Interview with New Mom, Business Owner and Expat, Haleigh Ryan
This past year has been a big one for Haleigh. She had her first child, started two businesses, relocated to Europe, and got engaged! Read how she does it all and still manages to find time to take some beautiful vacations.
You wear so many different hats: mom, fiancée, business owner, and expat. You manage to do all of these things while abroad in a different culture, different language, and away from family. How do you manage to do so much all in a day?
Time management and taking advantage of every opportunity. For instance, I started my son on a nap schedule right away. It is important that I know what my day will look like and when I can count on having time to get work done. I am a big multitasker. I don’t put off doing things for a better moment, I push through or have the baby there and make it fun for us both along the way. I do have help for a few hours in the day, but that is a necessity while running two businesses.
Why did you decide to start your own business(es)?
I started working for Snuggle Bugz, a Canadian baby store, and learned a lot about the infant clothing industry, which laid the foundation for my businesses. I was working at Snuggle Bugz when COVID hit and found myself wearing a lot of different hats. When we brought back our full scale team,I moved back into my original role of just marketing. Clearly, I wasn’t as fulfilled as I had been when working with the whole business. At that point, almost a year ago, I knew I wanted to do more and developed the concept of Pip & Phee, high-quality infant sleepers made of bamboo. My boss eventually became my business partner, and from there we acquired Baja Baby, a luxury line of baby bath and skincare products.
What I love most about Pip & Phee clothing is that we use bamboo. It is eco-friendly because of the speed at which it grows. It provides the softest, most delicate fabric with a complimentary stretchy fit. Our sleepers are snug but the arms are long, which gives plenty of room for growing into. Now, as a mom with a growing child, I appreciate our brands so much more and I’m able to see, firsthand, how we support families and the positive impact we can have.
How have you come to call Germany home?
After spending a year separated due to COVID, with me in Canada and my (now) fiancé in Russia, we decided to take an opportunity to move to Germany to be together. My fiancé, Jordan Szwarz, plays professional hockey and is with the team, Adler Mannheim, in Germany. It was a big decision, but a lot of things changed because of COVID, and this was the right move for our family. We will be living in Mannheim for the next few years, and it feels good to know we are settled in one place for a while.
You’re a new mom with an 11-month-old son. How was immediately living abroad with a new baby and how have you found other families/friends to connect with?
I flew home to Canada to have our son, and then back to Germany three weeks after having a c-section. It was nice to be in Canada with my family and my doctors, but I was still eager to get back to our life in Germany. Being back here offered stability for our family and I looked forward to getting into our rhythm. Traveling alone postpartum with a baby and luggage was challenging in hindsight, but not something I realized at the moment. I was just doing what needed to be done and looking forward to what was next.
Our hockey community has been our support system. It is like a family. There are six English speaking families, five of which have children. When we need help, we can turn to each other and rely on each other for support. We are all in the same position and, therefore, easily relate to one another. As a new parent, I have realized that you need to ask for help so you don’t get burnt out and so you can be your best for your child and family. Put pride aside and ask for the help you need. It takes a village and I have had to create my own village while living in Germany. A busy life can become such a mental load and it is only fair to take the breaks you need as a parent. We all thrive when we are at our best.
How do you recommend navigating a foreign culture as an expat family?
Living abroad for the first time, in a country where you don’t speak the language, was definitely a shock. I’ve worked hard navigating and adapting to both big and small changes living in Europe. For instance, the laundry takes 2+ hours instead of the 30-minute cycles we have back home! Also, not being able to have small conversations with people I see regularly during the week, like the people who work at the grocery store, is a big change. You have to be adaptive and find things that work for you.
I will sometimes go to a Starbucks for a few hours to work because it reminds me of home and there are a lot of North Americans that come into the shop. I actually made a very good, local friend randomly in Starbucks; she is from a town close to where I grew up and is married to a German. She and I became fast friends after meeting over coffee. The language barrier is a huge part of what makes a relocation challenging, and it has been so wonderful to have a friend who bridges that gap and who has been able to help me navigate through the city, introducing me to fun activities like swim classes for moms and kids!
This experience was a big lesson of the power of being proactive. If I hadn’t approached her in Starbucks after hearing her speak English and seeing her North American stroller, I might never have made a friend who has helped make this new place feel more like home.
What are three trips you would recommend for families in 2023?
I love the Alps. I think they are just beautiful and relaxing. My favorite is driving through them to a nice hotel nestled in the hillside.
My first recommendation is the Stanglwirt Wellness & Bio resort in the Austrian alps. We went when our son was only four weeks old, just after getting back to Germany. It was winter break and the mountains were beautiful. Even though I couldn’t enjoy the spas, I still found the atmosphere relaxing.
My second recommendation is Das Edelweiss Salzburg Mountain Resort in the Austrian Alps. The resort is incredibly family friendly. It is extra special to us because we got engaged there. The spas are amazing for parents and the kids have a ton of activities to keep them busy.
My third recommendation is Paris with a visit to Strasbourg. Paris is such a magical city with endless streets to get lost in. Personally, I love it because I speak French and can engage with people a lot more.
Kicking off the 2023 year, as an inspirational parent who is managing to do so much, what would be your advice to parents for starting off this new year with a bang?
Put yourself out there because you have nothing to lose. I wouldn’t have this amazing experience, family, or business if I hadn’t put myself out of my comfort zone. Also, create the support system around you that you need to help you thrive, and make sure you ask for help with the things you need–you might be surprised how many people want to support you!
Christine Russell Janis writes about life as a mom of four kids, living abroad, and travel on her life & style website ashadeofrose.com. You can also follow on social media @a.shade.of.rose.