I’m about to say the quiet parts out loud. You probably suspected it, but now, you’ll know for sure, and you might not like what you hear.
What if I told you that exposing your kids to a few specific experiences could… DOUBLE their chances of heart disease or cancer, create a 7X higher likelihood of alcoholism, and increased their risk of attempting suicide by a staggering 1200%?
A long, long time ago, I started this podcast because I wanted somewhere for the globally mobile community to transparently discuss expat life. And that meant shining a light on the hard stuff, including the consequences that come with choosing a life abroad.
Parents have a duty of care. We know this, yet regardless of our GPS coordinates, we worry about screwing up our children. What’s often ignored? Organizations who send families abroad also have a duty of care.
So today, I’m joined by two childhood trauma researchers who’ve studied this exact impact. For the conclusion of our Untold Stories Bean Pod, it’s my honor to welcome Lauren Wells and Tanya Crossman to reveal their results about adverse childhood experiences for globally mobile kids.
Many of us who raise our children abroad do so because we know it enriches their lives. Still, much of what Lauren and Tanya will share may surprise or even concern you. Don’t worry, we got your back. Because they’ll also provide preventative remedies to help us support our children, anywhere and everywhere.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Calming the imagined “what ifs”
- Understanding secondary trauma
- The provision of physical & emotional safety
- Self-deprecating internal message replay
- An ambition to maintain
Listen to the Full Episode
Featured on the Show:
Not all transitions are created equal. For both parents and kids, the level of support should match the level of challenge. Go from fragility-increasing to resilience-building. Partner with a trusted global coach who gets you right here.
- Sundae’s Website
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Sundae Bean – YouTube
- Wisdom Fusion Project
- Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century by Tanya Crossman54 Lights Podcast
- Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids, The Grief Tower, and Unstacking Your Grief Tower by Lauren Wells
- TCK Training
Catch These Podcasts / Articles:
- Adverse Childhood Experiences – Harvard
We’re delighted to be in the Top 5 of the global Best 30 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 7:00 am in New York, 1:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 6:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to IN TRANSIT with Sundae Bean being recorded live from my childhood womb home in Williston, North Dakota. I am an intercultural strategist, transformation facilitator, and solution-oriented coach, and I am on a mission to help you adapt & succeed through ANY life transition.
What if I told you that exposing your kids to a few specific experiences could result in a two times higher likelihood of developing heart disease or cancer, seven times higher likelihood of becoming an alcoholic, and an increased risk of attempted suicide by 1200%? If you were like me, you would run away from these experiences as fast as you could. But the thing is when we are living complex lives, when our lives are IN TRANSIT, some of those things we can control, some of those things are out of our control.
These experiences might impact our lives and today. I’ve invited two guests to help us understand what kind of experiences we’re talking about. And how we don’t have to shy away from even hard things because there are things within our power, how we can support ourselves and our kids. So it is my heartfelt joy to welcome Lauren Wells and Tanya Crossman today on IN TRANSIT. Welcome.
Lauren: Thank you so much. So good to be here.
Sundae: So happy to have you. Thank you. I’ll give a quick introduction. For those of you who don’t know your work, I’ll start with Lauren. Lauren Wells is the founder and CEO of TCK training and author of three books:
1. Raising up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids
2. The Grief Tower
3. Unstacking Your Grief Tower
Lauren spearheaded the methodology of Prevented TCK Care that TCK training was founded on. She also uses personal experience as a TCK in her education and childhood development to support TCKs. By the way, for people who don’t know what a TCK is, it’s a third culture kid, someone living outside of their parents’ passport cultures and for those who serve them. She’s worked with over 1,000 parents and TCK caregivers, and has trained staff from over 80 organizations. Lauren grew up in Tanzania, East Africa and now lives in the USA with her husband and two daughters.
We’re also joined by Tanya. Tanya Crossman is a director of research and education at TCK Training and the author of Missunderstood: The impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century. Tanya has 17 years of experience and counting working with international families and has worked with groups from over five continents. Conducting research to learn about the experiences of children growing up globally is part of her work. Tanya grew up in Australia and the US, and has lived in China and Cambodia. As an adult she’s fluent in written and spoken Mandarin and she currently lives with her parents in Australia while waiting for papers to join her husband in the USA. I feel like you’ve been waiting forever, Tanya.
