BW 51 - Taking Charge: A CFO Relocates from NYC to China and Recreates Her Life Post Loss - with ManoOct 10, 2023
The Transcript is below.
In episode 51 of the Brave Widow podcast I get to speak with Mano who is a former chief financial officer hailing from New York City and relocated all the way to China in 2016 after the loss of her husband.
Motivated by her desire to spend more quality time with her three sons, she made the decision to move to China. She freelances as an account analyst and is also actively engaged in teaching a range of subjects, including economics, accounting, physics and mathematics at an international school in China.
The Brave Widow Community is a place where you can connect with other widows, find hope and healing, and begin to dream again for the future. Learn more at bravewidow.com.
Hey guys, I’m Emily Jones
I was widowed at age 37, one month shy of our 20 year wedding anniversary. Nathan and I have four beautiful children together. My world was turned completely upside down when I lost him. With faith, community, and wisdom from others, I’ve been able to find hope, joy, and dream again for the future. I want to help others do the same, too!
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Emily Jones: [00:00:00] Hey, Hey, welcome to episode number 51 of the brave widow show. Today we've broken a record today. We have impacted our sixth country outside of the United States. We've had England, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Australia, and now China. So super exciting today to talk to our guest who, uh, relocated to China in 2016, um, really incredible story.
Emily Jones: I can't wait for you to hear about why she made that decision, what her experience was like. At one point, she thought she was going to be arrested by the Chinese army, but they were actually Well, you'll have to listen to learn more, but she was an absolute pleasure to talk to today. And I think you're really going to.
Emily Jones: Enjoy her story and enjoy what she has to share. Before I introduce you to her, if you're [00:01:00] enjoying the show and you want to hear more, you want to see more, you want to help it impact and help other people, then please engage and interact if you're watching on YouTube. Like, share, comment, uh, subscribe. If you are listening on an audio podcast, Spotify, Apple, uh, Google podcasts, wherever you like to listen to your podcasts, leave us a.
Emily Jones: honest review, put some notes in your review to help other people see that this show is worth listening to and that you receive value from the content here. Um, all right, so let me introduce you to Mano. Mano is a former chief financial officer hailing from New York City and relocated all the way to China in 2016.
Emily Jones: Motivated by her desire to spend more quality time with her three sons, she made the [00:02:00] decision to move to China. She freelances as an account analyst and is also actively engaged in teaching a range of subjects, including economics, accounting, physics. And mathematics at an international school in China.
Emily Jones: All right, let's dive in and hear from Mano.
Emily Jones: Hey, hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the brave widow show today. I have a special guest. I have Mano and she has made all sorts of accommodations for us. It is 10:01 PM where she lives. So Mano. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for coming on the show today and for being available at such a late time.
Mano: Well, thank you for inviting me. Yeah, absolutely. I have my nighttime nightcap wine.
Emily Jones: I love it. I've got coffee. It's 9 0 5 AM here and she's got [00:03:00] wine. So we're just celebrating both ends of the day and night, uh, at the same time, which is awesome. Yes. So tell everybody where you lived, how you ended up there.
Emily Jones: Uh, I, I read obviously what you turned in, but you just really have an incredible story. Um, and I'm sure they'd love to know a little bit more about you. Um,
Mano: I live in China. Currently, the current city I'm living in in Shenzhen, China, which is 10 minutes away from Hong Kong and about an hour away from Guangzhou, where all the factories of China are so, um, living in New York.
Mano: Everything's fine. Everything's happy. I have 3 sons. My twins were maybe a year, a little bit over a year when their dad passed away. And then I tried to live in New York for another two years and [00:04:00] just figured out that that situation, that job situation is not designed for me to survive as a solo parent.
Mano: It's just financially, socially, it's just not designed. So, so had to make drastic moves, opportunity came up. Hey, want to move to China? And, uh, I had only a little bit of information about China, but I was like, I'll do anything. I'll try anything. So my main.
Emily Jones: Wait a minute here. So you're looking for a change in your career.
Emily Jones: You're looking for something that will help you feel successful as a parent, as a solo parent, and also financially support you and your family. Where did China come from where you just get a random email? Like what happened?
Mano: So, um, after my husband passed away, I [00:05:00] had two years off. I was struggling in the States as a solo parent.
