Cost of Living in US Drives Single Mom To Move Family of 5 From Georgia to Mexico

Raising a family in America is expensive. One single mom shares her experience of moving her family from Atlanta to Mexico—and why the experience has been mostly positive.

Lakeshia Williams and family.
Photo: Courtesy of Lakeshia Williams

Editor's Note

This article speaks to one family's experience living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and does not reflect all race-related issues in the country. Racial inequality continues to be a problem in Latin America.

Lakeshia Williams was living in Atlanta when she decided to make a big move with her family to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in June of last year. Cost was a major factor in her decision. Even without taking recent inflation into account, raising a family in America is expensive. As a single mom with five children aged 3 to 20, that financial burden felt even greater. When Williams learned that with the currency conversion she could get a three-bedroom townhouse in a gated community for a third of the price that a smaller apartment in Atlanta would cost, moving became a real option.

Plus, she would save half on electricity each month and more than half on gas each time she filled up, and that's without taking the currency conversion into account. As a startup strategist with the flexibility to work remotely and a homeschool system already in the works, moving just made sense. Williams and four of her kids packed their bags (the oldest stayed back for college) and started a new adventure in Mexico.

More than a year later, Williams shares what her family's experience is like as she works full-time and homeschools her children as a single parent.

Homeschooling Can Happen Anywhere

Williams started homeschooling her children after her two oldest daughters experienced bullying in middle school. The first year, she says, was definitely a huge challenge, but after that, they got into a groove. She uses a method called "unschooling," where the learning is integrated into everyday life and really hands-on. So for example, if they go out grocery shopping, that will be a math lesson weighing fruits and veggies or learning about money and different currencies. "My personal philosophy for them is making sure they have reading, writing, arithmetic, and life skills," says Williams. "My oldest daughter here in Mexico is going into her second year of high school and starting even more life skills lessons as well as entrepreneurship as she prepares to go out on her own."

This method also allows Williams to teach her children similar things at once, just at each child's own level, versus running four different lessons simultaneously. Some days she'll have them watch a documentary. Then her 3-year-old will create a drawing or coloring based on what the documentary was about. Her 7-year-old has to build a LEGO creation and explain what he learned through that. Then her 10- and 15-year-olds will make something on PowerPoint. "I tap into what their natural way of learning is to find something that works best for them," she shares. "Ninety percent of the learning we do is based on the same theme, just with different activities around it."

Sometimes, the children will also share new things they want to learn. "They'll each talk about it and decide together which is another life skill teaching them how to compromise and share," explains Williams. When she needs extra help, she'll turn to another program called Discovery K12 to fill in the gaps. They'll get worksheets that way and additional projects.

The Weather Is a Mental Health Boost

Naturally, you can't speak about moving to Mexico without talking about the weather. Williams is a beach person and that played a huge role in her decision to move to Playa del Carmen, specifically. "It plays a big role in my mental health as well," she shares. She says it does get quite hot, but even when the weather gets colder, it's nothing like the cold she experienced back in Atlanta. The only hard part to adjust to was hurricane season. "That was a little scary," Williams explains. "My landlord told us we had to board up the windows so it was a new experience."

Feeling Free To Be Themselves

In America, racism has plagued the Black community. There are similar racist attitudes in Latin America toward individuals with darker skin including Black Cubans, Indigenous Mexicans, and Central Americans. Police brutality also has a hold over both countries—in Mexico, Human Rights Watch found systemic issues with police compliance to training levels required by law. As an American ex-pat with financial stability living in a tourist-friendly area, Williams says she did not feel the racism in Mexico that she did in Georgia.

"Here, I've really been free to be me and not have to worry when I see the police that something bad is happening," she shares. "It's interesting also because they look scary. They have these trucks and their faces are covered but I feel more protected by them here. I've had conversations with them and they build relationships with the locals. It's a disheartening realization that I feel more comfortable and protected in a different country than my own."

Her kids too have a different level of freedom in Mexico than they do in the States. "I've said to them, unfortunately, they're not going to be able to have the same level of freedom when we go back," she shares. "It's the saddest thing because I truly feel at the end of the day you should not have to leave your home country to get any kind of comfort whether it's financial or just being a human being."

Getting Around Can Be a Struggle

Williams has found it more difficult than she expected to get around with her large family. She does not own a car in her new neighborhood and cabs have a three-person limit due to COVID. Mexico does offer cars to rent, but most of them are manual, which she doesn't drive, plus, even if she did, the driving conditions take some time to get used to. "They don't have a lot of traffic lights on streets, only four-way stops, so it's a bit scary," she explains.

Building a Village Has Its Challenges

Williams' children do miss certain aspects of the States. In Georgia, after their homeschooling, each would go to different afterschool programs—the youngest one had a form of daycare and the others would go to the Boys & Girls Club. "There was that built-in support system where they could interact with other kids and an option for me to have that break as a mom," Williams shares. In Mexico, they don't have the same programming opportunities.

After school, the kids will go home and play so my kids will go out and play with the others in the community but the language barrier makes it harder. Playa del Carmen is split by a major highway, Williams explains. On one side, closer to the ocean, there is a big expat tourist community because that's where the hotels are, but on the other side, where she lives, it's all locals. "Sometimes people speak English here, but for the most part, they're going to speak with you in Spanish first," she shares.

In her community currently, she's one of only two expat families and the other doesn't have kids. "So we're still trying to figure that part out because my kids do miss having those places to go," she explains.

The Family's Future Plans

The Williams family is waiting on official Mexican residency—the immigration laws have recently changed, making it more complex to live in the country. Once they are settled, they plan to either stay in Playa del Carmen or move to Mérida, a Mexican city with a bigger expat community as well as a community of homeschooled children and single moms. While it's not as close to the beach as Playa del Carmen is, the other benefits might outweigh that for now. Williams notes she can also travel part of the time and stay put the other part to have a stronger home base.

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