Making memories in the Arab World | Expat Mama in Saudi Arabia

For our 7th series of our amazing Expat Mamas around the world interview-stories, I am  excited to have the chance to feature Abeer— A jetsetter Mama conquering life abroad and making memories together with her husband Aetesam, his son Hamza ( 4 years old) and Azaan (1-year-old) in the land of the liquid gold, the birth place of Islam and Arabs, in the oil-rich magnificent desert–Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!

img_8430
A portrait of the true essence of being a Woman

So how does one Expat Mama braves the desert life, sandstorms and living in modesty in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques? Here’s Abeer’s story of sharing inspiration and everyday life in her happy corner.

img_9837-001
On Life raising Two Boys

Expat Mama Story : Making memories in the Land of Arabs

 

img_9809-001
Happiness radiates in her

Abeer’s Background

Abeer is a Muslim Expat Lifestyle Mama Blogger behind This Happy Corner. She was officially baptized into the Blogworld when she starts to become Contributor for the magazine and online Parenting site  ExpertParenthood.com  with her article “Travelling with the Littles “. She has a degree in Electrical Engineering and worked in the corporate world before she was promoted to become the SuperMom 24/7 of two boys. She’s a fast driver as well as a Crafty  Stay at home Mommy. She have a wanderlust for travel , DIY projects and a talented Freelance Photographer.She’s a budding chef with her signature dishes”Traditional Greek Moussaka ” and Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni“.

img_9793-001

On Life in Saudi Arabia as an Expat  Woman

Although she’s of Muslim faith,life in the Kingdom is different from Abeer’s home country,Pakistan. “Women do not drive, we cover our bodies, we sit in the “Family Section” of restaurants (single or groups of men stay in the “Men Only” sections). We become “dependents”, hereon “sponsored” by our husbands, who are in turn sponsored by their companies, and we cannot leave the country without an exit visa.Thursdays and Fridays are the official weekends. The stifling heat and lack of cultural activities drive people into malls, encouraging endless shopping for clothes that would go under an Abaya anyway. Fitting rooms in boutiques are nonexistent, so taking the same item in different sizes and returning the ill-fitting ones is the shopping norm. There is also a glaring lack of saleswomen – making you chuckle at the paradox of a man helping you select sexy underwear in Saudi. The prayer times become as normalcy. Shops close five times a day during prayer times, sometimes 25 minutes or longer. Grocery shopping can be a very stressful chore because of this.

4
A day in the life of an Expat Family in Saudi Arabia

On incidental way of fitting-in to Arabian lifestyle

Its been a while  for us in Riyadh now and we are getting used to the dry desert environment and the cautious set of rules that govern this part of Middle East. There have a been a few surprises and bummer along the way, like the time when we had to sit on the road side and eat our fried chicken as I wasn’t allowed to sit in that restaurant due to a lack of family space.We celebrated Eid here with a nice lunch together at some friends’, drive around the city and amazing fireworks later in the night right next to our place

13263946_1752182341718235_4119575751744336857_n
Babywearing while amazed by the stunning Wazir Khan mosque-Androon, Lahore

On being a mother of two Boys

I had my first baby boy and then I took a break from work, always imagining to go back once he is a bit older. After a couple of years, I had my second one and my hands got full of them! I not only got super busy, but I also changed around that time and realized that I never actually want to go back to the corporate world, it was doing nothing for me as a person. Whereas staying home with my boys all day, gave me small windows of time to find out what my real interests in life are. I started capturing my babies and our everyday life and soon photography became a passion. I would stay up late at night for many hours taking up online courses and learning what tricks my camera could do to improve my photos. And then practice on my kids in the light of the day. I discovered my passion for cooking different cuisines, particularly Italian. And I would make the daily dinner my practice session. I started celebrating the everyday life. And then my blog happened, and i started pouring my heart out on it.

img_7406

On looking back at life in Pakistan

Me and the husband lived 5 long years in Karachi .. It’s where both our kids were born so we will always have a special connection with the city. Karachi is a big, thriving, bustling city full of glamour, political drama and all kinds of highs and lows of life. The people in that region have a street-smartness edge over the people of the rest of the country. They are fast. they are clever. They are always two paces ahead of you.
Our life in Karachi was perfect, but the security situation of the city was the real deal-breaker for us. Two times in one week while all our family was in the car, a gun was pointed at us and our bags etc were snatched. Both times, I had a baby in my arms and we just couldn’t accept this kind of life for us anymore where we can’t guarantee the safety of our kids from street crime. And so we decided to move! My husband started applying for jobs in the Middle East and soon we were on our way here! We do miss Karachi sometimes, too many memories and fun times.
Processed with VSCO with g3 preset
img_0444-2
Expat thoughts : Road less traveled
On the exciting and exhilarating road to Expat Life
Living in the Arab Land is very different from back home. The country is dominated by religious rules and the culture is restricting for sure. Women have to wear Abayas whenever they head out and cover themselves properly. Being a muslim, I am totally cool with wearing the Abaya and the hijab although I do feel how restricting that must feel to non-muslim expats. The thing that I really had to work to get my head around was the rule that women CANNOT drive. This was almost a deal-breaker for me as I love to drive and have been quite independent all though my life therefore waiting for husband to take me out every time was a big adjustment. Now that I have lived in the city for a while, I can easily hail a cab and be on my way whenever I want so it’s not so bad after all.
img_0743
Holidays in Australia
On embracing the Arab Culture
Weather here is scorching hot for most part of the year although it does get pleasant come evening due to desert all around. Which also makes for an extremely dry weather and drastic steps have to be taken to maintain your skin and hair.
The city is home to a number of big and small beautiful parks, lined with elegant and swaying Palm trees. I have had such a crush on these trees that I still look at them like a kid looks at candy.
Processed with VSCO with a5 preset
Madina travel treasures
On the family oriented  values of the Saudi locals
One of the things that fascinates me the most is how the Arab culture is so family oriented! Extended families in large groups are always having picnics in parks together. They bring their rugs and chairs, they bring their food and tea, and just plop down on the ground for hours, sharing stories and love, while their kids are busy building sand castles or riding their automated cars/bikes which they always make sure to bring. They come prepared to enjoy the park! Not like us, who often forget to even bring the ball LOL!
On “When in Saudi, do as the Arabs do ” norm 
 The typical Saudi Arabian woman only wears black Abaya and they cover their face. I was told before moving here that although women do wear colored Abayas in rest of the country, but as Riyadh is the capital and hence more strict, here only black Abayas are allowed. Although that is not true now, I have seen many women wearing different colored Abayas around, for me navy blue Abaya with a colored scarf is as bad as i get !
Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
Covered but not controlled
Mall culture is huge here! There are so many of them and I haven’t been to even half of them yet. The Arab women are up to date on their fashion and style. Even hidden under Abayas and Tarhas, you can spot that their eye makeup game is the strongest among all 😉
Malls loaded with every imaginable brand and cafes definitely is a big attraction for everyone here, but sadly for me, my boys (all three of them!) don’t behave well in malls, the younger ones being too hyper active, and the older one (also known as husband) rolls his eyes too many times that i fear they will get stuck inside his head.
On a serious note, I am not a fan of mall culture as I think it just promotes materialism, and one cannot come out of it without spending 10 times more than one intended too. those never-ending sales. those motorized kids cars, those flashing and blaring humongous play areas, and all the stuff that you eat that you never would have eaten had you not stepped inside one. We prefer to take our kids to parks or anything outdoors, it’s better for the pocket and general well-being .
On Muslim’s Salah (prayer)  times
One thing worth mentioning over here is that for Muslims, praying five times a day at specific times is compulsory. Here in Saudi Arabia, business closes five times a day whenever prayer time comes. Shops, cafes, everything. It has definitely helped us get more punctual with our prayers. But at the same time, if you are in a shop about to head to pay counter and prayer times comes, it can be slightly annoying cause then you will have to wait for another half an hour or so. In the start we were so bad at it, and would always reach a place when it was already or was about to be closed for prayer, but with time we have up-ed our game and through careful analyzing of prayer time slots, we can usually plan our outings better .
img_0236
Travelling with kids
On re-potting the uprooted kids into a new culture
We are lucky that our kids adjust well to a change in environment, house etc and once they were here, they never asked to go back and never gave me a tough time about the new place and new everything. They get super excited in new places so it has been good for them!
After a couple of months, we enrolled our elder one (who is 4) into kindergarten and the experience has been awesome so far! I am in love with his teacher who I believe is really helping him and bringing out his best qualities and polishing his strengths, at the same time, taking care of his weaknesses in a remarkable way. His classmates come from different countries and backgrounds, and i think he will hugely benefit from this exposure to different cultures. I am definitely happy that he has been given this opportunity to study and interact in a foreign country.
img_0151
On the life of brothers & siblings
On thoughts on Motherhood 
Motherhood is cuddling, squeezing and smooching at every chance possible. Motherhood is waking up a little too early and going to bed a little too late… Not to mention the countless wake ups in between. Motherhood is a monster bag filled with diapers, wipes, snacks and toys. Motherhood is the worry, anxiety and stress about every cough, sniffle and sneeze. Motherhood is questioning yourself about every decision, big or small. Is he eating right? is he sleeping enough?
Motherhood is absolutely and undeniably hard. So hard that some days end in tears, some mornings also start with tears.Life with two kids is pretty challenging and messy and chaotic and down-right exhausting, but it’s also everything I have ever wanted.
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
Some of my most precious memories were made during this last year. Believe me when I say that it’s not double the work with two little ones, its FOUR TIMES the work. You have to take care of them individually and also their relationship towards each other in both directions. Its non-stop, never-ending and it makes you longingly look back on your single baby days. But  I still won’t have it any other way. If I am given the chance to do it all over again, I would maybe have them closer in age but not further apart. The joy of it all trumps the hardships any day by miles.
img_9081-001
The perfect place- their Happy corner!
And this is the kind of impact I wanted to be remembered–touching the lives of my sons, shaping them for their future, and I, myself being transformed into a better version of being a wife, mother, sister, friend that I could ever be –and best of all, being the woman who chose the HAPPY CORNER of this so-called Life!
Thank you so much Abeer for this wonderful interview. Good luck and best wishes for your next Expat Mama adventures!
P.S All the photos in this post is courtesy of Abeer and her personal property. Should you wish to use it , please do inform her as courtesy.
Make sure to follow Abeer’s life in photos in her Instagram page and connect with her in Facebook.

