Paradise and Parenting

Expat by Choice

By Leza Warkentin

There are so many times that I am grateful for my expat life. Like the time that my sister-in-law told me that she yearns for the old days when peanut butter sandwiches were allowed in public schools. Like the moments I realize how much my job here allows me to follow my passion for teaching AND to spend so much time with my family. Like the April days when my Canadian friends post photos of the latest snowfall and I go to El Rio BBQ to cool off (I stopped posting tropical “selfies” in March. There is such a thing as too cruel). Those are the good days, and I am sure you all have them too.
There are some days, though, when I second guess the choice to live in a country where I wasn’t born. Like the days where I go from store to store looking for chickpeas which were easy to find a week ago and now are out of stock exactly everywhere. Like the days when I wish I could understand for what purpose people are really using their signal lights, if not to announce a lane change or a turn.
Like the days where my children tearfully watch their grandparents (also tearfully) walk through airline customs, then turn to me and ask, with eyes huge, brown and beautiful, “Why do we have to live so far away from our family?” Ah. Yes.
There’s the chink in my mothering armor that, when pierced, leaves me breathless and uncertain. I take a step back from myself during those moments, stare myself down with squinty eyes and ask, “Yes, mama, tell me, why do we?” And, in that moment, I have nothing to say.
The question wasn’t so difficult before we had our children. With all the love, the romance, the language, the simpler life, the love (did I already mention that?), it was easy to stay and not easy to imagine life without Vallarta.
Even now, life here is still simple (well, as simple as life could possibly be with kids), our children are fully bilingual, and we have more family time than we would ever dream of in my home country.
But then I’m pulling my children, sobbing, from their grandparents’ legs, knowing they will grow a clothing size before seeing them again. That’s when I have to answer the question again.
I think that the big difference between living in a foreign country and living in your home country is that living as an expat is a life one must choose, and then keep choosing.
Being far away from family is a conscious decision you will need to make every time you say good bye to your parents and best friends, every time you go to immigration with the paper you forgot/didn’t know you needed last time, every time you fall into a stranger’s lap due to inertia on a Vallarta bus.
And so our choice means that we keep saying goodbye, and it never gets easier. But I can’t regret it for a minute. I enjoy watching my children loving life and the easy beauty that is Vallarta.
That’s our daily decision. And for right now, that’s enough.
Looking to connect with other parents? – Join Mamás in PV(facebook group) on April 26th at the El Rio BBQ where they are hosting a party for Parents and kids, tickets are free at!