The other day I was reading a very reputable Shanghai magazine and came across an article that really frustrated me. The story profiled a working mother who seemed to easily and effortlessly balance being a full-time mother to a young child and full-time employee for her company here in Shanghai. I am sure this woman is lovely, but as I kept reading all I could think was, “I call bull$h!t.” As a former working mother, I know how hard it is to return to work feeling like an alien in your own body. From clandestine pumping sessions to rushing home early because your child needs to be picked up from daycare, I understand how hard it is to have two full-time roles. And frankly, I think it does a disservice to most women who read an article like this and feel bad that they too cannot make their lives seem effortless.
It is articles like these that gave rise to the idea of this site. Magazines are showing the bright side of ex-pat life here, whether you are working or a stay-at-home mother. I am all for positivity and achievement, but I think that must be cloaked in a layer of reality. You may be a SAHM with plenty of time to spend with your child(ren), but sometimes your husband travels through the weekend and you’re home alone for 48 hours without much to do because your friends are having family time. Or you’ve got the weekend time with hubby but you’re lacking the creative spark and personal satisfaction that used to come from your full-time job.
The more ex-pat mothers I speak with here in Shanghai, the more I see how unique each woman’s experience here is. But in that uniqueness is a struggle that binds us together. The struggle shifts as our time here expands…at first, it’s the loneliness of a new culture and city, and then it might morph into a loneliness that accompanies the familiar and mundane of day to day life.
Whatever season you’re in here, the ex-pat life always presents challenges to you. I know so many women who are really rising to the challenges brought their way and succeeding at being great mothers, friends, and wives. But there is always a challenge around the corner that is typically a very different and unexpected challenge to your life back home, wherever you choose to call home.
What is the truth of your life? Only you can really know that. But I encourage you to share more of that truth with the friends you make here. If you show only the shiny parts, the rest of us lose the opportunity to hear what really drives you, what you really struggle with, and what we can identify with in our own journeys.