This is the first of a new expat series about raising kids in Cambodia, where we talk to parents about the finer points of child rearing in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Narisara Murray has been living in Siem Reap with her husband John McDermott for a decade now. They have a four-year-old son and recently became parents to a baby girl. I asked Narisara a few questions about raising kids in Cambodia.
What’s the best part about raising kids in Cambodia?
The supportive environment and help with childcare. By and large, Cambodians are warm and friendly to kids and it makes a difference to feel welcomed into a restaurant or shop, where staff might play with your child, giving you a little more time to enjoy your meal or make your choices. About childcare, I find that my friends in my home country (the US), especially the families with two working parents, often have to wrestle tough choices about childcare, which is usually pretty expensive. My husband and I both work at home and we’re lucky that we can afford a wonderful nanny at home, so that we can participate in our son’s day and see how he’s doing, but get our work done at the same time.
What’s the worst part about raising kids in Cambodia?
A higher risk level than I’m used to in my home country. Poisonous snakes have been sighted in our garden, including cobras and green tree pit vipers. Dengue is always a concern, especially during rainy season.
What are your favorite activities for kids in Cambodia?
My four year old loves to go for “nature walks” — from Siem Reap, we can drive a couple miles into the countryside and find places with plenty of nature for a four year old to explore, or go to the Angkor archeological zone and wander around paths through forested areas there.
If you could give one piece of advice to new expat parents in Cambodia, what would it be?
Don’t worry. Siem Reap is a wonderful place for a child to grow up: compared to a major city, there is so much access to nature and natural life. People here are used to raising kids without iPads, iPods, TVs, etc. It’s easier to unplug here. I don’t want to be hypocritical — our son loves his iPad, but he’d also just as soon go play in the garden, look for tadpoles and lizards, make a play building out of fallen bamboo twigs (nature’s Tinker Toys), or watch the cows amble down the road. I hope these are things he’ll always remember about his childhood.