Tanya: Yeah, it does feel like forever.
Sundae: All right, both of you do know what it means. As you can see, from your bios to live life IN TRANSIT. Both of you have experienced as a child growing up, where your lives were defined by being IN TRANSIT. And now, in your adult life, you are supporting others. Thank you for the work that you have done your contributions in your writing and in your training, you are doing a service to so many families around the world. So I’m just want to say that to start off.
Lauren: It is our pleasure.
Sundae: So let’s dive in here, I want to talk about what you call Aces or ACEs. These are childhood adverse experiences. And can you help us understand what does that mean? And why is that important for people who are living highly mobile lives?
Lauren: Yeah. So ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experience and this is a framework that people have used for years and years. There have been over 80 studies done on ACE scores. So it’s a really well-known framework that’s been used worldwide and it looks at three different categories, abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. And within these categories, there are specific factors and all totaled up, they equal 10. And so when we About an ACE score, it’s the number of those out of 10 experiences that they’ve had. So for example, sexual abuse or having a parent with a mental illness that’s directly impacting the family. Those sorts of things would be those ACE scores.
Sundae: Okay, so when I hear that and I know that those categories are not present in our immediate nuclear family, Why should I still care?
Tanya: When we think about those 10 factors, those 10 types of difficult experiences, there’s a few in there that we don’t realize quite common. Two of those experiences were more about the kids perception of their growing up. So we talk about emotional neglect and physical neglect. We’re talking about a child’s perception of safety, physical safety, and emotional safety. So;
Did I feel loved, special, important?
Did I feel that my family was connected and supportive?
Did I feel secure that there would be food on the table?
And I would have clean clothes to wear?
That someone would be able to take me to the doctor if I needed to go?
And so it’s about how secure they felt in that provision of emotional safety and physical safety. So perhaps their parents did love them but if they didn’t feel loved and important, special, that would count as an adverse childhood experience.
Sundae: So can I jump in here with a story? And actually, when you said about whether they feel safe, my eyes welled up. I don’t know if you could have seen that on the video, but I’m all emotional about it, I’m throwing pens over here. So what happened when you said that is I was walking down the street. This is really tapping into me as a mother and I can it’s taking me off guard because I didn’t expect this, but I was walking down the street with my son, we had left West Africa. I remember in West Africa for those who followed by journey, we had a wonderful time there. We loved living in Burkina Faso and Ouagadougou, but we had to leave because there was a terrorist attack. This has been after a political uprising and attempted coup d’etat.
And then we got to South Africa, we lived in a gated community the safest community in the area, right? Like probably in Southern Africa, it had an amazing reputation for safety. And I was walking down the street with my son and he said, “Mom, I don’t feel safe here.” And I said, “Honey,” he was under 10, I said, “You don’t feel safe here?” I’m like, “Look at this amazing space. We’re totally safe.” He goes, “You want to know why? We don’t have a guard out front.” So he didn’t feel safe in South Africa because it’s a gated community tons of space to run and drive and bikes etc. But in Burkina Faso where he was one when we arrived, we left right before he was four, we lived in a space where there was a guard in our home, right outside of the door, right by the gate. And it wasn’t because it was super dangerous.
It’s kind of what you did to be a good patron while you were there and someone to sort of facilitate any traffic in and out the house. And I thought, “My kid doesn’t feel safe because we don’t have a guard out front of our house.” And people who learned that we had a guard in Burkina Faso thought, “Oh my gosh, your kids must feel so unsafe.” So the reason why I bring that up is I think my kids have grown up in a space where we’ve cared for them and loved for them, but their perception of safety is not up to me. What they made that mean, if your one to three is the coolest guy in the world is the guard that plays with you in the front yard by the sandbox, right? And now he’s gone and now you’re in this all this open space. So I don’t know. I think that’s important.
Tanya: I heard that story so many times. All the kids would go to America and feel so unsafe because they weren’t fences and there weren’t compounds an confused the parents.
Sundae: It confused them. And I want to say that because if people here in the very beginning think, “I don’t need to listen to this because we don’t have abuse in our home. Our kids are safe.” And they stop listening that you might be missing something if you grow up in this highly mobile international community. So say more, say more about all of this.
