Meet a Mom

Meet a Mom: Lauren

June 3, 2015 | 14 Comments

I met Lauren at university where we both studied Business Science and then had the grand plan of going over to America to work on the ski slopes. Thinking back, this was quite ambitious of me, considering I came from a dusty farm and had only seen snow once in my life. We had such fun though. We met amazing people, put on 10kgs each, Lauren learned to ski and I ate lots of banana bread.

After the ski season, using up all the dollars we’d scrimped and saved, we travelled extensively around that amazing continent: surfing waves in Hawaii, shopping in New York City and betting on horses at the Kentucky Derby. We cleaned boats in Florida, saw the sights in Chicago and had the most eye-opening trip on a Greyhound bus (we sat next to a prisoner who’d just been released from jail). And no, I’m not making that last one up.

Anyway, I think we’ll all agree that things have been difficult in South Africa over the past few months. Around the dinner table and at kids’ parties, and standing outside the school gates, there has been much talk about emigrating. This isn’t a post about whether you should or you shouldn’t, this is an interview with Sydney-based Lauren, so you can get some insights into what life is like on the other side of the pond.

IMG_3933Tell us a bit about yourself.

I met Ryan in my last year at university and it truly was love at first sight! After a short stint doing a ski season in Vail I returned to South Africa to be with him and we settled in Joburg for four years. Ryan was offered a secondment through work to Australia and after getting married we hopped on the flying kangaroo bound for Sydney. We have now lived in this beautiful city for the past 7 years and have three wonderful kids – Tyla 5, Josh almost 3 and Nic who is 8 months.

What do you love about living in Australia?

  1. The focus on family – the importance of the family unit is upheld by law and the community at large. One example of this is the maternity leave policy which allows me to take one whole year off, with 4 and a bit months paid leave, and the guarantee of my part-time job when I return to work. Flexible work arrangements are common which means Ryan can also play an active role in the children’s lives.
  1. Personal freedom – I absolutely love walking the kids to school or heading to the beach at sunrise for a run or catching a cab home on my own at night. The feeling that we can go where we want to go whenever we want is still liberating. I love that the kids can be kids and worry about what kids should worry about. Ryan also travels a lot for work leaving me at home with the three kids on my own. He’s never concerned about my safety, only my sanity!
  1. Public facilities – the parks and beaches here are just brilliant and always well looked after. There’s always a free event, expo, festival or market to enjoy. Public transport is great and travelling by ferry still feels like a novelty.
  1. Relaxed lifestyle – these Aussies know how to enjoy the simple things in life and we’ve jumped on their bandwagon! Good coffee, outdoor activities, easy entertaining, extended beach sessions, picnics in the park and online shopping!

Ryan and I believe that the ‘grass is not greener on the other side but where you water it’. We have invested ourselves in our local communities, making the most of the upsides of living in Australia and enduring the downsides together.

IMG_3686What do you miss about life in South Africa?

  • The obvious one is family and close friends – and don’t underestimate the power of an established network!
  • The warmth and friendliness of South Africans. South Africans are actually rather nosy, but in a good way, and will strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere.
  • I certainly miss having someone help me clean the house or watch the children!
  • The smell of uncertainty in the air. I know this may sound strange but when it’s not there, you miss it!
  • The ‘boer maak ‘n plan’ attitude. Because everything usually works here, when it doesn’t, people are stumped! And if you try fix the situation, you’re probably breaking an Occupational Health and Safety Law (OH&S) and are told to stop.
  • I also miss the cheap and wonderful wine and the prices of eating out. Having the bush and the beach close by and the African sun (the Australian sun is harsh!). And of course Woolies red chuckles!

How do you think parenting differs from one country to the other, if at all?

I’d say elements of parenting do differ by country because you adapt to the macro challenges or circumstances where you live. For example, everywhere I go, the kids go! This is not unique to Australia but perhaps to expats living in a first world country. Not having family around the corner or a nanny at home means the kids are with me most of the time.

If one has ballet, we all go. If we need top up groceries, we all go. If one is sick, they still have to come with me to do the school run (yes, even with gastro!) or the healthy ones have to come with me to the doctor. It is a privilege to spend so much time with my kids but I have to put in extra effort to make sure we also spend quality time together with the kids and as a couple. Equally, we need to find time on the weekends to have a break from the kids to refuel the ‘patience tank’!

Thanks Lauren for your wonderful answers! You can read more of my Meet a Mom interviews here.

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14 Comments

  • Reply robynne June 3, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Lovely post, thanks B and Lauren. Lauren you are very good at positively summing up expat life…I love your comments about doing everything together, it’s so true. Being torn between having freedom in life to live our desired choices (which can be as simple as going for a run on our own or cycling to work) versus sharing our life with our dearly loved family and friends can be really tough some days, to know if you’re making the right choice for you and your family. But oh how I do wish my kids could know the rhythm of Africa in their hearts and the wonder of the immense beauty of it’s lands and it’s people.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain June 3, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      Ah Robs – I get you! Africa misses you and your beautiful children too. x

  • Reply Gaelyn Cokayne June 3, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    I so enjoyed this!

  • Reply Theresa June 3, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    A lovely positive article. I recently went to Australia and I must say it made me happier about our decision to live in SA – having said that, in the last month, South Africa hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory! Lauren, I have it on good authority those little red packets of deliciousness may be on your doorstep one of these days 🙂

  • Reply Dice June 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    what a great read B and Lau.
    Returning back to HK as an expat, from Australia now with a toddler in tow is quite a challenge and I crave the simple life in Aus, and miss all the family in SA, but we have so much help here in HK that I’ve found another lease on life being able to swap my mumsie yoga clothes for heels and a night out! But is also means back to living in a shoebox! We’ll be back in Aus and the spaciousness it offers before too long! X

  • Reply Jenny June 3, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Really Theresa? I went to Australia and wish more than anything I could live there. Funny how differently people experience things.

  • Reply Kevin B June 3, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Wait! You actually saw horses!?!

  • Reply Paul June 4, 2015 at 8:28 am

    From what I’ve just read, life in Sydney sounds a lot like life in Cape Town.

  • Reply Carmen June 4, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Thanks for this insightful article, from a Mom’s perspective.
    We are in the process of getting ourselves across to Oz, and I am reading as much as I can on both the positives and negatives.
    At the end of the day we have to think about our beautiful children’s future in a country that no longer seems to want us.
    Our ancestors brought our bloodlines to Africa from Europe, (Germany), and now it seems it is our turn to further this tradition!

  • Reply Nicki June 4, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    As a soon-to-be Sydney-sider, this is an honest, great read for me. Hope to meet you when I get there, Lauren!

    • Reply Jenny June 5, 2015 at 11:08 am

      wooohoo you are going to love it Nicki! Lucky fishes.

  • Reply Anne Young June 26, 2015 at 2:52 am

    I really enjoyed your post. We have recently moved from South Africa to Australia. We are trying to set up in Sydney and the expense is a real disappointment. I miss South Africa!

  • Reply Yolandi September 29, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    Lovely interview! x Sydney is by far my favourite place in the world.

  • Let me know what you think!