Have you enjoyed this post?

Make sure to check out our other Expat Mamas & Papa stories in The Netherlands, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, Berlin, and of course, how to Raise a Kung Fu Baby in Germany.

Follow Justbluedutch & Pinays in Germany  for more of my  Expat stories  and Hey, if you are an Expat Mama, your story might be the next one to be featured in this Blog for our series on Expat Mamas around the World! Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com.

Are you on Twitter?  follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram  for more updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria.Thanks

Pinay’s journey to Motherhood in the land of Smiles |Expat Mama in Thailand

13516179_10153884020389247_2719959026565383612_n
Meet the Rochanaroons ; Journey of one Expat-mama in the Land of Smiles.

Do you believe in College campus romances?

I mean it’s the  time when skinny jeans is not yet the fad and girls don’t shape their eyebrows. Not yet. College campus days are days where you began to dream about your future, exploring your own defenses and suddenly you met the love of your life.Like  a modern fairy tale where you actually end up with each other,sharing a journey together, and realizing that you are living out a dream, like  serendipity… An answered prayer.

558245_10150989634914247_1802891752_n
Seascape Love at Hua Hin, Thailand

This is the story of Rann, a Pinay Expat in Thailand. Her exciting story being one Expat Mama is our next feature for our Expat Mamas around the World series. This modern fairy tale story and journey to Motherhood is set in the Land of Smiles in Asia, Thailand. Known for its exotic  beautiful beaches and rich culture, It’s no surprise that my  friend from Campus days, Rann, moves her marriage and lives there for almost a decade now  with her husband, Pin, (who is a Thai-Filipino) and their two adorable sons, Elijah (7 ) and Luke (1).Together they search for family- friendly getaways, indulging in kaleidoscope of Buddist temples and shrines, chasing white elephants and eating too much Chia seeds.

Here’s my Interview story with Rann , her own Expat Mama story :

A Pinay’s journey to Motherhood in the land of Smiles

224221_11427509246_5498_n
All wide smiles in the land of Smiles

Rann’s Background

Rann is a lover of books, a Bibliophile all year  round. A certified book shop-hopper as well as fashionable baby-wearer. A Preschool teacher and a super Mom 24/7.

img_2499
A Bibliophile’s ultimate dream : Spending a day with books in a cozy place & of course, a warm cup of coffee!

Born & raised in the Philippines, she developed her love for Diversity when she married her campus sweetheart, Pin,  while both studying in the University of the Philippines. They got  married in 2006 and eventually hop on the Expat life & move her marriage to Thailand.  Rann is a coffee drinker and has a habit of ‘Procaffeinating‘, or a.k.a not starting anything unless she had her coffee.

fullsizerender-80
University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus : The place where it all begun.
moving_to_thailand
Buddhism as part of everyday life in Thailand.

A glimpse of Thailand from an Expat eyes

While being on a steady dating for years, Rann already had a hindsight that moving to Thailand is no surprise anymore. Either for marriage or Work, Thailand is a great destination for  Filipino Teachers which has very good command in English. It is  a famous travel destination for tourists and a magnet for Expats from all over the world. The Buddhist culture of this country is a prominent identity . At the heart of everything, there are shrines, temples, and monasteries known as ‘wats’. Buddhism is an essential part of the Thai culture.

306893_10150989342704247_1888382949_n
Physically & Emotionally integrated in Thai’s culture

On Bangkok as a very hectic capital

Our home is in a province 100 kms away from Bangkok. We love that we are not too close but not too far from the capital city (and the airport!). Bangkok is a totally diverse place mixed in with the religious landmarks and is one of the world’s most hectic capitals. The traffic is crazier than Manila. Bangkok is a strobe-like city, where motorways have 12 lanes, markets have upward of 15,000 stalls, and restaurants are so concentrated, you’ll never be more than 50 metres away from one. Talking about living in a cosmopolitan who never sleeps at night.

226926_11424819246_5658_n
A Pinay’s journey to Motherhood  (Escapades in Nong nooch tropical Garden )

Although we are not in the big city, we have everything we need here. There are places to bring the children to, good schools to go to, hospitals with superb service, it is safe and clean. I do not at all miss the pollution from the big city.

living_in_thailand
Floating Market 
asiafareastthailandthailanddes_000423khaolakres_002378
James Bond island – Beautiful coast and Beach culture of Thailand

On having Quiet times and date nights as couple

Being married for almost a decade now is a milestone. Ten years are not just a number, it’s a lot of hard work,  making each day  a spur on our marriage. With Pin’s demanding job in the medical field, I have learned to protect our marriage. As an Expat, I have seen examples of living abroad without their spouses & children. I am grateful that we are together as a family here in Thailand. Having  a preschooler & and an active toddler didn’t hinder us from having Quiet times together and having same ‘Rock foundation’  that keep us close.

1521972_10151918126099247_773210390_n
A working Mama who knows how to enjoy – Don’t forget that you are woman too, a friend, and a Sister.

On Thai’s way of greeting others

I’ve learned how to greet with the head bowed over clasped hands (wai), and not to use body language so much as most Thai people keep their heads, shoulders and arms very still.You also wai to say Thank you. Almost same as in my home culture, showing proper respect is a huge aspect of Thai culture.

1508651_10151954774799247_2140177746_n
Pink and Yellow sheep in the Sheep Farm -A child’s Haven for learning

On being a working Mother of a child with special needs

It becomes my number one priority to be the Teacher for my sons. I believe that it shouldn’t matter how slowly a child learns as long as we, as parents, and first Teacher to them, are encouraging them not to stop. This is not just a chore for me nor comes with a paycheck. What I teach in school came from theoretical study approach but with your own child, it’s totally hands-on,by mother’s instinct, a pure labor of love.