Tanya: Well, the other thing is, if you don’t think it affects you, even if your family and your kids are completely safe, their peers might not be. Which means they’re going to be hearing about it in their community and in their friendships. And so even if it doesn’t touch your kids directly, knowing what’s happening in the community around them is really important. So that you know how to talk to them and how to support their friends when things are happening in your community.
Sundae: Can you give us an example?
Tanya: Well, we’re going to give you some statistics in a minute and when you start hearing those numbers, think about how many kids are in your circle, in your kids’ class at school, and therefore what percentage of them are affected. So even if your kids are safe, chances are their friends aren’t all safe. Yeah, just like something to keep in mind.
Lauren: We looked at secondary trauma a bit in our research for that purpose because that’s something that we had heard about a lot when we were even debriefing TCKs that maybe they didn’t experience sexual abuse but their friend confided that in them and no one else. And so that was something that they were carrying that was really difficult. And so it’s important to recognize that because the stats show that it is high in our TCK community, whatever these ACE scores are it will impact, maybe not only them that the people around them as well.
Sometimes we need to know the protective things that we can do, that would even alleviate some of those things. Like what you were just talking about Sundae, like with your son, we talked about helping kids to know what is in place and what is the plan. So what is in place that would keep you safe? “Well, we have this gate and this gate only lets people in who have the right password,” or whatever. “And that is why we have locks on our windows and we have locks on the doors.”
And what’s the plan? “If something did happen here is what we would do?” I think first, any of our TCKs and just kids in general, they’re thinking, “Well what if? What if that does happen?” And it doesn’t help for the parent to say, “Well, it’s just not going to.” They need to be able to say, “Well if it did, here’s what we would do, here’s the plan.”
Tanya: So when we’re talking about numbers and percentages, what we’re talking about is research that we did ourselves because we couldn’t find the numbers anywhere. So we went and did it ourselves. And we surveyed 1904 people who grew up with a globally mobile childhood. And we just got together their ACE scores. What adverse experiences they had and aspects of their demographics. So how often they moved. How much time they spent overseas. What kind of reasons they had for mobility. And what kind of schooling experiences they had. And a whole bunch of other things. And we put together a white paper, and we’re working on a second white paper now, looking at some of these sorts of specific factors that have gone into what happened for them.
And some of the things we found were what we expected. Some of the things are a bit more shocking and we wanted to spread some of that information so people can be prepared because one of the biggest things we’ve found is that a lot of this is associated with mobility. And a lot of this is associated with parents under stress and so supporting parents is super important because parents who are not being cared for themselves, can’t give kids what they need.
Sundae: So important. Can you share more some of the statistics and the things that you learned?
Tanya: Yeah. So to begin with one of the major comparison points we use is a big study that was done in the US with 17,000 Americans. That was kind of our benchmark to compare the rates that we were seeing. Some of the other bigger studies that have been done were kind of comparable, some had lower numbers than what was in the American study, like healthier numbers. So we use that as a benchmark when you look at these decades of research, when you have a score of four or more out of 10, you are at high risk. Those negative consequences that you listed at the beginning, Sundae, those happen, those risk factors are there when you have a score of four or higher.
Now, 12.5% of Americans have a score of four or higher, In our survey of globally mobile people, 21%, had that score, that high risk. That’s one in five who are at risk of all of those things that you’re talking about. Then when we look at different groups, different sectors, different types of education, it was fairly similar. But the biggest takeaway from the survey was that when extreme mobility was part of the picture, when people were moving frequently. So moving location 10 or more times before age 18, moving house 15 or more times before age 18, that risk went from one in five to one in three had that high risk ACE score.
Sundae: I’m counting. 1, 2, 3 4, 5. I’m counting in my head how many times have we moved as a family and have we reached 10? The other thing that I remember listening to an interview that you did and hearing that:
Why does this matter to our community? Our, meaning, the ones who are connected to the globally mobile community. Why does that matter to us is because it’s defined by high mobility.
And what I also learned from your research is, it’s also defined by a lack of preventive care mechanisms in place.
