“How do you manage to do what you do with small children and a family?”
This is a question I get often.
For one, I’ve got a supportive partner that does not give me any crap when I strand him alone with the kids for three weekends in a row, and other such glamorous facets of the aid industry.
We have help, which is vital for the kid’s stability and routine to continue when one parent is in the office and the other half way across the world. Let alone key for maintaining some order in a house populated with more children than adults. And yeah, our sanity.
But key to making it work, the unsung heroes, remain the grandparents, none of which live in the same city, actually, none of which live in the same continent, and still manage to pack their bags and sail the oceans to the rescue of my little souls.
For over three years now they’ve timed their visits with my extended absences so that their novelty, their games and their indulging fills the emotional void that having mommy away can create in a small child. So that the days and hours pass by just that little bit faster. They fill their time with fun and distractions, outings, and most importantly, dedicated attention and love, all the while strengthening their sense of identity, their roots, their language and the bond with the extended family, always physically far from us.
I like to think that they get something out of it, but clearly we are the main beneficiaries. The children get the things I listed above, while I get the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they could not be in better hands.
My children are fully bilingual in spite of the fact that before this last year they'd never lived in a country where the local language coincided with either of theirs. They look forward to our yearly pilgrimage “home”, a place they’ve never lived in and probably never will, to seeing the cousins they see once or twice a year, but adore, and the routines they’ve become accustomed to. And there is no doubt in my mind that the grandparents have played a pivotal role in this. That they are like an emotional umbilical cord that unites them to their roots and an identity we hope they will be able to inherit in spite of their nomad upbringing as global expats and third culture kids.