In a week in which we said goodbye to Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, each a leading pioneer in their own industry and adored by millions, it seems appropriate to stop for a moment and take stock of our own lives. Hearing about both deaths on the news went a long way to showing me that you never know what goes on behind closed doors, that people who, from the outside at least, seemingly have it all, may not feel that way themselves.
I moved to Shanghai from a very small monocultural city in the UK, and I’m absolutely certain that some of my friends can’t believe my luck in having chanced upon such a charmed life. They see photos of exotic foreign locations that we’ve travelled to, and are jealous of affordable home help or the fact that I can stay at home with my children without worrying about the financial implications of doing so. And yet, whilst I know that I’m very lucky indeed, I remind them, that with such privilege and opportunity also comes great uncertainty. In five years, we’ve renegotiated my husband’s contract three times, and moved house five times. We’ve pushed our relationship to its limits, lived with in-laws, said goodbye to far too many close friends. We’re very aware that Shanghai will not be our forever home, so we know that there’s plenty more upheaval to come in the future. We think it’s a price worth paying, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, but that’s not to say it’s all plain sailing.
Shanghai is an amazingly dynamic place, and may seem on the surface to offer everything you ever wanted – the chance to meet a variety of interesting and innovative people from all walks of life, a vibrant social and restaurant scene, the convenience that comes with affordable home help and mobile technology and the opportunity to reinvent yourself in a new industry or as a business owner. And yet, sometimes, maybe because of those reasons, it can also feel very overwhelming. A new culture, language and city, that may appear mind-bogglingly overwhelming and yet exhilarating, often in the same moment. With such a move can come new family dynamics, where you suddenly find yourself a stay at home parent instead of a wage earner or career person, or a working parent adjusting to life without the support of your extended family around you. With so many changes, sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves or each other – we don’t sleep or rest enough because we try to make the most of every new experience, we don’t take the time to develop deep friendships with the many new friends we meet, and we forget to reach out to new arrivals who stumble through the first bewildering few weeks as we once did.
It doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that we are all members of a close-knit international community here in Shanghai, and that we can and should be there for one another. As John Dunne famously said, no man is an island, entire of itself; every man is piece of the continent, a part of the main. With over 5,000 members, we provide a strong support system to help you settle in and make lifelong friends, and a safe place to ask advice, find practical and emotional support. Our community is a great one, ever growing and changing. We’re working parents as well as homemakers, speakers of many languages with diverse life experiences, and it’s Shanghai that brings us together. Let’s keep it that way – let’s be there for one another, and keep our community strong.
As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if there’s anything else that we can do to help support you, or ways in which we can help our vast network of talented and experienced parents help each other.
Until next time…