Tanya: I was a business kid, my family moved both within Australia and overseas because of my dad’s job with IBM, and we got zero resources other than financial and practical. We got plane tickets. We got money for a house. But that was it. I had never heard anything like culture shock or reverse culture shock or re-entry or Third Culture Kids or global mobility or any of that. I had no language. I had no training. Neither did my mum, neither did my sisters, none of us knew any of this. And so, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, late-twenties and working with young people in China and doing research into their experiences and I went, “Oh, that was me as well.” And I’ve heard that story over and over again that so many families don’t get any support from the organizations that cause their mobility.
Sundae: And that was what was important for me is this is where I get on my high horse. I’m like, you have an ethical responsibility, if you are putting your people in this context to care. Isn’t that called “duty of care?”
Tanya: Yes, yes.
Sundae: Duty of care. So it’s like if I work for the military and I’m going to put a soldier out there, right? I’m going to send that person a way for R&R to keep their central nervous system grounded, There are certain industries that have duty of care and I think mobility is one of them, and I’m going to go off on my high horse because if you –
Tanya: Oh, we are right here with you.
Sundae: If you only think that people live exotic lives abroad, that this is like something super fancy pants, watch your child cry when your parent leaves, where they’re not even making sound, right? Watch that departure. Watch the taxi leave. Be by your kids at night when they are now ripped away from their friends and family because something changed, whether it was a corporate mandate change, something political change, some structure change. And now that child who is let’s say 12 and that apex of needing friends and family, intensely is now grieving. That is an impact from the mobility and we need to take that seriously. And I am living that with my family and I’m a specialist, right? I have all the tools I have the people at my fingertips and it’s still hard.
Sundae: Right? So everybody who is left off on their own who don’t even know about this. It’s like, that’s not responsible.
Lauren: And what we see. So, anytime the ACE score percentage, like we talked about is higher than that 12 and a half percent of the CDC study, that we were referring to as our control study, in the United States, anytime there’s a people group that goes above that 12 and a half percent, they’re considered an at risk vulnerable population. So foster children for example, would fit in that category children who are growing up and impoverished cities would fit into that category, but we don’t often think of our TCKs as an at-risk vulnerable population. But I think if we did, we would care for them better. I think if we did there would be more resources for how the care is done, when, like we said, when companies, organizations are sending them to do that life, we should be caring for them, well, because we are causing that.
Sundae: Hmm. Absolutely.
Tanya: So true.
Sundae: Oh. There are moments when things are hard and as a parent you’re like, “I’m out! I’m done!” Or you wonder if you’ve made the right choice. I still am deeply committed, I do not think that high mobility is a death sentence. I do not think it’s damaging your kids. I am completely on board with if you support your children and like you said yourself “Well, that it is totally worth it.”
So what do we need to know about preventive care? In our own maintenance of ourselves and for our kids?
Lauren: Yeah, so this is my favorite part to talk about because this is where the hope comes in. We talked about all these scary things and people say, “Well then, sounds like raising TCKs is a terrible idea,” and all of us here know that they’re amazing benefits that come from that life. But we can’t tap into those benefits if we’re not healthy and we’re not doing well. And so we love the ACE framework because not only have a lot of studies, many research studies been done on the ACE scores themselves, but there’s been a lot of research done on what can happen in order to mitigate the impact of those aces in adulthood.
So even if we can’t prevent those things from happening, what can we do to provide a buffer? I like to think of it as like bubble wrapping your child. How can you bubble wrap your child so that they can get through the hard things without damage? And so we look at these positive childhood experiences, they’re called, Pieces, as a framework that we use for that. We call those our protective factors. Those are our bubble wrap and there’s seven of them. I won’t go through all of them. But it has to do with things inside the home and then things outside the home. So, inside the home, it’s that they feel safe. They feel loved and cared for. They feel like they are a priority.
Outside the home, it said, do they have a peer group that they belong in a multigenerational group, where people know them and love them? That there are community traditions, that they look forward to doing with those peers. And that multigenerational group, those things are all really critical for buffering our kids. But in the IN TRANSIT life, sometimes those things are hard to maintain consistency. And so we need to be intentional about how we’re doing that. When I work with families I often will go through those pieces with them and they’ll say something like, “Well, our kids don’t have friends because we live on a compound. There’s no other kids here. So how can we just support them for the rest of their developmental years without them having friends?” Well, that doesn’t work. They need that. That is a positive childhood experience that they can’t just be expected to grit and bear it through and hope that they do well in adulthood. There are so many things that come from that. And so even looking at those as a framework, for what do we need to make sure we are aiming for as a family all the time. So if we don’t have some of those in this moment, how are we aiming to find those in our new community?
