Being a ‘WAG’ is not always glitz and glamour: expat Laura Sheehan shares her experience of France
Laura is just an ordinary Australian expat living in the South of France with her husband, two children and dog. The only difference is that Laura’s husband, Brett Sheehan, is a professional rugby union player.
Originally from Perth, Western Australia, Laura was teaching when she met her now husband Brett at a local Perth bar in 2010. Brett was representing both the Australian rugby team and The Western Force at the time and the couple immediately connected.
Two years later their son Brody was born and Brett started to think about retirement from Rugby, however life had other plans for them. In 2014, Brett was offered a contract to play for Racing Club de Narbonne Méditerannée in the South of France. This was a shock to the couple as they had just bought a house and found out Laura was pregnant again, but they couldn’t help but be excited for this new adventure and great opportunity.
Adversity, tragedy & courage
Laura’s first few days in France were filled with awe and excitement as she discovered her new home in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region. Tragically after just ten days, the couple lost their baby, Beau. Laura was seven months pregnant and explains that “losing him and being so far away from family was gut-wrenchingly difficult. Not to mention having to deliver him in a foreign country, without speaking a single word of French while grieving was incredibly confronting.”
Fortunately, Laura and Brett found support from the locals in Narbonne and the rugby team, “they didn’t know us from a bar of
soap, but they came together and became our family supporting us through it.” Their grief unfortunately consumed a lot of their first year in France, but Laura says that one of her best memories came from her time in hospital the day after losing her son.
Not speaking any French, she got out her phrasebook and proudly ordered a Thé au lait from the nurse. When the nurse returned with a bowl of hot water, a tea bag, and a baguette Laura’s face said it all, the nurse quickly demonstrated that she must dunk the baguette into the tea bowl. It was a cultural misunderstanding but a memorable one that Laura still laughs about today.
Being a supportive rugby wife
There are both negatives and positives to being married to a rugby player, Laura says: “Athletes and sportsmen are complex human beings to say the least. Their lives are dictated by sport and they tend to live an existence of routine and ritual which is often difficult to understand or even accept in a relationship. They require a lot of support which can often mean your aspirations come second.”
Laura doesn’t say this in a negative way, rather that there is a need for both of them to support one another continuously. Her time in France has reinforced this as all they have, being away from their home country, is one another. Laura believes there is a need to figure out how to be supportive, while affording one another the space to be individuals.
Laura: two years on, a new found love for France
Laura has come a long way since her arrival in France. Six months after losing Beau, she fell pregnant again with their daughter Daisy. Laura loves the expat lifestyle and the quality time she gets to spend with her family. Being Australian, she loves how easy it is to travel all around Europe and her French has significantly improved, making everyday life easier.
Laura still has difficult days and explains that being a mum and an expat in a foreign country can be isolating, “when you have small children you tend to be locked into routine and essentially time at home.” She felt she needed motivation and a sense of purpose so she recently started her blog The Whole Mummy described as being about “Finding balance for play and learning, family nutrition, personal fitness and the importance of self”. Here Laura shares recipes, workouts and her experiences of being a mother.
To read more about Laura’s blog and her journey as an Australian expat in France, read our extended interview with her.
How does this story compare to your own experiences of France? Have you faced difficult times whilst being abroad? We’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.
1 Narbonne (France) ©MartinD, via wikimedia
2-4 ©Laura Sheehan