Why do I feel lonely and lost these days? Why can’t I seem to figure out what my professional contribution to society can be? Why do I not seem to have friends here that I really connect with, who get me and who I get? Why am I so homesick?
I have three beautiful, happy boys who bring me joy—they truly do. But as any parent knows, they also whine a lot, they seem dissatisfied with much of what I work so hard to do for them; the two older ones argue with almost everything I say and with each other, seemingly constantly sometimes. I find myself stopping to listen and smile when I hear them playing well together—it seems more rare these days and I can’t seem to defuse their frustrations with each other effectively, no matter what parenting articles I read.
Unlike so many mothers whom I have always greatly admired and felt somewhat jealous of, I need more in my life than full time mothering. I lose myself when I only attend to everyone else’s needs. I need appreciation for a job well done. I need recognition, measurable progress in what I’ve accomplished each day. I wish I didn’t, but I can’t really get around the fact that I do.
I think that’s why my work/career/professional struggles are getting me down so much lately. For 14 years before this move to Australia, I worked in retirement communities. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. I was respected in my field and I made good money.
Since I’ve come here, I just can’t figure out how to get back into that field. Now, I realize I haven’t tried as hard as I should. Life gets in the way. I’ve sent online enquiries to senior living companies asking about their jobs in marketing and sales, with no response. I’ve sent a few online applications for activities/recreation/volunteer positions, with no response. I’ve called one nearby community and asked to volunteer—no return call. I’ve asked the few people I’ve met who work in the field about the positions, and they don’t seem to know anything about them—maybe they don’t exist here?
I keep telling myself the best way to find out is to just drive around and walk into communities and ask. But, I’ve always had a kid in tow, or was about to have a kid in tow, so I just never got around to it.
Friends at home say I’m awesome for moving to a new country and learning a new profession and starting my own business. But it doesn’t feel very awesome. I learned the new profession partially out of necessity. I never wanted to run my own business. I don’t enjoy it and it’s not going well. In fact, right now, it seems to be failing miserably. I’m paying to do it. Try as I might, I can’t get people interested in it.
I do love yoga—it’s been a passion of mine for years, and the more I learn about it, the more passionate about it I feel. But people in this area, just don’t seem to get it. Yoga is not as popular around here—I don’t even know many people who do it, or who are physically active as a priority at all. I think that’s partly why I feel disconnected from the friends I’ve made. I’ve rarely been to a yoga class here with more than a handful of people in it, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I can’t get many people interested in my classes, much less my classes for their children.
I just have a hard time fitting in with people who don’t prioritize healthy eating for their families, who don’t prioritize fitness on a regular basis and who don’t get the purpose of yoga. I hope that doesn’t make me sound snobby. I don’t intend it to. I’ve made friends for the past 4+ years with people who are different to me in those core areas, but have other things in common—being a mother, living in a foreign country, but I just don’t feel connected, so I’m guessing that’s the reason why…??? I could be totally off base. I do admit I have met a few people who are health and fitness oriented and am still not clicking with them either.
It often seems to me that people don’t like me over here. I never seemed to have that problem before moving. It is very likely all in my head, but I just seem to rub people the wrong way when I don’t intend to…??
I know I could connect well with my husband, but he’s frustrated in his job, too and we don’t see each other until late in the evening when we’re pretty much too tired to talk about much. He is wonderful and we do try. We both know we need time together. But it’s difficult, because that costs money. And when I’m not making any money, I feel bad spending $80 to go out for two hours together and get a drink each and an appetizer to share—bleah!
I keep meditating and reading about creating my own joy, realizing that my life is just as it should be in this moment and to find peace in the present. I’m honestly trying! For whatever reason, it’s meant to be right now that I’m paying to try and teach yoga, that I’m contributing nothing meaningful to my community in terms of professional employment and that I’m working my tail off for no positive outcome. That’s hard to embrace! But I will keep trying…..For now these musings of a crazy person just help me to get it off my chest.
Wow—ever since I last wrote about our trip (seems like ages ago), all has been well barring major homesickness on my part. I realize this has happened every year at this time, 4 years in a row now—even the very first couple months we were here. Although it was slightly less so last year, because we were planning to head over to the U.S.—we left on the 6th of December.
