my nephew, but at the same time she loves it there and it’s a great lifestyle for her family. Life takes us all in different directions and you have to run with it, it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time xx #coolmumclub

    • thefrenchiemummy
      September 9, 2016 / 2:11 pm

      I totally agree, thanks for stopping by x

  12. carla
    September 10, 2016 / 3:15 pm

    I’m sad to hear you feel guilty. It’s tricky I live 5 minutes away from my mum so she see’s me and my kids almost weekly but my sister lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. I know my mum misses them all but she also understands that my sister needed to live her own life and bring up her children her own way and that way is by living in a different country. My sister travels down at least twice a year and my mum then makes the effort to visit her too. It’s a two way thing and both have to make the effort, if your mum turns down a skype call that’s her choice and equally not everything goes to plan 100% of the time. xxxx

    • carla
      September 10, 2016 / 3:15 pm


  13. diynige
    September 10, 2016 / 4:45 pm

    I use to live in Australia away from family so totally relate it’s tough at times but you have to live your life great post #justanotherlinky

  14. September 12, 2016 / 12:28 am

    Sounds tough. I probably would have moved down south somewhere by now if it wasn’t for my family. We all make choices based on what we think is best at the time. #anythinggoes

  15. September 12, 2016 / 10:11 am

    My parents are from Hong Kong and Australia so I was always far away from my grandparents…it’s hard on all sides. I never had that closeness with my grandparents that I see my stepson has with his, and also hard for my parents too. I think you have to do what’s right for you though and for my Dad, his job was here so there’s not much more you can do. You’ll find a way and even though it’s not the same, to be able to Facetime and Skype is such a huge improvement to when I was growing up xx #coolmumclub

  16. Squirmy Popple
    September 13, 2016 / 7:05 am

    As a fellow expat, I can totally relate to this. My family all live in America/Puerto Rico, so we can really only afford to travel as a family once or twice a year. My mum visits as often as she can, but it’s only every four months or so. She’s with us now and it’s so lovely to see how much the Popple enjoys spending time with her grandma – but it’s heartbreaking as well, because I know that my mum has to leave at the end of the week and the she won’t see her again until next year. #DreamTeam

    • thefrenchiemummy
      September 13, 2016 / 7:19 am

      Good luck and make the most of it with your mum. Thanks for reading as usual xx

  17. Lucy At Home
    September 13, 2016 / 1:28 pm

    I’m not an expat but my family live about 5 hours drive away from us so they don’t see the kids very often. It’s tough. We have a family WhatsApp group where we all post photos regularly of what we’re up to and chat about all kinds of random things. But it’s not the same as just popping round for a coffee! I’m sure your mum misses you and is sad to miss out on seeing your little one regularly, but she will understand and she will want you all to be happy. It’s hard, but we have to do what is right for us and our family. #DreamTeam

  18. September 13, 2016 / 9:56 pm

    Try not to feel guilty! If London is the right choice for you and your family, embrace it, and I am sure your mum will be happy knowing you are happy. We don’t see my mum and dad all the time… every few weeks or so, and they just live on the other side of London. Thanks so much for linking up to the #dreamteam xx

  19. September 16, 2016 / 8:44 pm

    Oh bless you! Don’t feel guilty – easier said than done though. I am sure they are super proud of you. I feel kind of similair BUT I only moved 30 minutes away from my family!! But it is always me who has to go there, which is kind of hard all the time when I have 3 kiddies!
    Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky

  20. Rambles, Rants, Writings
    September 17, 2016 / 10:43 pm

    My children only have one Nana and she visits at least once per week because she lives 5-10 minutes drive away. My mother-in-law was close to them and they saw her regularly, but she died last year over Christmas and they were devastated. None of them met their Grandfathers’ either as they had already passed away. It is good to live close to family, however, I have contemplated moving out of town, or even out of the country and I would still do it, and like you I would most likely feel guilty. Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

  21. September 18, 2016 / 8:10 pm

    A few friends of mine have parents living several hours away and I realise how lucky I am with my parents just a couple of miles away. It’s true you do need to lead your own life and that doesn’t always mean being neighbours with the family. Don’t feel bad, I think it’s pretty cool that your son has family somewhere vaguely interesting and I’m sure he’ll love it too…A xx

  22. September 20, 2016 / 11:06 am

    I feel your pain. My mum lives far from me and my dad doesn’t seem able to settle in one country. My children adore their grandparents but they wish they could see them more often.

  23. September 24, 2016 / 8:52 am

    My family live very close but they are very overbearing and want to come over every weekend all weekend. Which is just too much! I guess I have the total opposite problem to you. Thanks for linking up to #SundayBest x

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