Mano: I worked as a CFO, so I wasn't making just, a little bit money. I had a really high paying, high pressure job. So um, my career was on top of the world. Like I had, I was, I had made it, I was on top, but my kids were suffering because I couldn't be there. If you are on top of. The game, you don't see your kids.
Mano: You see them, you leave before they wake up and you come back and they're still sleeping. They have already gone to bed because they're schooled, they're young. And on weekends, they're, um, I had nannies, so they had, this event or this game and you're busy on the weekends also, so maybe you see your own children for two hours.
Mano: And even with as much money, I was making [00:06:00] a large chunk of it was going to his child care, which I couldn't believe because I needed 24 hour child care because the twins and I have twin boys. I have 3 sons. The twins were just like maybe a little bit over a year old and I tried. I really tried to adjust, have a work life balance.
Mano: I wanted to see their kids while their dad was alive. It didn't feel that bad when I worked a lot because they were with a parent. If I was working, you could tag team each other. Um, after he passed away, you couldn't anymore. You it was just. They're these really nice ladies. The nannies were wonderful ladies.
Mano: Like I would recommend them to anybody. But they didn't feel like my kids anymore. They, I had kids for a reason. And they just felt like I handed them over to someone else. So that was my biggest fear. So I met someone [00:07:00] and he's like, I'm moving to China. I'm like, that sounds interesting. Okay. Do you want to move to China?
Mano: Yeah, okay, I'll go with three
Mano: children. A woman, who's always had nannies, had to travel on a 22 hour flight by herself. So, that was a very interesting career. But after almost eight years, I'm happy to say we are expert travelers. We go through immigration, we go through customs, like, with flying colors. Including my sons, they figured it out.
Emily Jones: I love that so much. Just your sense of adventure and your sense of knowing what you want. And, uh, I kind of went through the same thing where in my job, I was traveling, probably 50 to 75 percent of the time. And my in laws were taking my kids here, there, everywhere. And like you said, I just felt like someone else was having to do a lot of the things that I should be doing, as their parent, [00:08:00] when it was their dad.
Emily Jones: That was fine, but when it's someone else, it just feels a little bit different. So I'm curious, yeah, I'm curious too. If you felt yourself, a lot of people say they feel like they change. They feel like their interests change. Was there anything about your career you felt kind of changed where you just either didn't have that same drive or you felt like, Oh, I'm just not really interested in this as much as I was
Mano: I did lose a lot of motivation. Like I was on fire. I was the best at what I did. And I just felt like I used to tell my sister, I don't have that drive at work anymore. I don't have that instinct anymore. So that was a big, big, big issue.
Emily Jones: Yeah, I do hear that. I do hear that pretty, pretty often. And I felt like my priorities changed as well.
Emily Jones: Um, after that experience. So, okay. You're in China. You [00:09:00] are a traveling expert guru. So if anyone needs travel tips, Monica can tell you how to get through customs, but tell us some, yeah.
Mano: So, um, it's, it's, it was interesting. I landed here because I didn't know any better with 12 suitcases. Uh, the person I was with had to show up with a moving van, not just a regular car. A moving van came to pick me up. Six carry ons with kids. Like it wasn't even like they could pull stuff. Uh, we almost derailed a whole flight in Shanghai airport.
Mano: In 2016, we had a transfer and my incoming flight was late and I was dragging children and it was literally the Chinese army who provide security at the airport because I would have missed my connection flight to the next city. Um, each 1 of them grabbed my. Child and I don't know the language back then.
Mano: I don't [00:10:00] know what they were saying. And I'm like, I guess I'm being arrested, but they took us to our connection flight.
Emily Jones: This is amazing. I think I'm being arrested. Oh, wait, I'm being escorted to my next flight. They want this lady out of here, whether her and her kids, they did not want you to stay in the airport.
Emily Jones: And
Mano: I'm a little bit of a germaphobe and I got over it pretty fast when two of my twins were just laying on Shanghai airport's ground. They just gave up after a flight from New York all the way to Shanghai. They were just laying on the floor. And I'm like this
Mano: jumps. So you get over germs pretty fast. Yeah. You,
Emily Jones: yeah, you do as a parent. I think so. All right. Well, tell us your story, um, about you and your person and, if you want to start with how you met or you want to start with, your relationship. [00:11:00] Um, but I'm sure people would love to learn more about that too.