Tanya: And to give you a sense of why this matters so much, some of the research has been done around Pieces, they looked at kids who had, well the adults who had these high ACE scores but who also had high pieces. So if you had six to seven of the pieces in your childhood, even if you also had high ACE scores, your risk of having depression or poor mental health overall dropped 72% and you were three and a half times more likely to have healthy social and emotional support as an adult.
Sundae: That is incredible, right? So I was just with my kids at dinner and we were celebrating their first six weeks at a new school system, new language, new country. I mean, they’re studying foreign languages, in foreign languages, right? It’s a big challenge. And being the nerdy interculturalist I am, I’m like, “Let’s celebrate this milestone. Let’s acknowledge what’s hard.” You know, round the table. And they’re like, “Mom, it’s not that big of a deal. We get it.” They were like, “We know this is hard. We’re celebrating it. Can you knock off supporting us?”
It was so sweet. It was such a sweet recognition of your kids will stand in their own power when they know that they’re supported from the outside, I just think I want to pause for the listeners for a second. That is so important, that the impact is mitigated by the preventive care, by the things that we can do. And I’ll even speak for someone who grew up with very little turbulence in a childhood life. I also didn’t have the opportunity to build skills to navigate adversity until I got older and I was away from the support of my family. So as a parent, I am always routing myself in the knowledge of, “If my kids go through hard things now, with my support,” I always say to my kids, I’m like, “Whatever level of challenge you’re feeling, we’re going to match it with the level of support,”
So if you’re getting this much talent will give you this much support. If you’re getting – I’m doing my hands of the video but on audio, you won’t hear it. If I give them level 10 level of challenge, I’m going to give them a level 10 of support and I think that gives your kids a chance to build their own resilience in a safe space, Tell me where I’m wrong, I would suggest maybe even supporting a kid in a way that goes beyond growing up without adversity, without mobility, without bumps because then they have never had a chance to develop their skills. Tell me where I’m wrong.
Lauren: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I think we see that constantly that resilience building happens through hard things when hard things come and we have the support like you said that matches, those hard things, so that we can get through them, it turns those internal narratives into, “I can do hard things, I can get through this. I can make it, I am strong.” When though, those hard things keep coming, and there’s nobody there and it’s at those times that they feel lonely and isolated, and like, “I’m not loved,” and they’re not supported, that each of those hard things knocks them down further. And what we see is that those internal messages become really self-deprecating. They turn into things like, “I am weak, I am not okay, I’m not,” whatever it is. But there’s internal messages, don’t become resilience-building – they become fragility increasing and that doesn’t help them in adulthood. And so, we talk about adult TCKs being resilient and that being a trait of adult TCKs as well. Sometimes we see that but sometimes we don’t so it’s not just that they went through hard things, it’s the support that they had during it.
Sundae: And that’s what I get triggered. When people say – oh, I noticed this as a mother as well, when people who don’t understand say, “Your kids will be fine. Kids are resilient.” And like you are not right here right now, and we can’t just throw our kids into the cold water, the hot fire, unless we’re there to give them, like I said, the support that they need. It’s not just doing hard things, unattended, builds resilience like you said, it’ll destroy them. And I always say this, “Resilience is built.in community.”
Tanya: Yes. Yeah. And the other piece is so important about this is that we can’t expect parents to turn around and have Limitless energy to match their kids needs unless parents are getting their needs met. When we look at the three ACE factors that are the highest in these mobile kids that we surveyed, all three of them to us reflect the parent’s stress and needs. So the three that were particularly high are:
Emotional neglect, and
Parental mental illness.
