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Adopting aunties and grannies

expat life expat mums expat parenting expat parenting abroad Aug 23, 2021

One of the most challenging aspects of moving abroad is the lack of connection with your family. There are so many tools available to us now to maintain our connections with our family - FaceTime, Zoom, Skype etc - we can still see each other and chat easily, but it isn’t a substitute for having family close by.

I think this is a key reason that we ‘adopt’ so many into our lives when we are living abroad. 

We find our ‘sisters’, those who sit with us outside the theater while our daughter is having surgery, literally holding our hands and trying to distract us while we wait. Those sisters who get it, who don’t need an explanation for why you feel crap today, you just do, but they are there to sit quietly with you and feel sad/angry/frustrated with you. Those who want to go on a family holiday with you because your kids have so much fun together. 

Just after arriving in Mumbai and shortly before Miss J was born, I was fortunate to meet a group of women all pregnant and due around the same time as me. We spent that monsoon together, changing nappies, drinking tea and feeding our babies. 

We also shared our own parents with each other when they came to visit. Chatting about the challenges we were having with feeding, or nappy rash, or whatever it may be at that time. It was such an important source of support for each of us. It brought a level of normality to our experiences.

When we move abroad we also adopt ‘aunties’ or ‘grannies’. Especially when we have little children and they may be missing their own grandchildren. 

I was so privileged to have Laurie come to visit me in hospital after having Madam S, we’d only met once prior to that but she turned up with a smile and support when I really needed it. 

Then our group in Noida expanded and I met Jan and Sian, who were really there for me in an hour of need. While I was rushing Miss J to hospital with Typhoid, they stayed home with Madam S until hubby was able to finish work. 

Every time I went to ANZA Coffee or Delhi Network, there were hugs and cuddles from Hazel and Martha, Mary and Nina - my girls were showered with love and attention. More importantly I had support when I needed it. I had people I could chat to, ask questions, and just share the load.  

In Chongqing I met my Aussie sister and she introduced me to the term, PLU’s. It made sense, with each move we just needed to find our PLU’s (people like us). Those that share our values and desires for our kids, those that become our family in a foreign land.

I know how fortunate I have been, everywhere we have lived I have found my adoptive family - my sisters who tell me bluntly, any line on that thing means you're pregnant, not just a solid line!?! Well there you go, I’m pregnant! 

It takes a village to raise a child, and everywhere we have been the girls have had aunties and grannies to care for them. They are no substitute for our family back home, but they do come a very close second. And when you don’t have a choice, they are an essential support.

How do you find these people? It is interesting, each of these relationships have had a thin thread of serendipity. You can’t really go looking for them, but when you meet them, allow yourself to be open to the connection, to the support, to the warm embrace they are offering you. 

It is very easy to get stuck in your ways, your old habits, how you did it back home. This mindset won't help you, you really do have to be open and willing to connect, even when it feels a little uncomfortable. 

The more you give of yourself, the more you will get in return - and that includes the family you choose when living abroad. 

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