Karina is an adult third culture kid, a psychologist, a sex therapist, and a mother. She helps expatriated cross-cultural and frequent traveling couples and families to thrive. We will talk first about her research that she’s doing on becoming mothers abroad, and then she’s going to give us her insights into frequent business travel. When you are a mom, this is a topic that hasn’t yet been addressed on this podcast, and one that comes up a lot in questions about frequent business travel.
In this Episode:
- About Karina’s background and research
- Matrescence, the process of becoming a mother
- Combining motherhood and travel – Is it possible? Karina and Rhoda talk about what to consider in your decision-making and what to put in place if you decide to travel.
- How each situation is different – be it moms, dads, or children – and how that should impact us. How to help each other in spite of differences.
- Role models in children’s lives and the importance of being emotionally present.
- Children’s developmental stages and the importance for attachment.
- You don’t need to be perfect!
Resources Mentioned in the Episode:
Help Karina’s research by filling in her survey below.
As a pioneering thesis in Sensory Processing Sensitivity, exploring some aspects of our personality as possible preventive factors during adjustment to motherhood, I need two large groups; expatriated and non-expatriate European mothers. So every mom is welcome to participate.
PARTICIPATION IS 100% ANONYMOUS AND VOLUNTEER.
Megan Meeker books:
Rhoda Bangerter (00:15):
Welcome to Holding the Fort Abroad, the podcast for expats with traveling partners. My name is Rhoda Bangerter. I'm a certified coach and the author of the book Holding the Fort Abroad. In this podcast, I interview men and women who live abroad and have traveling partners so that we can all benefit from their wisdom and experience. I also invite experts to apply their expertise to this topic. Today my guest is Karina Lagarrigue. Karina is an adult third culture kid, a psychologist, a sex therapist, and a mother. She helps expatriated cross-cultural and frequent traveling couples and families to thrive. We will talk first about her research that she's doing on becoming mothers abroad, and then she's going to give us her insights into frequent business travel. When you are a mom, this is a topic that I haven't yet addressed, and it's a topic that comes up a lot in questions when I do talks on frequent travel. So, Karina, welcome. Thank you for being here.
Karina Lagarrigue (01:13):
Oh, thank you Rhoda, for inviting me. And it is an honor to me to have the opportunity to discuss such an important topic, I must say with you, my friend. Thank you. I think we can together help those moms really kind of walk away from all this very difficult situation that motherhood put you in, especially when you are a business traveling mom.
Rhoda Bangerter (01:34):
Yes. I think you have the part of being a mom of working, which is already sometimes, you know, you're torn between two things, very important parts of your life. And then when you add frequent business travel onto it and distance, how do you do that? How do you live it? We're gonna talk about some developmental stages as well, and talking about also how society views it, sometimes the criticism that we live with. And so I'm really, really excited to hear your wisdom, but also your professional insights into this. You also know what it's like to live abroad, to grow up abroad, and also to become a mother abroad in different countries and have all these different layers. Tell me a little bit more about who you are and then what your research is, because that's a very important topic and I'm hoping that listeners can go and register to add their voice right to this research.
Karina Lagarrigue (02:41):
Thank you so much for this opportunity too, Rhoda, because indeed, I am looking for more volunteers. It is a thesis that is pioneer. I'm trying to understand how different traits of our personality and also kind of different and the environmental conditions that they live in shape the way moms will cope, not only with adjusting to a new country, because I am looking into, as you said, becoming a mother in an expatriated context, but also to becoming a mother perse. Because this beautiful word that is called matrescence, is that transition that the woman will go through when becoming a mother is something that is completely invisible to the expatriated world, let alone in business. Like there is no acknowledgement of what it is for a woman to become a mother. And that's why I was so glad that you invited me to address those precise challenges that come together with being a mom that go beyond the fact of having a lack of sleep and having to give an important speech.
Like this is kind of physiological thing, but what about this emotional thing, right? That is also happening in that mom and that has to do with much more than only having given birth, but all this bond that you are creating, this responsibility, this new neurological connection that you're building up and that are completely new to you. And where you might be an expert in your job, you are just a very new arrival in what it is to become a mom <laugh>.
So I am trying to understand what are those coping strategies? What are those different personality traits that may model it and may help different kinds of moms to adjust to becoming a mom in an expatriated context. And somehow help them to thrive by providing scientific evidence about what it is actually that will help them to do a better job, both professionally and personally as moms.
Rhoda Bangerter (04:44):
Okay. So you're looking for moms who have moved and become a mom in that new country, and you're also looking for moms who have never moved and who have become moms. And you're gonna look at both you, so you ask a series of questions of what it was like for us, right? And then you are looking at what does being abroad have as an effect? What does personality, so potentially a mom that was abroad and a mom that wasn't, if they have similar personalities, the abroad factor might not have had the same effect or something.
It's complex. Is that it? I'm getting… I think it is.