So emotional abuse and neglect were four times higher in third culture kids and they were in our American controlled study. And parental mental illness was two times higher. And now that tracks, there was a study that came out 10 years ago, that showed that expats were at two and a half times the risk of depression and anxiety as domestic workers. And then when you look at the emotional abuse and emotional neglect, when you’re looking at that rate, that is not that half of expatriate parents are bad parents, that’s the parents are under stress and do not have the resources they need to give to their kids, when their kids are also under stress, in these lives of transition. I think we have to come at this with a lot of grace for parents who need support themselves. We need to take the stigma away from needing help and asking for help. Whether that’s counseling, whether that’s support groups, whether that’s parenting tools, and help. Whatever it is that works for you and that you need get that help. We, like you said, we support each other in community. Nobody can do this alone.
Sundae: Absolutely. I think and this is so interesting when I think about it, what I tell people all the time is if If I ask you how you are and you say I’m fine, I don’t believe you
Tanya: That’s wisdom right there.
Sundae: It’s like, “I know too much,” you know? Like, I just know too much about how hard things can be. And I know in my own transitions, in the work with my clients, with the work of my coaches. It’s like, I know the real deal. And I love that you talked about in the stigma away and that same framework of let’s match the level of support with a level of challenge, it has to apply to us as parents too.
Tanya: Exactly. Yeah, I had a friend. I was working with on a project just last week, said someone came into her office and said, “How you doing?” She went, *sigh*, they were like, “That bad?” and she’s like, “Wait, I can act better than that. I’m a better actress than that. I can put on my happy face.” And she’s a counselor, right? And it was this is tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that we do, we act fine. And especially in the last few years when there have been these extra weights and pressures on top of what is already often a stressful work environment, life environment, parenting environment. When you’re living lives IN TRANSIT, when you’re living lives of cultural complexity, we’re so good at acting. But if we don’t take that mask down and get the resources we need, we can’t parent, we can’t be part of our friendships and communities and families. We can’t give and receive at the level that all of us need.
Sundae: Absolutely. And that’s why I’ll make sure that in the show notes, they have access to your books, your community because it’s frankly a trajectory changing experience for you and for your kids. Something important and worth taking seriously. So we’ve talked about the risk. We’ve talked about the preventive measure, and the critical relationship between taking care of ourselves as caregivers. And I’m not talking just parents teachers, who are working with mobile kids, psychologists, counselors, everybody who cares for this community. And how we need to seek support that matches a challenge. I wouldn’t mind now turning to a–
Tanya: Can I just pop in there? I’m not even a parent, right? And but even just as a partner having transition and being IN TRANSIT is stressful just out on a couple. And you need external help just to be the present for each other alot of the time. Even when I was single, when you’re part of a community, helping each other and being part of each other’s lives, you don’t need to be in a nuclear family to need help, to be part of your community. There is no point at which, “Now I deserve to get help.” Actually in so many ways being single was more difficult because I had to take full responsibility and ownership for getting all of the things done. I didn’t have anyone to do that with. And so I think often there’s this expectation that it’s so much easier when you’re single because you don’t have to do all these things, you have all this extra spare time. Well, no, because there’s only one of me to do all of the things. So like I said, if we can take the stigma off, we all need help. And we all community.
Sundae: Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you. I think that’s important. We’ll say it louder for the ones at the back. I want to focus on you and your own transitions. Obviously the work that you do probably impacts your own lives in direct and indirect ways. I don’t know if you don’t mind, I’d like to hear a little bit more about the transitions that you’re feeling right now. And are you in a phase where you would feel more like an internal or external transformation? I’m curious Lauren, what about you?
Lauren: Yeah I think on two different levels, on a macro-level and a micro-levels. On a macro-level, we moved from South Carolina to North Georgia in January. So we’re not too far from a year that we’ve been here and so that transition it has been a really good transition. And also like any transition, there’s been bumps along the way. Internally, I’ve been working on building community and letting myself build community because sometimes it’s easy to, especially for those of us who all have careers, it’s easy to just do the career and be busy doing the career and thinking well that’s fine, that’s efficient. But really spending time building community is super important, but that definitely takes some internal motivation.
And then on a micro-level, I’ve been traveling a lot the last month and a half. I’m here in a hotel room right now. This is trip number four in five weeks and so it’s just been a busy travel season. But I go home tomorrow and I’ll transition back into the routine of being a mom and taking the kids to school and packing lunches and all that. And that’s always a tough transition for me of I am this career person coming and speaking and staying in a hotel room. And that’s a very different thing than like, oh now I have to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every single day and have been. So both are important jobs, they are important work but that transition is, it is tricky. It’s a hard one.
