|My eldest daughter enjoying her 'backyard'|
Yesterday I hung out my washing on a clothesline - in my own backyard. It was such a triumph I did a little happy dance with my eldest daughter as she handed me pegs. Later in the day we sat down for dinner (as a family, around the table) with my husband home from work. To me, this deems our move a success – by the measures I had in my head. It strikes me now (and only now strangely enough) that these were seemingly ‘old fashioned’ goals – certainly by the way I have lived my life – and yet, that’s what they are.
I don’t for a minute expect that with these ‘boxes’ ticked my life will now be smooth sailing. Nor has it been a smooth journey from Singapore to get here.
Our first 2 weeks in Australia were in fact awful. After years of planning and dreaming of the day I would arrive ‘home’ with my husband and girls (something I felt and indeed feel so proud of doing) we disembarked the final flight of 3, after 36 hours travelling with a 3 year old fighting a gastric bug and I honestly thought we would never recover. More than a week of jet lag then followed and, most disheartening of all, a day of house hunting realizing that the Australian dollar no longer goes as far as it did when I left 11 years ago – and that the state of the local rental market meant that properties were unloved, unkept and unattractive and yet ‘flying off the shelves’ as it were due to demand! I sat in a state of shock and wondered if the decision to leave Singapore had been one of the worst I had made in my life… whether it was anything but disruptive to my whole family.
‘Coming home’ is a funny thing. I’m not sure what I really expected, but after years and years of thinking of this return – 4 of those involving serious planning on the part of myself and my husband – it wasn’t what I expected. Not even close.
I am very aware that I have changed in my time away, but I failed to really understand that everyone else had too – the city and the people. Life had gone on living – without me – and I’m not sure I was too happy about it! It seems strange, but I think I expected some fanfare – as much excitement from my friends to see me back home as I felt to be here…
Possibly the biggest surprise is just how much of a challenge moving and now caring for 2 little girls full time has been – and is. So many women (and men) do it and seem to make it so easy. To say I struggled (and still do) is an understatement. Two weeks ago my own mum suggested that perhaps I should go back to work. I instantly took this to heart and felt as if I couldn’t cope in my role as a mum. Surely this should be something I relish…? And I do, but it’s so hard. My eldest daughter has been used to full time nursery in Singapore and so has spent the last 8 weeks winding me to my frazzled end and apparently morphing into one of those unruly children whose parents I used to scorn in supermarkets. What I have really struggled with is that it seems to unheard of to put up your hand and say ‘I’m finding this really hard’.
And then something shifted. We moved into our house (we found a beautiful family home with a backyard amazingly in our price range) and our ‘stuff’ arrived from Singapore which included my eldest daughter’s treasured possessions including her ‘piglet’ toy who had been requested continually over the last 8 weeks. And, possibly most importantly my daughter also started nursery again on Monday – two days a week where we both get our own space. She gets to go off and flex her independence and I get to enjoy a bit of peace and some 1-1 time with my youngest.
The time has made me aware of my reluctance (and maybe many other mums) to admit when things are tough – particularly when it involves our kids. Did I miss the gene that allows me to automatically blossom into supermum when I had my first child? Giving me a bottomless pool of patience? Or, am I just a fairly regular mum, bumping into every day problems and challenges that other mums are reluctant to talk about (whilst loving my daughters with all my heart)?
Tonight I drove home after picking my daughter up from nursery – the sky a mixture of dark burnt pink and dusty blue – in my station wagon with my girls in the back – and pulled into the driveway of my suburban home to get dinner on for the family and I must confess (against all my feminist instincts) to feeling like I was living the dream, but my ‘to do list’ includes tidying up my CV…