Growing up as an expat has its highs and lows, as American Gina Maier can testify. Now, as a mum bringing up her own children in Singapore (Rhys, 3, and Fallon, 1), she explains how she plans to guide her children along a similar path.
What pearls of wisdom will you be passing on to your children about expat life?
I lived in Kuala Lumpur for 20 years from the age of five. When I was seven, my best friend left to go home. It was heartbreaking: I cried for two weeks. At that time, the internet wasn’t the social tool it is now, and my parents didn’t urge me to stay in touch. When my two go through this, I will encourage them to keep in contact whichever way they can.
Another issue is instilling in them a sense of where they come from and where home is. Growing up, I realised that home is wherever your family is, rather than where you were born. I tried to move back to Texas after living in Kuala Lumpur and realised that, although I was geographically “from” Texas, it wasn’t my home. I then moved to Boston and met my husband, and had both my children in Hong Kong. Home is where we all are. I think this will be the same for my kids, until they grow up and have their own families.
How would you compare Singapore and Hong Kong in terms of bringing up children?
Having small children in Hong Kong can be difficult. It’s busy, the streets are narrow and it’s a struggle with strollers. Moving here from Hong Kong, you realise it’s so much more geared towards young children. For example, asking for a high chair in a restaurant here is standard; in Hong Kong, it isn’t. Coming to Singapore really felt like coming home, as I had spent so many years growing up near the city and visiting it on school trips from Kuala Lumpur.
You recently planned your son’s third birthday party; any tips you can pass on?
It was a barbecue pool party, and we wanted to provide something to keep the little ones entertained and “contained”. I found a toy rental company called Rent That Toy! (www.rent-that-toy.com) and hired a playpen as well as toys, which made much more sense financially than buying them just for one day.
For food, we stocked up at Ben Foods (www.benfoods.com), a supplier on Fishery Port Road, which opens on Saturday morning and sells low-priced meat, fish and wine. We bought a ton of food for the barbecue and more for our freezer.
AT A GLANCE
On a rainy day: we like to go to the Forum indoor playground. It’s only $15 per child for a whole year’s membership, and is great for my one-year-old. My three-year-old just walks in the rain – any chance to wear his boots and raincoat.
On a sunny day: we enjoy the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden at the Botanic Gardens – it’s free and it’s great for the kids. Both of them love the sprinklers.
On a Friday night: I’d like to meet my husband for happy hour and dinner near his office in the Amoy Street area. (I say “I’d like to” because I’m yet to actually do this!)
On a Sunday afternoon: we amble to one of the restaurants in Dempsey Hill for lunch after service at St George’s Church.