Sundae: And so what do you do to shape your own processes? As you’re transitioning between these identities, between your roles? How do you use your own preventive care to do that?
Lauren: Yeah, I definitely reach out to friends to just kind of verbally process. We use Marco Polo, I don’t know if you all are familiar with that tool, but it’s phenomenal when you have people all over the world, which I do. And so trying to just kind of verbally process is really helpful for me. Also, just getting into a good mental space. As far as this is all important work. It can be easy to think, “This is where I’m saving the world,” and then at home is where I’m doing things that are significantly less exciting. And so to try to mentally remember that this is also so important. And caring. well for my own family is more important than telling other people to care while for their own families. And I need to just constantly remember that that looks way less shiny than it might seem like it should. Caring well for my own family means wiping snot off my kid’s nose or whatever and that’s still doing that good work of caring for your family well but it’s yeah.
Sundae: I always say my glamorous life. It’s like a good day when it’s only snot, you know what I mean?
Lauren: For sure.
Sundae: So what is what is ambitious for you right now? For some of us it’s doing less, for some of us is doing more, or something completely different. How about you Lauren?
Lauren: Yeah, so it’s funny that you say that because when I read that question I thought, “I don’t know that I have anything good to say,” because right now, I’m doing a lot of maintaining the things that have been started in the last three years. But then I was thinking, well, it is also ambitious to just maintain and keep doing the good things well, without continually adding new. So that’s where we’re at right now.
Tanya: Can I just say I find that hilarious because I look at the goals that the company has and I think they are all incredibly ambitious. We just think so differently.
Sundae: Tell us about you, Tanya. What transitions are you feeling right now?
Tanya: All of them. So Sundae made a comment earlier about it’s been forever apart from my husband, it has been two years and seven months since my husband and I lived in the same country, continent. So yeah. Almost exactly. Actually tomorrow will be exactly two years and seven months. Yes. So we have seen each other for six months of that time in 2-3 months windows. One in the country he lives in. And one of the countries I live. Neither which was the country we were living in when the pandemic started. So yeah, we lost everything. We lost our country, our home, both of our businesses, all of our savings. And so it’s been an incredible season of everything getting pulled out from underneath you.
And so, when I say everything, I mean everything, everything is some transition and especially for me because I’m in the country we’re not staying in. I live in constant limbo of if I got papers tomorrow I would leave. No, I won’t because the whole thing is a debacle and it’ll probably be another year before I can go over if I’m lucky. But there’s still this sense that you can never settle. And so all of the strategies that I’ve developed over the years, no longer applied and I found all the strategies for self-care and for looking after my mental health, and for community, and for support, and for settling in a new place. And for transitioning. well, and for arriving, none of them applied and none of them works. And I crashed. And I’ve had to completely relearn how to be. And so transition has been, has literally been everything, it’s been read learning life. And I’m a person who’s always been sort of internally led in transition. And I’ve gone into a season where my entire life has been shaped externally and having to respond to that has been. just paradigm-shifting.
Sundae: That’s exactly what I was thinking. Thank you for sharing that because I know that you’re not alone, I know there’s a lot of people who are listening and for you to give voice to that, I think is really important because it’s often hidden.
Tanya: Yes and probably because it’s so hard to articulate that. I couldn’t articulate that even six months ago probably. And I was just interviewed for a piece that was on NPR this week and talking through it with the correspondent who created the piece. She said, “Talking to me was really interesting,” because I had answers to questions that none of the other people she talked to did because I’ve been in this for so long. I’ve had time to think through and articulate so much of the process because yeah, I’ve had two and a half years to get my head around what I’ve done, what I’ve not just been through, but being in because I’ve stayed in it. Usually, you don’t stay in limbo this long, I’ve been in it so long, I’ve had a chance to develop in this place and it has led to a lot of personal growth, not easy, or welcome necessarily, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad growth. Most growth is good.
Sundae: I always say that we often confuse learning and growth, learning is what we choose to do. And it feels safe. And growth comes from the outside in and it is uncomfortable. It’s hard. So what have you done in all of this to shape this transformation that you’re going through right now?
