Our Stories: Kim, Sera, Anita and Kellee on Mother's Day

Written by Alexandra Birt. Posted in Our Stories.

Kim 2

“Is that a Kiwi accent I hear?” a fellow mum asked me at the park last week.  On the bus, at the playground, in the pub, these are just a few of the places I have bumped into other Kiwi mums over the last few months. Often conversation starts with the basics: where in New Zealand are you from, how long have you been here, where do you live? And very quickly turn to the dilemmas we share: are we doing the right thing by raising our kids here, should we go home, and where is home?

This got me thinking, there must be so many of us over here. And not just mums, but grandmas, aunties, daughters caring for their mums - Kiwi wahine experiencing motherhood in all of its forms. In celebration of New Zealand Mother’s Day, I spoke to some of these women.

Kim – Italy

Tell me a bit about you and your family?

I met my partner in Italy when I was on my OE back in 2007 and pretty much never left. Well except to go back to London to collect my (very) few belongings.

Our first boy was born in 2014, second in 2016, and our third (and final!) boy was born in the first few harrowing weeks of Italy’s Covid lockdown.

Three boys! How do you find raising your children in Italy?

I love the simplicity of life here in Italy. We live in a very small, coastal area so they are growing up with locals who all know them by name and a very outdoor beach life during their summer break. We have such incredible travel opportunities in Europe. I also love the quality of fresh produce. It's easy to still eat good quality food on a family budget here, something that is going downhill back home.

Raising bilingual children requires lots of determination - as a family we communicate in Italian, though I try to maintain a daily level of communication in English.

How do you keep your family connected to New Zealand?

We try to travel back with the kids for New Zealand summer, my firstborn was just 2 months when he first did the long journey. It’s a long stint with three restless boys, but it is definitely something that is starting to get easier as they get older. And absolutely worth it, to have them experience the kiwi way of life, and connect with our family.  

Sera 4Sera - London

Tell me a bit about you and your family?

I am based in Wimbledon and  am the founder of HATHAWAY Botanical Scarves, a brand creating botanical art printed silk scarves and robes I design with my mother’s botanical art. I have lived in London for 9 years, and although I met Gary here, he is also from New Zealand and has lived in London for 20 years. We have one son, Marlow who is almost 3 and was born during the height of the pandemic, which had its challenges.

How do you balance motherhood with running a business?

Balancing being a mum with running the business and not having family to call on comes with its challenges. Marlow has come to my meetings with me from a young age, and I use a lot of small niche family run manufacturers, so Marlow is known and welcomed by then all.  Marlow goes to daycare only two days a week. This means sometimes working early or late, but the way I run the business works for us as a family, it's all worth it. I also love all the adventures I'm having with him in London, skipping around galleries, finding new hidden parts of London.

It sounds like you have a great network here, how important has this been for you?

Not having close family by is very difficult, missing my parents seeing Marlow grow up and him not having his cousins around. I am aware of how this challenge affects me, and my kiwi mum network is so important. We relate to knowing we enjoy all that London offers, put never ignore the pull of home. We share babysitting, a good giggle about memories growing up, and are there for each other when needed – a cuppa and Anzac biscuit are always on hand.

Anita 1Anita – Netherlands

Tell me a bit about you and your family?

I emigrated to New Zealand with my parents in 1961. In 1967 we returned to the Netherlands because of the health of my youngest brother. In 1971, we all moved back to Aotearoa. I sometimes call us The PingPong Family.

I married in 1972 and had 3 children. Due to changes in my personal life, in 2020 I took a year sabbatical and went back to the Netherlands. I'm still here. My daughter has three children, my eldest son has a son and two stepsons in Australia, one of whom has passed away, and second son has five children.

How do you feel about being, in your words, an Oma Far Away?

To be an Oma is a privilege. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my grandchildren. That doesn't mean that I'm moping or being pathetic. But just, the way people you love you carry in your heart.

I visit my family as regularly as possible. Yes I miss special events, grandpa and grandma days, and sport achievements, but try to plan my travel during the year so that I can celebrate special days. Last visit there were 6 birthdays and my latest grandchild was born two days after I arrived, how cool is that?

How do you stay connected to your grandchildren from afar?

I started a YouTube channel - Oma Far Away in 2018. I share outings and holidays online so family and friends, when the mood takes them, can follow part of my life here. The videos aren’t world class but the memories are. I’ve written 6 wee books featuring elves who visit places like Gouda and Kinderdijk to introduce them to their Dutch heritage. I’ve made them all a personal photo album, Hi, I am your Oma, meet me and my family. The kids love them.

Kellee – New Zealand

Tell me a bit about you and your family?

I am a Māori wāhine. Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Hine and Ngāti Hau. I also have a great-grandfather from Korcula, Croatia, and links in my whakapapa to the UK.  I’m now married to a Brit. My younger sister is married with 5 incredible children. Sadly, I have not been able to become a mother earthside, experiencing a miscarriage a couple of years ago. However, I am a very happy aunty.

You lived in the UK until recently, what brought you over initially?

I always wanted to travel, however, hitting my 30s gave me much greater confidence. I moved to London in 2009. Initially, I didn't think I would last past 6 months.  Surprisingly, the UK opened her arms and embraced me. Ngāti Rānana, London Māori Club, gave me an anchor. We performed and travelled all over the UK and Europe together. It was an honour and a privilege to tautoko better UK and New Zealand partnerships. Ngāti Rānana also helped people to experience a sense of 'belonging' which was very true for myself and hubby.

How has it been for you since moving back?

It's like living in two worlds at the same time. They both tug on your heartstrings. We are lucky to have a family home we can share with my parents. Mum has aged. It is weird to experience this. She has been the glue in our family and a huge support for dad's medical needs. She has carried a lot on her shoulders these past few years, so it is nice to take that off her so  she can begin to focus on her own needs.

The kids have grown up and I have missed a huge part of their lives. Getting to know them again, vice versa is an unexpected journey. It still feels like we are in the UK despite living right next door. So this will take some time and effort.