I lay on the beach all day, sipping cool beverages while the azure blue ocean waves gently sweep in. I don’t really, but that’s what my friends think I do. They say:
“How amazing to raise your daughter in paradise!”
They’re right (sort of). I do live in paradise. But as one of my good friends always says, “Paradise isn’t paradise if you live there every day.”
I’m American born and bred, but married a man from Nassau, Bahamas. So after years of living in the southern suburbs of the USA, my hubby and I decided to leave our American life behind and move to this tropical island 180 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. That meant a new life, a new lifestyle and a new experience as a mama in paradise.
Of course my husband loves being back home. And my daughter loves it too – she enjoys the great weather, the beaches and having her Bahamian family close by. Me? Well let’s just say that I should have done a better job researching what it would be like to make a life in a small, developing country! And I definitely should have explored the challenges of parenting abroad.
Let me share a few of the challenges. Finding activities for an active primary school child on this little developing island can be frustrating. My daughter has enjoyed endless beach outings, trips to the playground and hundreds of birthday parties. But there are many weekends when I have to use all of my mommy skills to find new, creative activities for her to participate in. There’s no dropping in to the local Chuck E. Cheese’s or having an afternoon at the children’s museum (the island has neither of these).
I also find myself spending lots of time teaching my daughter important American basics. Of course her school focuses on all things Bahamian. That means if I want her to know the Pledge of Allegiance, The Star Spangled Banner, the story of the first Thanksgiving or the importance of Black History Month, I have to teach her. I spend a lot of my parenting time making sure that my daughter has a sense of American culture. Something that I would take for granted if we didn’t live abroad.
But there are amazing benefits to living in Nassau. One is that my daughter gets to see people of color in power. The country is about 80% black which means the prime minister, police officers, teachers, doctors, lawyers and almost anyone else my daughter comes in contact with share her African heritage. It’s empowering for her to live in a country where black role models are all around her.
Island life is very family oriented and I love it. My daughter is constantly around dozens of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. And while there may not be a ton of activities for her, there’s always a lot of love. It’s the kind of place where you can’t drive down the street without constantly waving at people you know. That neighborly feeling is comforting and almost makes me forget the challenges of living in a new country.
Most importantly, my daughter gets to experience a vibrant culture. The bright pastel colored houses. The mix of African and English traditions. The sounds of the drums and the sight of elaborate costumes at the traditional Junkanoo festival every year. When she looks back on her childhood on an island, this is what she’ll remember.
Knowing that she’ll always have these rich experiences to draw on makes living abroad worthwhile. But before you quit your job, buy a new bikini and pack up your kids to move to the islands, remember that even an island paradise has its challenges!
Would you ever move to a new country with your kids?
Yolanda Darville is a Type-A American wife, mom and freelance communicator learning to navigate the easy going island life in Nassau, Bahamas. Connect with her on Twitter.