Expat Mom Stories

Dominique Coindre: Working Mom Stories

Dominique Coindre, a French Canadian with many degrees, chose to change careers so she could start a family by adopting her beautiful daughter. She wanted to explore the world and travel, giving her now 10-year-old daughter opportunities she could cherish. Being a translator and a single mom has given her the bases to pursue this dream of travel.  At times, it can be tough being a single mom in a new country, but she takes this with determination and passion. She continues to show her daughter that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Dominique’s story is an inspiration to many single moms out there who are trying to live their dream of building a life in Italy.

At the age of 44, Dominique became a single mom when she adopted her “snow girl”, from Kazakhstan, in 2009. Her life with her daughter is made of the usual child raising difficulties, as for all mothers out there, but “Seeing her smile, seeing her becoming her own person, how she is starting to think on her own with the right values, makes me proud of her, and what I have accomplished so far with her.” Dominique had always envisioned “”to share” the world with her daughter, and living in Italy became of the plan”. They arrived in Italy, with their two cats and entire household, two years ago, when her daughter was 8 years old.

Dominique states, “It is not easy to be a single mom, because the burden lies on just one pair of shoulders, being in Italy does not change that reality”.  She has no break from parenting and no network to help in raising her child, as many others have with parents and close family members.  “Between work and being a mother, there is not much space for being a woman. I sometimes long to have more time to nurture old interests and develop new ones, but at the same time, I know this is our only time together and is short-lived. Soon enough, perhaps even too soon, she will go off on her own path”.  It is a constant struggle to balance being a single mom, but there is a positive aspect: nothing gets in the way of Dominique’s own version of how to raise her daughter.

When Dominique moved here, she did not have the Italian husband or family to help with settling into life here. She recounts, “I was psychologically prepared for the bureaucratic hurdles, but still found it all very daunting. The language barrier, of course, did not help, though I had some proficiency with Italian prior to moving. Simple things such as transferring the phone line, water supply, electricity, gas, to my name, getting the Internet, became protracted exercises in patience (and in  frustration…)”  The astounding amount of paperwork to get permission for her and her daughter to stay in Italy was confounding.  She recalls, “It was very tiring, if not exhausting” and this tortuous bureaucracy might well be a major factor in her future decision on whether to stay or leave Italy.

However, because of the Italians’ love of children, Dominique and her daughter found it relatively easy to adapt to the way of life here in Italy. Her daughter goes to the International School of Florence, where her main schooling is in English, and learns Italian as a second language. However, the school does not really provide for a social network, and not being able to rely on one certainly would make it harder to adapt. She says this is because of the fact she works from home and lives outside of Florence and therefore it restricts their ability to make closer friends. However, this is well satisfied, by the pleasures of living in the Tuscan hills, among the olive trees, and enjoying that oh so priceless cool breeze in the summer!  No matter what, both mother and daughter are so very happy to discover the country and to learn about the “Italian way of life”.  “That is why we do these things: to learn other ways, see how other people live and think, and this way we broaden our experience and understanding of the world we live in.”

In order to succeed in being a single mom and provide an income, Dominique changed her career from tax lawyer to translator, this way gaining flexibility with her working hours for raising her daughter. She acquired a University degree in translation and slowly started to build her practice. She was fully self-employed by the time she adopted her daughter. “I am bilingual in French and English. I had always done some translation work at various work places, so it sort of fell into place. I started with technical and creative writing, and then naturally moved to translating, which proved to be the more practical way of earning a decent living. This is what I did, and still do, which allows me to have the lifestyle I want (that is, working from anywhere in the world).”

Dominique’s practice, which is still in Canada, is her main source of income while living here in Italy. She first got her clients through networking. “I leverage my previous training and experience, that is being a tax lawyer, and therefore specialize in financial, legal, tax, etc. translation. I research the market, finding potential clients both in Canada and internationally, by sending my CV, sometimes having an introduction, most of the times not. There is fortunately a lot of work out there for good translators. Especially in Canada, where French and English are both official languages.” In the near future, Dominique plans to develop her European clientele, enabling her to earn Euros instead of Canadian dollars.  This would help sustain the cost of living here. “I am not sure if it is the living in Italy as much as the living in Tuscany/Florence which makes it harder, financially. It might be easier in other parts of Italy, where the cost of living is not so high.”

Because of Dominique’s schedule being flexible, she is able to participate more in her daughter’s life. She is able to go to school meetings, pick her up and drop her off at school, go to afterschool events, medical visits etc. In order to do so, she has to work longer hours at night, which does limit the time she can interact with other adults.  Because of the conversion from Canadian dollars to Euros, she has to work harder and longer hours to obtain the financial support needed to stay in Italy.  At times, this has “led to overworking, lack of sleep and having very little time to devote to my daughter.  Achieving the opposite effect of my desired outcome. It is at those times that I reconsider this whole decision of self-employment: getting a “regular” job, with stable hours, medical insurance and a retirement fund would have its pluses!”

I asked if she plans to stay here in Italy. She responded, “I don’t think we will stay here for as long as I had initially thought. I wanted to stay here for the rest of my daughter’s primary and secondary schooling but I do not think this will happen. We are going to stay one more year for sure, until she gets to middle school. Then, we shall see. I do like it here, and consider ourselves very lucky indeed to be here. I am not prepared to leave yet. Work opportunities will likely dictate our next move, but I am not there yet. I am not done with Italy. Will I ever leave? Is one really ever ready to leave?”

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