Raising Haligonians is a series profiling local families and why they've chosen to raise their children in the Halifax and surrounding area.
In 2006 Meng Zhao made a BIG move. She left her home in mainland China and headed to Halifax to attend Mount Saint Vincent University. By the time she'd finished her education she'd fall in love with the city, secured a job in Halifax, and she and her husband decided to raise their family here.
"I believed that I would have a better future here. I believed that I could live the life I wanted with less stress," Meng explains. "It’s why I chose to find a job here instead of going back to China."
Meng and her husband, Frank Zhang, who works in the finance industry, have two boys, a three year old and an 18 month old, along with a five year old miniature Cockatoo.
Meng is a busy mama. Right now she's home raising her two boys, while at the same time she runs a publishing business where she produces a community newspaper called Dakai Maritimes, which is printed in both English and Chinese. She's also one half of the fashionable social media duo Lizi and Meng (check them out on Instagram here).
It's not easy raising a young family so far away from home however. Both Meng and Frank's families still live in China.
Meng says the biggest challenges they face living so far away from home is a lack of physical support raising their children as there are no relatives nearby to help out when needed. As a side effect of that, they say they find it hard to build relationships between their young children and their extended family. The grandparents have come for visits, but the boys haven't met any of their other family members as of yet.
They chose Bedford to raise their boys in because many of their friends live in the area and it has a wonderful community feel which particularly helps when your family is so far away.
One of their favourite local areas to hang out at is DeWolf Park, a stunning green area overlooking the harbour with a fantastic playground and plenty of opportunities to make new local friends and build up that support system.
The Zhao-Zhang Family love exploring the region and are having fun introducing their young children to all of the great things Halifax has to offer that they've discovered since moving here. Some of their favourite activities include visiting museums (especially the Museum of the Atlantic), road tripping to the Annapolis Valley for apple picking, checking out local farms, and swimming in the city's many lakes.
Meng says they do want to travel to China with their children eventually so that they can see where Meng and Frank grew up, and to connect with their extended family.
"We might visit home in a year or two," she says hopefully. "I’d like to be able to take them back to China for visits at least once every two years but that’s going to be challenging between our work schedule and their school schedules."
In the meantime she is happy with their choice to raise their family here and says she hopes by growing up here that her boys will gain "Haligonian qualities" such as being hardworking, loyal to family, optimistic, and caring.
"I really enjoy the lifestyle we have here in Halifax. We have a modern city life here, and at the same time, we could easily get the opportunities to be out in nature," Meng says. "To me, this well-balanced lifestyle really draws me in."
*If you have a story you'd like to share about why you chose to raise your family in the Halifax region, I'd love to hear it! Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #RaisingHaligonians or email me at the contact information below.