Building a family one brick at a time


October 2015

The curse of ‘before you know it…’

I haven’t been able to say this as both my children are still frighteningly young. But I’d like to put a plea out to all mothers and fathers with older or grown up kids to think before you say ‘before you know it’. I’ve heard it so many times now, it almost evokes and anxiety attack. Have I taken enough photos of my children, will I remember how small their feet/hands/faces are/were? Have I cuddled enough because ‘before I know it’ they won’t want my cuddles anymore.

Before I know it, they’ll be at school
Before I know it, they’ll be moody teenagers
Before I know it, they’ll have left home
Before I know it, I’ll be dead.

It’s starting to quash my enjoyment of my kids right now. I want to mark their milestones and be able to look back at their little lives and how they’ve grown, but it doesn’t help me to be constantly told how short this time is.

I know.

I’m in it, and it’s going fast. These are the longest, shortest days and being reminded of that is bringing a premature sadness. I’m mourning their ageing before they’ve aged! We all love (or perhaps more accurately; hate) the benefit of hindsight; but preaching it to us newbies isn’t all that helpful. I know I have friends who are shocked that the first school day has come around so quickly – but I bet if we spent a bit more time reminiscing over that well earned bottle of wine, she’d remember the long, tiring, anxiety ridden nights all too well when they were just babies. We all look back through rose tinted glasses; and why not – I’m all for remembering the good stuff – that’s why we bother isn’t it? But lest we forget, there’s many a challenging day/night, days/nights when we think – WHY?? WHY DID I DO THIS?! It’s all relative to what we are experiencing at this moment in time.

I’m sure I’ll have all these same nostalgic feelings in a few years and I’ll want to bite my tongue when those four little words want to trickle out of my mouth -it’s inevitable and a trap I doubt I’ll be able to avoid but I hope I think twice before saying it if I do.


All about friends

The world of social media has diluted the meaning of the word ‘friend’. I know of the entire list of ‘friends’ I have on Facebook, some of them I haven’t spoken to in a long time, and some would be better described as acquaintances. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but it does beg the question of what is ‘friendship’ these days?

Since becoming an expat, I’ve faced the challenge of starting back at more or less ground zero in the friend stakes. Luckily I have enduring friends on the other side of the world, and I thank social media profusely for helping me keep those relationships alive. Plus FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp etc. Are real friends only those whom you’ve known the longest? Or have significant history with – went to school with, worked for years with, shared a hobby with etc? I guess these are the easiest places to make friends; being in a confined space with someone is a natural icebreaker.

Feeling ‘friendless’ is a frightening place to be in your 30s, I confess I had desperate moments when I thought I was a loner loser and no one would want to be chums with me. Plus the fact I felt bereft of my beautiful friends back home – making my (self taken) ‘loser’ status all the more hard to bear.

My first job after moving here was an utter disaster. I worked for what can only be described as the most arrogant, up himself tosser of a bloke (who ran the 1500 metres faster than Seb Coe don’t you know – when they were about 10 – BIG DEAL – look at you now…). He also thought it was ‘cool’ to put the Pulp Fiction movie soundtrack on on a Friday afternoon, too loud for anyone to think, and sing/speak along to all the words. Horrific doesn’t cover it. He was such a twat. When I eventually convinced them to go for a drink on a friday night, he raced to get to the bar first, to buy himself a drink – yes just himself. You get the picture.

Anyway, it was a small company, so I hoped I might meet one, maybe two reasonable people. How wrong I was. I’d chosen a company full of brow beaten and extremely introverted individuals. They had been emotionally scarred by their boss (the company owner and previously mentioned tosser) – he would force them to stand up and speak in front of the whole team when they clearly wanted the ground to swallow them up. They would rather die than speak publicly – they were coders, nerds, and happy with that – they wanted to be left alone to weave their computer magic. To cut a long (well not that long) story short, I left pretty quickly. He didn’t tell anyone I was leaving, and on my last day I stood up and said (quite loudly) – ‘Well that’s me then! I’m off now, bye everyone!’ – to which I got no response… So you can imagine where my mental health stood at that point – first job; fail, friends made; zero. FUCK!