Since I am a preschool teacher by profession, with a degree from the University of the Philippines on Child Development and graduate courses on Early Childhood Education.  I have been teaching pre-kindergarten in an international school for the past 10 years. Prior to that, I was a preschool teacher for three years in the Philippines. I got paid for teaching young kids,shaping them in their early years. But the time I’ve got to squeeze time to be a wife and mother with my sons, it’s priceless.

165205_484488959246_7956258_n
Mothers are the first Teachers for their children

I am a mom of two boys, 7 years and 1 year old. My older son (E) is a gifted, loving boy with social and language challenges while the younger boy (L) is showing a strong personality but is equally sweet like his brother. No, I am not planning on having more kids. I have two hands, so I will have two kids. My husband, being in the medical field, is not always home  so I am often on my own with the kids. So 2 is just perfect.

12644752_10153524127129247_4298390995945173288_n
Family comes first,in everything.

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects of life.

On learning the Thai language

Thailand is a very interesting country. Some might  think there won’t be much of a difference as it’s also a South East Asian country like mine — but there are huge differences. Arriving here 10 years ago, the language barrier was overwhelming for me. How can I ever learn this language when I can’t read it? Learning Tagalog is easy because if you know your ABC, then you can read it. Not with Thai. It is also a tonal language so there are words than can mean 5 different things, depending on the tone you use. As I’ve learned to speak the language, it has become better. It is still a challenge sometimes (like explaining what you’re feeling in the hospital, getting things done in the bank, requesting for information, etc.) but I am able to understand enough  to get by each day. I am still hoping to formally learn the language but that has been on hold since kids started arriving.

564144_10150989335674247_2144331776_n
Setting your foot firmly : On Living and Loving Thailand

On why Thai food is loved internationally

The food here is great! Well, I am speaking from an Asian point of view — I love my carbs (they eat rice, too — hooray!!). Authentic Thai food is one of the best. I needed sometime to get used to the smell of some food but overall, food here is the best. I do miss my  Adobo and my Bangus every now and then but it helps that you can basically cook the same Filipino delicacies as most of the ingredients can be found locally. There are plenty of Asian shops where you can get the ingredients.

59300_431264804246_3926620_n

On importance of Education and learning comfortably

Growing up in the busy and populated Manila and spending many years in Manila’s business district, I am very happy that we are in a more laid-back city here in Thailand. I am happy that we are not raising the kids in a condo in a high rise building in Bangkok. My kids can run outside, play with neighbors, swim anytime, touch the grass, pick up stones nearby or enjoy the beach every now and then. We have international schools around and since I am teaching in one, my kids have the opportunity to study here for free. We can only be grateful. Sending them in a Thai school is something I will not do. I believe children learn best when they are in an environment they are comfortable in, a place where they feel they belong, a place that do not put too much pressure or expecting too much from them. The Thai system is very traditional. My son, being with special needs, cannot possibly thrive in a Thai school.

On Pregnancy, Maternity Fashion and Giving Birth

When I was pregnant with my first son, we were just new in Thailand. And since we are an hour away from Bangkok,  I didn’t know where to get stuff (for baby and for pregnancy) in this side of Thailand. It helped that I was skinny then. I just got my clothes from the regular ladies’ section but got them  a size bigger. Pregnant Thai women love to wear tent-like dresses. Not all, but most. Even in their first trimester, they are already wearing dresses that can accommodate 3 of my preschoolers. I knew from the start that I will never wear one of those! Six years after, while pregnant with my second son, I knew better. I brought maternity clothes from home and from the US.  For many traditional Thai, they believe that you’re having a healthy pregnancy when you’re big. I was skinny until my 7th month. I remember my husband’s aunt saying “You might have a very small baby, you don’t look pregnant at all.” My son was born at 3.8 kgs and 51 cm long. Not small at all.

They have lovely hospitals here so I had a pleasant birthing experience. You do need to find a good doctor who speaks good  English, not just some English. I was lucky to have my sister in both deliveries to help me with the baby while I was still sore.

On having a Hired help 

Raising the kids away from my country is not easy. I guess it has its advantage as well  — you get to do your thing — but predominantly, it’s a challenge. It is very hard to find help (nanny) that you can trust with your kids and your home in a country where you can’t speak, read or write their language. I’ve been lucky to have a lovely trustworthy lady from the Philippines as well but there’s always that anxious thought  that one day, she will have to leave and move on with her life as well.

On Thais being clannish and living together as a Family

They have certain ways of raising kids here that are very Asian and some are uniquely Thai. For one, the children are so used to being fed even when they’re already 3, 4 or 5! Also, many children grow up with their parents, grandparents and a nanny at home. These children grow up not being independent and self-reliant. They are used to having people do things for themselves. This is somewhat same back home. It is a struggle to make sure even with help around, I want my kids to grow up not feeling entitled and not being able to care for themselves.

576201_10150989336029247_1766729499_n
The benefits of growing as a Third Culture Kid

What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid?  Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?

I am happy that they will grow up being exposed to different cultures and languages. It is my hope that with this, they will grow up respecting these differences. At the same time, it is my hope that they will grow up being aware of their very own culture. It breaks my heart that my older son does not speak my native language (Tagalog) but I have to choose my battle. He didn’t speak until he was 3 so I am just grateful for the fact that he speaks a lot now, although just in English.

My husband being half-Thai, I consider my kids “third culture” but at the same time, not so  “third-culture” kids. At the end of the day, whether third culture or not, I believe the values they need to learn does not change.

11152693_10152932276414247_2496613191175483699_n
Make an impact in your own child’s life and you’re making impact in the world .

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

To respect the culture they have but be secure of what I am and who I am, learn what I can learn from their culture but at the same time share what I can share from my own culture. I believe that as long as I can make an impact to my own children, then I am making an impact to the society we are in. In raising quality kids, I am contributing for a better generation in the future.

 

Thank you so much RA for sharing your wonderful Expat Mama story with me. Your life is beautiful because you are one beautiful soul inside & out. It is a pleasure to be in your circle.

P.S  All photos are owned and courtesy of Rann. Should you wish to use it, please mention or inform her. You can follow more of her Expat Teaching stints in her Facebook  and her Life as a Super Mom in her Instagram Page.

Did you enjoy this post?

Are you an Expat Mama and would like to share your own Expat Mama story with us? Drop me an email at justbluedutch@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow  other Expat Mama Stories  around the World . Follow my Twitter page and my Instagram page for updates on my Expat Life in Bavaria .

 

 

 

 

ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

Surprising things that German parents do

 

Fahrrad-Kindersitz - Model Released
This is a typical sight in Germany. Mama on the bike and baby on board in bike seat. Photo credit to : Young Germany / Michael Reichel

The first time I saw in Amsterdam a mother cycling with her 2 kids inside a rather impressive ‘ BakfietsBakfiets‘ and’ Kinderzitje’ ( Kid’s seat attached on the rear end of a bike)  I almost shrieked and laughed! How could this be,  in Philippines, Bakfiets or the modern SUV in Holland could resemble much like the Kariton  dragged by an animal ( mostly carabao)  with the harvest from the farm, mostly sacks of rice. In the fields, kids play  while riding it, but purely for fun. In Holland, it’s functional. Bakfiets are attached to a bike and in it, is your child, along with bag of  groceries, plants, toys, you name it, it’s all in there! Such a surprising part of Dutch culture that Dutch are known for.

Here in Germany, I saw something else. As I roamed the streets getting to know our neighborhood, I saw and witnessed more and more surprising things about Parenthood that only German parents do with their kids.  To tell you frankly, before coming to Europe, I thought  Germans are strict, cold, and severe people, let alone being parents, but I was completely mistaken. Here are the reasons why ignorance doesn’t pay and why I love just how  German Parents doing it, the German way.

IMG_1294
Why ‘ free play’ is important in German kids.

Play comes first (until 6 years old!)

