The other day I came across a survey taken among expat mums. It was mentioned in an article on The Local (you can read it here) whose catchy title ‘Life is better in Italy, say expat mums ‘ did exactly what was supposed to do: trigger my attention.
The survey was conducted by mumabroad.com, a website by and for expat mums, and its main finding was that 49% of expat mums, especially the ones who relocated to Italy and Spain, are not planning to go back to their country of origin, as happier where they are.
The survey also made the interesting point that the women were willing to remain abroad even when they relocated to countries that have an education system and children services that they perceived as worse than the ones back ‘home’.
These data did not surprise me. I know many expat mums that fall under the category of ‘lifestyle migrants’, the one the survey is about, and it makes sense, in my experience, that about half of us want to stay and half would be happier to go back home.
It also made sense that many, like me, are happy to stay abroad even if they feel their new country is not, under some respects, a slice of paradise.
But still, it made an impression on me to see in black and white what we are happy to compromise upon. We are mums and the education of our kids is surely one of our main concerns: how come we are happy to compromise on this? What can be so important to override a worry about such an important factor?
I guess the answer to this may lie in the reason that got us to move in the first place.
I am a very lucky person. When I moved to Ireland, I did it out of my free will: I came over here when I wanted, to do the kind of job that I wanted and with the person I wanted to be with. The timing, the ways and the destination of my move were entirely decided by me.
Sure I have my moments when I feel life would be better in Italy: the food would be nicer, the weather would be nicer, we would travel more easily and we would have free access to the health system, but overall I came here because I loved it here and I still do.
I believe that those of us who are lucky enough to be able to choose where to live, do it following what I can only call a rule of attraction.
Some countries have a hold on us: it seems like they talk to us, they match our mood, our way to be. In some countries we feel more ourselves that in others and we almost feel like we are in our spiritual home, more that in the home that our birth certs define us to be from.
If this is the case, this is why we accept compromises: because the sum is greater than its parts.
So I wonder if this might be the feeling that the survey taps into. Our adoptive countries are not paradise, but they are home to us and maybe this is why we do not want to go ‘back’: we are back, we are home. Here.
If you are an expat, mum of otherwise, I’d love to hear your opinion about this. What made you move to your adoptive country and do you think you will stay? Why? If you feel like it, please share your story in the comments below.