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Meet our Expat Mum: Kiri Edwards!

Welcome to our new blog series "What type of mum are you?" We are extremely delighted to feature Kiri Edwards, our expatriate mum! This new series celebrates the different types of mothers as they share how they juggle the most important role in the world, parenting with their extraordinary lives. It Takes a Village Camels in MarrakeshI have always liked the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. I like the idea that it is the collective effort of the parents, family, school and community that shape a child. In my mind I have always pictured this quote as a vibrant and colourful African cloth. Each thread of that cloth joins the child and a member of that community, slowly creating this beautiful fabric that enfolds the child in its warmth and security. As parents we all need the support network of our family, friends, school and community. Some people have well rooted “villages”, grandparents, friends and schools that play an active role in children’s lives. However there are families like mine that change their ”village” every few years. My husband and I are like thousands of expats around the world, raising our children in cultures other than our own. Commonly known as Third Culture Kids (TCKs) a term coined by American sociologist, Ruth Hill Useem, they are children who spend a large number of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture.  My husband and I are both from New Zealand (Kiwis). We moved to Hong Kong in 2000. Our three children were all born in Hong Kong, the oldest completing two years of primary school while we were there. After nine years in Hong Kong we moved to Singapore for three years. Last year we moved to the UK. All three children are now in school, our youngest started in Reception last year. Skiing in French AlpsIt takes time to build a village. That first year you move to a new country is hard, establishing new friends, settling into work and a new neighbourhood, finding where the local amenities are, settling children into their school and new lives. Some countries with established expat communities bring new people together through various events, coffee mornings, sporting clubs and embassy meet ups designed to help expats meet people and form friendships. Expats find themselves in similar situations; and tend to make friends quickly, becoming each others support networks when family is not around. In countries like Hong Kong and Singapore it is common to have an amah (helper) live in the home to help with housework and child minding. We were lucky to have some wonderful Indonesian and Philippine helpers live with us and be part of our “village” during our time in Asia. Our children still consider them part of our family. Expat friendships can be very transient and you can get very use to not only making friendships but saying goodbye to friends as well. We have met such wonderful people that have only enriched our lives. Our children seemed to have adapted to each change relatively well. They have settled into the various schools they have attended and are able to form friendships relatively quickly. We try to make the most of every opportunity that a new culture provides. My children have been privileged to take part in numerous Chinese New Year Celebrations, Dragon boating and Diwali Festivals.  Since moving to the UK they have also experienced their first Guy Fawkes and Harvest Festival. As New Zealand Maoris our children have a strong heritage and culture. However, unlike their cousins who attend Maori schools in New Zealand, my children have mainly learnt about their own culture while living overseas. We were members of a kapahaka culture group in Singapore that performed Maori songs and dances at various events including the annual New Zealand Ball and the Anzac Day Dawn Ceremony at Kranji Cemetery. They have also enjoyed performances by the local Maori Culture Group here in London and while on our travels have met Kiwis all over the world. They have a strong identity with New Zealand although never having lived there this will be put to the test when we move back this year. I am writing this blog post in a train from Amsterdam to Brussels. It is half term and we have spent a busy week taking in the sights of Brussels and biking, canal cruising and museum hopping in Amsterdam. We are heading to Bruges and then on to Ypres to find one of my ancestors’ graves who died in the Battle of Paschendaele. From there a short trip to Calais to ferry back to Dover. The children are supposed to be doing their half term homework but there seems to be a lot of talking going on. Over the years there has been a lot of homework done on trains, planes, in airports and in hotel rooms. [caption id="attachment_1039" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Ricefields in Laos[/caption] Wherever we have lived we have tried to travel as much as we can. I am a strong believer that “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”. I want my children to experience as many different cultures, foods and languages as they can. As my youngest son says whenever we travel “Are we going on another adventure Mum?” Before the age of ten my children have been lucky enough to visit more countries than the average person visits in their lifetime. They have camped by the Mekong in Laos, ridden camels in Morocco, eaten salmon in Canada, swam in the Caribbean in Jamaica, ridden elephants in Thailand, hiked in the rainforest in Borneo, skied in the French Alps, danced the tamure in Rarotonga, volunteered in an orphanage in Vietnam, hunted wild boar in New Zealand, eaten sushi in Shinjuku, ridden tuktuks in Cambodia and surfed in Australia. They have experienced the London Olympics, the Singapore Youth Olympics, the Rugby World Cup, two Netball World Championships and various Rugby Sevens tournaments. Travelling is not always fun and with children it can be downright exhausting. Early morning starts, overnights on aeroplanes, hours wandering around trying to find food, the constant packing and unpacking all add up to tired and grumpy children and adults. Dragging children and even a husband around museums and castles can sometimes feel like more effort than it is worth. But then I remember why we are doing this. I want my children to have a lifelong thirst for knowledge and learning; I want them to have an understanding about cultures and to appreciate their own; I want my children to realise every human being has a story; I want them to wake up and be thankful that they have a roof over their head and food on the table and clothes to wear; I want my children to know life is not easy but if you put in your best effort then you will reap the rewards, I want them to appreciate this beautiful world we live in and always strive to protect it but most of all I want them to know that as parents we love them and that their ‘village” will support them in what ever they want to do. In this day and age everyone’s village is different and for some, it takes a global village to raise a child. [caption id="attachment_1041" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Tuktuk Tuktuk What an inspiring read! Thank you so much Kiri Edwards for sharing your wonderful adventures. What type of mum are you? We'd love to feature you! Email: design@thebabycotshop.com www.thebabycotshop.com
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