Karina Lagarrigue (05:27):
I know your listeners cannot see my wall, but you can. So you can see it is a complex thesis that has many different variables that we are trying to understand. And one of them is precisely sensory processing sensitivity, which is one of those personality traits that we will like to see. When you have that neurological condition that is just making you much more sensitive and aware of all this stimuli, how would that be in a context that you and I know it's very stimulating, both expatriation and mother, right? So what happens when you put them together? What happens then? How do you cope with things, how much that your past experiences and eventually you have already well-developed coping strategies that are gonna help you to deal with that, right? Be depending on your culture, depending on your background, depending on your upbringing and all those things that you learned, it might be more powerful than actually your sensitivity. And if you know how to navigate situations of stress, maybe your sensitivity is not gonna have a big impact or maybe Yes. So that's one of my research questions.
Rhoda Bangerter (06:32):
And like you said, it's something that hasn't really been looked at in the expat world, let's say. I don't know if in the, I know migrant and expat sometimes, you know, we people make the differentiation, you know, it’s the business people who are moving, you are moving for work because your work moves you, let's put it that way. And then migration is you're moving. Maybe people use those terms differently, but it's not looked at. It's not looked at. How do you become a mother in a country that is not your own? And I know for me personally, it was an earthquake, but I'll put the link of your research, people can go in and haven't looked at it and see if they wanna participate, that would be really wonderful. I know a lot of the listeners have become moms in another country.
Karina Lagarrigue (07:27):
And they'll see that in the definition at the beginning of the questionnaires like it is specifically asked. So if you are an expat mom, all these different condition of expatriation, I have considered them. So I don't want anybody to feel excluded here because it's true that we do come with a different context when we are coming from different reasons for expatriation. But that's something that I will analyze in different groups and then find similarities and differences there too. So I don't want anybody to feel excluded, like your motherhood is something that I want to understand and I want to help to feel better. So please jump along if you're listening to this podcast and then precisely what you were saying before. I also need a control group. That's what we call in research, right? We need those moms that haven't been expatriated and we want to still see what are those differences in their personality and their environment that may help them or not in that transition into motherhood. So you're gonna find those two links. I will share them with you Rhoda, super. And they can join in the one that fits their reality.
Rhoda Bangerter (08:31):
Super. Maybe you can come back again when you get the results. Cause I'm really looking forward to hearing what you find out. So we move on to motherhood when you are traveling. I suppose it's one thing when you're traveling no kids, you're trying to maintain a relationship, you're both maybe traveling or working, it's one thing then kids come along what you do. I know that some moms have told me, you know, do I continue traveling? My kid's six months old, there's separation anxiety or how do I leave? Am I gonna wreck something? So I mean I think there's a difference also between leaving two weeks and then coming back or leaving like two weeks every month or something. So what would you say to that Karina, as we jump right into the topic?
Karina Lagarrigue (09:23):
The first thing Rhoda, is that there is no right or wrong answer. Every reality is different. And I really don't want any of those moms that sometimes don't even have the choice to feel that we're here to judge their behavior, to judge their choices. There is kind of that will to do the best that we want in every single month. And I really want to highlight that what we do sometime is because of a lack of awareness of a lack of knowledge and sometimes is a lack of possibilities too. And we really want those moms to feel understood because there are some situations where we can try to adjust a little bit better, where we can try to kind of model it going back to work a little bit. But there are some of them that are not possible and there is nothing wrong there.
Karina Lagarrigue (10:16):
What I wish to be able to cover with you today is all those strategies that are gonna help them to work on these possible consequences because I don't want to say that they have to be there, but they are possible if you don't kind of pay attention to some of those basics needs that any human being because it is not something that is exclusive to children, it's something that it is there with children because they are human beings. They are essential for their wellbeing. So we can try to give them those tools for them to do a little bit different some aspects if they can, as much as they can. And then there is another big kind of work to do individually that the life we choose comes with the consequences attached to it. And although we can improve some of those areas with some of the tools that we will address today, there are some others that come together with that live choice.
Karina Lagarrigue (11:15):
And it is okay as long as we are confident with the choices we have made and we are settled in what we want to do with our life. And we feel good because there is no doubt, and there are millions nowadays of research evidence that say that if you are at your best, if you are feeling well, if you have no doubts, if when you are present you're fully present, if when you are at work you're feeling okay, you are not burning out, you are enjoying life, this is the best example you can ever give to your children. So there is a part that is still tricky nowadays and is the lifestyle that comes together with frequent traveling is not caring enough for the traveler. So this is one of the main issues. It's not the traveling per se, is that the person traveling is not taken care about.
So when we were talking about that the mom that may be six week postpartum as you were presenting before, may not be ready to go back to work, but not because of her attachment to her child or anything to do with that, but maybe because she is maybe not figured out how she wants to be a mom yet. Like she's doing well there, but she doesn't know whether she wants to travel or not. And she's not given the time to settle and make those decisions soundly and feel how everything moves. She has to just jump in and keep going. So there are some conditions in these very fast lines that we're all in that are having necessarily an impacted our infants. But that's why I wanted to take that away from moms. It's not you, it's the system you're in, and gaining awareness of where you are and then making that decision of, is it where I wanna be? That's the first question. And from there, start applying some of the tools that we're gonna share today.
