One year on as an expat mum

A whole year has passed since we welcomed our little bundle of joy into our arms here in Australia. Actually, it’s been 14 months but I have been meaning to write this for a while, two whole months if we’re being precise!! But, anyone with kids or just anyone creeping close to 30 knows that time flies so insanely fast these days!

I’ve wrote before about my worries of raising our bub away from our ‘village’ – all of our family and life long friends in persuit of our dreams of a better life in Australia. Would our family grow to resent us? Would Brax only know his family and friends through an iPad screen? Would I ever leave Brax to be looked after by new friends? So I thought I’d let you know how that’s been working out for us! Despite the obvious stuff like desperately missing pickeled onion monster munch and scotch eggs!!

Trust issues 

If I didn’t have them before, I have them now! I know it’s a mother’s instinct to want to protect your child and letting someone else take care of them is huge. However, i feel like there is just instant trust with grandparents though, I mean they raised you for a start and your tiny baby is their own flesh and blood. Obviously, we don’t have grandparents here or aunties and uncles ect but no matter how hard I try I just can’t take up the offers from friends to babysit. Don’t get me wrong they are all wonderful with Brax but almost all of our friends are yet to have had children. Evidently, the majority of these friends we probably met backpacking and intoxicated or through house sharing in Australia because travel and securing Australian citizenship has always been the priority in our friendship circle. Having Brax has been a whole new dynamic to those friendships.  Sure, I would have offered to babysit any of my friends babies before Brax came along because that’s what you do right, you help a friend out and anyway how hard could it be!? Truth of the matter is I would have had no idea what I was letting myself in for! I wouldn’t have known first aid for children, i’d barely recognise a sick baby without a rash and that mother’s instinct, god knows how I would respond to choking and I’d have had no idea why the baby wouldn’t stop crying so long as they didn’t smell of shit and had a full tummy. And what do you mean I was supposed to use sterile water!? Anyway, It’s more than just a trust issue, I never want to put any of my friends in a difficult or scary situation with my baby all for the sake of a night out just the two of us. Irrational!? Maybe. I’m sure this will change with time.

Date night, huh?

Talking of a night out just the two of us. Dan and I never really did date night as we would much rather be surrounded by friends. If we did go out just the two of us there was this inability to to remain even slightly sober, so romantic it was not! The one ‘date night’ Dan and I did have when my mum babysat resulted in us being home in bed by 10pm cos we were so exhausted! I’m sure every mum has been there often! Having Brax has just meant we take it in turns to go out… if we can stay up long enough! We also utilise the local kid friendly pubs, BBQ areas and beach parks so we can both socialise together with friends, have a few drinks, have Brax well entertained and take a nice walk home!

Finances

Well these have well and truly taken a battering. Being an expat family means double the amount of passports to buy, disgusting amounts of money to spend on flights to and from the UK (that’s before Brax even has his own seat) and extravagant childcare costs. If I can’t be gallivanting around the world daily then I want to go to work so staying home will never be an option but not having family to help out here and there means Brax is in full time child care (minus the day I currently work from home), alongside extortionate rental costs in Sydney it’s fair to say it’s taken some budgeting! 

Parenting partnership

Dan and I have taken an equal role in parenting. Although in the early months Brax was a little more dependent on me as I was breastfeeding, Dan always contributed equally. Admitedtly, he needs a good shout in the ear or boot in the back to get up in the middle of the night at times cos believe me he would sleep through a tornado but really I can’t knock him. I really sympathise with mum’s who feel alone or that their partner is useless in regards to enforcing routines and managing behaviour issues. Both of us working full time and having no one else to help out has meant that the expectation of a clean house, dinner on the table and a healthy, happy bub can’t fall solely on me. And, anyway it’s 2017!! I’ve never been a domesticated goddess either so it’s a guarantee that the apartment is going to be a total shit hole 9 out of 10 times, so take caution if you’re showing up without notice!!

Rounding up the troops
I’ve said before that although we don’t have our ‘village’ here with us, Brax will be raised by an army and I’ve been reaching out to all those troops ever since. I’m so greatful to our friends in Australia who have still joined us on holidays and weekends away, despite them being a little different to previous holidays, understood when we’ve turned down invites and tried to include us in every way that they can. We’ve kept Brax familiar with family and friends at home in the UK mostly through FaceTime and I pretty much share our lives on Facebook so no one misses a moment: At about 10 months old Brax began to interact with people and realise someone was actually there inside that little iPad. I hope as time moves on this will strengthen their relationships so he recognises them instantly when he sees them. And he does get to see them, we have plenty more reunions in the pipeline too. I’ve become quite reliant on social media and strangers on Sydney mum’s groups for any advice I need but mostly I just wing it! Whilst I can’t have a hug from my most nearest and dearest I do feel like we still have a solid support network. After all not even an 11 hours time difference stops me calling my mum whenever I feel like it!! 

Guilt

I’m dealing with this. Thankfully our families are very accepting and understanding of our dreams but coming back to Australia from UK when Brax first met his family at 3 months old almost killed me. I felt so awfully guilty to bring so much love and happieness in the form of a new baby into the lives of our families only to abruptly take that all away again. No doubt I will feel like this everytime I go home and return to Australia but it’s the first time ever I really questioned if I was doing the right thing. My coping strategy though is usually spending more money I don’t have on more holidays and weekends away!

Lifestyle

You don’t just have to be an expat to have experienced all of the above. After all, Australia in particular is full of parents who live many hours away from their families due to the sheer size of this country!! But what makes being an expat mum so worth any negatives is our lifestyle and it’s difference to that of the UK. The weather will always be the biggest pull factor to Australia, i honestly can’t remember the last time it really rained here in Sydney this year, we get the odd bad storm for a week or two, a few times a year and that’s it. Today is the middle of winter and it’s 20 degrees! Additionally, I can’t tell you how good it’s been to have so many beautiful beaches and parks for Brax to play in right on our doorstep… many within walking distance. Especially when he literally climbs the walls when he is cooped up inside! It was a god send for me on maternity leave. Australia is so much more about the big outdoors and the ocean and some of my most cherished childhood memories involve camping and making sand castles on the beach but that could only happen a couple of times year in the UK. Despite working full time, I never feel like I’m really stuck in the rat race because the work/life balance is much better just by having so much available on our doorstep for when we get home. My employer is also so flexible with my working conditions and sympathetic of our circumstances. Anyway, until the UK stop fining parents for taking their kids out of school for holidays and restricting the length of time on those holidays… I ain’t coming home!! 

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