Fall and the winter holidays are a tough time to be away! SO much to miss! I start out missing college football Saturdays, changing leaves, and visits to pumpkin patches filled with all the wonderful fall crops—like winter squashes, gourds, hay, cornstalks, etc. I miss all those decorations in shops and people’s houses. For some reason missing those intensifies the fact that I miss country music, which is a year round thing….weird.
This year it all intensified the day of my first experience at a school fete. Fete is Australian for carnival or fair, and Drew’s school has one as its major fundraiser every other year (they say every 2nd year here—I’m just going to point some of these out to drive home that SO much is different in the way we talk!). It was a fun, interesting day, which had a great community feel to it. There were rides, unhealthy food booths (called stalls here), contests, entertainment, etc. It was really cute.
Well my head had been itchy for a week or more and we couldn’t figure out why. Steve looked at my hair a couple times and didn’t see anything abnormal, so we kind of just wrote it off to a strangely dry scalp during this very dry season, even though I’ve never had that problem before, living all my life in semi-desert climate. Again….weird. That day it itched really badly, under my hat on an extremely hot, sweaty day. After we got home and Steve was bathing the boys (still pronounced with the short “a” sound over here, which to me makes a noun into a verb and is very odd) and suddenly yelled out that Drew had head lice! He said Drew started scratching his head like crazy after he got out of the tub (a word not used here. Neither is bathe. It’s all bath—for the noun, the verb, where it takes place, etc.), so he checked him and found the bugs. We then discovered them on Zach and of course on me.
Now my only memory of lice as a child in a dry, largely bug-free climate, is waiting in line for some school employee to comb through our hair once early in my school years. That’s it. That’s what my Mom remembered as well. I knew people all around here talk about it A LOT—they’ve all had it, as kids and sometimes as parents as well, and notes have come home in school bags before, but I still naively figured it was something that Really only happened in movies. I’d heard it was more common in girls, because of their often longer hair, so just hoped we’d escape it.
Well, those nasty little bugs are Real and they are Disgusting! That night I actually caught them crawling around in my hair—I could pull one out on its own and watch it wriggling in my fingers! Terrifying! That started my complaining to Steve—he just wanted to sleep and for me to be quiet.
The next day we bought special combs, and read up on treatments online. Steve decided he’d like us to treat it naturally because the most popular treatment is a very scary known carcinogen that apparently should not be used on people under 100 pounds or under 6 years old. Yikes!
We did our treatments and thought we were doing well. Then our neighbor showed us the eggs, called nits, in the boys’ hair. They are tiny, white disgusting things that stick onto the hair shaft and are SO hard to get out! We had Multitudes of them and didn’t even know!! We shaved the boys’ heads. They needed summer haircuts anyway. Steve, too. They were fine after that—thankfully, because searching through hair for those nits plays serious mind games on me.
Mine, however, seemingly would be eradicated, but then come back every few days. I guess in my mass of hair, those nasty little nits could just hide too well and survive the natural treatments. I had an overdue haircut scheduled that I was So looking forward to (I adore getting my hair cut. That’s all I ever have done to it and I go 4 times a year.), but I had to cancel—you are not allowed to come if you have nits.
At the 3-week mark, they reappeared again; my haircut was rescheduled for a few days away and I tearfully begged for the nasty chemicals. That opened the floodgates and the homesickness just unleashed! (By the way, my terrified husband did relent and agree to the chemicals that night, when he couldn’t stop by ocean of tears; I got my hair cut the following week and I have been clear since. He even got them one day as well and used the chemicals on himself immediately. If I never do again, it will be too soon. So, so wrong and gross!)
Halloween came a week after the lice hit and I just don’t like the holiday, my formerly favorite holiday, over here. I miss it in the States A Lot! An American friend here disagrees with me, but my perspective is that it’s much more focused on scary over here and missing the cute parts, which, of course, are my favorite. I don’t like scary. I should be thrilled that it’s taken off so much here, astronomically since we arrived 3 years ago—but I’m not. I just don’t like the direction it’s heading. Most people dress up as something scary (you basically see witches, skeletons and zombies)—even the youngest children. Parents dress up little bitty kids like dead things—zombies with face paint and fake blood and all. I don’t like it.
