Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thoughts on Our First Year in Shanghai

     This last week marked the completion of our first year here in Shanghai.  It's been long and challenging, eye-opening and thrilling.  Relentless and contemplative. This is my first experience as an expat and my family's first relocation.  I have had to really look inside myself, and think what I hope to gain for myself, Chris and the girls.

     Chris is doing exactly what he should be doing, and in the right place in his life right now.  All the challenges that he and others face at work is a test.  And we know that it will all be worth it on completion of this project.
     The girls are able to embrace the opportunity like only kids can.  They quickly made new friends, and accept new things more openly.  They are in a bubble.  They don't consider the ethnic background or heritage of anyone.  Their judgements are made on if someone is kind, fun or a good student.  Maybe that will change, but I hope not.

     My role is less defined.  I knew I really wanted to support my kids and husband.  I spent much of the last year trying to make things as seamless for them as possible.  Making sure all the "home" needs were taken care of:   Dinner ready - check.  School supplies picked-up - check.  Needed repairs done - check.
     My problem was that I didn't realize how draining some of the most simple tasks could be.  A daily "To Do" list of more than a few things could send me into a sweaty-panic spiral.  I had such high expectations of myself.  Too high.  My inner Mommy-Judge would chide "you used to manage tons of people, businesses - this should be easy" or "everyone else is handling this - what's the problem?".
     I have to remind myself that EVERYTHING is harder in China.  EVERYTHING takes longer.  And constantly being out of my comfort zone is not easy.

Recently, lots of new families have taken the plunge and are moving here.  Over 100 Disney families are expected to live in Shanghai during the construction of the Disneyland Resort.  Some Moms have asked my advice on things big and small.  I guess to some I am a veteran at this, although I feel like I'm just figuring it out.  I will make a list on a future blog, but what I would suggest for most is to take a deep breath.  Keep people around you that make you feel safe and give you permission to be imperfect.
Run away from people who begin a sentence "this is what you should do..." or "when I was in ________, I had it so much harder blah, blah, blah...".

Accept that sometimes we all need a "China day".  A day spent under the covers until noon, watching reality TV or eating expensive Haagen Daz can be the best therapy.  We all deserve it.  It's ok..really.  I'm going back to bed now.

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