I don’t know why I woke up like a bear with a sore head this morning. Perhaps it was the fact I drank too much red wine last night? Perhaps it was because today was just going to be one of those kind of days, the kind of days when you just feel flat and sorry for yourself. You see now and again, and particularly, for some reason today, I get fed up with the discussion around money in our daily life. I know there are a gazillion people worse off than us. I know I’m lucky to have all of the amazing things I have in my life. But some days, the discussion just gets me down.
Frustrated, and in an effort to save some cash, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I took the scissors out of the bathroom cabinet and like any hungover, grumpy, frustrated bear with a sore head would do – I cut my own hair. I mean seriously how hard can it be?
I should mention that I am not a hairdresser. In fact, my only experience in the hair cutting department was with clippers when I trimmed an ex’s hair almost 2 decades ago and cutting hacking my 4-year-old daughters curly locks last week. My daughter did mention afterwards that she looked like a boy. If I’m honest her new cut does bare a strong resemblance to the bowl style that was so fashionable back in the 80’s and early 90’s. That said, all things considered, I thought I did an ok job. It was straight (ish) and with her continued aversion to washing or combing her hair, the new do was considerably easier on the eye than the nest that had been growing there previously.
I had a taste for it now.
As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, my arms bent and hands contorted like an octopus, It soon became apparent to me that cutting one’s own hair is incredibly awkward, unless you are double jointed or indeed, an octopus. Initially tentative, I made a few small snips here and there. Soon I was feeling more confident and began chopping larger clumps of hair off and placing them into the bin. I couldn’t really tell how it was going at the back but from the front, it seemed ok.
Unfortunately my husband’s facial expression when I walked out of the bathroom suggested otherwise and only added to my bad mood.
So, it’s fair to say the day didn’t start out on its best foot. Although my bad mood came and went throughout the day, on the whole, it clung on like a quivering crustacean to a rock. I knew I was being dreadful, like a spoilt ungrateful brat. I couldn’t look my husband in the eye as I moaned away with my self-pitying tirade. I willed a wave to splash me in the face and wash my bad mood away with it far out to the horizon.
That’s when it happened.
I got way more than I bargained for.
The wave came. It didn’t just splash me in the face. It enveloped me, sweeping me up in its undulating swell.
The girls, of which I have 2, requested some music. We dug out the cable for the iPod docking station and began to recharge my iPod. They waited patiently for the iPod to charge. I went out of the room for a moment. When I returned the music was playing and my 2-year-old daughter was held up in her Daddy’s arms giggling hysterically as he danced with her around the lounge. My eldest daughter, age 4, was on the sofa laughing. I bundled her up into my arms and began swinging her round and round dancing to the music. We danced and laughed until we felt dizzy.
Rushes of ecstatic joy and gratitude ran through my veins. How did I get so lucky to have these 3 people as part of my life?
I was no longer a bear with a sore head. The day wasn’t so bad after all, even if I did have a terrible hair cut.
Being one of 3 girls, I know what it’s like to have sisters. Growing up there were the obligatory fights and sibling rivalry however there were also hours spent happily together playing princesses, producing theatrical shows for our parents to watch and plotting our escape in order to run away together. As the youngest of the three, I tended to keep out of some of the heavier disagreements that ensued as my elder siblings went through their teenage years of angst and insecurity together. It wasn’t a conscious decision not to hang out with them much during that time, I was younger and not able to do many of the things they did, but I do remember witnessing some of the fights they had about clothes swapping/stealing and boys and was relieved not to be involved.
Regardless of what disagreements have taken place between the 3 of us over the years there is one fact that remains constant – we love each other and would protect and stand up for each other no matter what. Throughout our adult years we have shown solidarity towards each other at times of need and I have come to realise that one of the best presents my parents ever gave me was sisters.