Our town even started a safe trick-or-treat street last year and we went to that and I would see kids I recognized from school and think, “Oh, how cute—she’s a cowgirl!” Then she’d turn around and be painted like a zombie.
There’s not even much chocolate. The main candy given out now are these horrible gummy disgusting pieces of candy (lollies) shaped like body parts—ears, tongues, teeth, etc.
People still don’t trick-or-treat around their neighborhoods and several parents I talked to opt out “because their kids don’t like scary stuff and they feel they’re too young for it at this point.” These are kids aged 6 and 4 or so—the perfect age to be creative and let their imaginations run wild—the ages I feel Halloween is best for! When it’s done the way I like it anyway….
Of course the schools don’t celebrate it—as they don’t celebrate any holiday really, except for Christmas and Easter. I am sad that my kids don’t get to grow up with classroom parties for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. I’m sad there’s no such thing as Spirit Week at schools here. And, obviously no history lessons about the pilgrims and plays depicting the first Thanksgiving. They’re having a school experience that is foreign to me and I feel left out and a bit lost. Once that homesick ball starts rolling……
Thanksgiving of course, is right on the heels of Halloween, which, for obvious reasons, is non-existent and then Christmas of course is not long after. It’s a triple holiday punch in the gut! The days are getting longer and hotter, instead of shorter and cooler, but it’s not the weather differences that get to me. Christmas overall is different—from decorations to church services to community celebrations. Some are great. Some bug me. The sports are all different. I even got annoyed the other day at my sons’ new Little Athletics track and field program, just noticing how differently people dress here and the fact that they say Warm up and Warm down instead of Warm up and Cool down. So weird!
I guess the past couple months have just reinforced that I still often feel like a fish out of water (or maybe more appropriately, a marmot out of the mountains?). After three years, I thought I’d feel more like a local, would be more fluent in the language, etc. I really changed everything when we came here—I don’t even work with seniors anymore, the career I had for the 14 years of my previous working life. Sometimes it really feels like I’ve led two different, completely separate lives—there’s the American Kathleen, that no one here has met, and the Australian Mommy to Drew and Zach, that my longtime friends and family have nothing in common with. It’s such a strange feeling.
My boys now tell me when I say things “wrong.” I don’t like that. I served butternut squash the other night at dinner and they told me it’s actually called pumpkin. Bleah! It happens regularly now.
I even pulled out on the right (as in wrong) side of the road the other day—thankfully by myself in a rural area! And I sometimes still fumble with the money—forgetting that I actually have quite a bit of cash because all the $1 and $2 are in coins not bills (a word not used—it’s notes here). It makes me wonder—when do these “new” ways of doing things become ingrained enough in my brain to surpass the “old” ways?
I Really like a Lot about living here, as anyone who’s read my previous crazy ramblings knows. There’s just So much I miss as well. No easy fix.
Thanksgiving, although again bringing feelings of homesickness, was really beautiful for us here last weekend. It’s odd that there’s no public holiday, but we were able to bring together pretty much every other part-American family we’ve met over here to share a traditional dinner and the Saturday evening was just fantastic. It was people who feel just like me and we were all together, making the most of our holiday, despite missing loved ones and traditions. Just gorgeous.
And, overall, things have been really good, and I have nothing to complain about. It’s been a bit tight financially getting this new yoga business going, but not bad as business has grown steadily, and I do really enjoy it as well. Steve earned a temporary promotion that will impact our finances in a big way next year, and allows us to get a 2nd, more spacious car.
The boys are doing really well. Zach finishes preschool next week and is all set to be a big kindergartner (Preppie) next year. They are both becoming great swimmers and Drew had his school swimming carnival yesterday (what we would call a swim meet, but for every kid in the school—it’s just fantastic).
For the most part, I feel I do a better job focusing on the positive and being thankful for the amazing abundance in my life. But it does help just to vent sometimes……of course as parents, we keep a brave, happy face always for our kids, and it’s nice to get it out here in my blog, and then put the smile back on and keep plugging along, working it out as I go.