Rhoda Bangerter (13:24):
Yeah, that's a very good point. That that moms rather than feeling guilty straight away can sort of say, ‘Wait, hang on, I'm rushed into this decision as if I don't have a choice because well this is what the job is demanding from me and I didn't realize that this was gonna be an element, then I can go back.’ But one of the priorities is to figure out, ‘okay, what am I doing? Why am I doing this?’ Get to a situation where I'm at peace with it or not. But then not staying in that situation where you're constantly frustrated or you feel like you've been rushed and you didn't make the decision.
Karina Lagarrigue (14:05):
Exactly. Denying your own intuition, denying what is happening inside. That's what actually is gonna harm you and we'll have a consequences in your environment. Because then is where maybe for instance, and if some of the listeners have had these episodes, don't blame yourself. It's okay. But it might be one of the reasons behind those comments, that you don't realize how hard it was for me and how I didn't want to go either, but I had no choice. Those comments come out of that denying your own intuition and your own needs and it's harmful for the child that may have felt your absence. And then is like, ‘come on, I didn't send you off mom. It's like you made your decision.’ So that's when the whole thing starts. It's like being truthful to who you are. And this is super difficult role because so many times we end up doing jobs and I had that conversation with a lonely diplomat for instance, that so many times we end up doing those jobs due to some invisible loyalties. So all these invisible patterns that we carry along from family traditions, there are many invisible reasons that will make you do something that is not aligned with who you are. That taking the time to review that was would probably be sound to do, actually, Rhoda, before becoming a mom. Because then, you know where you're starting from.
Rhoda Bangerter (15:33):
Well that's very true. But for those who are living it now or who have lived it in the past and still feel the sting, I think taking the time to say, okay, I am gonna just process that, give myself the time to process it so it's not hanging around my neck going into the future, no matter how old the kids are. Probably that then you come to some sort of either grieving what you missed out on or coming to peace with the decision that you took and then saying, ‘okay, from now on there are tools I can use and to make sure that it aligns with who I am.’ Sometimes it's our choice. We're like, ‘well why can't I have both? Why can't I have this lifestyle that I love, this job that I love? Because hey men often can’, and then, oh, I threw that in. Ooh. That's a whole other conversation. Oh. But I think it's really like, well I love this job, I love the traveling. I wanna do it, it's my choice. Can I have both? Can I have the parenthood and the job? And let's just put to one side the thing about men and the differences between men and women for one minute. I'd like to address this question first.
Karina Lagarrigue (16:43):
Precisely. I think there is then a whole historical and cultural chat to have here around these differences between men and women. And of course the biological part that there's still evident in between. But it is true that I have that amazing colleague of mine, Elena Gomez, she works around that mental fitness and that wants to help those women to do it all and to have it all. And that's where one of my research questions comes from, right? It's like, can we all do it all? Is it something that every human being is equipped to do, like other individual differences that may not allow us to do it all? And it's okay too. Like I work with highly sensitive people especially, right? And those that are highly sensitive to their environment and do all this stimuli finds it's very difficult to do it all.
And although those mental fitness exercises Alina Gomez share are very powerful and help you to come back to your body and I think are essential to any human being, like if you master your mind, if you really know how to get out of those loops that are using infinite amount of energy you could be using for something else, you're definitely gonna be much more efficient. And that's a truth. And I have no doubt there. But at the same time, the amount of activities and stimuli and kind of deprocessing that each person can take is different.
And we live still in the society that is built around this factory build-up. Everybody the same thing, everybody the same input, everybody the same activities in the same schedule, in the same timing. Where we are not the same, we are just not the same. Each of us is different. Each of us had a different package that they brought into that school of business. They came in with different stories, they came in with different abilities, with different personality traits. And although the content could be the same, the way first the person is gonna assimilate is different and the way the person can process a better outcome is different too. And that's why we're having so many burnouts is because we are still believing that everybody can do the same thing the same way. And the evidence is no is we can't, we really have to try to understand that there are individual differences that are gonna make a huge impact in the outcome. So understanding that it is different for each of us, and it this is something that goes beyond gender because there are those wonderful dads that are there holding the forward abroad too. And you know that!
Rhoda Bangerter (19:36):
Karina Lagarrigue (19:37):
And some of these other dads that are incapable of that. And that even if their wives are the traveling wife and they're at home, they look at the duties saying, ‘Oh gosh, how do I do that? Where do I start with?’ And it has nothing to do with being a better or worse dad. It has to do with so many other complex reasons. And the first thing we wanted to take away from here is the guilt. Rhoda, there is no guilt to feel, there is just a genuine curiosity that should be activated in understanding who we are individually.
Rhoda Bangerter (20:14):
That's a very good point. And also each child will react differently to the travel, to the absence. But I talked about the dads who travel because it would seem like dads can more easily travel and have their position in the family. Whereas for a mom is it more difficult? So there more expectations when the mom travels. Now this is maybe society looking in and saying, ‘Well, the dad can go as many a times as he wants, but the mom, she can't go, you know, for four weeks away because, oh, my word is catastrophic. But the dad can be gone for six weeks and it's absolutely fine. Why would they miss him?’ But you're like, ‘Wait, that doesn't make sense.’ But from the outside it looks like the dads have much more flexibility to say, ‘Oh, okay, I'm off and then I'll come back.’ And then we moms we’re like, we're organizing all the activities, plus parent moms are traveling and working full-time and doing this and doing that. I'm not saying all of them, but it seems like there's a bigger load sometimes on the mom.
