How is it to reside abroad with your family?
When you move away and turn your life into a journey filled with uncertainty, you grow up in unexpected ways. You face new challenges, you’re amazed at yourself and at the world. You broaden your horizons.
You evolve. You feel homesick and you shape memories that will stay with you forever. That is living abroad.
Once you look back you will realise that you managed to build a nest and make your dreams come true in a foreign country. You have grown as a person and that is extremely rewarding.
We spoke with Madelon, also known as Madebylon, who made the move a couple of years ago. Her Instagram is a place that captures childhood in the sweetest and purest way possible.
We talked about captures and captions, living abroad and coming back, motherhood abroad and life. Just that.
Madelon is married to Bart and together they have three blonde babies. Sylvester 8, Reva 5 and Oscar 1. They now live in Haarlem, the Netherlands, and love it there.
I’m mostly a mother, but next to that I’m so lucky to get the opportunity to work as a photographer every now and then. I guess dreams sometimes do come true!
Luna: When you heard the idea of moving to the US, what was your very first thought?
Madelon: My first thought was please, lets not. We had a pretty good life. Nice house, two little children. And I really love The Netherlands. But you know, I met this cute red head in a pub, and what attracted me most was (next to that he was a shoe designer…) his determination and ambition. He is a career man with dreams. And one of those dreams was to work abroad for a while. So I was aware that it could happen and married him anyway. I just did not really see it coming at that time.
So you moved to California a few years ago. Why did you come back?
Many reasons. Missing family, missing history, but most of all I missed giving my children the youth and freedom I loved growing up myself. We always knew it wasn’t forever, so that made it harder for me. I was sort of waiting until we moved back and maybe did not give it a fair chance. Bart had his work, and is less attached and more experienced being away.
But don’t get me wrong, we had an amazing time and I’m so glad we just went and did it! And it brought me so much more than I wished for!
The opportunity to move back came up and we jumped. We did not expect it that soon but we both were ready.
During your time abroad – what did you learn about yourself that you did not know before?
That you don’t need much. I left a lot of things behind, things I liked, things I loved, things that made me me. I expected it to be harder. But you find a house, put your stuff in it and just keep on living. So I learned that I’m capable. To change, to have less, to survive. As long as my people are with me, I’m good.
Raising kids in a different country, what was the hardest part?
In a way it made it easier because I was a stay at home mother. I was very aware of the differences and was there to help them and guide them. But children are so extremely flexible. Especially so small (they were 1 and 4), they just want to be close. When Sylvester got older it became harder. He wanted his own things, play dates, bike rides, all without his mother and little sister present. And that was not really common in the area we lived. Even birthday parties included parents.
What do you miss from the US now?
Time. Just us being together. Road trips exploring California, large parking spaces, the adventure.
Your last child was born in the US. Can you tell us a little about the differences of giving birth in The Netherlands vs. The US?
In the US the approach is way more medical. I loved all my check ups in The Netherlands, meeting my midwife, in their offices full of birth announcements and flowers. I’m glad I experienced that twice, so I was OK with the American way. However I was very afraid they would decide to do a c-section too early in the process. It is a beautiful thing to try to eliminate risks, but I‘m a slow starter. My fear was absolutely unnecessary, because my ob-gyn was wonderful and when I begged to just get him out of there, she didn’t listen and made me try harder one last time. He is for sure the best souvenir from our American adventure!
Also, In the Netherlands you get a maternity nurse at home, after giving birth and she helps you with everything (baby, healing and house) for at least 5 days. It is the most wonderful thing and I was lucky my mother came to LA to take that role. I don’t know how I would have survived without her.
How did the kids do once you came back? Did they feel ‘home’ quickly?
We visited family once a year so they still knew their way around and we spoke Dutch at home. But it was really funny to see that for them it was moving countries all over again, where for us it was returning home. Rain, heaters, food, biking, all was sort of new and exciting! I think they would have adjusted quickly everywhere.
You are living in Haarlem, The Netherlands now. What made you decide for that city?
Next to the fact my husbands office is here, we really wanted to live in a bigger city. We did the move to suburbia before and well, we have made better decisions in life! So when we had the opportunity to start over this was the number one criteria. Haarlem is perfect. It is a city with great shops, restaurants and take away food. It is also a 20 minute bike ride to the beach, or 10 minutes to a nice park. It is a bit like Amsterdam, but more family orientated. I still love Amsterdam but I think that in this stage in my life I would not survive living there with three little children. I wish I was cool like that, but I’m definitely not.
What is your favourite place to hang out in Haarlem?
I still have to discover… there are so many great places I have never been! When we arrived Oscar was 2 months and I stayed in my baby bubble for quite some time. But the sun is out, the baby is not a baby anymore, I will tell you in a couple of months! But the beach is always a good idea of course.
How did you choose your new home?
Can we afford it?! The market is crazy and prices are extremely high in this area. And we are spoiled with space living in the US. We really wanted a home that had a big living space downstairs. Or the possibility to create that. So happy we found just that!
I love your interior style. How do you decorate, get inspired or select?
Good question. I love the simple, Scandinavian style, but I also love the more eclectic Parisian style. I just love… so many things. So the rule is – we have to love it and it needs to have a purpose. Our style is pretty basic (do not confuse this with minimalism), but with a lot of colorful souvenirs, even more toys and books and magazines, it is a perfect family home. For us.
You have three children, what is your favourite moment of the day with them?
Depends on when you ask, but I do love bed time… but I love weekends most, when we don’t have to rush anywhere. Bart is home so we can do things together and I have time to give more attention to them individually. We still like to go out and explore. We don’t do it as much as in the US, but we just made a promise we start doing it again!
What are you dreaming about these days?
A hair cut, a proper night of sleep and that we live in this city in this house longer than 5 years. Honestly, I’m happy, I’m right where I want to be. Just some more time to re-invent myself would be great but working on that.
Any summer plans?
We decided to work on the house and stay here this summer. That idea lasted for 3 weeks. We are travelers. So we go to London for a week and stay in the south of England a couple of days before we head home. And then we go back to painting etc.
How did you get into photography?
I always had a big love for photography. And all of a sudden I was a stay at home mother with time. So I practiced, I read, and just did it. I’m just one of the lucky ones to have gotten some amazing opportunities and in the beginning I just closed my eyes (figuratively speaking of course) and hoped for the best. Not all was good, but that’s they way I learn I guess.
Any tips you can share with us for people who want to develop their photographic journey?
Practice! And stay close to yourself, your heart. Don’t compare because yes, there probably always is someone better. Just have fun!