Today’s guest post on expat life comes from Trish Carty. Trish is a chef and nutritional therapist, and writes at Keep The Beet. Although an American living in her own country, Trish has an expat story to tell– of being married to an expat, raising her family between cultures, and navigating a different way of finding family closeness across the miles.
This post is about the ups and downs of having families in two different countries. What I want to express is the intensity at which we experience our relationships and how there are positive and negative aspects that affect all members of any family in this situation.
I grew up in Northern California and my husband grew up in Northern Ireland– he is from County Derry. His whole life, he had been raised in a small town close to the northern coast of Ireland. He had moved from the UK and landed in San Francisco (where we met) at age 21 , and yet insistently felt that it was his home. We got married, had two kids and then moved two states away to raise our kids. Eleven years later, we moved back to California.
Most people I know think it is so romantic and exciting to have my husband’s side of the family all living in Europe. While that is true on one hand, the other side of the story which most people are unwilling to see or relate to is the other issues– such as having to say our goodbyes, and not knowing when we will see each other again. Or just the sadness of not having a family that supports you in the events from day to day.
What I have found is that the time is so short that we all have a condensed version of a normal relationship with each other whenever we do spend time together.
We embrace the excitement of travel, and the fact is, my children have been to Europe much more than most, as we go to visit relatives and partake in special events within the family. It is always enjoyable to anticipate the adventure, but the down side is saying goodbye. Luckily, we have had many family members come visit us in the U.S.– but it never takes away the difficulty of the day we have to part.
While in the normal human experience, there are births and deaths and all the rest, an expat has to deal with all life events at a distance. On a recent trip, we had the joy of meeting two generations of 5 new children ranging from 5 years to 1 month old that we had never met! On this particular trip, most of our family had not been to my husband’s hometown for 7 years. So we enjoyed all the most special places we longed to see and got right into the rhythm of life there. We had an extremely short trip of 7 days which intensified our desire to fully embrace every minute we had there. It was filled with spending time with all of the family members, who came in waves to visit over the course of that time period. We cooked, laughed, danced and enjoyed the “craic” so to speak.
We were in Ireland on St Patty’s Day, and our general agreement– hands down– was to spend the day at our beloved beach. We all jumped into action. It is one of the most spectacular beaches in the world and minutes from his hometown. Growing up there, many a day was spent with family and friends there, and it’s a place that my husband rode his bike to often. We brought a picnic and played soccer and enjoyed the local Mr. Softy ice cream truck.
I loved that we cooked our own foods and meals together and what signified our trip was togetherness, connecting and traditions. That to me is family and although we are across the world from each other, it somehow never feels like it the minute we see each other and fall into the patterns of daily life.
We all have grown accustomed to staying in the here and now. It makes a big difference to take each day as it comes. Our children have grown up in a situation that is very foreign to me. I was surrounded by all my family members throughout most of my life until about ten years ago. My husband had a very similar experience to my own, growing up in a small town where all of his large family had lived for generations. So the most challenging aspect of this experience, for me, has been witnessing my children having to deal with not seeing immediate members of family on a regular basis. But we do (as most expats) call every week and make plans for visits– either here or there.
My conclusion is this: Having a family that stretches between countries is a unique experience to embrace and enjoy. It is different than the normal family who can walk around the corner to see their granny, but I know in my heart that we would not change our experience for the world. We feel very blessed to have this extraordinary experience!
Trish Carty has been a Professional Chef for over 30 years. She leads workshops locally and globally. Trish is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified GAPS Practitioner. She is currently studying to become Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition. Food and the connection of a healthy lifestyle can be found on her blog and as a guest blogger for others. You can follow her at: Keep The Beet.
Thanks for sharing your experience as a family between countries, Trish. I can definitely relate to the pain of having children far from relatives who love them. My hope is that we are giving Amelia the love and experiences she needs to connect even from afar, and to grow into a confident person that sees an ability to relate with and grow close to people from many different backgrounds.
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