Something had to give…

And sadly, it’s been my blog. Juggling work, the kids, the activities and trying to ‘fit in’ again is taking its toll. Work is crazy busy, and like the majority of the world’s population, I wish there were a few more hours in the day to get things done.

The kids aren’t particularly happy with the current arrangement, particularly S. Despite settling nicely into kindy, he’s taken to barricading the door again when I leave the house in the morning. And if that doesn’t tug at the heartstrings, he greets me at the door in the evenings saying “I’ve been crying for you, Mummy.”

I think he’s feeling a bit insecure; he won’t go into rooms on his own anymore, he’s frequently checking to see where we are and when once he would go to bed and fall asleep in an instant, he now constantly comes out to check what we’re doing. I’m not sure what he’s feeling but he’s definitely worrying about something and can’t articulate it, the poor little love.

He still talks about “yesterday, when we were in Singapore…” Maybe he’s worried we’ll move again? Or perhaps he just wants his mum? Who knows what’s troubling a four-year-old?

The other two are fantastic with him. They play with him, they make him laugh and hugs are plentiful when he’s sad. They understand – they’ve lived through what he’s going through numerous times themselves. It seems that even if their memories of life overseas start to fade as they settle down here,  one thing has been ingrained into their being – a whacking great dose of empathy. They fight, they bicker, they tell tales on each other but despite all that, they still look out for each other.

It’s been a mad few months for us all and for the most part, I think we feel pretty settled, except for those times when we don’t… Sometimes, some days, there’s a little niggle of “what if we’d stayed..?” But it’s not so much for the country we’ve left, it’s the people you leave behind. And I think that’s how S feels. He still rattles off the names of the kids he was in pre-school over there with.

Anyway, the end is in sight; the project I’m working on will settle down (hopefully) in a few weeks, and life won’t be so hectic. We just need more time.

 

 

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Random conversations

Today I had to have some tests done. As the radiologist flicked through the pile of previous scans from various countries, she finally asked me where the most recent one was.

Good question – I have no idea. I’m sure it was packed but where it is now is anyone’s guess. I explained we’d been out of the country for quite a while and she became quite excited when I told her where.

“Me too!” she whispered, like it was a dirty little secret. And it struck me again how difficult it can be to talk about your former life lest you sound like you’re bragging. But what else have I got to say?

Sometimes, I must admit, I feel lost in conversations because I can’t relate to what people are talking about. Half the time I’ve got no idea what area, what group or which child they mean. The only experiences I can contribute see me starting a sentence with “in Singapore…” and each time I do that, I inwardly cringe.

I know it’s probably just my paranoia making me self-conscious and most likely people don’t notice, but in the early stages of friendship, I don’t want to come across as brash or overbearing by scattering snippets of our overseas existence into conversations.

So it was quite nice to have a chat with someone who had, as it turned out, a surprisingly similar experience to me. Same length of time away, we’d lived in the same country and her feelings of displacement when they first repatriated were exactly what I am experiencing now.

Basically, her husband had had enough after 10 years and wanted to return home. By that stage, they were living in Singapore and she was happy there but home they came. She said it took her approximately two years to assimilate and that she still missed the expat life. Despite enjoying her life in Australia now, she’s holding out hope that one day they’ll relocate again.

I wonder if the wanderlust ever leaves you?

Mother guilt and the disconnect

“Mum…can you really work?”

When I announced to the minions that I had a job, the look of stunned disbelief I received was enough to send me headlong into morning peak hour traffic. How could they know so little about the person I was before they came along? It’s not like we’d never talked about it. Whatever the case, I was suddenly desperate to prove to them – and myself – that I could still make a positive impact in the workforce.

It took a few minutes, but finally the kids realised I wasn’t joking and yes, I was going back to work full-time. Everything went quiet, until a little, wavery voice broke the silence. “But we’ll miss you…”

The feeling was mutual. Apart from a few weekends away with the girls, I’d always been home with the kids. It was strange to think I’d be away from them now for large chunks of time over the next four months.