We have had a pretty groovy, happy, blessed month around here, just enjoying the little things in life and time together. We all seem generally healthy and happy, for which I am so grateful. I have officially taught seven children’s yoga classes as a professional and have been learning SO much! This new business has added significantly to my “busy-ness” and I have spent quite a bit of time over our current 3-day holiday weekend (more coming later on what this particular holiday is) working on promotional materials, feedback forms, signups for classes beginning next term, etc. I could potentially be teaching four classes per week starting next month. Currently, I am teaching two per week. I still feel weird saying “I’m a yoga teacher.” But I am! How incredible this all is!
The weekend after Mother’s Day, I had the fantastic opportunity to take my first girls’ overnight trip since having kids. Three other wonderful women I have met through my kids’ schools and I went down to an awesome little beach town called Byron Bay. We spent the better part of two days relaxing, shopping, chatting, walking and eating. It was great! I feel so blessed to have met such wonderful people here and to feel part of a community.
The following weekend our family enjoyed having absolutely no plans and just getting to hang around. We ended May by meeting up with some fun friends for a rainforest walk in a lovely area where you are allowed to feed lorikeets, parrots and rosellas and they land on you. The boys think that’s just fantastic.
I had another full day yoga training last Sunday and we are now wrapping up a 3-day holiday weekend that has been mostly free of plans. Last night we met some friends for a “combined dinner.” We have started just getting together somewhere and just making what we would have made that night anyway. The kids play; we eat and chat; it’s not too much work for anyone and it’s fantastic. To make it even better, one of our friends is French so I am not the only one who doesn’t get most of the jokes and takes a few minutes to figure out what people are saying.
I have been training diligently for my upcoming half-marathon. It’s on July 20th. I got up to 9 miles yesterday, the farthest I’ve ever run, and I felt pretty good and darn proud! I am really enjoying the time outside, on my own. Yesterday I met a friend for lunch and shopping and rode a boat all by myself! Haha! The ride lasted all of 4 minutes—it was a ferry that brought me from my side of the Brisbane River to hers, but I tell you, those accomplishments are big for this landlubber!
In other news, I have been made redundant at my job. That is the awful Aussie way of saying I have been laid off. I think Aussie terms for many things are just terrible—being told you’re redundant is not nice on the ego at all. Telling a 4-year-old that he’s going in for “his needles” instead of a checkup is downright scary! Anyway, the terminology is the worst thing about it, so once my ego can get past the sad idea of being asked to leave a job because my contribution is “redundant,” we can be happy that this is really a best-case scenario for us.
I have not liked that job at all, but feel so grateful to have had it. It’s helped my family get settled here and be able to do fun things and save money—neither of which we would have been able to do without it. It’s been my first time working in a new country and it’s taught me so much about the Australian workplace, work life and culture in general. For instance, I asked a coworker recently why we are celebrating the Queen’s birthday this weekend, when her birthday was actually back in April. She looked unsure and then told me, “I’m pretty sure it’s because April didn’t suit us. We already have enough going on in April with Easter holidays and ANZAC day, so June just works out better for us.” Only in Australia! That’s just awesome!
The other good part about being made redundant is that not only am I asked to leave my part time job, but I will be paid to leave it as well. They are keeping me on until late August if I want to stay that long and allowing me to look for other jobs during work time to some degree. After I leave they will pay me for six more weeks plus any vacation time I still have. Much different than good ole U.S.A., eh? There, I would have been told, “We don’t need you anymore. You can leave now. Thank you for everything.” And that’d be it!
Steve and I discuss sometimes that the support available in this country to live a family-friendly lifestyle and the lack of gun violence are the main reasons we will likely always live here. The difference is sad and striking. I SO wish the U.S. could offer this high of a quality of life and standard to all citizens!
Although I am a bit panicky about what this job loss will mean for us financially, I honestly think we will come out ahead in time. Our government assistance will increase as our income decreases; I can make up part of the difference through my yoga classes—depending on how well they do, it could be a substantial part. I can put more effort into writing, which I hope should translate into some decent income as well. I may even look into one of those direct/home sales businesses, as a side to yoga and a side to writing. I also may visit some retirement communities and inquire about some super-part-time work.
