Navigating Parenting Issues Outside of the US

by Alison Barnes

4th Trimester, Day One, Lifestyle

I’m a lucky mama. I have a beautiful baby boy, loyal golden retriever, and wonderful and loving husband who is supportive through and through. It is awesome that even before our baby was born we made our parenting decisions as a team. Oh, and did I mention he is Australian?

Parenting with an Australian is pretty fun. I love that he is laid back about most things, he is knowledgeable about what the current research says on child development, and best of all he is fiercely protective of our little one. I am sure that these qualities come from his Aussie upbringing. There are a lot of Aussie phrases that differ from our own here in the States. Some examples of these different phrases include: saying nappy for diaper, dummy for pacifier, or even using the word nursing to reference to holding the baby. As in “would you like me to nurse him for you?” Most of these phrases were brought to my attention thanks to my Aussie mother-in-law, who was adamant that she WAS using the word nursing properly, after both my husband and I looked at her like she was crazy. She couldn’t possibly mean that she wanted to feed our baby! We had a few good laughs about that one.

Speaking of my mother-in-law, we were so lucky to have her stay with us for 6 weeks. She flew from Brisbane to help us take care of our 2 month old son. She got to see him grow and change over the course of those weeks, and I had the privilege of seeing the joy in her eyes as she marveled at her wonderful and beautiful first grandson. And after our many conversations about raising kids and listening to her experiences I realized something. There are some aspects of parenting that are universal. Mamas everywhere have to manage all the recommendations and advice they receive and really make the right decisions for their own family. And it is important that we respect this because truly every situation, every family, and every baby is different. Mamas deserve better. Less judgement and more understanding.

But here’s the kicker, even though we love our life in snowy Minnesota, asking your mate to live with you in a different country comes with its challenges. And difficult feelings about decisions made in the past can resurface from time to time. I’m sure many can relate and understand that the decision of which city, state, or even country to live in is not always an easy and leaves us asking what is best for my family? Most people wonder why on earth we would choose to live in the land of 10,000 lakes over the beautiful land down under? Well, that’s a pretty loaded question. To put it the most simply it comes down to where we would have a network of support.

I’m sure there are many other mamas out there that understand that it isn’t easy to make a decision that involves the lives of so many. Living in my home country means my husband can’t live in his. It means that we both get to enjoy the snow, but miss the beach. It means we only see one side of the family for holidays. And it means that our son probably won’t have an Australian accent like his father.

But we had to make a choice between here or there. At times I feel crushed that we miss out on so much, and that my husband gave up a great deal to be with me. And yes, it’s true, I could have had a longer maternity leave in Australia. For a mama that fiercely believes that mamas in the US deserve a maternity leave that puts us on par with the rest of the developed world, this one really stung. At the end of the day, we make it work. We aim for better and we make the best with what we’ve got. And we have a great life, excellent jobs, and technology that connects us to friends and family abroad. We have so much to be thankful for, no matter where we are.

Alison Barnes

I love being a wife and mom! It’s true when they say that becoming a parent is the best thing that you will ever do. I’m fortunate to have a loving and supportive partner in parenting in my wonderful husband, Luke. Before I became a mom I studied Studio Art and Psychology. My double major led me to a Master’s degree in Art Therapy. I returned to work after baby to continue running art therapy groups for children, where we focus on exploring and expressing emotions through many different types of art media.