I must admit though, it felt great to be getting dressed up for work, knowing my clothes would survive the day without being used as a hankie. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t savour the half-hour train journey as I happily read my book without interruption, gleeful in the knowledge that I had another half-hour on the way home.

The guilt kicks in quickly though. A little niggle started from that first morning when I tried to leave the house. The kids blocked the doorway and then clung to my legs as I attempted to escape. The cries of “don’t go, Mummy” and “we’ll miss you” echoed in my ears as I rushed for the train. Was I doing the right thing? Personally and developmentally for me, yes. But given it was so soon after we’d moved, with so many changes already in their lives, maybe not? But it was a great opportunity, so why not? Guilty little arguments ran around my head for days.

And the guilt never stops. I’ve really enjoyed working again, but a few weeks in, I’m feeling a disconnect between their lives and mine. Hubby is doing a wonderful job, settling the kids into school, getting to know their friends, the teachers, and for the first time ever, I’ve not been involved in any of it. I’ve had to deflect questions about their after-school-activities to my husband and felt like such a bad mother for not knowing more than the vaguest of details.

Time is an issue now too. From the moment I leave the house, until I drag myself to bed, there’s hardly a moment to spare. Everyone wants a piece of your time when you get home and it’s hard to say no. The baking I used to do during the day is now done at night after bedtime stories and snuggles, and keeping up my writing is proving almost impossible.

Even now, as I’m writing my first post in weeks, I’m cooking pancakes, pouring apple juice and wondering what I’m going to feed the dinner guests we’ve got coming over tonight.

If nothing else, I think all of us – including the kids – have a new appreciation of everyone’s role in the household, both former and current. Whether you’re the breadwinner or the stay-at-home parent, both roles are not without their challenges and sometimes it takes a stroll in the other one’s shoes to work this out.

For now, I’ll keep peeling S off my leg in the mornings and rehashing the day with the kids in the evenings, trying to quash that niggling question of, “Am I doing enough?”

In the end, there’s only so much you can cram into each day, which I’m gradually coming to grips with. Which means right now, I’m trying to cram in only the stuff that matters. Easier said than done, but something to work towards.

Family matters

“So, are you going to the party on the weekend?” Big brother raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to one side. “Well?”

I hadn’t forgotten…but the memory of the invitation had been packed away as carefully as our glassware in bubble wrap – which we were still discovering in the pile of boxes that littered the floor.

My aunt was turning 90 and a surprise party had been arranged quite some time ago – on the same weekend that our container was due to arrive. I’d expected to be knee-deep in boxes however, by some miraculous stroke of fate, everything had arrived a week early. But as I eyed off the clutter we were living amongst – and  trying to ignore – I realised:

  1. The bedrooms had beds in them;
  2. The kitchen was workable – and even contained some food; and
  3. There was a good stock of loo paper.

What more did we need? After all, she was turning 90. So why not?

The “do” was an afternoon tea in Corowa, a lovely little spot on the Victorian/New South Wales border. It was a good three-hour drive and I decided to drive up with my brother, leaving the family behind to enjoy a little more unpacking. Staying overnight would have been great, but timing was a little tight. My brother had to be in Queensland on Monday and I was starting the new job, so we decided we’d better go up and back in the day.

So off we went! W and I had done loads of these trips in the past and it was great to be on the road again. Before I left Australia, we used to talk almost daily but with time-differences, small children and school routines, the habit was not easily replicated overseas.  Those little routines, that closeness you have with your family – it’s sorely missed when you’re away.

After a quick brunch in a quaint little town, we drove on and suddenly we were there. And it felt wonderful. Over the years, I’ve lost count of the birthdays, weddings, christenings we’ve missed and to finally be able to attend something was fabulous.

There’s just something special about being immersed in your family – that sense of belonging, that you’re a part of something bigger. Of course, a lot had changed – we were all a little older, there were a few new additions to the clan and even I was rolling out the phrase “Gee, haven’t you grown!”

Auntie J had a terrific time and the afternoon rolled into evening far too quickly. Then it was decision time. Do we crash on a couch for the night or take the sensible option and head home? Big bro, always the party guy, surprised me by choosing the sensible option.

Perhaps we’ve all grown up…just a little.