I saw from my friend’s feed that their toddlers & pre- schoolers are already being taught how to scribble, write, draw, count and do the academic side of learning. Do you know what German  Kindergarten kids do ?

They play, play & play.

As I was applying for a space for my daughter in a Krippe  & Kindergartens , we were invited to visit and have a look at their school and this is where I got the whole picture of playing as the best form of learning for toddlers until 6 yrs. of age here. Kindergartens  in Germany are based on the concept that  learning is a game of mind (or  lernen ist ein spiel der sinne).

While Kindergarten normally starts at the age of 3, most parents who are urged to go back to work immediately can already put their child ( from 6 mos) in a Krippe or Kita. I saw that the kindergarten is full of different play-areas, fun games and interactive media for kids to just play while learning. Learning to  read, write and count is not being pushed. I was shocked at same time  totally impressed to see a tiny 2-year-old toddler struggle to put on her socks and jacket in the corridor, all by herself. All kindergartens have a spacious outdoor playground with sand pits, climbing areas, ball pits, slides and natural maze that kids can enjoy free-play,while having fun! When they get tired, they have a nap room.

Most kindergarten kids are taken out for a walk touring around the city or just a walk in the woods for an outdoor learning. They also visit nearby playgrounds to play, outside their classrooms. They really give a whole new meaning for playing while learning.

As they say, You are only 3 once in your life, so I find this whole thing of “unstructured playing” very beneficial. Seriously, being a kid is more fun in Germany!

Take their kids Outside-Everyday!

Germans just love the outdoors so they take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” which sounds logical to me. The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious in Germany’s numerous playgrounds. In our neighborhood alone, you can go to 3 different playgrounds within 2 hours!  No matter how cold and grey it gets, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own. I see babies napping in the forest, parks and in the busy streets. Kids are taught subconsciously the value of nature to overall well-being. Walking and strolling everyday is part of every family’s routine.

img_1196
Enjoying outdoors

Freedom and Independency is encouraged as early as age of 2

Along the streets you see mothers walking with their kids on their walking bike at a very young age. Almost still toddling and yet learning how to balance and to pedal the bike. It’s not unusual to see toddlers already cycling at the age of 2.5 y/o and preschoolers cycling going to school. When they eventually learned to cycle, they took them cycling almost everywhere. German parents instill in the minds of their kids to be independent by equipping them with skills to explore by themselves,alone & unsupervised. As research have proved that walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility”  is good for kids. Nobody follows a kid in the playground. If you see a mother following wherever her kids go, then she’s a foreigner! I tell you, this is what surprised me the most, I am the only mother who runs after my daughter while all the other mothers are just sitting in the bench.

In the parks & playground, mothers are often drinking tea, coffee and chatting with their friends while they let their kids climb and play. They are so lax in parenting because the safety measures and security is highly efficient. They already removed all the risks even before a child touches what’s in the play areas. Playgrounds are very safe for kids, mostly made with wood, with sand and plastics are mostly omnipresent.

Giving them Bikes instead of iPad or Playstation

German parents give less regard on tech gadgets to entertain kids such as iPad or Playstation or XBox , psp etc. I seldom see kids playing with iPad or computer games. This is because of great emphasis on playing outdoors. Almost everyone owns a  Bike carrier, kid’s seat and a big part of toddler life is owning a kid’s bike. Why? because it promotes being active, functional & again, independency.

If the Dutch  have Bakfiets, then Germans have  their carriers. Of course, take it on German efficiency. I  observed that  kids are brought into an early exposure to be part of the society. The kids are tucked into their carrier, in a kid’s seat at the back of the bike or in a stroller and off they go in everyday life. There is no excuse for German parents for not bringing their kids along. I love the fact that having a kid in Germany shows that a child is not an excess baggage that you bring along with your chores or errands. Add up the efficient transport system then parents doesn’t need to worry about bringing along a baby in a stroller. Even if public transportation isn’t your thing, Germany is a very bike-friendly country.  Even if with kids.  Especially with kids.

IMG_1662
My daughter enjoys the limitless fun in one of the Wasserspielplatz in Germany.

Bringing their kids to Biergarten

German parents knows how to enjoy  before and after the baby comes. We all know that they love (adore)  beer and Oktoberfest. I was shocked to see locals bring along their kids while they socialize, drink beer and relax.In our place alone, you can find Biergartens almost in every corner. Nowadays they are transformed  into a great family destination. Who doesn’t want to do things as a family on a Friday night?

schutterhof-ochse-19-768x924
German kids are exposed to responsible drinking at an early stage since Beer is a big part of their culture. Parents don’t get wasted just because they go to a Biergarten. (Photo credit to ExtraPrimaGood)

Biergartens have become a go-to destination for family outings, play dates and toddler birthdays. On weekend afternoons, many transform into Gymboree-like spaces with multiple brews on tap. If beer is not your thing, then don’t worry, there are juices, lemonades and hearty bites for you. The great thing is, having a kid doesn’t hinder your social life.

What do you think of German parenting?

Do you think you can raise your own child the German way?

 

If you enjoy this post, make sure to follow my Expat stories in my Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

Expat -Mamas around the World

IMG_1669 (1)

Becoming a parent let alone becoming a mother doesn’t happen with a blink of an eye. But once you’ve become One, you can’t turn your back. But how does one do it when she’s a first time Mom on a different ground? or  as an immigrant in another side of the globe? or working under contract then becoming pregnant in a place of different language from her mother tongue,or  in a world  totally different world from where she grew up with?

These are the reality bites of the ‘so-called fantasy life of an Expat ‘, the stuff that mothers doesn’t tell you easily over a cup of tea, the untold stories of Expat Mama..and Papas too!

 Are you an Expat Mama?

An Expat  { shortened for Expatriate} Mama is someone who is temporarily or permanently residing in a foreign country other than that of their citizenship or nationality.

Being an Expat Mama myself  ( An Asian by birth that lived temporarily in the Middle East and now settled  in Germany ) makes this new section of my Blog special for me. Subjects about motherhood & raising tiny humans becomes a next to my kin, like a second nature. Just like most of you that I have known here,  motherhood dawned upon me 2 years ago,  and I am still learning so much from it , a complete work in progress. I still sweat out during feeding times & putting my child into bed. Potty training? Yes, it’s challenging. I am totally hopeful to pass through the amazing yet busy  toddler years.

As an Expat, my tongue eventually picked-up a second language  while I was in Kuwait, and now I’m  learning Deutsch. Being an Expat can be intimidating & frustrating, that is why  learning the local language is the focal point of being a successful Expat, whether it be for work, or just to survive the hustle & bustle of being a parent every single day in a new culture.

I have my own story to tell  about being an Expat mama myself  in Middle East where I gave birth to my daughter & raise the 1st year of her life there.  Right now, in another culture,we are slowly integrating. Everyday  I face ups and downs of being a parent, It’s challenging, and drains me physically. I didn’t know how would I ever made it without my ever-supportive husband, who is likewise, an Expat-Papa. I became a mother in a totally different culture than my own and now Raising my child as a Third Culture Kid, a little Dutch-Filipino girl born in Kuwait but growing up in Germany, which helps me to appreciate even so much more the amazing beauty of being a parent.

Oh Yes, I hear you, including all the dirty messes and chaos with it. I have never been so tired and sleep-deprived in my whole life until I began raising a tiny human. Believe me, it is one hell of a ride everyday. Can you relate?

So here’s a new addition to my Blog— E x p a t  M a m a s   A r o u n d    t h e  W o r l d. My own personal gallery  of interview stories of different Expat Mothers. They don’t boast their titles , they are just special humans in superhero bodies. They could be the normal  stereotype Mama you see in the grocery shop, in the park chasing their toddlers, commuting from work, always rushing & working their ass off  in the office, while they  turned into Super Moms in the kitchen whipping up dinners to feed their children while doing the laundry and still having time for herself. Super- Mom right?!

Eventually finding themselves strong, driven and passionate home maker, and as a woman of substance.

Does this sound like you?