I don’t think I will look hard for another job outside of these ideas until next year, however. With Zach only in school two days per week and teaching yoga during part of that time, a job would be quite difficult to find I think. Next year he is in school full time (No!!! My baby!), so I will have more flexibility.
Otherwise, everyone around here has been busy and happy. Steve has been getting out quite a bit and is enjoying footy (rugby) season. His job has been a bit stressful, but he thinks he’s through the worst of it and has been handling it all well. He will be looking for a new job later this year and already applied for a couple. He didn’t have any luck, which while not ideal, is not a huge issue because he has a good job and for that we are thankful.
Zach has really been blossoming in kindy and also just loves his Friday morning soccer program. He also is happy just hanging out running errands, visiting friends, going to playgroup, etc. Whatever we are doing, he’s generally happy—unless it’s dinner time and in that case he is an absolute nightmare! Oh well…….We help in Drew’s classroom every other Friday and both boys just love it. Zach acts like one of the big boys and thinks he has arrived and Drew is proud as punch showing off little brother. I love it, too. I get to read one on one with the children and they are just precious. Zach, through the unending patience of Steve, has also been learning how to ride his bike without training wheels! He is doing well, although he has a long way to go. He is our clumsy kid and he is in his own world, which is not great for safety awareness! He desperately wants to keep up with the big boys, so Steve keeps working with him…
Drew has been so busy in school and it is all just amazing. In first grade, at six years old, he had to memorize a poem and recite it in front of the class! Beforehand, he had to write out the poem and add cues to let the teacher know when he would raise/lower his voice, speed up/slow down, etc. Crazy! His reading just blows my mind—he now helps read to Zach at bedtime.
Last week he had Sports Day (the equivalent to Field Day) and was very proud to get a 3rd place ribbon in his 100-meter running race (he ran against four other kids—haha!). He also sang in a school-wide concert, which was super cute. He has been doing gymnastics weekly and he thoroughly enjoys that.
And, of course, they are my sweet, supportive yogis—all three of my boys are my biggest fans and I depend on them more than they know! Life is good.
The past four weeks have been days of humility, healing, and personal growth for me. It’s been truly eye-opening. Firstly, I know that I am blessed with the most incredible support system of family and friends, near and far, old and new. I have been so touched with the messages of love and kindness I have received, from those closest to me in distance and/or in heart, and by those who I was surprised thought enough of me to reach out.
I have been humbled by their honest expressions of kindness and by the stories of loss and grief that they have told. People go through so much in this world; we have no idea. It has helped me to remember that whenever people act in ways that frustrate me, I need to step back and remember they have a story; they have something going on that I know nothing about and it is in no way my place to judge. This is something I strive to remember, but too easily forget. We never know what people are dealing with on the day that we interact with them and what is spurring their actions and words. I need to remember to bring acceptance and tolerance to any situation.
I heard stories of stillbirths, of amazingly strong women laboring to deliver a recognizable human who would never breathe and who would later be buried. I heard stories of inspiring women waiting to find out news that would be crushing, of finding the strength to try again and move forward. I heard about women who cry decades later remembering their experiences, but are able still to lavish love on their surviving dear ones. The strength and love women are capable of is truly inspiring!
However, I must relate one particularly touching message that was from a man. It sticks out because it was the only message I received from a male unrelated to me. It sticks out also because we last were friends in a face to face way 20 years ago and even then, weren’t close. But it was more meaningful because he told of his own struggle with emotion when his wife miscarried a few years ago. It gave me great pause:
So many of us women, myself included, have said these losses are harder for us. We are the ones who deal with the physical loss, with our changing bodies. This story made me realize that in reality it is unfair of us to think that. It is judging, the way I mentioned above. I tried to think about it from a man’s perspective. Number one, it is less accepted by society for them to cry and be broken up by a miscarriage; they likely feel more pressure to hold their emotions in. Also, they don’t have the support system that we have in each other, other women’s stories of their pain. Again, it is likely harder for them to reach out to other men and seek support in this situation, partly because it is “their wives” who are experiencing it, not them. And sadly, that’s not true! But what hit me most of all, is that men not only have to deal with the loss of the child and of their plans for fatherhood, they also have to watch their wives in physical and emotional pain and feel quite helpless to “make it better”, which is what men need to do. It made me think about it all in a whole new way and I commend and admire the man who reached out to me to share so openly and vulnerably.
