Revealing Interview: Mormon Women Project Talks With Global Mom

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The following is an excerpt from the recently published interview with Neylan McBaine of Mormon Women’s Project. To view the full interview in its original, and to read other intriguing interviews with women of my faith from around the world, go here.

MWP: Would you please describe the trajectory of the story that you’ve written in your recently published memoir?

MDB: The book begins when we had been married for seven years, Randall and I, and we were living in the New York City area. It was my husband’s first job and at that point we had two little children, Parker and Claire. I had been, as I describe in the book, busy following a few different career trajectories: I was a full time mother; I was teaching writing part time at a local college; and I was launching a career as a musical theater actress. And it was right in the middle of a musical that I was in that my husband received an offer pretty much out of the blue for us to move to Scandinavia for two or three years. As it turned out, that move ended up lasting a couple of decades. . .

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We were in Norway for just under five years, time to have our third child, Dalton, and then we moved to Versailles, a medium-sized city which lies just fifteen minutes outside of Paris. We were there for four years, just enough time to have our fourth child, Luc. . .We moved to the heart of Paris, two blocks from the Eiffel Tower. We enrolled our two youngest, Dalton and Luc, in French schools.  Our two oldest attended an international school, and we were there for a little over four years.

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We lived in Munich for three years, and then went to Singapore, where we were supposed to stay for many years, if not until the end of Randall’s career.  But there was a sudden restructuring and the entire international component of the multinational company he was working for was dispersed and his position was moved to Geneva. That’s where we live now. .

MWP: Tell me a little bit about the honest costs to you personally and to your family.

MDB: I will tell you what a couple of them are. The core costs are related to community. I don’t have a continuous, long-standing community with me, and I have not had that kind of permanent, reliable, known support ever while raising my family.  When your life is going peachy and there are no speed bumps whatsoever–then you might not feel you need a strong community. You can breaststroke all by yourself. But when you are paddling upstream against currents like new cultures, new languages, new ways of doing everything, parenting while your partner is half a world away and for over half the month, and when there are whirlpools . . . Oh, I didn’t think I would come to that metaphor, but I tend to always come back to water and drowning metaphors. . .

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For more of this extended interview about global living, traumatic loss, the journey with grief, and how to help someone who is hurting deeply, please click HERE.

6 thoughts on “Revealing Interview: Mormon Women Project Talks With Global Mom

  1. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my copy of your book. I suspect this will be a book I will be sharing with my family and friends so they can better understand what it is like to live the life of an expat.

    Your comment about the loss of community which you grieve has been a source of much thought for me. I recognize that within myself, but the type of community that I grieve for is different. My community has been far stronger and more powerful living abroad than it has been in my home country. I truly mourn for the closeness, camaraderie, and friendship I experienced while living abroad. I have found it so incredibly difficult to find that community, or to become part of a community living in the U.S. It is something that puzzles me because we have the same culture and language and yet there are barriers I can’t seem to cross, let alone even begin to understand. I simply don’t understand how I can navigate the perplexities of foreign living, navigating a language, and making friends but struggle on my home turf. Perhaps the fault lies with me. . .

    I truly appreciate what you are doing to share the expat experience with a much broader audience. You are helping me in my struggle to process my own experiences and to incorporate them into a meaningful and rich life.

    • Tiffany:

      Great to find you here! (And heartwarming to recognize you in the comment thread of the Segullah book review. I’m liking this!)

      And this, about deep connections while in “exile”:

      “My community has been far stronger and more powerful living abroad than it has been in my home country. I truly mourn for the closeness, camaraderie, and friendship I experienced while living abroad.”

      And this, about repatriating and feeling alien in your homeland/language/culture:

      “We have the same culture and language and yet there are barriers I can’t seem to cross, let alone even begin to understand.”

      I understand. And no, the fault does not lie with you. It is the nature of what writer (and lifelong expatriate) Pico Iyer calls the “floating tribe.” Serial expatriates are a weird and closely-banded tribe! We move a lot and from culture to culture, often creating profound, intimate connections with like-minded expatriates. Forced into difficult situations, desperate (at times) for support and understanding from others who “get it”, some expats grow incredibly close with one another.

      Then there’s another thing: I have grown so close to my members of my host cultures, because they “raised me”, so to speak, in their language/ways. I am eternally indebted to them. Mary Catherine Bateson (daughter of Margaret Meade) said successful expatriates are less like colonizers or explorers,and more like adopted children. I feel that; adopted. And if you do, then I can imagine missing that intimate dependance when leaving that place.

      Am I anywhere close?

  2. Sorry, yet another comment. After reading Third Culture Kids, I was sharing what I had learned with another LDS expat family in Riyadh. As I spoke about the rootlessness that Third Culture Kids experience, my friend made an observation that for LDS families, perhaps the gospel and LDS church could serve as their community and their roots. I am still pondering that, but I definitely think it has merit.

    • Tiffany:

      Yes, yes. It’s certainly been my experience, and I’ve seen other expatriates who are members of other faiths dig deep into their church communities when thrown “out of orbit.” Our church involvement, as you now, isn’t just an Sunday thing, but touches on every day and every aspect of our lives. That level of “communing” suggests that we would never have been able to learn languages and integrate as we deeply as we have had it not been for our church.

      That’s a whole subject I need to write on!

      Thanks, Tiffany. It’s great to connect with you here.

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