Back in the United States, when my youngest of two sons was in high school, I used to joke that I’d rent out his room when he left for college.
If you take parenting out of the equation, my expat life thus far has been the essence of YOLO. Untethered from a job for the first time, I’ve been discovering my innerextrovert, as I throw myself into the “work” of making new friends here. I’m watching hornbills frolic from the balcony of our condo in Mount Sophia. I’m finally becoming a writer after 29 years as an attorney. If empty-nesting can lead to a midlife crisis, I’m having the best midlife crisis ever.
When I mentioned to Mark that I’d be writing this essay about parenting college-aged kids from an empty nest in Singapore, his first response was that it’s no different than parenting from “home” (i.e., New Jersey). When your busy kids forget to call you or take their sweet time responding to your texts, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Singapore or next door. But, it’s not the same.
It’s hard to be the optimal – or sometimes even a decent – parent when your kids are on the other side of the planet. Thanks to the Internet, it’s not the distance that makes it hard. It’s the 12 or 13 time zones between Singapore and the East Coast of the U.S. that put us on diametrically opposed schedules.
As a result, my phone is never off. Invariably, my kids have down time (a.k.a., “a good time to call Mom”) when I’m at the gym or rushing to get out of the house in the morning or as I’m climbing into bed exhausted. Then, there are those times when I feel like we’ve barely got things under control – when FOMO, or fear of missing out, has an entirely different meaning. That text that asks, “What are the signs of a concussion?” That call that begins, “So, I’m in the emergency room…” Or, the one that transitions with, “The real reason I’m calling is…”
Sometimes, I think that the worst thing we did by moving to Singapore was to deprive our boys of their home in New Jersey. Unlike their American friends living in the U.S., there are some school breaks where there just isn’t time to come here. On the positive side, in the year-plus we’ve been gone, they’ve come to understand they can rely on their amazing extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They’ve also started turning to each other for help when it’s 3 a.m. in Singapore. Most importantly, they are figuring out a lot of things for themselves, like where to get their car repaired or when to see a doctor. They would’ve gotten there eventually, but our move has accelerated the process.
Another perk: While we’ve always been a family of travellers, having Singapore as our base has made some family vacations we’d dreamed of a reality. But, as great as those trips are, my favorite time is when we’re all together in Singapore and my boys are bored. Because if they’ve travelled all the way to Singapore and they’re bored for even a minute, they can’t possibly be on vacation. They must be home.
By Amanda Jaffe, The Finder Kids, Vol. 28, March 2020
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