Emily Jones: So,
Mano: um, this was I was 36 years old when my husband passed away and we were married for almost 15 years. So I'm not used to being single. I'm never. It was just a fear of everything. It was you gave up a life like you had a dream about how you're going to live your life. How are you going to raise your kid?
Mano: You've picked out the house you're going to retire in. You have picked out. Your career, your kids schooling, and if a parent, God forbid, if somebody's parent dies, or a sibling dies, you're sad, but nothing changes. But when your spouse dies, It's how you have your breakfast to now all your life decisions are gone out the window, everything.
Mano: So besides mourning your spouse, you also mourn the life [00:12:00] you thought you're going to have. And I feel like the biggest mistake I was Doing was trying to hold on to that life, trying to not change, being angry about not only did I lose a partner, I lost the dream. Like, we had planned to have one more kid.
Mano: We had planned to go there on vacation and we had planned to, for my oldest, his graduation and this college and this lifestyle. So, um, that, um, I, I met someone nice, um, and he has never been married before or had kids, never had kids before. So for him, it was, and I still think is an adjustment, like he's not used to it and me being a dominant person with a very strong personality and having three sons who seem to have a very [00:13:00] strong personality that kind of worked.
Mano: Out like, so he didn't have to step up that much. It was more like, I'll do it. Uh, just recently my oldest son, I had to teach him how to shave. And, um, the person I'm with wasn't around. He travels a lot. He goes to other cities in China. He he's back to New York. So wasn't around. And that was an adventure trying to teach my older son, how to shave.
Mano: I bet it was. And it, it was a sad event that his dad wasn't around, but with his and my attitude, it just became a comedy show of watching YouTubes and being like, maybe do it like this. And then I suggested, I do it like this on my arm and his, but it's my face.
Emily Jones: Yeah. I feel like when it's your face and your throat.
Emily Jones: That's yeah, that's, that's a little different, but yeah,
Mano: but, [00:14:00] um, like I am sad that dad isn't around to share this, but at the same time, I try not to make things too sad for my kids. That's my goal. We want to remember him in a good way, not in a self pity. Oh my God. I wish somebody was around way. So I get father's day presents as much as I get mother's day presents from all my kids.
Mano: And they've always done that. Oh,
Emily Jones: that's awesome. And sweet. So how, how long has it been since your husband passed? 10 years. 10 years. And was it something you expected or it was completely unexpected?
Mano: Um, we expected it because he had a heart defect, but we didn't expect it because it was, now the lawsuit is done.
Mano: So it was a malpractice, it was a hospital error. So he dropped off our eldest son to school, said goodbye to him, went for a regular checkup [00:15:00] routine, and the doctor did a mistake and within eight days he was in ICU and all his organs were shutting down. So the reason he was in the hospital getting tested is because we knew he was born with a heart defect.
Mano: So they needed to check other stuff so it was a routine thing he used to go all the time to the hospital to check stuff out. So I got both of it. I was like, okay, so we know he's sick and his heart condition and his doctors have spoken to me, but at the same time, he just went for a routine checkup. He was fine this morning.
Mano: He was, he couldn't eat before his test. And I remember talking to him, like, the last time I had a real conversation, I was at work, called me up and he goes, I'm going to eat so many McDonald's when I come out and I'm like, you're not allowed. So that was the real last conversation I had with him.
Emily Jones: Okay. And what was that?
Emily Jones: Um, you're a take [00:16:00] charge person, you're a get it done kind of a person. What was that like kind of in the aftermath of the shock and then trying to figure out, you have the funeral and you have. the responsibilities he did around the house with the kids, like, all of that for you probably felt like it just imploded.
Mano: It, it was, I was told because I, for me, it was a daze, but I was told by... Family friends and my sister and everything said, you will, they said you were super practical and you were super stoic during the whole process. Like you were your break and I don't remember much of it. Even if I sit and try to remember that, do you remember that a year, like the first year?
Mano: There are a lot
Emily Jones: of things I, I do remember, um, but there are a lot of things that I don't care to remember either.
