As Egyptians, we tend to look at living abroad like a dream. Something we not only strive for but also store in the back of our minds as the solution to all our problems. However, no one ever sheds light on the truth about living abroad and how difficult it really is, especially with kids. So, let’s get a few things straight to help you realize that as an Egyptian mom living in Egypt, you have it quite easy.
It’s a one-man show
There are small things in Egypt that many people take for granted. Unfortunately, when living abroad they are luxuries. Forget about El Makwagy, the cleaning lady, the cook or even the support of your own family. When living abroad you have to take care of the kids as well as every little detail in the household. They might seem trivial things, but they really do help when your plate is already full with your children.
The worst thing is having to carry the stroller with your child up the stairs to your apartment. And if you have grocery shopping, too, you’ll have to carry that up along with your children, their toys and their stroller, skateboard or scooter. That alone is enough to triple an average workout with a whole lot of stress and frustration.
The Education system sucks
Contrary to popular belief, the quality of the public education system in most schools is absolute rubbish. If you’re looking to get a decent education for your kids, then you need to send them to private school. And unless you’re filthy rich, that’s not possible.
In the UK for example, you are assigned a school according to the district you live in. You do not have much of a choice and while some schools might be categorized as outstanding, the teachers are underpaid, minimizing the resources they have. Unfortunately, just like Egypt, in order to get your kids up to the level where they need to be, you get extra support.
One of the most difficult things to do when raising kids abroad is holding on to your culture, traditions, and religion. Your kids are exposed to other cultures, other languages, other norms and do not understand why they cannot be part of it. It’s also so difficult and frightening to be strict enough to prevent your kids from following the norm of their surrounding behavior. That’s because they end up feeling left out, with not many friends, or they could be holding back and feeling trapped only to resent you for it for the rest of their lives.
The dilemma of how to raise your kids while living abroad is real. You do not want them to be outcasts, but at the same time, you do not want them to stray away from your values and beliefs.
The best thing about being in Egypt is that you have a strong support system. You know that when you need a break, you can drop your kids off at their grandparents’ house and go for a cup of coffee with your friends or even just to the hairdresser. However, when living abroad, that isn’t an option. There’s no mama to give you a break. There’s no real friends or family to help you out.
You’re all alone and sometimes it can get pretty difficult to handle. Be thankful for those times you get to giggle with your friends and gossip about useless things just to get your mind off the kids and forgetting you’re a mommy for a change.
You need to pay a lot to get the best for your kids
One of the advantages of living abroad is that everything is available. If your kid is interested in music, you’ll find tons of options where they can learn. If they’re interested in sports, you’ll find great options, too. However, it all comes with a hefty price. There are no clubs where you can get discounted options for sports training and if you apply to after-school activities, it’s difficult to guarantee you’ll find a spot for them due to the huge number of students applying for the same position. To ensure they get proper training and have a spot, you’ll end up paying a fortune.
While most kids abroad have the luxury of being exposed to open parks, play areas and living the life of a true kid, there are many months of the year where it is either too cold, too rainy or just too difficult to take your kids out of the house. And so, they end up scooped up at home, going crazy and driving you insane in the process.
The struggle of not having a shatafa is real. Teaching your kids at a young age proper hygiene is quite difficult when you don’t even have a shatafa to make sure they’re clean. And even if you do at home, or you teach them to take a shower every time they poop, what do they do when they’re out of the house and don’t have access to that? It still baffles me how developed countries don’t see the importance of one of the best inventions of all time: The shatafa.
People usually travel abroad to get the best support when it comes to their health, right? However, when you’re living abroad and are part of the public health system, everything takes so much time. In the UK, you have to go through a GP (general practitioner) in order to get anything done. In most cases, these GPs try to solve the problem if they can without having to refer you to a specialist. If they refer you, you have to wait sometimes for months before you get an appointment just to have someone check out your problem. These months can have a huge effect on you or your kids’ health and it is frustrating. However, it is worth mentioning that if there is an emergency, they try to take care of it as quickly as possible.
Drugs, sex, and alcohol
While drugs are an issue that parents have to deal with all over the world, when living abroad your kids will be exposed to it on a much larger scale. As your children get older, they start going to parties where drugs, alcohol, and sex are what constitute the essentials of a party. So how do you prevent your kids from being exposed to these things when its just part of the atmosphere and environment you raised them to be part of?
One of the advantages of living abroad is that it teaches your kid to become independent. From an early age, your children will start finding part-time jobs and throughout high school and college, they will work and study. While this instills amazing attributes in your children and teaches them how to be responsible, there is the risk of becoming too independent. When they feel that they are financially independent, they could refrain from abiding by your rules or even resort to moving out entirely as that is common among most people their age. What do you do then?
While there are so many advantages of living abroad and how it shapes the personality and characteristics of your children, it’s not as easy and dreamy as most people tend to imagine. The dilemma and struggles are real and could really end up messing up your children big time.