Karina Lagarrigue (21:24):
Yeah. But as you were mentioning, it's a consequence of a very long-lasting society system that we must say it, we're still holding it. That we are still allowing it. And I love to have these conversations with people like you that are seeing that, ‘Hey, it's happening, but should it be happening actually or can we actually start to move away from that normalization of certain aspects that are definitely not something natural.’ That is something that we have imposed on the women and we have to be honest here. We are different biologically and there are some things that a dad cannot do. And this is a truth, and this is there. But precisely because of those differences that have to do with biological differences, the society should be also much more aware of what it is that process of matrescence, what does it take in for the woman before plunging them into, ‘Okay, you wanted that man position, then go and act as one.’
Or maybe I can't, cuz I'm breastfeeding and I cannot be breastfeeding my child while holding a very important meeting with the board of directors. Like, maybe we need to adjust either the environment where this meeting is gonna be, the timing where it's gonna be, maybe we can take into consideration that somebody else during a period of time can take that part of my duties away. So there is that need of walking away from dividing the society into male and women because I find that very sad. Like race is always something sad because it just tears you apart instead of summing your strength, right? But there is also that need to understand that, despite the fact that we are different, we can still help each other. We can help each other so much. I heard sometimes dads saying, ‘But what can I do when she's breastfeeding?’ I was like, ‘Oh gosh, you want me to start a list of things that you can do while she's breastfeeding?’ It's like, wait a second, ‘I'll just start the list’.
But nobody teaches them either and we have to be aware of that. Like nobody helps them to understand what it is. Nobody even showed them how to do that. Something I had a beautiful post the other, the other day, I can't remember his name, but our psychologist shared those beautiful posts saying, Hey, we are the first generation that is doing things in a way that nobody has shown us how to do it. And when you are the first generation breaking patterns, breaking ways of doing things, it's doubly hard. Cause you had no training. You are just learning by doing. So of course we're gonna do things wrong. Of course they're gonna be things that need some improvement, but it's already very brave to try to do things differently.
Rhoda Bangerter (24:32):
Yeah. And it seems like there's the two aspects, isn't there? There's the mom who's just become a mom and who might say, listen, I need an adapted environment because there are some realities. And there's also acknowledging that, okay, we're talking about heterosexual couples here, but for the dad, their role is important. Very when they're traveling, when they're gone, if they're the ones that are traveling, there are things that I cannot provide my sons that he does.
Karina Lagarrigue (25:01):
Rhoda Bangerter (25:01):
Especially now they're older. I think he's showing them how to become a man, what a man looks like.
Karina Lagarrigue (25:06):
Rhoda Bangerter (25:07):
How he, you know, is modeling. So I think there's the two parts. They're saying yes, when a woman becomes a mother, then there are adjustments to be made that are a reality. And there's also the fact that if the mom goes, she also needs to put things in place that are gonna be important for the relationship. But it's also important when the dad travels, not just saying, ‘Hey, the dad gets, get off scot free.’ You know, it's important for both parents, whether it's the mom or the dad.
Karina Lagarrigue (25:37):
Exactly. It takes two to make a child. It takes two to make a child and hear me out. Not only to make it like physically, but to raise them too. Like it's from the beginning to this to the end.
Rhoda Bangerter (25:52):
Yeah. And there's a great book. There's actually two books by Megan Meeker. Have you come across her? She's a pediatrician. And she has a little bit of Christian viewpoint in there, but a lot of it is relevant whether you are a Christian or not. But she's a pediatrician and it's ‘Strong Mothers, Strong Sons’ and ‘Strong fathers, Strong daughters’. And she talks about those, the relationship. And she talks also about being a single mom and how you bring in male role models if you're a single mom to a son. And she, she's got some amazing advice in there, especially relating with teenage sons. And some of the important things like not interrupting them, like they're gonna, they're gonna try and break loose. So you've gotta let them go <laugh>. Absolutely. Because the more you try and hold them in, the more you know they're gonna try and move. So you are gonna be the main target. Like you have a target on your back. So anyway, she has a very interesting point. So I wanted to say that about the single moms out there.
Karina Lagarrigue (27:03):
Just to add to that, the single moms may need a role model for their male son, but also for their daughters , Cause we often have, that first idea that moms will need to be that role model to our daughters to then become wives, and fathers will be that role model for our, their sons to then become men. But the truth is that when there is a lack also in the family. It doesn't have to be a man and a woman. It can also be two women or two men. But there is that relationship model that needs to be learned too, right? Like, how do you behave with another person? How do you entangle all these activities that you have to do, responsibilities, mental load.