Mano: I, I don't I try to I don't remember a lot of it. Everybody said, but you're very [00:17:00] organized, very stoic, like, his last day, you made sure his son was there to say goodbye. You called up all the family and said, Listen, I'm going to take him off life support.
Mano: Now, if you want to come say goodbye, you have the next 24 hours to come, you made sure like his sister got there, his cousins. My kid said goodbye like, and after he passed away, funeral and stuff like that, but I don't remember. For me, this is all a haze. I don't remember doing all that. Yeah,
Emily Jones: well, I think especially those first few days and those first few months you're in survival mode and it's just the bare minimum of what has to be done to get done.
Emily Jones: And when you're, especially in, in such a high powered career, I mean, you're used to like making decisions, just getting it done, getting through the crisis, getting through the stress, um, you kind of go into this. It's like work mode, right? Like, uh, I had people at [00:18:00] work telling me, Oh, you're just checking off the box of everything that has to be done.
Emily Jones: And I'm like, well, what else are you supposed to do? Right? Like got to have the funeral, got to have the service, got to get the kids in counseling, got to order the books, got to do all this stuff because that's what we know to do. Um, but yeah, it is hard. Because that is kind of a default mode and an easy way for us to move forward.
Emily Jones: But it was probably a good six months before I felt like I even really had my feet underneath me and I was coming out of, okay, the water's not up here, right? Like I'm not drowning up to my eyeballs. I can kind of breathe a little bit and kind of look around and figure out what is really going on. That, that, that is,
Mano: like, that's the best way of describing it because I don't remember, like, first almost year, but then I do remember around, um, he passed away in May, around December New Year's, [00:19:00] actually finally feeling lonely, finally feeling like, wait, I don't have a partner to say what happened at work anymore.
Mano: I have no one to discuss Any of my kids situations, and I'm like, and that was like a big thing for me. Like, I have nobody to share the decision making process for my kids. So the person I'm with, like, is helpful, but you can tell, like, not his kids, not, not going to make too many major decisions because if he makes the, suggests the wrong one, he might get into trouble.
Mano: Like, yeah,
Emily Jones: he's going to go with what you want to do. Yeah,
Mano: exactly. So, um, and I realized there's, there's nobody like everything is my decision. There cannot be a moment where I could be like, I can't make this decision. You do it. Or I am tired or I'm exhausted or I'm mentally, there is no [00:20:00] break. Yeah.
Mano: There's nobody to, catch the ball for a second. So you could take a break and sit down. Yeah.
Emily Jones: That was one thing I just talked about with another, um, individual on the show is, when you're a solo parent. And especially, when you don't have a good family support system, you're always on, like you never get that time to just turn off or to grieve or to think of yourself because you're always caring for your kids or pets or whatever else, is, um, in your life.
Emily Jones: And I, I know for me, like you said, not having that thinking partner, not having that person to bounce ideas off of. It became really, I really, I've not been an insecure person. I've been fairly confident person, but making decisions, it was always nice to hash it out, talk it out, get another perspective.
Emily Jones: And now it was like, well. I mean, who is that person now, that's going to be just [00:21:00] as invested as me as a success of our family. And that is a very isolating feeling.
Mano: Very. Um, the twins now I have twins when they have parent teacher meeting. For me, it's a tag team back and forth between this class and that class back and forth.
Mano: With this teacher, that teacher, and, uh, I'm lucky I live in China, so I don't understand the language that much so I can bow out and be like, I don't know what you're talking about. So I'm going to go to the other kid. You've
Emily Jones: got this figured out. I love it.
Mano: I could be like, no idea what you're saying. So I'm going to go to the next.
Mano: Class and see if I understand her better. Oh,
Emily Jones: I love it so much. Most people would be like, Oh, I don't understand the language. It's very frustrating. You're like, I'm sorry. I don't know. I'm going on to the next one. Oh, I've
Mano: gotten out of some. So I've lived here for [00:22:00] eight years, seven, eight years now since 2016.
Mano: So, um, eventually you learn the language, even if you try not to. You, you end up because English is not, everybody does not speak English, but I can still get away with, I have no idea what you're saying and just keep walking.
Mano: My sons are like, mom, you understand. Stop.
