Kaamna, you're the founder of MomAboard. Tell us a bit about the service you provide and what prompted you to start the business.
As a third time expat, I knew I could offer a lot of assistance to moms moving around the world with their kids. I learned through my experience that housing and relocation companies help – but they don’t have those local insights and nuggets that local parents do: Which are the best playgrounds and recreation centers?What’s the inside scoop on the best schools and neighborhoods? What are the unspoken norms and expectations?
I decided to start a service to connect relocating families with local moms – our “Mombassadors” – to make this extremely valuable information easily accessible to them. MomAboard was officially launched in September 2015 and offers trip planning assistance as well. London is the best place to run a business like this as it’s truly a global center.
Which countries does MomAboard cover?
Today MomAboard is in over 50 cities around the world, in every continent. We cover popular destinations such as Paris, New York, London, Singapore and Rome, as well as others such as New Delhi, Sydney, Rio, Hong Kong, San Francisco and many more. My goal is to offer service to major cities across the globe: we’ve recently added service to Tel Aviv, the Seychelles, Houston and Liverpool!
Are you an expat parent yourself? Where did you move to, and what were some of the challenges you faced?
I am on my 3rd expat assignment and MomAboard’s relocation service was founded largely on my experiences. I’ve lived in San Francisco, Sydney, and now London, and have been lucky. These are all beautiful cities, with tons of resources for expats. The hardest thing about moving is understanding that it takes about 6 months to feel truly settled. Whether you move for business or personal reasons, moves take their emotional and physical toll. And with a family, it’s important to watch out for implications of the move on your children. Some kids adapt really quickly and others take their time. I talked to my kids a lot, through good and bad days, and made sure they knew that it was ok to miss things at home, while looking forward to things in their new city. I think the emotional adjustment was the hardest thing.
What are some of the most common questions you're asked about moving abroad with children?
I’m often asked how I do it so frequently with little children and my answer is always is that it’s not easy. But recognizing that is the first step in overcoming the challenges. Packing and shipping stuff is the easiest part. It’s the intangible – the assimilation into a new culture – that’s the hardest. With my kids, I’m aggressive about getting out there and making friends, planning play dates, and exploring life as the locals live it. There’s no looking back and at the end, we as a family are happy for all the wonderful experiences we’ve had.
Do parents' concerns change depending on where they're moving to?
Absolutely. I was pregnant with my first child when I first moved and medical care in the host country was my #1 priority. Now my children are of school-going age so moving to a country with a solid education system is important. Different countries offer different experiences and I don’t always default to first world countries. Living in a completely different environment that may be poorer but richer in other values is great for kids, as long as basic safety and infrastructure is available.
If you could give one piece of advice to parents moving abroad with children for the first time, what would it be?
Do it once in your life. Kids are amazingly resilient and moving teaches them to adapt and adjust to a new paradigm faster than anything else. When things get tough, remember you’ll all be better off for the experience.
Finally, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Lol, as a mother and an entrepreneur, I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I do make sure to find some time for “me” every week. I love to travel (surprise surprise!) so we are on the go a lot, and when in town, I love checking out dance spots and live bands (music is my passion) around London.
You can find out more and order your own itinerary on MomAboard.com. Use code EXPATFOCUS to take 5% off your first MomAboard itinerary!