Because even in a couple between two women, you can see that there is often somebody that will take that mental load. It is about understanding when you are a single mom, all this mental load is on you. So if you are a daughter and have no father, you may also have that kind of example that all the mental load is gonna be on you. But just because you don't have a person that is sharing life with your mom and that is showing you how to take that mental load. So finding a person that can teach them to share that mental load, how to relate to each other, that will help that single mom to share responsibilities, to show how this is a team job and team in the larger word, the better. Like, it really takes a village. It's something that is important too.
Rhoda Bangerter (28:45):
Oh, that's important. So for a single mom to find that team around her.
Karina Lagarrigue (28:49):
Rhoda Bangerter (28:50):
So she's showing - or a single dad - she's modeling to her children that, ‘Hey, I'm not just struggling on my own. I have it as a team. I'm asking for help. I'm creating exactly some sort of support system around me so that this makes it work.’ That's so important.
Karina Lagarrigue (29:08):
Yeah, exactly. It goes beyond the role model as a man or as a woman to raise a strong woman or to it goes raising a person. It takes much more than just your gender role. It goes so much beyond. And I have the feeling Rhoda, we are missing with all this individualistic upbringing that we are kind of submerging to, is that community feeling that you are not meant to do that alone. Not even when you are abroad as an expat mom. You should never do that alone.
Rhoda Bangerter (29:42):
Yeah. That's the one of the biggest things that I miss and I think a lot of people miss by moving abroad is you really have to recreate that. And but you don't always have the opportunity or people, you know, it takes a while to build relationships sometimes. But that's another topic. But it's a very interesting one.
So what are the essentials for a traveling mom? What does that child need from her? How can she feel like that child feels loved? That she's doing the right things? Cause we all like doing the right things and being perfect. <Laugh> no, sorry, there is no perfection. But I think, you know, how can she know that okay, she's doing her best and that there can be travel and motherhood.
Karina Lagarrigue (30:43):
So actually you brought up a word and what I was thinking about our podcast today, I thought this is a word that has to come up because it's there so often: perfection. Like we all seek for perfection. And if I have something to say with that word is the most perfect motherhood comes with the recognition of imperfections. That's where it lies. Like when you give your child the opportunity of seeing your cracks, of seeing your learning phases, of seeing your doubts, you are raising a much stronger person because that person is feeling allowed to also share, ‘Hey, I'm cracking here. Hey, I'm lacking here. Hey, I'm needing that or needing this.’ Where as if you are bringing a child with that conception that I am doing everything well, I am magnificent in everything I do. And everything I do is what I am sure a hundred percent you need, you're not leaving room for that to happen, for them to actually openly communicate with you what is happening for them.
Because you said that before, Rhoda, it’s gonna be individually for each mom to decide and manage and discover their own way of mothering, but it's also gonna be for each child to receive that way of mothering, to be able to express what it is like for them. Like for one of them you're traveling could be fun because it's more time with dad. Like when you are away, dad is fully present and he's much more engaged. And actually it's okay if your child has at least one secure person in their life, you are ensuring their emotional stability a great deal. So we have to walk away from moms or essentials. If moms are not there, it is the end of the world. No. We need to ensure that our children have that emotional stability. And if we can have someone that is there that is a caregiver.
So mom or dad is gonna make a great difference. So making sure that this is there is already great. Then of course we cannot give up our role as moms or dads to a caregiver just like that. Like, okay, so I am not there. So now the nanny is gonna take over because the nanny's still gonna be the nanny. And there is something, as we were saying, that is innate to the child and that's they were created out of two people and those two people made them for a reason. Ideally out of love, out of the intention of creating that new person. So they're gonna need to feel that they're loved and that they are wanted and that they perceive an interest from those parents too. Like it's not gonna be sufficient.
Like I always explain to my patients that the stability comes in a glass and the bottom of the glass. So emotional stability, the bottom of the glass is mom and dad. Like we are at the base of our children's stability and then everybody else comes here. Now the emptier our glass is the emptier we feel ourselves. And that's the truth we can't deny. But how you create that stability with your child can be very different. And you may be living with your child under the same roof and not being doing anything for your child to feel supported, for your child to be understood. You may be having that attitude that we were saying before. I'm doing everything you need, I'm at home on a daily basis. I may be on my phone and not giving a shit of what you have done in school and what you are interested or what has happened with your boyfriend.
Yeah. Or emotionally absent.
Karina Lagarrigue (34:30):
Yeah. Exactly. So yeah, it's not about being there physically that is most important. It's about giving them room to feel safe with you. To find a person that they can relate to no matter where you are, how you are, that they know that they can reach out to you if they are in need and that you will respond. Cuz that's what every baby starts doing. They cry and the test, ‘if I cry, ah, do you come?’ Oh you do? Yeah. Oh, okay. That's good. That's why they do it again. Right? ‘Oh, then when I do you come. Okay, so if something hurts, if something feels weird, if I feel scared, I cry and you come’ and this is something that we tend to forget that it's not because the baby stops crying and starts talking, that we shouldn't be addressing it with the same intensity and intentionality.