Emily Jones: I love it. You're a woman on a mission. You got places to go, people to see, and you are not going to be slowed down by anyone else. So that's amazing. So. What, what would you say as you were, um, helping your kids grieve or helping them through life, like through some of those moments of learning to shave and learning to do some of those things when they would want their dad there, like, what, what would you tell people is something that has helped you with that?[00:23:00]
Mano: What I'm going to say is controversial or maybe not, I don't know, as a parent. They were really young. They were really young. So they took their cues on how to grieve from me. That was my moment of if I broke down and go into depression and lay in bed all day, that's what they think is okay. If I keep going and they see me smiling and they see me living at the same time remembering their dad.
Mano: Whose picture is actually down there somewhere. So, they will, they will move on. They take their cues of how to, they're going to learn from me how to grieve. So, um, just recently, my, um, one of the twins, um, he is like more like me. The others are more quiet, but he's more like me. And he goes, I'm like, what happened?
Mano: He goes, I wish I had a dad. And I'm like, oh. [00:24:00] How would you say that? I'm like, am I not good enough? And he goes, no, no, no, that's, that's not the reason I'm saying. I'm saying, so somebody could help you and you're not doing everything alone alone. So they feel it. They, they see me running back and forth. They see me trying to figure things out.
Mano: They see, the only person working, paying bills. So they, they see all that. And for a 10 year old to realize that and be like, I wish I had a dad. Okay. More for you than myself at this point, so that is sweet. It's what they take cues from you. So for my sons, I, they took cues from me. Of course, I put them in therapy.
Mano: The twins really didn't care much about it because they were really young, but my older son was in therapy for a year, year and a half and he's doing pretty well. Well, that's good.
Emily Jones: Yeah. And I think, of course you are enough as a mother and as someone who loves her kids. I think [00:25:00] there's something special to say, mothers are usually good at certain things or you go to them for certain things and dads are special in their own unique way.
Emily Jones: And so I understand that, like. Not feeling that you can't be both of those people, but wanting both of those people, to be a present figure in your life and, and to kind of fulfill that role. So, I'm sure that that would be really tough, um, not, not having that too. So, okay.
Mano: That is difficult to explain.
Mano: Yeah, you don't have a male figure, but that doesn't mean we're going to turn out to be bad males. That just means we'll be better.
Emily Jones: Well, they will learn to be really great husbands because you're going to treat them, how to. I
Mano: taught them how to cook, how to do laundry, they're straight A's, so I went down the list.
Mano: My son will make dinner. He goes, how come I'm making dinner? I'm like, because I kind of complain about your [00:26:00] dad's mom a lot because he didn't know how to cook. So I'll be damned if your wife complains about me.
Emily Jones: Oh, no. I love it.
Emily Jones: Oh goodness. So, um, we've laughed a lot today, which I think is awesome. And, um, I, I love laughter. I think it's very healing. I know there are some people earlier in their journey, and I remember being there as well, where I thought, huh, I'll never be able to laugh again. I'll never find happiness. My life is going to be miserable.
Emily Jones: Um, what encouragement would you give those people to say, to give them hope to say it may not feel like it today, but you can find joy again in your life.
Mano: I remember, I remember driving to work crying, driving back crying, seeing a couple crying, like, I remember that and the only thing that, believe it or not, pushed through was my kids.
Mano: Like, [00:27:00] I cannot cry in front of them. Like, I will cry in front of them, but I can't be depressed. There's a difference between crying and being sad and being just completely doom and gloom and being like my life has ended. No, my life hasn't ended. I love my husband. I was with him. We have amazing memories, and I just thought about all the good times.
Mano: I was thankful for what I had, and that's the only thing I could do is just be thankful for what you had. That an amazing life. We had three amazing kids and that's all, you can do.
Emily Jones: That's a really interesting point because one thing that I noticed probably a few months ago was that when those, when you're first widowed, you have those waves of grief that just hit you and you're incredibly sad.
Emily Jones: And it almost. Kind of ruins what should be happy moments because you're happy about something and then you remember like oh, but my person isn't here So [00:28:00] it's not as happy as it could be and it makes you wonder, will I ever be happy again? but I noticed the more that I've Um, and I've, I've healed and done the work that as I have those moments, instead of a wave of sadness hitting me, it's a wave of gratitude.
