Is parenting after immigration more challenging? This mom says it is

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"There is plenty of evidence that adapting to living abroad becomes harder when the 'cultural distance' between the country of origin and the destination country increase..."
"There is plenty of evidence that adapting to living abroad becomes harder when the 'cultural distance' between the country of origin and the destination country increase..."

Motherhood in itself is an entirely different ball game. How much more so in a foreign country?

Worldwide, 15 - 20% of mothers struggle with postpartum depression, and suicide is the leading cause of death in the postpartum period, but studies are revealing that tackling parenthood while adapting to living abroad can prove even harder. 

There is also the lesser-known phenomenon of 'Paris syndrome', wherein individuals experience a sense of disappointment at their new destination. This is exhibited by, and named after, tourists who when visiting Paris feel that the city did not meet their expectations.

A form of 'extreme culture shock' or 'cultural distance', it can lead to anxiety, depression and even psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.

Add to that the stressors of moving a family across the world, and it's not surprising that many mothers may struggle to cope with the changes, the stresses of work and the challenges of being a good parent without the support system of their family and friends 'back home'.

Arendine Le Grange, a local mother of two, spoke to Parent24 about her experiences of moving to abroad and having to take care of her children and marriage, and how she struggled to adapt - and ultimately failed to settle in to her new home. 

A new mother in a new environment

After moving to the UK at the age of 23, Le Grange had what she called "the worst experience ever" when giving birth to her first child, but that was just the beginning of her hardships in a foreign country.

Le Grange tells us how she had to continue working while being a mother of two, dealing with postpartum depression, coping with the stress of work and lack of sleep, while trying to be a good, present mother - all without the support system of her family and friends in South Africa.

Le Grange says the new environment "absolutely" added to the stress of being a working mother.

"You're a new mother in a new environment," she said. "It's a new environment without the support that you need, without the family that you need."

"You just feel so overwhelmed," she said. "The pressure was immense - it was just so bad."

"Sometimes, I asked my husband to drive 20 minutes to our home during his lunch break just to give me a 10-minute break from my almost 3-year-old and 6-month-old."

ALSO SEE | The Dark Side of Motherhood: 'Why can't I just be happy?' 

We are all still alive 

After struggling emotionally for years, Le Grange moved back to South Africa to seek the support from her family that she so desperately needed. 

"I stayed with my parents for three months and they supported me and helped me with so much love and kindness and suddenly the sky was blue and life was easier and fun," Le Grange told us. "I am grateful for my story. It is okay; we are all still alive.  I am grateful for my parents that were always there when I needed them the most. It is not easy to immigrate and leave everything that you love behind."

Le Grange says that she underestimated the importance of domestic workers in alleviating the workload that motherhood presents, calling them "the angels in South Africa". 

"We [mothers] have to cope with the work environment, you have to cope with the kids, we are just as responsible as our husbands - and we have to be strong, we don't have any other option," she says. 

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