Well, the Easter holidays are well and truly underway, Tim has no time off, the kids are starting to drive me INSANE, and I am getting to know the staff at Dan Murphy’s really, really well.
The first term of the school year ended with a bang! Grandparents day at school!! The kids were feeling emotional about it, I was insisting that not everyone has grandparents, and we’re not the only ones without a Granny and Grandad nearby. I turned up at 2:30 to a sea of Granny’s. Every grey haired Nana in Victoria was in the playground, with me! I spent the whole hour desperately trying to distract Monty as he was glazed over staring at everyone. The kids had gone to so much effort to make cookies, a little poster and a video about their grandparents. “I love nana because she takes me to the park,” “I love grandad because he plays games with me at the weekend…” “I love Pop because I have sleep overs at his house’…. 20 of these then Monty!! He had told the teacher Daddy was coming; I guess wishing that if he said it enough times Daddy would actually turn his lap top off and tear out of the office early to be there. His little face appeared on the video screen in the classroom “I love Daddy because we dress up like spiders!” I laughed, then welled up! They NEVER dress up as spiders, but here he was, this teeny boy, surrounded by his friends telling tales about their much adored, local, grandparents, and he thought he had to go one better and tell them all that his dad, his amazing ‘super dad’ dresses up as a tarantula at the weekend, so who needs a grandad!?!?! I was then presented with the “Dad” cookies, and the “I love Dad” poster which these little hands had so lovingly made, in the hope that Dad would actually be there.
Moving to Australia was a bit of a last minute, “OMG shall we just do it?” kind of move for us. Tim had the offer, and we were gone within about 4 months. We had thought that we would have a better quality of life, (because sunshine does that?!?!), and that Tim may have a better work/life balance. Well, it hasn’t really turned out like that! Yes, our lifestyle is better, there is no doubt about it, sunshine works. However, the work/life balance is no different, in fact, Tim puts in more hours here than he ever did at home. There’s no clocking off at 5 to catch the train, or working from home on a Wednesday. No, he’s up and gone by 6am and not usually home for family meals at 7; and that’s when he’s not travelling abroad. The children complain, I get stressed and long for the weekends.
Expat life is beautiful in so many ways, but being a wife, a mother, and an expat is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do! I’ve had to become all sorts of people rolled into 1. I’m a grandparent, a mum, a dad, a friend, an exhausted jack of all trades! I know, I know it looks like one long holiday, but the reality is I am a single parent all week, have no family around to buffer me, and it can get a little overwhelming doing it alone all week keeping a smile on my face.
“Oh stop complaining, you ungrateful wretch” I hear you say, (I’m saying it too BTW) and yes I hear you! I guess it does sound ungrateful, but believe me, I’m not at all ungrateful!
The truth is, if you are thinking of moving abroad, especially this far away from EVERYWHERE, you really need to be prepared for the changes to your family life. Many families come to Australia and have a far better quality of life all round, but the truth is, if you want to succeed, and really make it here, you all need to be ready to make sacrifices. Yes, it’s the same all over the world; everyone has to make sacrifices to succeed, but here, I feel like I’m making lots of sacrifices for everyone else’s benefit. I’m here because my husband is working here, and because Poppy adores it and Monty knows no other home. I’m here because we love it, it’s an adventure, and because the children and Tim have so many more opportunities. Of course it may not be forever, who know’s what will happen, but what if we stay…. for good? What happens to me? Is this the “expat wife’s” job? To suppress her longing for all the things she’s missing because her children are so settled and her husband has a great career? Is it my job to create a wonderful home life for everyone, make sure everyone is happy and content, whilst I miss my husband dreadfully because he’s working his backside off, and I can’t even catch up with my besties to have a moan?
For all of you out there who think the life of an expat wife is all beaches, wine and parties, think again. It’s beaches, wine and parties and a big dose of longing! Longing to know what the future holds. Longing to have time with the girl’s back home. Longing to move all your mates to where you are! Longing to stop longing! In 30 years’ time, will I have got used to seeing my nearest and dearest just once every two years? Will I have succumbed to retirement overseas to be near my children? Will I be content with the sacrifices I have made for the family’s happiness? Is that an expat thing, or is that just motherhood!?
I was given some advice this week from an expat 35 years into being abroad; “make sure when you’re living the expat life, you’re earning enough to be able to fly home and get your fix when you need it, then you’ll feel truly satisfied wherever you are.” Looks like Tim will need to spend a few more hours in the office!
Ah well, off to the beach for a wine fuelled party now! (Not really, I’ve got to clean my oven because my mum’s not here to do it for me).
When you move to another country you have to accept that there are some things that are better and some that are worse, and there’s nothing you can do about it – Bill Bryson