Emily Jones: So it's like gratitude becomes the replacement for feeling sad or wishing that they were there. And not that I don't ever. Get sad, but I think I can, as I look back or I have those emotions that come up, it's just more of a, uh, I'm so grateful for the life that we had and what we were building and what we accomplished and that I can know that feel that Nathan is still with me, even as I'm going through some of these other things, it just looks and feels a little different.
Mano: It's different. Like I had an amazing life in New York and I miss it. But my life here is still amazing and. And it's just different. It's, it's a completely different lifestyle. [00:29:00] I could never imagine ever living in China while he was like, I don't even think it just occurred to us.
Emily Jones: Yeah. I mean, that's, that's incredible.
Emily Jones: So what should people think about if they're like, you know what, I'm going to move to another country. I'm going to take the leap and drag my kids and 55 suitcases through the airport.
Mano: The Chinese military escorting you to your next plane so you don't stay there.
Emily Jones: Yeah, but I'm sure there's a lot that you have to think about and you probably had to apply for a visa or something to, be able to stay there.
Emily Jones: And yeah. And,
Mano: um, uh, there's a lot of American companies here. I deal with their account analysis. I did go from being CFO, being top to just. but you make enough money, the cost of living is low enough where [00:30:00] you could actually live a comfortable life. And now I teach a lot of business, um, in an international school.
Mano: So I get summers off with my kids, I get winters off for Chinese New Year with my kids. So I, I have a lot more quality time with them. And that I thought... Was more important than the financial that I could only give them in New York.
Emily Jones: Yeah. Cause what is the point of making those finances if you don't have time to spend it, or you don't have time to spend with your kids and your family.
Emily Jones: And yeah, I, I, I kind of look at it as we have seasons of life and there are seasons of life where I'm going to hustle and work hard and financially do the best I can. And there are seasons in life I'm going to slow down and Enjoy and savor the time I have all my kids are still in high school before they graduate.
Emily Jones: And, um, yeah, I, I have heard a lot of others as well. Wanting to change jobs, wanting to lessen [00:31:00] the responsibility because they feel like their priorities are a little more sharpened. And at that moment in life, that's what they want.
Mano: I believe in change is good. It's painful, but it is good. It is good. If I stayed there financially, I would eventually break with.
Mano: Like I said, I was making good money and I still felt like I wouldn't be able to keep up with just one income and three kids in New York City. Yeah,
Emily Jones: I, I imagine that's very, very expensive, especially with, with all that childcare, but. All right, well, what parting words of wisdom or encouragement would you give to people, um, who listened to your story and may find themselves in a similar situation?
Mano: Um, only thing I would say is the person that you were when you were with him is still inside you. That person is depressed, but that person is still inside you. You were happy at one point, you were strong at one point, and you were [00:32:00] going forward. You just have to connect with that person again. Connect with that person, that person existed before you met your spouse, while you were with your spouse, after your spouse is gone, don't let that person disappear, because you'll need that person.
Mano: That's the only thing that's the only way I can describe it.
Emily Jones: Beautifully said. I know so many of us feel like we're a totally different person and we've changed and we've evolved. Um, but you're right. That core of who we are is, is still there and we don't have to, to lose them. So thank you so much for joining me on the show today.
Emily Jones: It was an absolute pleasure and I appreciate you being willing to share your story. Thank you. Nice meeting you.
Emily Jones: Hey guys. Thank you so much for listening to the Brave Widow Podcast. I would love to help you take your next step, whether that's healing your heart, finding hope, or [00:33:00] achieving your dreams for the future.
Emily Jones: Do you need a safe space to connect with other like-minded widows? Do you wish you had how-tos for getting through the next steps in your journey, organizing your life or moving through grief? What about live calls where you get answers to your burning questions? The Brave Widow Membership Community is just what you need.
Emily Jones: Inside you'll find courses to help guide you, a community of other widows to connect with, live coaching and q and a calls, and small group coaching where you can work on what matters most to you. Learn how to heal your heart, find hope, reclaim joy, and dream again for the future. It is possible. Head on over to brave widow.com to learn more. [00:34:00]