The society in which we grow up creates a certain family’s image which we hold up as a model while planning our future. Unfortunately, our dreams often seem far beyond reality, and despite the fact that parenthood is probably one of the most beautiful aspects of our lives, it can also give us sleepless nights, especially if we cannot make ends meet.
It often happens that we don’t plan our household budget too carefully, and it frequently doesn’t burst at the seams, just on the contrary, the wind blows through our pockets. A substantial part of parents keep living day-to-day, patching holes wherever it’s possible. There are also the ones, who in spite of carrying out careful calculations, often need to say no to their and their kids, not only when it comes to some extra treats, but also quite basic things, such as food and cleaning supplies.
Hopefully, there are people, who are really skilled when it comes to handling the finances, they are able to analyze a given family needs and plan them well, so that everything becomes easier. As we know money can become quite a big source of stress, which can box us into a corner. That’s why, I’m really pleased to introduce you to the author of Mama Bear Finance – a finance blog, which is also dedicated for new parents. In this interview you will get to know more about Mama Bear, about the things she does on a daily basis, as well as why it is good to take care of both our physical and psychical health.
Passion Piece: Could you tell my readers a few words about yourself?
Mama Bear: Hello, readers! I’m very excited to be here on Passion Piece, so thank you for having me.
I’m an American expat living in Switzerland in a small city surrounded by the beautiful Lake Léman and the Swiss Alps! I’m also the author and founder of Mama Bear Finance, where I share topics related to personal finance and financial independence.
Passion Piece: You’re a happy mom and wife who decided to be an expat. What made you leave the USA and live in Switzerland?
Mama Bear: I moved to Switzerland for love! That’s a more romantic way to put it.
But the more rational reason was because I chose to join my husband who found a position in a large Swiss multinational company.
After we got married, we have to decide where we want to start our family.
And after careful consideration, I decided that I want to move to Switzerland to immerse myself in a new culture and environment.
It wasn’t an easy decision, though, as I had to leave my family, friends, and a very good career behind. But in the end, I don’t regret a thing! With a blink of an eye, we have already been in Switzerland for over six years now!
Passion Piece: Was it easy to get used to the new lifestyle in the foreign country? What kind of difficulties did you have to face at the beginning of your stay overseas?
Mama Bear: The first six months were very exciting as EVERYTHING was so new and foreign to me – the people, the language, and the scenery. Then after that, I got homesick and I cried numerous times because I missed my life back home.
The biggest challenge I faced was having no family or friends to lean on other besides my husband.
Because he worked a regular 9-5 corporate job, I was mostly by myself throughout the week which made it even more depressing.
Even though I kept myself busy by taking entry-level French courses and looking for a job, it was still hard as I didn’t speak the local language and I didn’t have prior work experience in Switzerland.
But soon after, I found a job and made new friends then things finally got much better! And things really turned around 180 degrees after I was able to converse in French.
Being able to carry out day-to-day activities at ease such as going to the supermarket, the doctor, or the library without constantly needing my husband’s help for translation really made things so much more pleasant and easier.
Eventually I also developed a liking for common Swiss activities such as skiing and hiking, so I began to feel a complete immersion in the community, the language and the country!
Passion Piece: Do the Swiss differ much from the Americans? Has it ever happened you did something awkward without even knowing that?
Mama Bear: Haha, yes, totally!
For example, Americans are known to be very outspoken and social. It’s not uncommon that you’ll meet a stranger in the mall and you can chat up a storm.
However, although one can easily make friends with the Americans, they generally don’t become very close friends or keep in touch.
On the other hand, it’s very difficult to make friends with the Swiss at the beginning.
Many of the Swiss formed their close circles since childhood and they remain close friends throughout their lifetime. They are also happy about keeping their group close-knit and prefer to form deeper relationships amongst their small circle.
It’s no secret that many Swiss prefer to be discreet while the Americans love to reach out.
Therefore, it was really hard at first for me to adjust to the new mentality of the Swiss. Many of my friends here are actually “foreigners” with many from other parts of Europe. I have very few Swiss friends whom I met through work or their spouses.
Before I learned about this cultural norm, I made an awkward gesture of asking too many questions. Since the Swiss prefer to be discreet, they don’t like to share too much in the beginning. It takes time to get to know them and form friendship, but eventually I picked up on the social cue and the rest is history.
Passion Piece: What do you miss most from your homeland? Are you going to move there back one day?
Mama Bear: Besides my friends and family, I miss the sunny California weather!
In Switzerland, it can get very cold during the winter, especially when it snows. This part was definitely really hard for me and my body to adjust in the beginning.
However, ironically, I think I’ll miss the four seasons of Switzerland when I move back to the U.S. someday, because it really is mostly sunny throughout the entire year in Southern California.
We actually had planned to move back last year after my husband lost his job due to company restructuration. But then he found another job so we’re now reevaluating when we’ll move back.
For the moment, we want to stay flexible and take things one day at a time.
Passion Piece: You’re much more than just the expat. You’re a person who decided to inspire parents to live a financially stress-free life by mastering their own personal finance. Was it the initial idea which led you to set up your blog?