When I found out that I was having another girl only 18 months apart from her older sister, I was ecstatic. To be able to give my first born the gift of a sister felt wonderful. I’m not saying a brother wouldn’t have been equally wonderful but I have no understanding of that. I hoped (and still do hope), that they will be best friends and show each other the same loyalty through times of need as I’ve experienced.
My eldest was 18 months when her sister was born, still pretty much a baby herself she didn’t really know what was going on. Now that she is three I have really started to see the bond between them developing and its heart melting stuff.
When the eldest has to be woken from sleep, it’s not a pretty sight. She grunts and groans, moans and sometimes screams. However, if I send her sister in to wake her up, she’s a different child. Squealing with joy and delight as her sister swipes her over the head with her chubby toddler arms. It seems she can get away with behaving in a way that no other being on the planet could do. When one is crying the other will rush to comfort them. Often it’s more of a rugby tackle to the ground and sometimes it will result in tears but the sentiment is there.
The youngest insists on doing everything her older sister does no matter how ridiculous, inappropriate or dangerous it is. Every day she attempts to put her sisters knickers on over her nappy, climb up on the sofa or high walls (much to my distress) and brush her teeth at the exact same time as her sister whilst both trying to fit precariously on a small activity table in order to reach the sink. As she is too young for toothpaste I perform the same ritual each day, pretending to put some of her sister’s toothpaste on her toothbrush.
It’s not just the youngest who looks up to and worships her sister. This love and adoration is reciprocated by the eldest and she too likes to copy her sister. She tells me at least 20 times every day “I love my sister, so much mummy”, “my little sister’s my best friend mummy” and although she does tell me that Daddy and myself are her best friends too, if she has lost favour with us the label is quick to be withdrawn. To date it’s never been withdrawn about her sister even though she takes her toys, food and often hurts her as she whacks her with a doll, pushes her off a wall giggling or pulls her hair. When the eldest goes to bed she needs to know which way her sister’s head is facing so that she can be the same.
We’ve been lucky to have our in-laws visit us in Australia from the UK for 5 weeks over the Christmas period. There were quite a few days they took my eldest for a few hours which meant some quality time for me and the youngest. As much as I appreciated the break with only one toddler to look after, I could see how much she missed her older sister. Often she would cry when her sister left then toddle around the house looking lost. She kind of got over it when she realised she could play with every single toy in the house and it would remain in her possession for as long as she wished it to. However, I sensed that this revelation was short-lived and didn’t compensate for the companionship and fun of being with her sister. The minute they were re-united they couldn’t have looked happier; the snatching toys and food, over-zealous cuddling, copying each other and giggling immediately returned.
They are young and I’m very aware that as the grow up together there will be many ups and downs in their relationship as they try to establish themselves and find their way in the world. They will no doubt experience many of the emotions me and my sisters have done through the years such as jealousy, anger, love and sometimes even hate. I’d love them to be best friends but I know that I can’t force that to happen, I will just have to step back and observe (perhaps attempting to steer sometimes) as their relationship develops over the coming years.
Today is a very sad day for me. One of my gorgeous friends and neighbour is moving, not down the road or even to the next suburb, she’s making the big move from Sydney back to her home in Barcelona 17,183 kilometers away.
This is one of the downfalls of living somewhere like Sydney. It’s such a transient city, people are often only here for a short while and many people living here have family far away. I’m noticing more and more people making the move back to their homes once they have had children. In search of more help and support and to build stronger relationships between their kids and grandparents/relatives.
I often get asked by family and friends back home why we stay here. How do we manage living so far away from friends and family back in the UK now that we have 2 young children?
The truth is it is something I personally find very difficult to explain. I am also desperate not to be misunderstood by those who are so dear to us as it is in no way a reflection of how much we love and miss them.
I am incredibly close to my family, even more so since my Dad died 8 years ago. I also have lots of wonderful friends back home. Ironically some of whom have become even dearer to me since making the move here as their friendship has well and truly stood the test of time and distance, I have no doubt we will be friends forever more.
When we first arrived it was a 2 year plan. An exciting adventure to share with the man I’d fallen in love with only a few months prior.
