I meet so many cool moms! This series gives them a chance to share their stories – to inspire others and to sometimes give us all a chuckle.
Parenting is not for cowards and parenting abroad can be next level. If you want to share your story, please get in touch with me. I’d love to feature you.
Erin is an international mom, fellow member of the Expat Coach Coalition and entrepreneur. Her journey so far has taken her from the USA to Central America and finally to Jordan, picking up languages along the way. In Jordan she identified a need for and co-founded a language center that she has since expanded to include adaptation support & coaching; all while growing her family and continuing her own education. As her situation changed, she adapted, both in her roles, as well as culturally. This is Erin’s inspiring story.
How did you get to where you are today?
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
I’m originally from the US, from a family firmly rooted in the state of Georgia. International travel wasn’t something that anyone thought much about. But when I went to college, I studied Spanish because something was calling me to experience something new.
I spent 5 years in Central America and then landed in Jordan to take on my next linguistic challenge: Arabic. Still single at the time, I wasn’t sure how long I’d last alone in the Middle East, but when I met my husband (also from the US, working in Jordan) Amman became our home. We now have a 3 year old little boy and an almost 5 year old little girl who were born here.
In 2013 I helped start a language center where people from over 30 nations are learning to speak Arabic and in 2019 I transitioned into the role of adaptation and life coach to support expats living abroad learning language and culture.
How do you spend your days?
Time with my kids are the bookends of my day…getting ready in the morning and dinner time with a bedtime routine at night. Most days I get to support courageous expats putting in the hard work of learning language and immersing themselves in culture. I am privileged to be their safe space to process and debrief their complicated and exciting lives. Together we find the next right thing for them and explore ways to enhance their lives. I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to walk alongside them and am thankful to feel very fulfilled by my work.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could, I would give my younger self a big bear hug and say “the world is not as scary as it seems. You can put yourself out there a little bit more.”
I was pretty shy as a child and felt very unsure of myself. Thankfully, I was able to step out in boldness in my late teenage years, but looking back on my younger self, I feel sad for her that she was so insecure and unsure of herself.
What’s the one thing you are thrilled your child will have or be by growing up as TCKs/CCKs?
I hope that growing up as TCKs my kids will have a somewhat innate ability to appreciate difference. At least that’s my hope. In a world that is more and more polarized, I hope that they will be able to speak with someone who has different beliefs or a different lifestyle and accept and appreciate them. I think this is what the world needs to see more healing.
What’s your biggest mobile-family-related parenting challenge?
To me the biggest challenge living abroad is the distance between my kids and their grandparents. I grew up down the street from my grandparents and had a lovely experience because of it. My brother and I rarely had babysitters and spent ample time with all 4 of our grandparents. I love so many aspects of our life, but I am often sad that my kids are not closer to their grandparents, who are all pretty amazing people.
What was a big culture shock for you? How did you handle it?
I lived in Jordan for 5 years before I had my first child here, so I was pretty accustomed to a lot of the aspects of the culture. However, entering in to the parenting realm of culture wasn’t easy. The identity change I went through becoming a mother shook me significantly.
I was 33 years old and had a hard time reconciling the new constraints of motherhood on my energy, time and overall capacity. Adding in cultural expectations on me and my child was more than I could bear.
I coped by making strategic decisions to not adapt to certain aspects of life in order to preserve our sanity and general well being. For example, Jordanian hospitality often goes into late hours of the night…but our bedtime for the kids stayed early. This meant we missed out on some fun time with local friends, but the tradeoff was important enough that we chose not to adapt in that way.
What advice would you give families setting out on their first expat adventure?
I’m still in awe of families who start their expat adventures together. I was single when I started and it was challenging enough! Bringing kids into the mix and adding so many logistics to figure out to your plate seems like a giant undertaking.
And I think that’s my advice…recognize that what you are doing is a really big endeavor. Take care of yourself. Don’t get lost in the details and resist thinking “This shouldn’t be this hard…why am I so tired all the time?” It IS that hard to adapt to a totally new way of life. Be intentional about taking care of yourself, whatever that looks like for you.