Mama Bear: If you asked me this question just few years ago, I’d tell you “No way!”
I never really liked writing and never considered myself to be a good writer – something that I admitted on my blog as well!
Since two years ago, I have been an avid reader of financial blogs because my passion lies in finance (and art). My career is also in finance so it’s natural that I’m into personal finance and money management subjects.
Over the years, I read story after story about how many people are struggling with savings, debts, and retirement – things that come easy for me.
So after having a daughter, I just have this sudden urge to want to ensure a good future for her. I thought if I can make the society just a tad better and even if I could help few people with improving their finances, then I’ll feel pretty good about this contribution.
In addition, I want to leave some thoughts on the blog for my daughter for the moment she’s old enough to learn personal finance subjects. You can check out more reasons why I started my blog here.
Passion Piece: What is your experience in the field of finances? How do you deal with everyday household expenses on a daily basis?
Mama Bear: I’m specialized in financial planning and analysis. My previous position was Financial Manager at a large French luxury company. I love my work as it allows me to analyze trends and data, and helping other departments make sense of their budgets in order to formulate strategies for the company.
Because I’m very at ease with numbers, I’m on auto-pilot mode when it comes to managing our household finances. The only expense that I’m tracking month-to-month are the baby expenses.
I was curious to find out how much it would cost to raise a baby, so I set out a goal to find out by tracking each and every expense we spent on the baby.
So far, I learned that we have spent about $3,000 in the past nine months including all prenatal cost. This is far below the national average annual cost of $13,742 according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This information got a lot of engagement on my blog, and I think it’s because I have very concrete data to show parents that they can actually manage their finances better if they track their expenses.
I also show the essential baby needs month-by-month to guide parents through their newborn journey. You can read more about it here.
Passion Piece: How did they change with the arrival of your baby? What tips and tricks do you have for all the parents and parents-to-be in store?
Mama Bear: Our world has been turned upside down with the arrival of our baby girl! But overall, she brought us so much joy.
It may sound so cliche and something EVERY parent might say, but it’s true!
Having a baby is a mixture of headache with an abundance of love. Luckily the love always overrides the headaches so I wouldn’t change a thing!
Since I’m still a relatively new mom, I’m learning as I go! I discover new things about parenting everyday and the learning curve is very steep.
My best advice: Learn as you go as there’s no baby manual! Every baby is unique so one parental trick might not apply to another child. Therefore, it’s best to just figure it out on the job.
Passion Piece: Besides being financially independent you also emphasize the importance of being physically strong and mentally fit. How have you achieved such a balance?
Mama Bear: Haha, wonderful question, and the answer is I haven’t.
After having a child, I feel like my mental and physical wellbeing have thrown out of whack.
For example, my baby has a really sharp voice so whenever she cries or screams, it can really freeze my brain!
On top of that, there is so much to think about when you have the responsibility of taking care of a fragile baby. You’re constantly looking out for danger and worry about her wellbeing, so our brains as moms can really go overdrive!
In addition, I don’t exercise as much as I used to anymore, because it’s no longer easy to just go out for a day of ski trip or go play tennis with friends whenever I feel like.
And as you already know, we don’t have our families here in Switzerland, so we don’t have anyone who can help us take care of our baby. In the future, we hope to put her in daycare and so things should get a bit easier.
One of the motivation I have in getting my physical and mental health back in shape is by making myself accountable through my blog. In this new year, I planned to step up my game to do a bit more exercise like running when my husband takes care of the baby.
For my mental health, starting my blog has actually helped tremendously to process all of my thoughts. I’m glad I have an outlet to air out my worries, hopes and dreams through writing about them.
Passion Piece: What are you passionate about? What do you love doing in your spare time?
Mama Bear: My passion has always been about traveling the world. Ever since moving to Switzerland, which is very centrally located within Europe, I’m able to visit over 20 countries and 60 European cities with my husband.
In my spare time when we’re not traveling, I love to draw, read finance blogs, and do sports like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, tennis, and swimming.
Passion Piece: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Mama Bear: In 10 years, I see myself becoming financial independent and perhaps opening a financial planning advisory practice to help others in managing their personal finance.
Passion Piece: To close this interview, do you have a motto that you would like to share with my readers?
Mama Bear: “To stay physically strong, mentally fit, and financially sound.”
I truly believe that these three elements coexist harmoniously amongst one another.
With financial health being the biggest source of stress for many people, I want to help alleviate that by sharing my financial skills I accumulated over the years through my blog.
I would like to invite you all to visit Mama Bear Finance to learn more.
With that said, thank you again for having me here on Passion Piece. I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year and a lot of success into the new decade!
Passion Piece: I also thank you for this truly inspiring conversation and I hope that Mama Bear Finance will have nothing but success in 2020!
It doesn’t matter how huge financial problems you’re struggling with at the moment, you can deal with everything, but it’s always good to know when to ask for help. Sometimes little parental tricks can help you save a little bit and plan your budgets for the following months. And what are your tricks?
See you around!
Photos by: Mama Bear Finance