4 years on, 1 marriage and 2 children later we are still here and currently no immediate plans to leave.
My sister often asks me;
‘’Is it just because of the sunshine?”
I’d be lying if I said that an average of 236 days of sunshine a year doesn’t play a big part in our decision to stay, but it’s absolutely not the main reason.
I miss my sisters, Mum, in-laws, friends, nephews and nieces more than words can express. That said, there is just something about the way of life here, even more so since having the children, that works for me and I just love it.
Considering the tough year we have had with our little owl who doesn’t sleep, and the various broken bones and trips to hospital, you’d think I’d jump at the chance to return home where we have a spacious house and grandparents just around the corner and an hour up the M6.
There have been times when we have been literally losing it due to exhaustion, screaming and desperation where we have both mentioned ‘going home’. My husband has a tendency to do this more than I. Perhaps this is on account of my being half gypsy (I’ve never really lived anywhere longer than 5 or so years). He on the other hand was born and bred in Manchester and his parents still live in the house he grew up in. His roots are perhaps more established. But when I call his bluff and say;
‘’Ok then, let’s do it’’
‘’Not right now then, but at some point in the future’’
When I got pregnant I thought that as soon as the baby arrived, I’d be struggling and desperate to go back. If anything I have felt the opposite.
Sydney/ Eastern suburbs is new mummy heaven (Unfortunately I can’t speak for the rest of Australia on account of only having lived here. I also can’t speak for the UK as again I haven’t experienced having children there). All I know is that from the minute I signed up to the ante-natal class and met some people who are still good friends of mine, to having the baby in the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick, where I received the most fabulous care and support and throughout that first year through my Mothers group and various classes I attended, I have never felt alone being a Mum in Australia, something I thoroughly expected to feel given I was so far away from home.
I remember arriving to the new mums meet and greet session organised by the hospital, anxiously clutching my brand spanking new baby. The room was full of around 40 new mums and there were a couple (as there always are) that seemed to dominate the room with their self-assuredness only reinforcing my anxiety as a new mum. About to turn and leg it my own Mum (who had made the trip to Oz for a few weeks) gave me a reassuring nod (and a shove) and reluctantly I went and sat down giving my neighbour an awkward smile. We both did a double take and then relieved sat and beamed at each other like Cheshire cats, turned out we had met previously in a work capacity.
And that was it, from that moment on I had a wonderful new friend who is still a dear friend to me to this day.
We decided to create our own Mother’s group with the people we had met in our ante-natal classes and they invited people they knew and it snowballed. We met every Tuesday on the grass overlooking the ocean offering each other help, support, cake and a shoulder to cry on. Sounds idyllic and to be honest most of the time it was. Sure some days I was knackered and wobbly and not sure I was doing the right thing especially given I had a reflux baby who was constantly sick, always very small and didn’t like solids very much. But I didn’t feel judged by these new friends, we helped each other through our wobbles and could relate to the struggles and the exhaustion.
I remember a good friend of mine who has 2 older children laughing at me saying;
‘’Yes, that’s how Mothers groups start, drinking coffee and eating cake, but give it a few months and you will be having vodders in your coffee and desperately booking in nights out without the babies”
She was right. We rarely meet up in the daytime now. When we arrange a meet up it generally involves copious amounts of alcohol.
2.5 years since establishing the group some of us met up for a night out a couple of weeks ago.
The group consisted of 4 of us, 2 of whom began the discussion pre-meeting stating they would be driving and 1 requesting to share a bottle, I was more than happy to oblige. So it started out 1 bottle. Who were we kidding? It quickly turned into 4 bottles of wine plus a cocktail each for all of us.
So I have great friends here. Work friends from the jobs I have had, mothers group friends, random playground friends, playgroup friends, people I’ve met on the bus friends, people I knew in England who now live out here friends, friends of friends, neighbour friends, literally friends from all walks of life and all over the world. Connected by the fact that many of us are living thousands of miles away from our families and friends. I’m not trying to gloat, I’m not exceptional I’m fairly certain this is the case for any expat.
