Words: Liv Lewitschnik

This is the first time I’ve actually run out on my crying daughter. I’ve only run as far as the local coffee shop and Ingrid, my crying child, is safe at home with her dad. Still, it’s not a very mature thing to be doing but I simply had to get away from the toddler world for a moment.

I know that I shouldn’t be complaining. Since my husband Gabriel got a producer job at a local TV station in Miami, Florida, we’re planning on moving to the US full-time. Ingrid and I are in this sunny city right now and I should be all things but frustrated. It’s warm. The ocean is a few streets away. The mood here is happy. Even so, I’m all torn up, I feel as if I’ve lost part of my core, my identity. I feel incredibly guilty for feeling that way. I ought to be completely content being Ingrid’s mother. Surely? 

My husband, Gabriel and I met while working at a London-based magazine. The company sent me off to Hong Kong where I became bureau chief for its new office out there. Soon, Gabriel followed. We’d often cover regional stories together – I’d write the magazine pieces and Gabriel would shoot short films for it. We went on assignment everywhere from Chengdu in China to Tasmania in Australia. We loved it. It was exciting to be travelling so much, discovering new worlds and being able to write about them for a well-respected magazine. And, except for the horrible pollution, Hong Kong was an amazing city to live in. 

But when we found out I was pregnant, we decided to go to Sweden, where I’m from. We wanted to be close to family and I thought it was high time to go back home after having lived abroad for more than 15 years – going back to my motherland to start motherhood seemed appealing. Also, quite importantly, I wanted to give birth at home, in a setting I was familiar with. 

The Swedish birth experience was great and it was helpful having my family close by, but settling back into Swedish life was harder than I could have imagined. Mostly because we couldn’t find a place to live – there’s an acute housing shortage in Stockholm. We kept moving from one short-term apartment to the next hoping we’d find something permanent. When that didn’t happen we decided to go travelling instead.

The choice to look after Ingrid full-time is entirely mine. But choosing motherhood over a career, even if it’s just temporary, can be frustratingly difficult

With a two-month old Ingrid tucked inside a baby carrier, strapped to Gabriel’s chest, we set off on a journey that’s only just about to come to an end, some 18 months later. The only way we could afford to travel everywhere from France, Spain, England, the US and Japan was thanks to Gabriel’s obsession with frequent flier miles (he spends at least some part of the day scheming how he can amass the frequent flier miles that we fly around the world on) and because we could stay with family and friends wherever we went.

Travelling with Ingrid has been fine – at first she simply slept through all the flying – but also exhausting, not least because of the jet-lag. Always being on the move with a little one, packing and unpacking, not being able to nest and settle down, all of that contributed to my feeling of being completely unmoored. Somewhere along the way, I lost my geographical identity – and with it, a part of myself. 

When I think about it rationally, the main reason for loosing my core, my identity, is the fact that I’m no longer working. I used to read and write and stay tuned into what’s happening in the world every day. Now that I look after Ingrid full-time, I barely have time for any of that. And, of course, now that I’m not working, I’m not going on assignment – something I had come to associate with who I am, someone who loves being out there, finding things out, talking to people, gathering material for good stories. Ingrid’s and my days now revolve around the local playground, the kitchen, the food shop and Ingrid’s play corner in the living room.

The choice to look after Ingrid full-time is entirely mine. I simply can’t imagine being away from her for work just yet. But choosing motherhood over career, even if it’s just temporary, is sometimes frustratingly difficult. Especially now that we’re in a new city where we have no friends or family. Not having any social support in a new place is isolating and is making me lose sight of the fact that this arrangement isn’t going to last forever, because I will go back to work at some point.

In the end, I reason, as long as I don’t start running away from my maternal duties on a daily basis, then perhaps it’s necessary to lose some of myself to be able to find myself anew. I hope that for me, becoming a mother involves being a good parent to Ingrid, and at the same time, in the not too distant future, someone who reads and writes and stays tuned into the world once more.

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