If a child says something, listen to it. Listen to what that child is saying. It might be saying something that is difficult to hear, but it is something that you need to hear. And that's what we were saying before. Your traveling may not be the problem. The problem may be that when you're home you're exhausted. And what's the key for that, self-care? We were saying it before, what you don't want is to be absent. And this is key. Like when traveling, make sure that you rest sufficiently for those moments where you are with your child or for those moments where your child will reach out to you, you can be fully available for them.
Rhoda Bangerter (36:04):
Yeah. That's tough. Especially with the lives that we lead. Even I see like, I'm home, but if I'm working, I'm doing this and then I'm like, ugh, my kids are getting the dregs, the end bit of my energy and it's not really fair, is it? So I'm addressing that. That's a very good point.
So how does a mom do it? Like, if for example, I'm a traveling mom and I have a child that's not talking yet. So how do I ensure that? Because I can't come when they cry. So how do I ensure that they feel that, let's say the magic word ‘attachment’. And then once the child starts talking, say between the ages of say two and four, how do I do that when I'm away? And then I would say five onwards, I would say then you are working on a relationship where, you know, it can maybe be a little bit more like I'm listening to you and I'm building that relationship. But how do you build that relationship when the child is not walking yet and you can't do it through touch or through being present?
Karina Lagarrigue (37:13):
I would go even a little bit before two years old. So there are developmental stages in humans depending on the moment where you get separated from your mom, right? It's gonna make a difference in how the child experiences it. So if you are separated from your mom before the month six, eight, because there is always a gap. There are those early developers and the late developers. So between between six and eight months. Those that are quicker, we'll start at the age of six.
Rhoda Bangerter (37:46):
So 0 months to 8 months, let's say.
Karina Lagarrigue (37:48):
Yes. So it depends. Some of them could start before, they could start at six months. So if you are separated before, let's say six to eight months, you are in that moment. Actually most babies are open to attach to anyone. Like that's why they say adoption works much better the younger the baby is. And it has to do with that developmental stage. So if you take them younger, they are in that openness, even though genetically they are attached to their mom and dad, they are emotionally open to attach to anyone that will respond to their needs, that will respond to them and care for them. So if you get them separated, and that's why the earlier you put them in kindergarten, the better if you are gonna get them a lot in kindergarten. But the truth is that if you get them into that environment where they may not be careful, imagine a huge kindergarten, 25 kids for one caregiver, what they're gonna get is the opposite for what we were saying. It's like, I'm gonna cry, but nobody's gonna answer. And not only I am crying, but I'm feeling there other babies crying around me and nobody's coming either. So… insecurity.
Rhoda Bangerter (39:05):
But is it okay if they get one caregiver who keeps coming? That's okay? It will help. So if I'm a traveling mom and I traveled before this, that my child is six months or eight months, but I have one primary caregiver who's there and he's taking care and will come.
That will help your baby a lot. That's okay. It's gonna help you a lot.
Rhoda Bangerter (39:24):
Right. But they'll attach to them, not to me.
Karina Lagarrigue (39:26):
They will attach to you too because as I said, they have a stronger bond to anyone in the world. It's biological, it's much stronger. It's seen that we have studies that say the biology… That's why children that are adopted are so much in the need to find their origin. There is something that is stronger. They can have had the most beautiful and loving adopting parents. There is something missing and it has to do with that. So first of all, not having that internal fight for a position, you are always gonna be the most important, but for you to be at your best in that most important position for them, you need to take care of yourself. And that's what we were saying before. Be at your best every time you're with them so that you can actually give what they need instead of trying to delegate that to somebody else even when you're there.
Karina Lagarrigue (40:17):
Yeah. Which would create a problem there. But if you create that bond with someone, as we were saying before, that child will have someone that feels that security and that person will be your ally to then communicate with you. Right? So the older the child gets, so there is that gap between six and eight months. That is the first period. That’s when baby's normally started moving. So it is a moment where the baby has a lot of development in their brain. They start moving a lot, eating, like they start a lot of things. And then there is another one at 18. So if you go before six and eight, okay, you're gonna find that person that is gonna initiate them in everything and it's gonna be one period when it's gonna be easier for the baby.
If you go then before the 18 months where there is more or less between between 12 and 18, again, the early is gonna go before that 14, 15, the other one will go up to 18 months. There is where normally vocabulary appears. When they start saying ‘mom’, and at that moment it’s going be tougher for them, if that's the moment where you again move away. So make sure that if this is the moment where you're gonna be moving away, then you intentionally make room to be there for their development so that you are gonna make video calls where you're gonna talk to them or you're gonna listen to them or you're gonna participate in that evolution so that that doesn't break and stays in the hands of somebody else. But then you can be there.
Rhoda Bangerter (41:55):
Okay. So like even if you're in another country, for example, for a couple of weeks that you are maybe recording yourself, reading to them or you are. So you are somehow helping them develop their language?
Karina Lagarrigue (42:11):
And to be present in their development. So with your voice, with your approval also. So when the baby says ‘Mama’, you say ‘Yes sweetie’, you say ‘mama is here’. So that you can reinforce their learning.