We are there for each other, not a replacement for friends and family back home but an extension of it. Whilst in the UK I’d never have thought to spend Christmas with friends however that is the way it’s usually done here. There is an ease to making new friends here.
I am a huge believer in the view that people come into your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime.
I have friends (and I include family in this) back home who are so dear to me that I have tears streaming down my face thinking about them as I write this. We have been through so much together, they have stood by me no matter what, loyal and honest and absolutely will be my lifetime friends. But I know that it doesn’t matter where in the world we are, that will never change.
However, it’s such a wonderful feeling when you realise you have made a new friend.
This was reiterated to me last week on a trip to the playground with the girls.
My eldest (2.5 year old), was a little out of sorts as she was getting over an ear infection. On arriving at the playground she was unusually clingy and quiet. A slightly older girl came over to her and asked if she could play with her. She was such a beautiful spirit, so kind and gentle. My daughter cautiously cocked her head to one side, looked up at me and then back warily at the girl. The little girl waited patiently, she then moved away returning a few minutes later, as gentle and patient as before. Never have I seen such emotional intelligence in someone so young! Slowly but surely my shy little girl began to warm to her, letting go of my leg and moving away from me. Within 10 minutes they were best friends. Giggling and laughing, playing merrily on the swings and running up and down the slide, sitting side by side to protect each other from falling off.
I will always miss people back home and nothing can replace my family and friends there. However living in Australia is sunshine-filled, exciting and challenging. It has brought my little family together, tested and pushed us, offered us new experiences and lots of fabulous new friends.
Whilst for the moment Australia is our home, moving back to the UK will always be a discussion point, particularly when the going gets tough. I absolutely understand why my dear friend and neighbour is making the big move with her little family to Barcelona. She will have her Mum living in an apartment downstairs and sister down the road and I’m certainly more than a little envious of that. However for now, I love living in Australia with my little family, it suits us and feel incredibly lucky to have been given this amazing opportunity.
I was recently asked to be Godmother for my friend’s beautiful baby boy. The christening was taking place about a 40 minute drive from our house. It was to start at midday and the celebration was to continue on afterwards at one of their friend’s houses.
After an extremely snot filled and sleepless few weeks, I’d pre-warned my friend that some, or worst case scenario – all of us, may not be able to make it. I would of course do my upmost to be there given I was to be Godmother.
When the kids are sick I’m always conscious not to be the family everyone is trying desperately trying to avoid, keeping their kids well away, something I have been guilty of doing too. We decided to see how the night went and how sick they were in the morning before committing.
In the morning, the baby (who we’d been most concerned about), seemed considerably better so we decided to ‘brave it’. I know this may sound like we weren’t looking forward to the day ahead and if I’m honest there is probably an element of truth to this. The idea of a family day trip, getting dressed up, being a Godmother, seeing our friends and catching up for a party afterwards sounds delightful. Unfortunately we have been involved in too many day trips, where the children’s sleep schedule is destroyed resulting in a whole manner of tears, tantrums and stress. The reality can be so different to the idea we have in our heads of what it could be like, we generally approach such outings with a certain amount of fear and trepidation
We meticulously planned the trip (as we always do) around the kids, in order to facilitate the maximum amount of sleep possible in the hope of reducing the chance (or at least number of), explosive situations.
The girls will look gorgeous in their party frocks and pretty hair bands.
I will have lots of time to get ready and hopefully scrub up ok as I will paint my nails, blow dry my hair and shave my legs (my husband won’t recognise me).
We must leave no later than 9.30am so the baby should get her morning sleep in the car.
We will arrive earlier than required but have time to spend a fun-filled morning with the girls at the aquarium.
We will bring the baby carrier and single pram so we can take turns to have the baby in the carrier and then as soon as the 2.5 year old looks like she’s flagging we can chuck her in the pram for her kip.