If so, Do you want to be featured in this Blog?

If you are an Expat Mama and you want your special Expat story to be featured in here, please drop me an email @ justbluedutch@gmail.com , Expat Papas are welcome too! Send few photos of you and your Expat motherhood/fatherhood moments or a link to your Instagram feed if you have.  If you are an  Expat Lifestyle Blogger like me then I would love to connect with you through the link of your website. I would gladly welcome you to our gallery and love to hear your story.

Get to know our first featured Expat Mama, Ann of Grubbsncritters with her amazing story about parenting in the cycle capital of the world, The Netherlands. If you’re interested, you can read her story Here.

Are you on Twitter?

Follow me on my Twitter page Here .

If you enjoy this post, you might want to check out the Parenthood in  The Philippines and why raising My Daughter is a TCK ( Third Culture Kid )   is a great experience.

 

 

ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

Toddler Tantrums & Terrible Twos!

As we all know, Little Miss Independent is happiest when she can call the shots, but when she’s not allowed to do it..There she goes!

Screaming bloody horror .

 

Nowadays, she behave like this for some moments in the grocery shop, she hates it! in  the mall, in the bathroom , while changing her diaper that becomes a daily battle, during dinner that could last up to an hour, or even just watering the plants.She wants to do it her way. Her own way!

This is the aftermath of our struggle. Her. on the floor.

IMG_0490
The point of No Surrender ,normally last for the next 40-60 seconds of bloody murder screaming and crying as if the whole world is falling apart. #RaisingNatalie

 

While we’re at our Creative Dancing Class, everyone was leaping and smiling with glee. Our teacher was teaching new moves so the tiny tots can imitate.My daughter ran out from the circle and ran over to the corner where the costumes and sticks are stacked. She began to climb one chair and pull one stick, then another. Call me helicopter Mama, but of course I ran over to get her & return all the sticks. Those are sharp and could hurt her.

“Not a toy “,  I said.

Then she ran to the couch and throws all the pillows all over the place.Then she just dropped there on the floor, screaming in horror and crying out up to her lungs.I tried to pick her up but then she kicked me, whining, and she keeps on wiggling so I let her go and leave her alone in her performance. I tried to ignore the stares of the other parents.

Whew, when did she become  so strong?

This is the time for Tantrums &  Meltdown they say.

IMG_9093
Life with Balls -Freeze the moments when she’s sane! #ToddlerLife

One moment she’s an adorable sweet little munchkin. All smiles and kissing you all over. Rubbing your hands and back , cuddling you. But now suddenly..she began to transform into a brat, from throwing toys and food, into banging her head on the floor.

Oh ok, pretty normal. Development stage.

There is HOPE and these things too, shall Pass.

 

 For those who can relate–

 

“You get two big windows of opportunity in your life to do stuff like build castles, lick pebbles, watch Super Simple songs and Baby Shark Shark, and just plain play: the first when you are a child, the second when you have ONE. Don’t get too busy or wrapped up in the grown-up stuff to miss it.”

How was your life with a Toddler? Have you had times like these? X

For someone we called ” Mother”

Motherhood : All love begins and ends there….

FullSizeRender (20)

I long for my mother's bread,
My Mother's coffee
Her touch
Childhood memories grow up in me
Day after day
I must be worth in my life...
A One and Only Mother
Hundreds of stars in the pretty sky,
Hundreds of shells on the shore together,
Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
Hundreds of lambs in the sunny weather.
Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the world-wide over... 

This is excerpt from Mahmoud Darwish in his  1964 panegyric to his mother, A Palestinian poet and a short poem that I can accentuate how I view Motherhood ever since I become a mother.

It’s Mother’s day this month and it’s just timely that we look back with thanksgiving & gratitude from whence we came.There is so much poetry about Motherhood but it cannot really immortalize the actual feeling you have when you become one yourself. I wouldn’t even knew the deep essence of Mothers Day before, but now that I become a mother, I understand and have great respect for all Mothers around the world.

When I was about to give birth to my daughter  Natalie, I was in the hospital for almost 3 days being induced for labor. Now for someone who doesn’t know what Induction of Labor   means, it is literally the process of forcing you to go on labor through various medical interventions. I tell you, It’s  nerve-wrecking, exhausting, pain-filled time  of my life and yet it was also the most wonderful time knowing I would finally meet my child. I could recall all the time I just lie down in pain between contractions and  I thought a lot about my Mother. I was alone there and all I could think of is wishing She was just beside me.She gave birth for 6 humans, all natural at home and without any medical interventions.How on earth did she do that?

Are mothers superheroes in disguise?

She is one amazing, strong, resilient person that I ever known in my life. For the past year, I have found out so many surprises in Motherhood that I asked myself; Why did no one ever told me about this? let alone my own Mother?

Here’s some surprises to name a few :

10665767_1119179158098365_4373094037038780646_n

Before I was a Mother –
Definition of “Real Sleep “. I slept as late as I wanted and never worried about how late I got into bed. I lounge in the bed during weekends until my back aches from sleeping and oftentimes I would dozed off & had naps in the afternoon after watching some movies. Since I gave birth to Natalie, If there’s anything that I really missed, it is : Sleep.

I thought I knew what “Tired “meant before I had a baby. I once heard my mother said her back hurts..now I see myself uttering these words to my husband.Now I knew why.

Before I was a Mother –

I would see babies as cute, cuddly, but bothersome. Why are they  crying so loud? and makes so many messes. I would never know ( or want to know) as much about another human being’s poop and pee schedule as I did in those early years.It becomes an obsession in checking too much, too little, and loads of graphic considerations that I wouldn’t dream of discussing in public now.It is a clichè ,but true that many of the baby “essentials” that magazines & celebrities promotes for new Mums are just bunch of waste of money! The walker? Only after 2 weeks of use, she was already climbing out and she is dangling when I saw her. A total waste.

Before I was a Mother –
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn’t want to put it down. I never felt my heart-break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt. I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much. I never knew that I could love someone so much. I never knew I would love being a Mother. How many times I just lie beside my daughter and just kissed her. Many times. When she sleeps, I found myself randomly poking her just to check if she was breathing–Insane but true. My mother never told me about this,but I am sure, She did the same.

Before I was a Mother –
I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart outside my body. I didn’t know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby. I didn’t know that bond between a mother and her child. I didn’t know that something so small could make me feel so important.The love & hate relationship that Me & my daughter have when she is soooo clingy. She literally live in between my legs.She likes it there, dangling, swinging around wherever I go. The space between my skinny legs fits perfectly with her small cuddly frame.

Before I was a Mother –
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay. I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache,the physical pain & numb arms. The wonderment or the satisfaction of being a Mom. I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much before I was a Mother. Why on earth my mother never told me about her struggles raising 6 children, without maid, without any hired help, even without an iPad to entertain the crazy toddlers?

Before I was a Mother –
I had never been puked on – Pooped on – Spit on – Chewed on, or Peed on. I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts. I slept all night.How did I managed to not bother about make up & fancy clothes when you have a baby pulling out your sleeves? I have gone out with a pants with cookie stains and I don’t see any problem with that. I don’t even wanna wear white right now because I know there will be shoeprints there within seconds, and bling- bling? I can’t afford for a necklace & dangling earrings to be pulled out painless!  I could spent countless hours in a mall but I was too busy buying baby stuff and little clothes.This is the new retail therapy for me. My mother would absolutely agree.
Before I was a Mother –
I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests…or give the vaccination shots. I was there in every appointment & Doctor’s visits. I never looked into teary eyes and cried. I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin. I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.Motherhood have taught me to become prepared to go to very strange and random lengths just to appease my crying child. Did I mentioned that I broke my iPhone screen 3 times already just to get into that Bob the Train nursery rhymes the minute she start to squirm?

Before I was a Mother I had no idea that Motherhood would be the hardest , the most tiring,the most rewarding, the most precious gift in my life.Now I knew why my Mother never told me these surprises..She wanted me to discover & experience these all by myself. All through out this journey, I got to know more of her, I got to know her “world “when the time that I never fully understand her. I got to know her completely, more than I could ever write about her.And guess what, even if I had known early all of the above,I wouldn’t swap a second of it for anything in the world!

