Anastasiya Szabo: The challenges of raising a family abroad and the role of community

They say it takes a village to raise a child. All parents out there know this is true because let’s admit it — we are not superheroes, and most of the time we could use some help. Being a parent is a blessing, but it also comes with its share of challenges and they only multiply when you decide to pack your bags and move abroad to start a new life, for whatever reason.

Especially as a mom, most days you live on coffee and a little sleep. Sometimes you feel exhausted and beaten down by the expectations of motherhood because everyone else seems to have it all figured out, but hey… I don’t think any of us have! If this resonates, you know how helpful it is to be part of a community that understands you because they themselves have faced and are facing the challenges of parenthood while living miles away from home.

Today I sat down for a quick chat with Anastasiya Szabo, a photographer, and a fine arts storyteller based in Budapest, who is also the mother of two wonderful daughters. She is also the co-founder of BudapestMoms, a community that brings a little essence to the lives of moms and their little ones here in the city.

Hello Ana, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. The truth is, most of us are far away from home and our loved ones and we often long for a space where we can be a part of it.

So, I’m glad to have found the Budapestmoms community recently, but before we get into that, shall we start with a small introduction about yourself?

Hello Maheshi, thank you so much for your patience and the opportunity. I really appreciate it very much. As you mentioned in your introduction, I’m a mother, wife, and photographer and I strongly believe that dreams should be rich in memories, full of family traditions, and colored by emotions. In a nutshell, I tell stories on Instagram and connect with like-minded mothers here in Budapest.

What brought you to Hungary and when?

The funny thing is I moved to Budapest twice; once in 2013 and then in 2018. This city as you might already know is a good place to bring up kids and have a family. It has lots of parks and greenery, a great many playgrounds for babies and toddlers, a good childcare system, and is safe.

None of that really factored in when I moved to Budapest the first time. I had just graduated with a BA in Business Management in London and wanted a change to a quieter but still European city, with interesting culture and things to do.

Yes, Budapest has that slow-life vibe. To a tourist, it may seem like a vibrant city with so much to do and explore, and you think it’ll be different once you live here for a while and get used to it. But the city never ceases to amaze you, no matter how long you’ve been here.

It’s true. When someone asks me why I moved to Budapest, I don’t even know where to start. Because there are so many reasons and stories. I moved here in 2013 to start my life as a young professional. I was in love with the mood, the events, and the beauty of this city. When I married my Hungarian husband, we both got corporate jobs and lived a relatively relaxed life in our 20s.

In 2018, we moved here as a family of three and I already knew this was a beautiful place to raise a family, so we stayed and are still here. All the things I said before about the greenery, safety, etc. have now played a role in our decision.

Starting life as a family abroad is exciting and scary at the same time. And we often find ourselves highlighting the positives more descriptively than the difficulties, whether on social media or simply in conversation with friends and family.

But the truth is that so much happens in 24 hours that we can’t capture in pictures or words, and in the absence of a support system, we all experience so many not-so-joyous moments when anxiety and stress take over. I’m sure you can relate to this too.

Oh, yes! Parenting as you said is a challenging 24-hour job. I would be lying if I said it was easy. No matter how polished and perfect our social media is, they are just photos. A glimpse into the moments and seconds in between our ocean of emotions and challenges we endure while raising our little humans.

My friends and I talk about how sometimes we feel like we are caught up in a time loop and have little time for ourselves.

Yes, the routine, the sleepless nights, and tiredness are all very real and relatable for every mom, especially for first-time parents it takes time and lots of effort to navigate through this. Add to this the challenges of living in a foreign country, such as becoming familiar with the language, customs, legal and healthcare systems, and inadequate personal support… it takes time and patience to adjust to this new life and all its circumstances.

Clearly. We both agree that this is exactly why community is important. When you moved to Budapest, did you immediately find other parents that you could connect with, were there communities that helped you make the transition easier?

We’re all unique, but we’re connected because we’re mothers. We are up at 3am, we want to rest, and we would like to live a full life, between being a mom, a partner, working, and helping others. That’s why online and in-person communities are so important. They offer support, comfort, and solutions.

Let’s talk about Budapest moms when it started and what you do.

I believe that as parents we can have an active and interesting life. @budapestmoms is a blog about family life in Budapest. It was started by two ex-pat moms (Ukrainian and Spanish) for moms craving a social life for themselves and activities for their munchkins. Since its inception, Budapestmoms has been a platform that connects reliable resources and helps mamas who need them.

The pandemic and the lockdown have made us realize how important it’s to meet and connect with each other. I believe Budapestmoms is so important because it brings forth new ideas and events, and offers comfort to tired mums who still want to be active and live a full life.

What kind of events do you organize?

Our aim is to create a spirit of togetherness by organizing events for mothers and their little ones. For example, we have our mom and baby meet-ups in child-friendly venues like Bartok Bela Pagony and HelloAnyu.

We also had and have events for our mamas like the tour of Café New York, brunches at beautiful cafés, picnics, and our community’s favorite spa days, Easter egg hunts, mother’s day activities, high teas, and etc.

There are many upcoming activities organized and hosted by Budapestmoms. Unfortunately like all other moms, we are short on sleep and time, so we currently do not have a pre-scheduled calendar but we are working on it. Luckily if you follow us on Instagram, you will be informed of all future events ahead of time.

We also understand with all that’s going on in your busy lives, it is difficult to keep up with all the events that are happening. So, to relieve you of this stress, apart from our own event and activities we keep you informed of what’s happening in the city and all details when, what time, ticket prices and where to buy them and so on.

I believe the idea behind Budapestmoms, is to create a space where you can interact freely with other expat moms, bounce off ideas, share tips and advice, and of course, have fun.

Yes, definitely. You can check out our Instagram story highlights and posts to see for yourself everything we’ve been up to. We are a close-knitted active bunch of moms, who enjoy motherhood and celebrate life while supporting each other. We would love to see you around sometime, perhaps at one of our events. So feel free to follow us and say hello!

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