We will sit down as a family and enjoy the service in the church.
I will perform my part of accepting the responsibility of being a Godmother gracefully.
As long as we leave the party to return home no later than 2pm, both children will sleep and the drive home will be calm and peaceful.
My eldest daughter point blank refused the wear the dress I’d carefully selected for her. She proceeded to scream the house down and then do her usual trick of running away to hide in one of the tiny spaces you wouldn’t think a mouse could fit into, on this occasion behind the chalk board.
After several attempts asking her patiently and calmly to put the dress on I employed my usual tactic of bribery, negotiation and possibly a white lie or two. I told her that Elsa from Frozen had sent the party dress especially for her to wear (ok so this is a blatant lie but how’s she ever going to find out?), I then told her that we were going to a birthday party (tiny white lie?) and that if she wore everything I would let her eat as much cake as she liked (bribery and negotiation). These are not new skills I have developed, I have been utilising them increasingly since my 2.5 year old has been old enough to understand. She finally succumbed agreeing to wear the dress and cardigan. Unfortunately no amount of bribery would get her to let me put anything in her currently dreadlocked hair (Combing hair is not a battle I can quite honestly be a****d to fight at the moment on top of all the other daily battles).
I had about five minutes to get ready, smudged my nail polish and had to apply my makeup hurriedly and awkwardly leaning over one child with the baby hanging off my leg.
We left 20 minutes later than planned
The baby was ‘overtired’ (isn’t she always?) and consequently screamed for the majority of the journey.
Whilst my husband was driving and getting more stressed with the sound of the baby screaming, I had no choice but to climb over the seats into the back of the car, flashing my arse at all the passing cars, in a bid to calm her down. The remainder of the journey whilst slightly quieter, was considerably more uncomfortable for me as my bum was jammed in between the two car seats.
The baby fell asleep thirty seconds prior to reaching the destination.
My husband and eldest daughter enjoyed the aquarium together whilst I was left stuck in the car. On the one hand willing the baby to wake up as I needed to pee but also aware that she needed to sleep as long as possible to provide the best chance for a calmer second part of the day (I live in hope!).
When she did wake up I hurriedly put her in the carrier as my urge to pee had increased tenfold. At this point she did her usual trick of chucking her dummy on the floor. This time it landed underneath the car. Of course this would be the day I was wearing a rather short dress so once again , bearing all, I began grappling around on my hands and knees under the car (still with baby attached) attempting to locate the dummy. Luckily a kind passer-by took pity on me and came to my assistance (maybe he’d seen quite enough of my behind).
On arriving at the aquarium I found myself unable to get hold of my husband on his mobile as ‘apparently’ there is no signal in there. Wicked!
I begged and pleaded with the entry staff who took pity on me and allowed me in – hoorah!
At the christening our children behaved like caged animals who’d just been let out for the first time in their lives. Running and crawling around the church throughout the ceremony climbing on anything and everything. This of course resulted in us missing most of the service as we were slightly distracted trying to restrain them.
The party afterwards was in a beautiful house not conducive for a crawling one year old who will not be restrained, has no concept of danger and likes to share her food with the furniture. She certainly left a little reminder of our visit, to the tune of a nice red strawberry juice mark, on the immaculately sparkly white cushions.
Enjoying the party (and the wine), I did my usual trick of pleading with my husband to break the rules. ‘Shall we just try to get the girls to sleep here instead of in the car like we planned?’. It’s amazing how easily I falter when I’ve had a glass of wine. When will I learn- do not deviate from the plan?
We finally left at 4.30 pm, hitting peak traffic. The youngest who refuses to be restrained unless she is asleep, screamed for the entire journey. Basically a re-enactment of the journey there.
All that chaos aside, we did have a lovely day. In the midst of all of that craziness, there are always heaps of wonderful and comical moments with the girls. It was great to catch up with friends and the people who hosted the party after the service couldn’t have been better hosts. They were certainly kind and understanding considering our invasion.