We all come across challenges and expats are certainly no exception to this. But when things get tricky, us women especially start to feel that well known guilt building up inside and shortly thereafter we feel the need to apologise. For lots of things. Especially to the people we love and miss a lot.

The interesting thing is that these things are actually going to be part of your life as an expat, whether you like it or not, and if you choose to constantly apologise for them you’ll keep busy forever. Not only that, it takes important energy away from more meaningful things that could give you more connection, fun and love. Like your family, your new friends and the things that make your new home amazing. Such a waste of time, yet so many people do it. Strange isn’t it!

When working with expat women, I’ve noticed 7 really common things most of them feel a strong need to apologise for (over and over again):

  1. Not being there. Yes, you missed someone’s wedding/baptism/birthday/graduation. Yes, you would have loved to be there, but you were not. The reason why does not really matter so stop apologising for it! Acknowledge to the person/people in question that you would have loved to be there for them in person, but focus your energy on how you can share part of that moment with your loved one, even if you were not there. Stop wasting time on apologising for not being there – it makes neither of you any happier, nor does it in any way change what happened. In fact, it will make things worse to highlight and remind you both that there really was someone or something missing on their special day. You were there in spirit in a way that suited that specific situation.
  2. Saying no. Connected to the above point, but often an apology on it’s own as well. You can’t be everything for everyone at all times. Nor can you be everywhere for everyone. Saying no is one of the key things successful and happy people do regularly, so learn to do it in a way that serves you. Being clear on your boundaries helps, as well as valuing your own time as much as you value the time you spend helping and supporting others. Say no when appropriate. Own it. Stop apologising for it and enjoy the new opportunities that open up for you by saying no. Even busy mums are allowed to say no!
  3. Being busy and/or low on energy. Saying this and feeling bad for it is totally counter productive and springs on more guilt. Which in turn leads to even lower energy levels. Everyone is busy living their life and you should never apologise for living yours. If you feel that you need to adjust things to feel better, then just go ahead and do that. And don’t apologise for it!
  4. Not being in touch more often. This is one of the most common ones for expat women and the easiest one to bust! Communication is a two way street and a flow between two points. The flow and frequency is determined by both ends and one side can not communicate with the other person unless they communicate back somehow. Reality is that you have as much time as everyone else in this world. The frequency and quality of your connection and communication with others is determined by where you focus your energy. If you feel the need to change it and speak to someone more often, by all means change how you interact with that person. But stop apologising for it, it’s pointless to highlight a lack of something without being prepared to take action!
  5. Standing up for your life choices. We always do the best we can with the information and resources available to us at any one time. Never apologise for the things you chose in the past, even if it sometimes means that choosing one thing also means to leave something else behind. Those choices made you the person you’ve become today. You already know you can’t change the past, so instead own the steps you took then and move forward in your chose direction now.
  6. Making mistakes. We always learn as we go along. That’s how we grow as human beings. Sometimes we hurt people around us or cause ourselves a lot of grief, but a mistake is only a mistake if you allow it to be. If you choose to see it as a learning to avoid doing the same thing again, it’s served a purpose. Either way, apologise only once (if needed) and really mean it. Then let it go into the past where it belongs and look forward on how you can choose to be and do differently now and in the future.
  7. Enjoying something different. There is no one way to live life properly and correctly. Every single human being is different and deserves the right to live a life they chose, not one that was forced upon them by others. Never apologise for wanting something different to what you grew up with or what your community tells you. You have the right to choose, so own that right and bring it with you wherever you go. It’s a true gift that you can also share with others to support them in their version of happiness and fulfilment.

We all know that these 7 things are important, just make sure you don’t get stuck in a loop of apologies.

Which of these points stood out the most for you? Please share in the comments below.

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  • I think guilt is an issue for most mums on a daily basis no matter where they live. It’s so hard to get the life balance right


  • I was an expat for 10 years, and I have to admit to never having had to deal with any of the above! ?


  • I think this article is true for everyone whether or not they’re expat or not. A good read!


  • This article is so true. I called Australia my home 10 years ago and still feel like I have deserted my family in South Africa. I made a choice to raise my family in a safe country and I never regret my decision but you always feel like something is missing.


  • I am an expat mum. Both sides of the family are in different countries in Europe while we are in Australia. It is now even harder than ever as up till last year I had my husband to share that with now it is just me and the kids as my husband ran away to Europe to be with an old girlfriend from school days. Now I feel guilty for making the move in the first place cause all I can think of is that when I am gone my 2 kids will have no blood family around them what so ever. I just pray that I am here long enough for both of them to be well and truly settled by the time my time comes.


  • I think this is so true for a lot of women


  • I don’t think you need to be an ex-pat to associate with some of these points. I think it is difficult to do things differently from what others expect, but it is also incredibly important to stand up for your life choices. Life is too short to accommodate others at your own expense.


  • Thanks for this insightful article!
    I left my home country 17 years ago and there are still family members asking me when I am going back! What you wrote in point 5 is so important. Stand up for your choices. Don’t feel guilty for your decisions, for not being there. I guess that a lot of people don’t understand the need to live “a different life”. And that’s when the problems start.


  • Thanks all for your comments on the article! Naturally these points don’t just apply to expats, but I see so many expats mum struggle with most of these, that I thought it relevant to get the conversation going. :-)


  • These are relevant to everyone, not just expats.


  • I agree with all of these points. Not only do I think they specifically apply to expat families (especially the women) but to a number of people. I am a CPTSD sufferer and I identify with all of the above that I apologise regularly for, I believe it is apart of how I have been brought up and the trauma experiences that have shaped me. I am a people pleasing person in nature.


  • wow what an interesting read.


  • Interesting read and of course being in touch more often and enjoying where you are now.


  • I am only a couple of hours from a lot of my family members, yet I still miss out on a lot of the above. The hardest is being away from my son and grandson. I would love to live close enough to just jump in the car and pop over. Or being close enough to walk over would be even better


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