FullSizeRender

The first years really go fast. Before I knew it, she climbs up into the table by herself within seconds, throws all her toys with one hand in seconds.Before I knew it, it will be her first day in school.These fleeting moments can never be replaced.Remember the first tooth, the first step, the first time you can have her hair into ponytail? The time she said “Mama”…They are truly precious.

For someone we called “Mothers” …They are precious.

 

How does this post made you feel? Do you feel special that you are a mother?

When was the last time you called your mother just to say Hello?

I want to wish a Happy Special Mothers Day to all my lovely, strong mothers & women that I knew. Great respect to all of you. X

 

Sacrifice

The art of Slowing down at child’s pace

Natalie 2
Lessons learned from  raising a Toddler

My daughter, Natalie is a great teacher. She’s only 18 months and yet she have taught me far greater & deep lesson about Caring with Respect, a valuable lesson that I needed for my age, and at this time of my life. I never learned this from school, but only through life with her.She have given me the Gift of Slowing down in life, at her own pace.

We loved to take a walk together. This is one way that we bond. Oftentimes, when we get down from our building, we took the elevator. But as soon as we are out, my daughter immediately run to the stairs and starts climbing. Up & down she goes. I always grab her by both hands and pull her back to get on with our walk & immediately she pull her hand out from my grip & go on her way. We do this maybe for a couple of times but she has her own ways to go back again to the stairs. One time after scooping her up, she just screamed,cried & refused to walk. The next time we are going out and she did the same, I let go of her. She go on her own way, she climbed the stairs, up & down for a couple of times while I just stood there, watching her. She’s looking back at me from time to time & smiled . Then she continued with her “ways”. After 3 rounds, she came up to me and pulled my hand, going to the direction of the main door so we can go on for our walk. This time, she was willing. She was finally ready. I learned that just being prepared & present for her helped her. Now I fully understand what does it really mean to “walk with her “. Its not about my pace, but hers.

Recently I found out something unusual with her. I didn’t notice the change until I evaluate what have I done. Normally when she woke up, she cried and refused to go back to sleep unless I stayed with her. I used to do things without telling her what I’m planning to do with her. This always result that she gets upset. I felt like I need to do it in a rush way like changing her diaper, leaving the room, pulling out her onesies, or brushing her teeth. But lately, I decided to talk to her more often of what I want to do instead of doing it while she’s caught off-guard. I decided to take my time, to slow down & care with respect. To let her know if I am going to remove her diaper and wash her, or inform her that I am going to the kitchen to get her milk, or telling her I’m going to brush her teeth. Her reaction changed. She became more calm, more tolerant. She was there waiting for me, as if she really understood me. This really struck me. She let go of her defenses and behaved. This time, I finally knew the power of Narrating what was happening & just observing more to understand her needs better.

Many times, I see my toddler as uncooperative, as whining, and difficult. But I never evaluated my own actions as demanding, insensitive or harsh. But when I started to look deeper at my actions as a parent,I was really dumbfounded why I never realized these things before. I know for most of us parents whose both hands are full with work & day-to day responsibilities, it’s not always easy to be fully present and attuned to a baby or young child who can’t keep up physically or verbally to let you know, “Hey wait a minute! Slow down! “We thought we are always in-charge, that our child are all helpless creatures. We forget that although they may not be physically agile as we are, they have feelings, their perception of things is developing and therefore this stage is critical.

Natalie 3
Educating while caring : Slowing down at child’s pace.

I was deeply moved by the gift of slowing down to a child’s pace and the humbling  lesson  I have learned about “Educaring”. Educaring  means that we should educate while we care, and care while we educate; that these two things are intertwined. So the intimate caregiving activities of feeding, diapering, bathing, and dressing a baby, provide valuable opportunities for a baby to learn about himself and also about others, about the people who care for him. And these are also valuable opportunities for relationship building between parent and child.

The art of Slowing down at a pace of a child illustrates the profound connection and joy available to both parents and young children when we can slow down just a little to be present with, and allow for what naturally unfolds, leaving our agenda behind, and trusting our children to be active participants in their own experience, recognizing that they have a point of view too.

Natalie7
Babies, even toddlers knows best.Let them eat sand if she like. She does it anyway!

How do we do this? How can we slow down at their own pace and educate them while caring?

I wanna share with you  what I have learned from the excerpt of the book “Baby knows best”  : Raising a Confident & Resourceful Child , the RIE way by Deborah Carlisle Solomon. I didn’t know that these things are so relative and yet it really opened my eyes. This definitely changed my relationship with my daughter.Here are some helpful tips ;

1 – Slow down. Just slowing down creates a sense of peacefulness and allows even a young baby to follow what’s happening. When you think about the difference in how you feel when you’re rushing or even just moving at a brisk pace versus when you take the time to move slowly, it’s not surprising that this would have such a difference for babies.

2 – Practice telling your baby what you’re going to do, before you do it. “I’d like to pick you up now. I’m going into the other room and I’ll be right back.” When we are in the habit of telling the baby what we’re going to do, the baby can relax. She knows there’s going to be no surprises.

3-Tarry time -It’s the time between when you tell the baby what’s going to happen and when you actually do it. So after you tell the baby “I’m going to pick you up now,” you tarry, or wait for her to process what’s been said and let you know she’s ready. She might raise her arms up or have a look on her face of anticipation and you’ll know that now she’s ready to be picked up. This is important because babies take more time to process than we do. If we just say we’re going to pick you up and then pick up the baby, it will still feel very abrupt for the baby and she won’t be able to quite keep up with what’s going on.

Childhood is fleeting. Time flies so fast that we might not realize it when were so absorbed by the hustle & bustle of parenting. But as for me, I wanted to grow along with my child as she learns from me and vice versa. It is more important than ever to remember that the simple act of slowing down and giving our full attention is a gift that we can give to our children, and to ourselves.

Can you relate to this post?

Or what have you learned about slowing down in Life to appreciate more of it?

I wish that you find your inspiration everyday.Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

10 Surprising Things About Parenthood in Kuwait

IMG_9774
The Icon for Architecture in Kuwait-the Kuwait Towers. the first special place I have visited when I arrived there last 2008, and the last place I have visited when the time we left Kuwait last May 2016.

I have never imagined in my whole life that I will get married, get pregnant and gave birth to my daughter in Kuwait— a small oil rich country  yet place for  mirage diversity. Looking back  at our Expat days spent there brought both smiles and fond memories.  Kuwait will always be a special place close to our hearts.

IMG_6824
Kuwait skyline as seen from Arabian Gulf taken from the Scientific Center along the Arabian Gulf. One of my favorite place to take my daughter for a morning stroll and walk. At 1 month, she visited the Scientific Center’s Aquarium. I am sure I would show her her photos by then.

Here I wanna share with you 10 Surprising Things About Parenthood in Kuwait that I personally experienced. The content of this post is based from my personal encounters as an Expat living in Kuwait  for almost 8 years. Being in Kuwait for work is totally different when you have a family and a young child.

Disclaimer : This post does not promote anything for the purpose of advertisement or whatsoever. My views pointed out here are personal & may not be the same as the other Expats living here or Kuwaitis itself.

Kuwait has a high Total fertility rate compared to other GCC countries , with 2.48 Births per woman and on rank # 80 ( as of 2015 est  based on World Factbook CIA )

Pregnancy and Childcare in Kuwait is totally different from the culture that I was raised with. The reality bites of  giving birth to my daughter there  while working as an OFW with no relatives around to get support really opened my eyes on how is it to become an Expat Mama. You need to be tough.

IMG_6780
Mornings with a Baby in the azure blue Arabian Gulf,for sometime, this has been our paradise.

1.On Pregnancy & Giving Birth Alone …Literally Alone.