I had better luck with my second job, and also (through force of circumstance) being patient. Friends can’t be forced – much as it feels hideously awkward when you don’t have any/many.

I do however believe in fate. Especially when it comes to friends. I believe that people walk in (and out) of your life at certain times for very specific reasons. I believe in friendships running their course, and having the courage to let them go, can leave you with beautiful memories, rather than a frustrated relationship (or lack thereof). I think I have met people to meet people – some of my closest friends started as a friend of a friend. People have walked into my life when I least expected it, and for reasons that only became apparent because of a chance event. Friends come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s a very broad term, but I’m delighted to say I have some – on both sides of the planet, and I feel very lucky.

Who am I again?

So there are a few common phrases/statements we hear when we become Mummies – ‘your life is over’, ‘blame it on baby brain’, ‘you’ll never sleep again’ – etc etc. Well they aren’t all true, some are simply exaggerations of reality – because let’s face it, reality feels pretty exaggerated when you first have a child.

You do get to sleep again (well most of us do – I can’t speak for everyone), your life isn’t over – it’s just different, so maybe your old life is over…for now. I look back fondly at my old life, the girl who loved to play tennis (and would, a lot – pretty much whenever I fancied), worked up to running a marathon (after struggling with the 1500m at school), learned to make stained glass and LOVED it, and had a CAREER.

And now I’m a Mummy. ‘Just’ a Mummy as I hear people often say when asked what they do.

It’s a sad word ‘just’ – because being a Mummy is such a multifaceted, complex and challenging thing. You’re the entertainment officer, chief negotiator, conflict resolver, chef, cleaner, chauffeur, health and safety officer, accountant, first aid specialist, life coach, security guard, juggler of all other tasks, and a million other things in between. This is the hardest job I’ve ever done, with the longest hours and is the lowest paid.

I think I had a slightly romanticised vision of what being a stay at home Mummy would be like – I definitely thought I’d squeeze in a bit more me time but that’s not always as simple as it sounds.

I found a gym – and was incredibly excited because it has a crèche. Someone to take care of the nippers while I sweat a bit and have some time to myself. Up until this point I’ve exercised with the kids – I walk, walk and walk some more – which is fine, I live somewhere where there’s not an enormous amount of things to do (which has it’s pros and cons but that’s another story). The reason behind going to the gym is actually less about exercise and more about re-validating my sense of self. I want to have some control over my life, just a little bit please and thank you.

I have gone from being the most organised, meticulously planned individual into a sea of the unknown. Will I get to sleep tonight? Or will I be woken by a child’s scream in my ear through a monitor I want to throw at the wall. Will one of my children be unwell or will it just be a nightmare and they need a cuddle from Mummy (or Daddy, let’s not forget). Will I have a happy relaxed day or will it be prickled with tantrums and irritations. I used to have a rough idea of what each day would bring, and it suited my personality. I’m not a fly by the seat of my pants kind a gal – I always wished I was, but let’s be honest – I’m not. I’m not a big “surprise” fan (unless it’s diamonds of course ;)), I like to know what’s going on and when. I like routines, efficiency and lists… Eek – children do not comply to this model – at least not all the time. It’s been a stretch to say the least to adapt to motherhood and the curveballs it throws every single day.

It’s a stretch – it really is – but I’m grateful for it too. This time in my life is forcing me to live each day fully and unapologetically. I no longer feel like I waste time – I’m not just responsible for me and my life anymore.

In the words of Baz Luhrmann’s song – ‘Everybody’s Free’ – ‘Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own‘. In fact listen to the whole song, it’s all very poignant. I know when I find myself again, I’ll be a richer, far more experienced and wiser version of the me before kids.

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