Rhoda Bangerter (42:27):
Okay. Would it be helpful, like even earlier, would it be helpful to like leave a clothing or like so the smell is associated?
Karina Lagarrigue (42:37):
Yeah, definitely. So that's much more in the emotional support. So always, always, always, always, if you can leave a cloth that smells like you for young babies, they're cut. That's gonna help them with security too.
Rhoda Bangerter (42:51):
So say for example, I'm a traveling mom and I haven't traveled for say a year or I've been lucky I've had maternity leave and say it comes up to 10, 11 months and I'm saying, okay, it's, oh, it's time to travel. I need to travel, first trip away. What can I do?
Karina Lagarrigue (43:07):
First work on your guilt and your own anxiety. Cause you're gonna be the one that is gonna experiencing that again.
Rhoda Bangerter (43:16):
Yeah. It's hard enough putting them the first day in kindergarten or the first day in like…ah!
Karina Lagarrigue (43:21):
It's terrible, but hey, hear me out.
Rhoda Bangerter (43:22):
It's like I'm the one crying!
Karina Lagarrigue (43:23):
It’s hard at any time. Like you put them in at four, at six, at two, it's always gonna be hard cuz it's your baby. But that's why your mental condition is gonna be your stronger ally. Like the more convinced you are about why you're doing that and the more at peace you feel with your decision the easier it’s gonna be for you. And as we were saying, your baby is attached to you more than to anyone in the world. So if you are feeling anxious, the baby's gonna feel anxious too. Like why is mommy feeling anxious? If mommy's feeling anxious, there is something wrong, I should be feeling anxious too. Whereas if you control yourself and you feel that this is okay, that your baby's gonna be okay, this is proven like you can see an amazingly hard situation where the mommy is super calm, the baby is scared, the mommy holds the baby feeling absolutely convinced of what is gonna happen and the baby cools down.
Rhoda Bangerter (44:25):
Karina Lagarrigue (44:26):
It's like, ‘I am okay. You are gonna be okay.’ And I generally transfer that feeling to you.
Rhoda Bangerter (44:33):
That's incredible. Wow. To get yourself to that position. I'm feeling the anxiety of the mom who's leaving and I'm not even leaving. But I just wanna address one thing before we move on or before we carry on. It's gonna be a longer one than usual, but that's fine. I think it's a super important topic. At one point, at the beginning you said you were talking about this very thing, you know, to get to at peace with being the traveling parent. But then at one point further down you said, but you don't wanna be perfect and you can also express your doubts. So I'm assuming like, can you clarify that? Do I express my doubts about my travel to say an older child or do I get at peace with that? I think you were talking about different kinds of doubts, not the doubt about traveling.
Karina Lagarrigue (45:26):
Exactly. So it’s about traveling, about your working position, about the kind of mom you want to become. Because something we all kind of get ourselves in, when decided to become a parents is we have that preconceived idea of what kind of parents we gonna be and how we’re gonna feel being that kind of parents. And then reality hits and then yes, you actually discover how it makes you feel and sometimes it has nothing to do with how you imagined it. And it's okay too. Now whether you should share it with your child or you should share it with somebody else, I would say first share with somebody else. Make yourself clear. Try to find a person that helps you. It can be a therapist, it can be a family member, it can be a friend that has that capacity to help you to ground yourself and to find peace.
And once you have found that peace, then of course you can share with your children because that's where you can share even the process. It’s a bit the same as we were saying when we are addressing big emotions, right? You say don't try to use your brain where you are filled with emotion because your brain is collapsed. So first calm down the emotion and then address everything rationally. So it is about giving yourself time to find how you're feeling about that new role that you are now you're something else than a traveling person. You're a traveling mom. How does that feels really and honestly to you? And if it feels okay, work on that social guilt too because it's social. If you are feeling okay, then it is gonna be okay. And as long as you are aware and if you are listening to this podcast, oh gosh, you are a person that is questioning yourself a lot and you are looking for answers and you are looking for better ways of raising your child and you want to keep that connection, then just go ahead and do it.
Be precise and concise and very constant with your actions. What is gonna be your communication plan? How are you gonna communicate with your child where you are abroad? How is the routine that you're gonna create for your child? When we were saying depending on the stages, it's gonna be different. When they're younger, they're going to need your videos much more. They're gonna need your voice much more. They're gonna need for you to see them there to feel your present much more. So leave your t-shirt, leave your necklace, right? Sometimes you have those teething necklaces that you are normally wearing. Leave your teething necklace with your smell there. Like there's so many things that you then help your child to feel your presence there. But then choose that reliable childcare that is gonna be there to create that emotional stability too. And be conscious about the impact that it's gonna have in the life of your child, working on that jealousy and understanding that they're not taking away your role ever and they can't, you shouldn't be wanting that.
Rhoda Bangerter (48:47):
And they can't anyway. It's important to work on your doubts about traveling if you have them, so that it's important to be at peace about it. And work along that. But then it's gonna be totally normal to have doubts about how you're parenting to kinda involve my word, da da da da da. What am I doing? Like what kind of parent am I? You know, and not to be the perfect parent. And I think that's the distinction I wanted to make.
