The end of the year – a time for reflection. This is the first piece of writing from Liz Anderson, who we hope will soon become a regular contributor!
We are coming up on the end of 2018, which for me has been the fastest year on record. A new baby always makes life both mind-numbingly slow and achingly fast at the same time. And juggling a 3-year-old and a newborn sometimes feels like an exercise in madness, but every day we get up and do it all over again. Our older son is at the age where he has begun to understand the passage of time and he is so, SO excited for the holidays with our family. He can’t stop talking about going home to our families, because in the world of expat kids it’s perfectly normal to assume that there is always an airplane ride just around the corner. 😊
Off we will go, running around the US seeing as many people as we can, grateful that our lives are flexible enough for us to afford this luxury. It’s weird to think that exactly a year ago our families first found out we were having another baby…and here he is, six months old and such a wonderful addition to our family that I can’t believe he ever wasn’t with us. Life is funny that way. I don’t know if living abroad has made me more reflective or if it’s having kids that does it, but the passage of time feels so all-encompassing to me right now. The future can feel so far, but the present slips away faster than you can ever imagine.
2018 was a tumultuous year, and while we loved meeting our second son for the first time, we grieved the loss of a dear friend to cancer, too. We visited our family and friends for two months this summer but said goodbye to the family we had built here in Shanghai as we watched our close friends repatriate home in June. And we introduced our kids to the Minnesota summer lake house tradition that my husband grew up with while significantly cutting back on vacations around Asia.
I don’t anticipate 2019 will be any slower. It will likely be our last year in Shanghai, and if this chapter closes soon, I will have seriously mixed feelings. My to-do list is still so long, and I desperately want to feel like I checked every box while we lived here. So, for me, a new start to the year isn’t just about the traditional fresh start, it’s about knowing our time in one of the best cities in the world may not last too much longer. If you told me three years ago that I would feel this sad to know our time here was nearly up I would have laughed in your face. It’s hard to fathom the amazing opportunities that exist in Shanghai until you begin to experience them for yourself.
For me, the absolute best thing about Shanghai is the connections I have made with other women. Meeting people from all over the world inspired me to start a blog about the delicate balance of new motherhood and new expat life. I realized that I was interacting with awesome, funny, interesting moms, but we often forgot to ask each other anything beyond the typical mommy and expat questions.
As I began to talk to women about their life stories, I was impressed with the work these women had done before they put their careers on hold for this adventure. I’ve sat down with professors, magazine editors, entrepreneurs, designers, headhunters, and former rocket scientists. We don’t always focus heavily on their careers, but I think it’s important to remember that these women may wipe noses and bums all day long, but they have done much more than that in their lifetimes.
Over the past 18 months, each interview of an accidental stay-at-home-mom has made me even more interested in talking to other women and hearing about their experiences here. And while my writing checks the box for “have something to talk about in job interviews when you return home,” it also opened me up to what I consider the best thing about Shanghai: an ever-growing network of amazing women that I now call friends.
My 2018 resolutions have all been met, and as soon as we return from the holidays my check list for 2019 will be with me wherever I go. Instead of the large life goals I had for myself when we first arrived, though, the goodbye checklist seems a bit more intimate. One last good meal in our old neighborhood; one last date night with a view of the Bund; one last fake market trip and brunch with friends; and hopefully one or two trips within China to those places near and far I still haven’t seen.
If you’re new to Shanghai, I urge you to sit down and really think about what you would like to do while you live here. A five-year stint (or even two years, for that matter!) may feel like a lifetime, but before you know it, you’ll be thinking of who to invite to your goodbye dinner. And for the Shanghai veterans, what new places are you looking to explore in this ever-changing city?
Mamas, I hope your 2019 is filled with amazing events, trips, and mommy meet ups. May your Year of the Pig be lived to the fullest.
Liz Anderson is an American wife and mother living abroad for the first time. Between juggling two kids, volunteering, and coffee with friends, she can be found blogging at anoceanaway.blog.