That is decidedly a very specific question. But it’s one that has been coming up a lot lately in our house. It’s no secret to friends and family that ever since B and I returned from Korea back in March we have been missing it a lot.
Let me just get it out of the way and say that if we were to go back, it’s not because we think Korea holds some secret to our happiness. We indeed had eye-opening and wonderful experiences last time around in Korea. But we recognize that part of the reason why we see Korea through kimchi-colored glasses is that our friends and colleagues became like family and we lucked out and worked at a comparably sane hagwan the entire time. The experience that we had there was doubtless extremely special and we realize that God smiled upon us by inserting us into situations that made us grow individually and as a couple.
And that’s a special thing. The kind of special thing that you can’t force.
Also, if there is one thing I learned from living abroad, it’s that there are myriad stages of culture shock and acclimatization to new situations, so it’s pretty obvious that right now we are just going through the stages of being reintroduced to a country that was home for a long time but now seems so different because of where we’ve been. So yeah, we don’t really love it here in our small town in North Carolina right now, but that’s mostly because we are still getting used to being in America again.
All this to say that it’s clearly not a decision we’re taking lightly or basing on having a rockin’ time the last go-round. At the same time, it’s a decision that must be made with an incredible amount of faith in ourselves and understanding that if things go awry, we’ll have another way more important person to think about: little Bebe.
There are so many reasons why moving across the world with an infant doesn’t seem like a very good idea. Interestingly, though, it’s difficult for me to enumerate them because they all stem from a fear of the unknown. I don’t know what it’s going to be like to be a parent, so it’s hard to predict the issues that are going to arise and how we will go about solving them at all, much less in a country that we know, but not as parents. But one thing I am uncomfortable with already is having a small child so far away from her extended family. I have to admit that this is partly a selfish reason because I want to have the resource of my mom and mother-in-law close by because they’re The Mommies. They know. I also want the baby to know her family, and I want to give the family the opportunity to have an active part in the baby’s life and see him or her grow.
But there are so, so many reasons why it seems like a great idea. First of all, it would expose the baby to a second language right when (s)he is ripe for it. The elasticity of babies’ and young children’s brains never ceases to astound me. I remember the very first day at our hagwan, I was speechless when I heard these very small children who had been exposed to English for a brief time converse seamlessly with their teachers. The mental exercise involved in learning a second language throughout one’s early youth is invaluable and something that B and I really want to provide for our child. And it’s something that we both are sure we could not be able to financially provide if we stayed in the US. The rent is just too damn high.
The whole providing-for-the-baby thing is an integral part of wanting to return, too. B and I both have masters degrees in humanities fields, and unfortunately we have not been able to utilize them as much as we would want ever since we finished school because since graduation, the American market has been simply glutted with people who are like us. So our professional luck hasn’t been as good as we would’ve hoped.
In Korea, though, we were saving an incredible portion of what we made. Healthcare was easily affordable (as it should be). We didn’t need a car. Good food was affordable too. The savings just kept adding up! We could afford the things that made our lives more interesting. We could travel to places that were worth seeing. And that’s a big one for the baby: we both want our baby to know the joys of seeing how it’s done all over the place. I want our child to be able to take where (s)he is living for granted and be aware that it could always be worse…or better.
This is a big issue, and one that I can promise you I will return to here. In the meantime, if you have any insight into raising a child in another culture, I would love to hear your comments, thoughts, and encouragement.