Tanya: I have tried to make good choices and a lot of that has been around my health. I have a lot of chronic health conditions and so doing my best to learn how to deal with that. The things that I have control over and the things that I don’t. But also my mental health, so recognizing that I’m in depression. And that the depression I’ve dealt with my whole life, my strategies no longer worked. Well if my strategies no longer work, I need help from the outside. So I’ve seen two or three different psychologists or counselors in that time. I’ve had an incredible GP, medical doctor who has helped me with that. I’ve been on different medications. I’ve gotten all the different kinds of help I need. I’ve used all of the different apps to connect with different friends in different countries because everyone uses something different.
Marco Polo is one of those, Lauren. And just not being alone in it. I’ve also relied very much on a being an auntie. When I was first stuck here because I was stuck. The border closed and I couldn’t go home. I was on a business trip. I wasn’t even planning to be in this country, but I have little nieces and nephews, they’re currently two, four, four and a half, and six and a half, and they are adorable. And they love me and I love them. And when I was stuck in that first sort of six months, a year, I felt guilty, if I felt happy, because how can I be happy when my husband’s on the other side of the ocean? It just felt like a betrayal. But I could always be happy around them. It was always the right thing to spend time with them and so I really leaned into family into spending time with them and being an auntie and they kept me in the moment, present. They keep me present because it is very hard to be thinking about something else when you have a four-year-old tugging on your skirt or demanding five more books. So it’s leaning into what is good in this season and what keeps me present in the moment has helped me grow so much. Recognizing some of these negative thought patterns I had because I can’t hide from them anymore. And choosing to lean into it.
Sundae: So that’s amazing. That’s why since COVID my thing is been, let’s make this the best worst thing that ever happened to us.
Tanya: Well, we just talked about the least worst decisions we’re making. The least worst decisions. Like, we don’t have any good choices. So we’ll make the least bad one.
Sundae: These are beautiful new world strategies, right? It’s so good.
Tanya: What is the best worst thing? I’m going to add that to my vocabulary.
Sundae: What is ambitious for you right now, Tanya?
Tanya: Um, ambitious for me is balance, it’s just ordinary balance. It’s feeding myself regularly without my husband looking over my shoulder because he’s the one who notices when I skip meals. It’s getting up from the computer and stretching, instead of sitting down for six hours. It’s setting mini goals, not just, I want to get this project done but okay, let’s break the project down into pieces. It’s balancing the work I want to do for myself and the work I’m going to do for my job, and the time I want to spend with my family. And yeah just balance and daily life and being present. And for me, that’s really ambitious.
Sundae: It’s very ambitious right now. It’s beautiful. Thank you so much. I’ve just enjoyed being with both of you so much today. Thank you for your time. I think we’ve hit some really important messages that I hope people come away with because I know we all believe in this so much.
Tanya: We do. We can all get on that soapbox together.
Sundae: I can’t help it, man. What I think I’m taking away today personally is I’m re-committing myself to supporting families. The parents, I always think about the help that I do is directly to the adults, right? I don’t think I serve family, so to speak. But today, when I was listening and I think about the work that I do with the adults I work with is actually in directly serving families and I hope that any organization that has members who are in this space of mobility, they see that investing directly in the adults or in their families through support, even if it’s something simple like a book or offering programs, like all of us offer, that they see the bigger picture in that. So thank you for that.
All right. I will wrap us up. Your books are our mirrors. For those who have lived this life, they are eye-openers for parents who are monocultural and haven’t, and they are strategic handbooks on next steps. So definitely check it out. I was thinking about the quote I wanted to end on which I usually do. And the one I wanted to choose is from Jordan Sarah Weatherhead. And it was the quote, “Because when it comes to my offspring, I will fight with the fangs of a wolf, and the claws of a dragon. No one or nothing will stop me from protecting them.” That is the quote I wanted to choose but that is from the protective place.
So instead I landed with a more balanced quote from Doug Slanders. He says, “No parent can childproof the world but a parent’s job is to world proof the child.” And I think that is a little bit about what you’re talking about through your work and the preventive care and the support we can give them. So thank you, everyone. Thank you for listening and we will see you next time on IN TRANSIT.
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