Joanne O’Shea moved to Singapore two-and-a-half years ago with her husband and two little boys; they have since had a third son. She says that not having family around is challenging, but the opportunities for her children make the move worth it.
1. What do you miss most about Ireland?
Family and friends are, of course, top of the list, followed by freshly produced food and even fresher air! Although the weather in Ireland isn’t great most of the time, it’s still mild enough for children to spend some time outdoors most days, and most people are lucky enough to have a garden or a park with a playground nearby that children can spend plenty of time running around in, without fear of sunburn or mosquitos. The school system here is also very expensive for expats like us, so I miss good old Irish national schools that wouldn’t break the bank.
The biggest thing I miss is that we don’t get to see family. That’s the biggest sacrifice of living abroad with children. I would love them to grow up with their cousins and grandparents. We are a very close family and although we travel home and they have been over to visit, it’s definitely one of the hardest parts of living abroad.
2. What opportunities do you see for your children that you might not have been able to give them had you stayed in Ireland?
I think it’s lovely that they have the chance to experience diversity and new cultures. They are being exposed to different foods and traditions. The schools, although pricey, are excellent, as are the hospitals. Short-haul flights take us to exciting tropical places that would be totally out of reach living in Ireland. Obviously, we live in a condo with a swimming pool so that’s still a great novelty for us.
3. What is it like being a mum abroad?
It can be very lonely without a support network. Grandparents and siblings are far away and cannot offer the hands-on help that would probably be readily available if we were in Ireland. It’s also difficult as initially, we were unfamiliar with the different residential areas. In a way, you are starting from scratch. On the other hand, it’s very enriching to be able to meet so many mums from around the world and make friends with people I would never have met at home. It’s broadened my horizons as a mum hugely and given me an open mind to all the different parenting methods. There is also the option of having affordable home-help which most expats tend to avail of. People are inclined to move a lot though so you may find your best friend suddenly leaves for pastures new and your starting all over again. Expat circles are very socially inclusive so the opportunities to meet new people and make friends are endless.
4. Any advice you may have for mums who might be considering a move?
If you get the opportunity – do it, you won’t regret it! It is far from easy moving to a new continent with a young family. Be prepared for plenty of stress! But also take whatever help is offered. Talk to those who have already made the move. They will have plenty of tips! There are a lot of social networking groups you can reach out to and connect with people who are in a similar situation and understand all the things you may be going through.
5. Any tips for travel with kids?
Let’s face it, traveling with young children is NOT relaxing nor enjoyable. Keep long haul flights to an absolute minimum is my advice. Jet lag with little ones is just rarely worth the trip. Short haul doesn’t have to be too bad, though. iPads are a lifesaver. Download some new apps/games/TV programs for the flight. But do make the most of being in a different part of the world and travel to as many nearby places as you can while the children are still young.
6. What’s the draw to moving home to Ireland as the children get bigger?
The cost of living! International schools are so expensive. Added to that, the cost of renting and the lack of spacious accommodation options make Ireland that bit more appealing as the children get older. Of course spending time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins is a big draw too. At some point, it will be nice to settle down and give them some solid roots, but for now being an expat family is enjoyable, exciting and rewarding for us.