As for me, I am doing quite well. I do get sad around pregnant women and new babies and we seem to have been around a lot of both lately. We have put the idea in the back of our minds for now while we wait for my body to get back to a couple months of normalcy. We think we want to try again when we do revisit the topic, but are not firm right now and neither of us wants to pursue this idea much older than we currently are. We’ll see…..
Once I stopped wallowing, I decided to throw myself into my personal goals and dreams and all the things that would have been put on a back burner if there was a baby on the way. I got back into exercising and am playing with the idea of a long race sometime this fall/winter (It still sounds so funny to say that at the end of March! Will it ever feel normal???). I cooked and baked a lot, because feeding my family nutritious food and satisfying our sweet tooths in healthier, more natural ways fuels me. I updated my resume to get serious about moving beyond this part time job that brings me no fulfillment. I reached out to possible mentors and people succeeding in fields I am interested in to get guidance.
And things started to happen! My main freelance writing client wrote me a glowing recommendation on Elance, the site I work with him through. The editor of the magazine that published my first creative article last year gave me fantastic advice and told me she would welcome future article ideas from me anytime.
But the most exciting news deals with yoga. My insurance and Blue Card (two requirements over here to teach children) came through this month, enabling me to set up meetings at both of my boys’ schools about the possibility of teaching. The meeting at Zach’s school is next week, but Drew’s principal told me yesterday that she supports me launching my own class one afternoon each week after school. WOWowowowweeeeee!!! I can’t believe it! She wants 200 fliers to send home with families and I can start when school resumes after a two-week break late next month. Out of nowhere, I need to finalize a business name, create enrollment forms for the children, devise a pricing structure, design fliers, start a Facebook page and internet marketing……Holy moly, is this real?! Somebody pinch me!
Anyway, I will keep you posted on what develops, but the first day I teach a class that I am paid for, it will be proof that dreams really do come true and it is possible to get paid to follow your passion—completely awesome!
And what’s funny about all that is that I returned home from the meeting, floating on a cloud, to Zach beginning to throw up for the next three hours with a nasty stomach bug. I consider it a gentle reminder not to lose sight of my main and true purpose in life—thank you, Universe, for keeping me grounded! Poor little man is much better today and while I have felt bad for him, I have been impressed by how sweet and polite he’s been through it all and grateful for the extra snuggles.
As for the rest of us, Steve and Drew, and all of us, are looking forward to two plus weeks off school as of next Friday. We’ve had a pretty normal, routine month overall. Steve enjoyed a weekend away with his rugby team. We’ve kept up with the usual children’s birthday party circuit. We’ve enjoyed some fun social evenings and some sweet family days together. The week of the miscarriage, Drew seemed off a bit, so he stayed home from school that Friday and I just truly reveled in an opportunity to love on my babies and enjoy slow time together. It was poignant and beautiful.
Zach has started a soccer program and is precious to watch. He loves every minute of it and I can’t stop staring at his face full of concentration, determination and thrill. Steve is taking the boys to their last two swimming lessons until we pick it up again in October, which is giving me an incredible gift (it truly is the little things!) to have a break from that weekly routine.
Most exciting of all is that Drew is beginning to read. He really is! Something just recently clicked for him. It’s weird, realizing our days of spelling things are nearly over, but so awe-inspiring to watch this world open up for my child. Seeing him point out words to me as we drive around and putting sentences together in books is incredible. It drives home that reading does truly open up a whole new world for us. It is an incredible gift to be able to be a part of this process with my child and I am so grateful for it. It really is a beautiful life, when we slow down enough to appreciate it.
I just finished reading “I Am Malala,” the book about the teenage girl who campaigns for education and was shot by the Taliban. It was eye opening—realizing that our world feels so global and connected to me most of the time, yet there are still people out there without access to what we take for granted as basic rights and necessities. It is shocking and sad. It makes me ever more grateful for the life I have and it makes me want to keep working at practicing that acceptance I mentioned earlier and at enjoying the gifts I have been given.