The choice for  private or public hospital in Kuwait for Prenatal care during Pregnancy & giving birth depends on your personal choices, quality of medical services & of course, the cost. There are plenty of private hospitals around  and in every area in Kuwait has Public Hospital. You can go there with a very minimal fee (1KD /stamp ) depending where you are registered as a resident. I am 37 yrs old when I got pregnant with Natalie and has a high risk condition from which I found out on the later part of my pregnancy. I opt for a private one during my Prenatal care, I find it really expensive and yet It was also very comprehensive & helpful for a First-time Mother like me.

There’s no Midwife/ Home Birthing here, Doulas are not a common norm .You can only give birth in hospitals since Kuwait is a Muslim country and has strict laws about getting pregnant outside marriage. You cannot be admitted in hospital if you cannot present a Marriage certificate .If you are not married & got pregnant by chance , then at the hospital you will  report you to authorities right on the spot. You will end up in jail and face punishment. Unlike in the Philippines or in Holland, formalities in admission to hospital such as this is not much of an issue . Take note also that there is a strict rule that your spouse cannot see you once you were admitted. Yes, ALONE. Only you and your baby in your utero all throughout the labor to birth phase.

Your Husband can call the hospital to check on your status. It was quite an experience being alone and not having your spouse there on your side. I felt so afraid, at the same time excited. While in the private ones , your spouse has the chance to be with you all the way .

2. On Unbelievable cost of Childbirth.

For Mamas out there, how much does it cost you on the birth of your child? Mine’s only 13 KD!

You can call this cheap but this is impeccably practical. You can invest your money on diapers & childcare later !

I gave birth to my daughter in Kuwait through C-section which only costs us of around 13 KD ( or around 43 USD). YES! Unbelievable right?  Only this amount. Considering all the medications I had during the induction of labor this amount is really insane!  If i did it in a private hospital , my doctor told me it could come around as 850-1500 KD, maybe more. Giving birth thru  C-section in Philippines  is so costly that is why Natural birth is still encouraged. Such big difference. In Holland, you need to push and push harder in giving birth at home  since natural birth is much preferred unless you need medical intervention.

I had complications giving birth and my daughter is in Transverse position. I was induced  for labor for almost 3 days but unfortunately did not progress . But then on the last-minute that both me & my baby was stressed ,her heartbeat dropped & I was rushed to O.R for emergency C-section. I was really amazed how fully equipped and good  the government Maternity Hospital here. I have rumors before that it could be a daunting experience ,but as far as my experience , I couldn’t complain for anything . Yeah maybe the pain.

Everything about the induction process is bloody painful. My whole body cried out for so much Pitocin and all those other stuff. It’s just too overwhelmingly painful.

The whole experience has taught me how to be tough ,to listen to my body . The Doctors and staff are knowledgeable, helpful and professional enough in taking  care of me. I was lucky enough that the staff assigned to me were really kind, & helpful . I’m glad there were Filipina nurses who attended to me immediately. My daughter was admitted to the Special care unit after she was born and I am very glad how they took care of her. She had a medical care from the Neonatal unit up until 1-year-old to track her progress. By the way, It’s totally free!

My postnatal medical care were also covered in this hospital. You only pay a very minimal fee for the prescriptions and medications provided. I was really impressed and happy.

10339750_1007922309224051_6941833383140063791_n
Napping along the quiet promenade beside the beach

3.On Baby-Friendly facilities and the LACK of it in Kuwait

Breastfeeding is highly commended by all Hospitals from birth of a child. But Breastfeeding  in public is considered offensive. There are only limited areas which has a facility for Breastfeeding mothers and changing rooms. In some large Malls and restaurants, there are abundant changing rooms as well as accessibility to it. Some shops doesn’t even have ramps, totally not Stroller-friendly. Since I had a child, I become aware of this and always opt for a Baby-Friendly facilities such as High chairs, changing tables and play areas . I wear my daughter from 4 months until she was 12 months or so. When she got so heavy then I gave up the sling , besides she likes to walk now ! I couldn’t imagine how I go on without it, It was really amazing.Wearing her on a sling causes lots of stares from many people here , i received many comments about it but I ignore it. It’s not a norm here, but you as the parent should make the right choices for the best of your child & yourself. It’s very rare for Kuwaiti women to wear their child,mainly because most of them has nanny to take care of their little ones.

4. On Harsh Weather Worries , Kuwait is a Sandstorm country.

As an Expat , I am constantly worrying about the weather. If you  have read my post – Only In Kuwait , where I noted that  the sky turns to different colors within 3 hours .This is a place where sandstorms, dust, & heat & harsh winds is prevalent. During Summer, I was on my wits end on how to deal with the heat and humidity. You can’t take out your child for a stroll if it is 50 deg outside and completely dusty . We often take her out early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Sandstorms in Kuwait is another shock that I need to get used to. The sky suddenly turns dark gray and totally hazy because of dust. I had the experience that it totally turns into orange into black . It was a sight! You need to take care when this happens because its unhealthy for you & your child plus it could last for days.

IMG_2077
Beachbumming : Typical way for your child to let go of her steam.

5.On Childcare and Hired Help for Families

A typical Kuwaiti family with 3 children or more has 2 Housemaids ,1 driver  and maybe 1 Nanny to focus mainly with the baby.  It’s very common to have a hired help to take care of your child. Most children grew up with a Nanny. For Expat parents  who are both working full-time , they can put their child on Nursery & Daycare center depending on their choice. Oftentimes, you see a full entourage of babies with their uniformed Nannies in the mall while their Mothers are busy shopping and bumming their asses in the mall drinking coffee or in the salon maybe. Most of the time, if you go on a playgroups, It’s depressing to see only maids with the little ones.

I find it so  important to have a network of friends and mothers who have children same age as your child to survive ,especially on hot summers. I am grateful for friends to  visit and arrange play dates with my daughter. It is a lifesaver!

6.On lack of Discipline & Public Child Tantrums

I don’t know why but here I often see many child  throwing tantrums in Public. In malls, parks , supermarkets, and restaurants.I find it sad to see some children throwing garbage out from their cars, or on the ground as they please. I don’t see much politeness either. Little children seldom say Please or Thank you to waiters or strangers.This is on my personal encounters. But I am always glad whenever I see kids showing good character in public. I remembered that all Filipino children were taught to say “Po” and the Mano po tradition with the ones older than them. This is far by non-existent here.

7.On Easy Access to Beachfront , the beach can be your playground.

Having an access to the beach within 5 minutes from your home is really a treat . I feel lucky that as I open our bedroom window, we have a direct view of the Arabian gulf. This really gives us an opportunity to take our daughter for a spin in her stroller, on having lazy morning walks during weekends and playing in the sand. Kuwait doesn’t have much of beautiful nature to boast, so living near the beach is good if you have kids. I mean it’s healthy . Green lawns are scarce and looking for a convenient playground with lots of greens is like searching for pearls.There are various playgrounds & indoor play areas, you just need to have patience to find them. In every local area,there is a playground so it’s quite easy. But don’t expect much of it.

IMG_6695
Exploring in the park

8.On family Outings during Fridays

Friday is the rest day for all of  Kuwait. This is the Ruhetag version of Germany’s Sunday ‘s quiet  day. It’s so  heartwarming to see the whole family prepping early for a beach trip, picnic in the park or camp in the desert. Kids flocked to playgrounds, during hot summers they mostly stay indoors or  spend a day in the Mall. Here, both parents are so involved. I oftentimes saw fathers playing with their kids and totally hands-on. Kuwait boasts of their big Malls. The Avenues is an example of a great family destination especially when its hot outside. It is designed to  become a one stop destination for the whole family. It has  an astounding beautiful Play areas for kids while you get busy shopping or meeting friends. It has the amazing Kidzania, the Magic planet with its minimalist design, Baroue, & Color Me Mine are among others to keep your child entertained and parents as well. It’s a great place to just  relax and bond with your family.

