Our new columnist, Marisa, shares her journey as an expat mama building a new career for herself in a new country. Read on for an introduction to Marisa and how she got to this point – we’re sure many of you will relate!    

First I had a career. Then I moved.

Before moving to the Netherlands, I was getting a master’s degree and working for a successful lobby organization in Washington DC. I was busy, my job was exciting and I loved it. I had always known that I wanted to be a career woman. Then I met and married a Dutchie. He is an awesome partner (most days) and in the beginning, he quit his secure government job in Den Haag to move to the US and be with me. Basically, he spent our first few years together sacrificing his career for mine. Unfortunately, he wasn’t terribly happy doing it and after a while, it became clear to both of us that the best thing to do would be to relocate to the Netherlands. At first it didn’t feel like a sacrifice at all – I knew from the beginning that Dutchie and I would eventually end up in Holland and I was ready to give it a try. Plus, I had a plan. I would spend my first few months in Amsterdam writing my thesis and figuring out my next career move.

I started off strong and immediately began networking and looking into job options. What I didn’t expect was to get pregnant so soon after I arrived. (We were trying, but everyone kept warning me that it could take a while.) Being a bit delusional, I continued to apply for jobs and talk to people, but the larger I got, the less I earnestly invested in my job hunt, until one bright and chilly day in April 2010 our son, Little Man was born.

I took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have a job and spent more time than I would have otherwise with my Little Man. It worked well for both of us – he got a full-time mom and I was able to take additional time to integrate and get adjusted to life in Holland. Then, in the blink of an eye, my baby turned into a toddler and we were blessed again in 2012, when Lady Bug was born.

That’s how I went from being “career woman” to “mama” without even realizing it was happening. If you had told me seven years ago that I would be a stay-at-home- mom (SAHM), living in Amsterdam with two Dutch children, I wouldn’t have believed you. Seven years ago, I didn’t think I was on that track. Looking back, I realize that being a SAHM for the early years of my children’s life has been a blessing. Every minute that I spend with my babies is worth the sacrifice of my career. But this isn’t my dream job and I’m ready to get back into the professional world. So here I go, trying to figure out my next career move after taking more than three years off to start a family.

That in-and-of-itself is hard to do, especially with (dare I say it?) the economic situation these days. To make things even harder, I’m also trying to transition into a slightly new line of work after facing the harsh reality that the job I used to do doesn’t really exist in Amsterdam. And to top it all off, I’m trying to jump-start my career in a new culture. It’s times like these that make me wonder: “What am I doing??”

Marisa Rijpkema

Marisa is a 'third culture kid,' and while she doesn't remember ever crossing into adulthood, she now finds herself trying to integrate into Dutch life, while mastering the delicate art of being a mother, and figuring out her career as she goes.