Argentinian mom, Erica Mirochnik, on the complexities and balance of #cultures and #languages

It has been 20 years since Erica Mirochnik emigrated from her birth country. Since then, her daily life has been defined by the adjustments and balance between the culture she grew up with and the new cultures she has encountered. Erica has lived in France, Canada, and now in the Unites States. Everywhere she went, there were new things to learn, new ways to do things, new opportunities that helped her grow personally and professionally, especially as a mother.

Being an expat mom, her moves have required finding new schools for her children, learning new languages, and helping her family to find a balance between her Hispanic culture and that of the new country. Moving to a new city has also involved looking for basic needs like a place to live, new doctors, places to buy food and medicines, even a place to buy a car.

Her journey prompted her to start her website, Mamás por el Mundo, where she blogs and offers services to helps families find their way in the new country.

In her view, adjusting to a new culture brings challenges and rewards to the family identity.

Erica and I met a few years ago, when my first book, Raising Bilingual Children, was published. I have been a contributor for her website, mamasporelmundo.com several times. Her expertise in navigating through different cultures and languages is great resource for expat families.

I invite you to learn more about Erica below.

MB: Where were you born and raised? Did you come to the States for school or for work?

EM:I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I came to the States for my husband’s work.

 

MB: How old are your children. Were they born in the United States?

EM: My children are 11 and 13 years old. They were born in Paris, France.

 

MB: Are you raising your children with two languages and two cultures? Can you share some of the challenges that you have experienced?

EM: The importance of keeping Spanish as the language spoken in our household was a very simple and easy decision to make. As my kids were born in France, they were immersed in a bilingual culture since birth. At that point, the challenges are more on the parents’ side. For me it was very clear then that if I was not up to the task, they would never become bilinguals. I faced it with curiosity, energy to discover different resources, and most important, to enjoy it.

MB: How did you decide to start your website, #Mamásporelmundo? Tell us about it.

EM: The website started as Mamas Blogueras por el Mundo in a sort of compilation of expatriates’ and immigrants’ experiences that started to appear on the Internet. Lots of women, living far from their countries, began sharing their experiences through blogs and they had a common place where to share their thoughts.

After a short time, a lot of consultations about life abroad were arriving to my Inbox. Then I decided to open the online consultations, among other services for expatriates and immigrants families. The blog reshaped, and shorten the name to @MamasPorElMundo.

This was the best outcome to 25 years of professional career, and 20 years living far from Argentina. It was a big challenge to put all that online, and learn how to continue working in a different structure. And it is not stopping!

 

MB: In your experience, what is the hardest thing to adjust to when moving to a new country, especially the United States?

EM: Culture, in a very large sense. We tend to think that living in an hyper-connected world teaches us a lot. I think it gives you a lot of information, which sometimes is more confusing than anything else. Living in another country is more than knowing things. You have to move to a place and start experiencing them, and be ready for a different mindset.

MB: In your website, you also offer services to families that are new to this country. What are some of those services?

EM: I offer online sessions, which help families that are about to move and families that have already moved. There are different needs in every step of the way, and even when you have been living a place for a longtime, there are things that were never solved, and that people are not happy with. I can mention: kids’ education, but also the mom’s job, her choices, coping with not having help, among others.

For people living in NY, I offer those consultations either at my office or at a coffee shop, if more convenient.

I have also written some e-books for children, to help parents explain the idea of moving: a new place, a new school, new friends, etc.

I also organize some workshops online and offline. Sometimes, I partner with other professionals, or organize them alone.

MB: What is your favorite #bilingual activity you do with your children?

EM: Now that they are a bit older, we like to see how words that sound similar could mean exactly the opposite. We play a lot with expressions, and how they represent the culture of the language we speak. We like games like Scrabble, and we like to decide in which language we will be playing that day.

 

MB: Favorite #bicultural activity?

EM: I don’t have one, I think the idea of switching languages is very controversial for early stages, but when kids are older you can get a lot from reading news from different sources about the same issue. My best example will be soccer, and how news are covered in different blogs and newspapers from around the globe. Always include your kid’s interests and they will enjoy the activity.

 

MB: Do you have family nearby? If not, who helps you balance work and home?

EM: My family didn’t move with me. This is our third country of residence, and I never had that kind of support. It has not been easy. I personally adapted my career and routine to that. My husband is a good partner. 

 

MB: What are you reading these days?

EM: I am reading a lot about education, the internet and about teenagers. There are many articles and studies on how our kids’ generation interacts, and the value of personal relationships to them.

 

MB: Who or what motivates you?

EM: I will say my family. They are a good source of inspiration.

 

MB: What is the one thing you miss the most about your native country?

EM: I miss the smiles, the streets, and the time you take to talk to a friend.

 

MB: What is your message for parents raising children in today’s world? Especially to parents raising children with two or more cultures?

EM: First, don’t be afraid. It is possible, but it takes a lot of energy. You have to be committed as a family.

Then, think about curiosity, the one that leads to learning. Another language means more than just words. It is an expression of culture, values, and feelings. Be proud of who you are and teach your traditions.

In my own experience, were my kids speak three #languages fluently, I can say it was the best parenting decision we made. It makes them feel a real connection as citizens of the world. The English they speak every day at school, with friends, on the street, makes them feel they belong to a place, to a reality they experience every day.

They never lived in a Spanish speaking country, but speaking Spanish connects them to home, to a culture and tradition they share and cherish.

Values, culture and traditions don’t belong only to a physical place, you carry them, and they are alive because you share and experience them.

 

Experience to live by, don’t you think? For more on this valuable resource for parents, visit http://mamasporelmundo.com

 

Bai, Bai,

Maritere

 

Related article: http://mamasporelmundo.com/todo-cambia/

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