9.On Disturbed bedtime

How crazy it is to see a baby out in the park until midnight? You see children playing in the beachfront at night. Only in here that I see kids riding their bikes in the dark, toddlers playing in the sand until 2 am in the morning enjoying a family midnight picnic. During Ramadan , people  spend so much time outside at night. I grew up having our bed times set at 8 pm , except on weekends that we are allowed to watch TV and stay up late. In Kuwait, going out with your kids at 9 pm is normal. I stick to my routine with my daughter to put her to bed on time and especially not to disturb her nap times.

IMG_2431
Raising your child as Third Culture Kid (TCK)

10. On Safety Issues for Children

In Kuwait , I find it relatively safe & crime rate is at par, but as parents we can’t compromise their safety . While in Europe that you can let loose your child in the streets and go home from school by themselves, here its a totally different story. It is not safe to leave your child to play in the streets alone , especially if you live near a highway. There are no sidewalks or safe path walks  and  cars are speeding up even on residential areas. Besides , There is the garbage problem that you don’t want your child to expose . There is a school just 5 minutes away from our building, it doesn’t even have a pedestrian zone.

As an Expat Mama,  I have learned that no matter where you are, Parenthood is a distinct journey to self-discovery. You get to know more of yourself as you go through with it. Becoming a parent is a privilege, and not a right. It is a wonderful blessing. Indeed consider yourself blessed if you have a child on your lap and if you have been on the journey of raising them. If there’s one thing that I learned as I go on this journey of Motherhood, it’s this :

‘You get two big windows of opportunity in your life to do stuff like build castles, play in the dirt, lick pebbles, & just play ; The first is when you are a Child, the second is when you have ONE. ‘

Don’t get too wrapped up to missed it.

Are you an Expat Mama?  How is Parenting done in your country or in the place you live  at the moment? How are you coping so far ?

Do you find any surprising things about Parenthood? I would love to hear your own story.

 

 

10 Things every Mother should know when travelling with Infants & Babies.

I have never imagined  in my whole life that I will be that woman in a plane travelling with a baby. During flights , i never took notice of it , I just brushed it off  , ignored it , especially when i saw that there’s a screaming baby on board .When you are single , you never really care about Kids and stuff.But when you have a child of your own , it is an eye opener , an overwhelming experience.

This becomes a surprising truth to me when I realized that I would be spending almost 10 hours flight with my 11 month old daughter from Kuwait to Amsterdam.Yes,for the first time flight with a baby!The truth is,it scares me.What if she cry all the way?What if she can’t sleep? What if the pressure really hurt her ears? So many questions, besides I would never want to put any  inconvenience on other passengers,or at least received those        bat-eyed stares. Ughh!

So How did I manage to survived it? Remember that it’s only temporary , you will reach your destination in a matter of time.You won’t even see those fellow passengers again in your life. I wanna share to you Mamas out there who will go on your first adventure of flying  these 10 things every Mothers should know while Travelling with Infants & Babies and how to enjoy the experience of flying with your child on board. Here it is;

1.Do your Homework

Start by looking for child Friendly Airlines & Airports ahead of your intended travel date .Choose your flight schedules , timings and seat plan wisely .If possible, get the early morning flights to avoid crowds during Airport check-ins,lines,and weekdays.We choose this schedule because it gives my daughter a chance to nap or sleep through the night even travelling.It always gives you that extra leg room to get the Bulk head seats just in case your toddler wants playtime. Be familiar with the bathrooms , changing rooms locations and play areas inside the terminal.

2.Request and avail of the Bassinet offers from your Airline.

We fly through an Emirates A380 plane from Dubai to AMS so we expected that it’s going to be a full flight , and unfortunately its summer so it’s tourist season in Netherlands and yet we made sure that we reserved & requested the Bassinet functions of each flight .Check with your Airline for this features.Get this done while booking.Emirates Bassinets measure approximately 75 x 33 x 22.3cm (29.5 x 13 x 8.8 inches , l x w x d) and are for babies who weigh up to 11kg (24.2lbs). Emirates even have a complimentary Stroller which you can use during your stop over and transit from gate to gate through the spacious Terminal in Dubai. You need to take out your child from the Bassinet during Take-offs & Landings.

3.Pack that Baby Bag.

We all know that Babies carries a lot of stuff.You can start making a list on what to pack depending on how long is your holiday,duration of the flight & itinerary.I recommend packing as early as 2 weeks before your flight for you to see how much stuff needs to be in that bag.On the last minute,you can just double check for what is missing.This bag should be one of your hand carry luggage.Most airlines allows baggage allowance for babies.Invest in a good bag that could contain your Little one’s essential and won’t be too bulky for you to carry.

See my post   for What to Pack for your Baby Travel Bag  for  essential things to pack for your baby’s Handcarry luggage.

4.Expect the Unexpected.

This is the very reason why we prepare.Expect the unexpected.Sometimes,no matter how we prepared,things doesn’st work out the way we wanted it to be.Delayed flights.Long stop overs.Your Baby cannot sleep and refuse to drink milk.Anything could happen,even losing your cool.This is where you need your mind to be active.When you are under stress,your child will surely catch it so try to maintain your sanity  even when you are sleep-deprived,tired & exhausted .In short word,Expect to be Busy.Really Busy.

5.Have a Buddy-System.

If you are travelling with your Spouse,relative,or partner,then the load can be done easily once shared.It is much more stressful for others who are travelling alone with a child.If possible,having someone to travel with you could give you that assurance that things are manageable and you get the support you need.Having a Buddy System works wonders like alternate holding  the baby while the other goes to bathroom ,eating, going though long lines , pushes the stroller,taking stroll with your child while in the terminal.Believe me,you need each other.On our first trip , I’m so grateful my husband is with me to give a hand. Plus, the memories of your first family trip together makes it all worthwhile.

6.Make sure your child is ready.

Your child doesn’t have any idea what is going on.But the moment she cries and becomes unsettled , you know that she needs to be comforted. New surroundings could either make her hyper or break her.Make sure that you prepare your child in a way that she had a good rest , dressed comfortably , and well-fed on hours before and during your flight.If you are travelling on the same time that disrupts her nap routines,try to get her tired enough to sleep.I let my daughter play along the chairs in the waiting area ,the bright airport lights amuses her.My daughter sits on my lap the whole flight and she becomes cranky during take-offs , I prepared her by offering something to drink, her favourite toy,and lots & lots of cuddles. Parents, protect her ears.

7.Wear your child.

Bringing your sling and wearing your Baby around you works wonders for me.From the moment we check-in her stroller in the gate,i put her in the sling.It always good for your hands to be free while your baby is  snug as a bug in your arms.This is great for walking her through the aisle or when you need to get her to sleep.For going through spacious and far end side of the terminal that we literally need to run after to get there on time,wearing your baby is a smart move. This will prevent any injury or bumping your child’s head or back that might happen inside the aircraft.I really don’t know How could i ever do things without a Sling I highly recommend it.

8.Think Safety.

You must ensure that your child travel with appropriate (CRS) Child Restraint System that enhances flight safety.If your baby is  over 14 days old and under two (2) years of age, not occupying a separate seat,She may be carried free of charge when traveling with an adult (12 years of age or older,with only taxes to be paid). Make sure to ask for the Seatbelt extension for Infants & Babies provided by your aircarft. Most flight attendants will show to you how to put it on with your baby.If you purchased a seat for her,you must make sure that you bring along an FAA- Approved car seat.

9.Take the fine print with you.

Depending on your destination, I recommend to always bring along your child’s Fine printed documents such as copy of Birth Certificate,Medical Prescriptions,Permission to travel/Custody letter from your spouse if you are travelling alone and other related documents that you might need during the course of your trip. I have these documents on the side pockets of my bag so its easily accessible.

10.Create Memories of your First flight

This would be one of the exciting stories you would be telling your kids once they get older.No matter how long the flight,You will reach your destination. It’s the memory of it that will last.For Mamas out there,make sure you smile when you took pictures with your Little One.My daughter became the center of attention by the Flight Attendants, they carried her & she gamely posed for the Polaroid shots given by the staff.We have made friends in the flight and we even met one in the airport lounge . The key-She recognized my baby!

Thank you for reading & Safe Travels !