A Survival Guide for Expat Parents of Newborns
How to cope with a newborn when, for better or worse, you're a long way from 'home' and without a network of support from family and more experienced friends? Check out our alternative survival guide to parenting a newborn when you're a million miles from home!
When we came home from hospital with our newborn son, we were excited, slightly delirious and sleep deprived and we were also in disbelief that we were being given sole responsibility for looking after this tiny helpless creature.
What made us qualified?! Yes, we had half listened to some parenting classes and yes we were grown adults with a few brain cells between us but what did we actually know!
It is hard enough learning to navigate the ever-changing needs of a small and very demanding baby, but when you are miles from home it can be extra daunting.
I am by no means the chronicle of parenting, but I have learnt a few things from having 3 children abroad and from working as a Doula here in Hong Kong.
Here are my top 3 tips for parenting in a strange and exciting land!
Make ‘good friends’ and listen to them
Make friends with other mums through mums’ clubs, antenatal classes and picking up women in the parks! (I literally used to do this!) They will become your family and once you have few great friends around you, you will be able to do anything.
It can be lonely when you are with your baby 24/7. Having friends in the same boat means that you have people who understand and can support you. They’ll be a bank of knowledge too with tips on the best places to buy baby stuff you’ve never heard of, they’ll tell you about clubs that are actually worth the money and also what to do if x or y happens. Friends (good ones anyway) don’t judge you. They share in your successes (like surviving on 2 hours sleep wahoo!) and they are there to listen when you need to rant. Use them.
Try not to stress
If you thought your old job was stressful then parenting is a whole new ball game. There are so many things to potentially worry about. Is she putting on enough weight? Is she too hot? Is it too polluted to go outside? How will you navigate the MTR? Do I look like I can’t cope? Then there are worries about you personally. Are you ever going to get your figure back? Does your husband still fancy you? Are your friends going reject you because you can’t stay awake beyond 8pm?!
As a new parent, your sleep deprived mind can be overloaded with ‘what ifs’ and you can drive yourself mad from worrying. Try to remember that you can only do your best. It’s all trial and error and you will make mistakes and that’s okay. There is a lot to do, be open with what help you need from your partner, your helper and your friends. Don’t pretend you are okay. It’s normal to have a bad day or to ask for help. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
Also listen to your doctors if they express concern, for example about issues of weight gain, and try not to take any issues as personal failure. There is always a solution and by believing in yourself, looking after yourself and slowing down you can often find an option that is right for you and your family.
Navigating Hong Kong with a baby can be a daunting prospect. As comedian Michael McIntyre said “you don’t know something is a ‘thing’ until you have kids. Leaving the house used to be as simple as walking out the door. With kids it now becomes a huge thing”!
Try to pack the bag the night before with changes of baby clothes and a spare top for you, extra nappies and wipes just in case, a portable changing mat, extras snacks and food for you and the baby just in case. Think about if you are moving from AC to hot and whether you need layers on your baby. Is it going to be hot so do you need the fan and sunshade or cold and a blanket?
Have a plan about what time you ‘need’ to leave and then give yourself another 30 mins in case there are any last minute nappy explosion or feed! Plan how you’ll carry your bub in a taxi or through the MTR. Do you need a carrier, pram and/or the car seat? Often a carrier is a lot easier as the stairs and access in HK are tough.
Plan where you’ll have lunch and where you’ll be able to change or feed the baby. If you want to avoid the office rush, then get somewhere early so you’ll have a seat. It sounds like a military operation but planning really does pay off and makes the whole experience a lot less stressful.
There are so many more tips and ideas I could share and I am happy to pick up with anyone who wants to find out more about parenting in HK. Please enjoy this precious time and if I can be of any help get in touch.
Cathee Jackson moved from the UK to Discovery Bay with her young family 5 years ago. She is a birth doula, breastfeeding counsellor and works with couples leading up to their big day teaching antenatal classes. To get in touch you can visit her website DBDoula.com, email her or Whatsapp her on 5993 3699.