#52 Ashley Stahle – Living intentionally and thriving as an expat mama
Ashley received her Bachelors degree in Psychology and Business from Brigham Young University where she met and fell in love with her husband, Dallas. Together they have two energetic young boys that add laughter and fun to their family. She currently finds great joy in meeting the people of China and learning their fascinating stories. She intentionally has set aside her professional career during this season of life to nurture her young family and take time to enjoy the exciting adventures that life in China provides.
Assigning or seeking for meaning in our experiences not only gives us more depth, but an ability to better empathize with others that will inevitably cross our paths.
How she got to China
The Chinese culture was already a part of Ashley’s husband, Dallas, when they met. He had spent 2 years in Taiwan and it was clear from the get-go that his language advantage and engineering studies would provide potential for China to be in his future. When she decided she wanted to be in his future, the prospect of including China in their subsequent future felt exciting. After being married for a year, they moved to Guangzhou for a short 4 month internship. Ashley taught English in various schools while her husband worked for a company that manufactured billiard tables and they got their first taste of China then. Fast forward 10 years and they are back!
Dallas has worked with a handful of companies over the last 10 years and traveled quite a bit back and forth. They sort of always anticipated that an expat situation would arise and a few companies approached them with opportunities, but things just didn’t seem to materialize and would fade into the background of business priorities. They also knew what kind of experience they wanted to have, so they were able to make educated decisions on making such a move. Simply put: they didn’t want to be so desperate to live in China that they jumped on any opportunity, it had to be the right one, and fortunately, they deal they’re in now one was the right one. And they now have two boys and are thrilled to bring along on the adventure and give them exposure to new cultures, insights, places and ideas.
Typical day… err… week?
While there’s no norm for Ashley on a day-to-day basis, she maintains weekly “irreducible minimums” that she does her best to make non-negotiable. Here’s her list:
- Intentional present time with her kids daily
- An uninterrupted night out with her husband
- Exercise (endorphins are crucial to her happiness)
- Scheduled social activities with AND without kids
- Education (whether she’s listening to a book on audible, attending a Chinese class or broadening her knowledge on something)
- Practicing Chinese (taxis, ordering food, speaking with domestic help, asking questions at stores)
- She also tries to schedule a new activity each week, or be able to introduce someone she knows to an activity or place she loves
As a natural communicator, Ashley really struggles with not being able to fully express herself. On a daily basis, she sees so many hard working Chinese people and just want to let them know how much she appreciates them mopping up the dog pee, sweeping up the never ending amount of falling leaves or just asking questions to people to hear their stories. She’s fascinated by the differences in cultures and feels like if they could really explain things to her and she could really understand them, the overall connection and experience would be so much richer for everyone.
Motivational tips & lessons learned
- Make an attempt at learning at least the basics of Chinese, When you attempt to communicate in Chinese, everyone she has come across so far, appreciates the gesture and intent.
- Put your energy into the things that are productive or that you want to grow.
- Intentionally seek the good in every situation and try to build on it.
- Your children are NOT a direct reflection of you, but there is still much value for you being present and intentional in their lives.
- Time is a gift. It heals, it strengthens, provides so much perspective and is also fleeting. And now her abundance of time was allowing her to question the more meaningful things in Ashley’s life.
- We can either live a life by design or a life by default. Choose to live each day with intention.
Self-reinvention – Rockin’ mom-dom
Ashley is treating motherhood as her new career. Even though she has been a mom for over 5 years, she had always chosen to work and have other large projects that took the majority of her brain space. Of course she wanted to be a mom, but she really struggled because there aren’t the same kinds of instant rewards, intellectual stimulation or constant visible and measurable productivity.
When she decided that rocking this motherhood thing was going to be her primary goal in China, it all sounded great! Then, she actually moved to China, took away all of the familiar things that she was used to spending her time and energies on and realized….uh…this is NOT her strength. Tune in to hear how she’s working to keep on keepin’ on!
Ashley’s 5-year-old is going to kindergarten at Shekou International School and they love it. He gets great exposure to several cultures, the classes sizes are smaller than in the States and their resources are fabulous. Teacher/parent participation and communication is awesome and so far, she feel likes Lincoln has improved a ton and is thriving in his new environment.
Ashley’s Tips & Tricks
Brings from home
Her Vitamix and artwork/pictures
China bucket list
Wish she had known before moving to China
In Shenzhen specifically, things are not as cheap as they were in Guangzhou. She was anticipating spending much less like they had before.
“Always make the choice that gives you more choices.” Coming to China 10 years ago and again this time have been choices that have given them more great choices in our lives.
How to Connect
Ashley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on FB under Ashley Simmons Stahle, or on Linked In under Ashley Stahle.