So then an older child, you're traveling. How do you keep the connection and how do you work? Cuz I always say, you know, it's about even when you're under the same roof, it's about the relationship, not about, you know, I told you so and not about sort of controlling behavior.
Rhoda Bangerter (49:35):
I wanted to add this. I met a woman on the plane a coup maybe two months ago. And she was a CEO of a company. She started, she was a single mom, she had grown up children and she said she had traveled a lot. Like she was always traveling and at the beginning her mom helped her. And that was a great help. And then I wish I'd asked her about the caregiver, I think then yes, I think I did ask her. And then she talked and then later on they went into kindergarten into a nursery. But she said that they always felt loved. She said one of the silver linings was that they became independent because mommy wasn't around to serve them, do everything. They were very sort of proactive with doing stuff.
But that was also something that she encouraged. She said she arranged her schedule for them all to travel. So she would take them along, so she would be like, ‘okay, I'll travel during the holidays. They'll come along, they tagged days on.’ She said it was amazing. And she actually has a company where she encourages, she employs moms. And I think that was also, she created her own environment that was conducive to being a mom, which was very interesting. And so it was just interesting to talk to a mom who had traveled and who had grown up children and who had lived it and who said, ‘Yes, it's possible. You just need a good support system. They need to know that they're loved. And I arranged my schedule and they came with me and we've had some amazing times together’, and I thought that was fabulous to hear.
Karina Lagarrigue (51:19):
And that's the beauty that comes together with that very wide mind that I think we need to develop. There is not only one way to be a mom, there is certainly no way to be perfect and there are always possibilities to do better. Like, so coming back to a little bit what you were saying before, that idea of ruining our child's life right with our decision. And with eventually not being at peace at the beginning with what we wanted to do and figuring things out on the go is what all of us will experience. And having that mindset that it is never too late. It is never too late. There are ways to repair what we did wrong. And I'm quoting that, like you really have the opportunity to rephrase something that you didn't want to occur in a way, but it just happened to be that way.
You always have the opportunity to put into place something that works better the older the child gets, the more you were saying it yourself are able to communicate with you so that it's not an unidirectional communication plan. And contact plan is from the two sides. I get to say I'm available here and here and here, but you get to say, I need you here, here and here too. So that you can put me in your agenda too and you can consider my need as much. And that's how we feel loved. Human needs to feel seen, needs to feel heard, need to feel that they are part of the person that they share their life with and that they're not a complement of their life when work is finished. No, you are always there. I am on a trip, but I'm taking you with me whenever I can.
That's what you were suggesting that this mom does. Or if you have a football match and for you it's essential that I'm there. I am cancelling every single appointment that they put on Saturdays because Saturdays are for my son and I can be fully busy Monday to Friday, but not Saturdays. And that's the way it is. So it is about making those clear compromises with your child that will help them to feel that love, to feel seen, to feel supported. And that will make them feel that they belong to that relationship and create that attachment.
Rhoda Bangerter (53:56):
Yeah. And I remember an adult daughter, she said to me like she never felt her dad was absent, although he was away a lot. She said she didn't have an absent father because if there was a big event in her life or something was happening and he was gone, he always acknowledged it with flowers, with a card. Somehow he was present even if he was away. And I thought that was really great, and she's not the only one that has said that to me. And I think that's also valid for moms.
Is there anything that you would like to add as we wrap up? I think we've covered a lot of ground. Is there anything you wanna add?
Karina Lagarrigue (54:35):
Well, I think we have covered a lot of things that are essential. I would say just kind of to wrap up, like the main ideas a lot has to do with self-care. Like you really, really have to be aware that you are that emotional anchor and walk away from that idea that you have to be perfect <laugh>, there is no such thing as perfection. The more imperfect you are to your children from a genuine and human point of view, the closer they can feel they can get to you no matter how far you are. So I would say take care of yourself, be true to how you're feeling, and try to make sure that when you are there for your children, you are fully there, but not only for them, Rhoda, for yourself too. Because that will help you when you are away too. To have all those good memories.
Rhoda Bangerter (55:32):
Yeah, yeah. And what you said in there as well is the managing emotions, right? It's being able to regulate the emotions, accept them, express them and then when we don't drown in them…that's a big thing I learned in the last few years is even the biggest emotions when we actually acknowledge them, it already kind of takes some of the bigness away.
Karina Lagarrigue (55:59):
And if you need help, it's okay. You don't have to do this alone. You shouldn't be doing that alone. It's something that is meant to be shared. And if you feel different to other moms around you, it's just because you are you and you shouldn't be looking like the mom next to you because you are you and accepting the mother you are able to be is gonna help you to become closer to the mom you want to be.
Rhoda Bangerter (56:31):
Thank you so, so much. I think that's a perfect conclusion right there. Thank you so much, Karina.
Karina Lagarrigue (56:40):
Well, thank you Rhoda. This was a very natural conversation as always. I always say that we should record all our conversation because you always bring wisdom to the world, and I'm so glad you're doing these podcasts.
Rhoda Bangerter (56:52):
Thank you so much.
Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.