I know, I know it’s been a long time. I started off this blog guns blazing and I desperately wanted to create something that people would flock to amidst the saturated blog market. It started off swimmingly, I was featured in Scary Mommy and I felt unstoppable. The response to the article was widely positive (of course some lovely people felt the need to minimize by feelings from behind their keyboards but that’s the internet for you) and it was amazing to have people from all over the world reach out to me. I was asked to be a part of a collection of expat stories for a book which was really special. I felt unstoppable. But then, I started to run out of steam.
Desperate to make the blog a success that might allow me to supplement my income, I lost focus and direction and focused on writing about what was popular and might get more hits rather than what I really cared about. I became too bogged down in affiliate programs and honestly the content suffered. I started this blog as a space to be real about the trials and tribulations of parenting as an immigrant (not expat, thank you keyboard warriors) farm wife and to share things I am interested in. It’s time to get back to that and if success comes then fantastic but what’s more important is connecting with other women and men who might get a little laugh and support from my
At the same time as trying to be the world’s most unlikely influencer I decided to start taking better care of myself and found that nap times were taken up by getting active rather than writing and my little window of available time slowly got smaller. Add to that the never ending mum guilt of having a 4 year old that constantly wants to play and I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write. Now, I chose to say yes to play as much as possible as I know my daughter will be going to school soon and I just want to soak up every delicious minute with her so I’m not complaining, it just naturally happened that the blog took a back seat. I just tried to enjoy this maternity leave as much as possible, I went on trips, took lots of pictures and made new friends. Oh and let’s not forget the most stressful, long planting season EVER (yes I’m a farm wife to those of you who are new) and my little space in the internet just gathered dust.
Now I feel like I want to write again. Maybe it’s the giant upheaval that’s coming in the form of returning to work? I mean I’ll have so much more time now right?! I’m not sure but I hope that whoever is reading this blog is happy to have me back and enjoys what’s to come!
She’s crying in the British food aisle again
A few days ago I found myself staring wistfully at a jar of pickled onions on the shelf at my local
supermarket grocery store. I had an ache inside me that I hadn’t really felt for a long time. It was back again, homesickness. It all sounds a bit crazy doesn’t it, to be tearing up over a British delicacy? However, when I’m in the trenches of homesickness anything can set me off. I moved to Canada almost a decade ago after meeting my husband on a trip in Australia. My husband tried unsuccessfully to move to Wales shortly after we met but the recession and lack of agricultural opportunities meant that he quickly ran out of money and patience from sitting in our flat all day with no car and no where to go. So I stepped up and offered to move to Canada to allow him to return to his dream job farming as I was a bright eyed 23 year old who was eager for adventure and a way out of the omnipresent rain that plagued Wales. So I booked my ticket, got my working holiday visa and after a tearful farewell at Heathrow to my mum I boarded my flight to Canada, not really believing that I would truly become an expat.
I’m going on an adventure!
When I got to Canada it was the blazing heat of summer and I had a wonderful century farm house to decorate as I pleased. My husband got me a puggle puppy we named Darwin (after where we met) and I quickly got a job at a local gym where I met a few friends to keep me occupied. We got engaged a few months later and married less than a year after that. After returning from honeymoon I eagerly applied for my permanent residency and was excited at the life that lay ahead in Canada. I got my PR (permanent resident) status fairly quickly and decided it was time to set down some roots and a career. I wanted to be a lawyer in Wales but it became apparent that wouldn’t fit with the amount of travel I would need to do and getting into law school here is about as easy as getting a toddler to eat anything that you provide them with for dinner. I decided to head to teachers college and after a few years I got a permanent contract. Sounds like everything went perfectly for me doesn’t it? Honestly, on paper everything is perfect. I have a wonderful job, a beautiful family, a husband who I apparently love so much I’ll move across the world for and a gorgeous home that I could only dream about in the UK. However, I would be lying if I said that late at night when my husband in harvesting late, when I’m shoveling a foot of snow off my car, when I yearn to meet my mum for a coffee and a chat, when I see my friends going out back home that I don’t feel the sledgehammer blow of homesickness. It has been a decade and it is still as strong as when I first came here at times and it takes me by surprise.
The harsh reality of being the “trailing spouse”
Life is hard as the “trailing spouse” (a kind of brutal term for the person in the relationship that moves for love). I miss home a lot, I have found it hard to make meaningful friendships with people that I have things in common with, my British humor is quite often lost on people and I have to repeat myself several times at the drive thru at Tims when people don’t understand my accent (“can I have a croissant please?” “a what sorry m’am, do you mean a chocolate donut?” repeat ad nauseam). Another thing I have struggled with intermittently is finding purpose in my new life. Having children gave me purpose as a mum but I don’t find myself completely comfortable in my new life in Canada all the time. Sometimes there is a feeling of being shoved into someone else’s life and you just have to carve out a little space for yourself.
Here are a few things that I wish I knew before I moved here:
- The honeymoon period will end at some point and no matter how grim life was, you will miss some aspect of it at some point.
- You will miss your family more than you can put into words and no amount of Facetime will make up for it.
- If you have children, you will have to deal with the guilt of them missing out on grandparent time.
- Homesickness will strike you hard at random moments. Teary at the pickled onions? Weeping at the sound of a British accent on a commercial? Sobbing over a pound you found in your wallet? Standing out in the rain because it feels like Wales? Watching any old shite that was made in Britain? YUP, you’re homesick.
- Snow for almost half the year SUCKS. Invest in a good jacket, boots and a shovel (OK so I don’t shovel too much snow so maybe work on being REALLY busy whenever your spouse walks out of the door to clear the driveway. Kind of like he does when you pick up the hoover or talk about going shopping).But there are positives..
- Your children will be international travelers before they are one. What a rich life they will lead.
- You get more than one passport which makes you look interesting and important at the airport.
You will meet awesome people who you would never have crossed lives with otherwise.
- You get to enrich yourself and grow as a person by immersing yourself in another culture. I really think meeting people from different parts of the world and living amongst people different to me (you’d be surprised how many cultural differences I encounter) has helped me grow as a person.
- Your relationship with your spouse is stronger than most as you rely on each other so much.
- You realize how much you truly love your family and make every second count when you’re with them (WOW that sounded like a Disney movie).
So hang in there expat wives, mums and dads. It is a hard journey and maybe not the life you always wanted in some respects but you can do it. Try to remember why you moved to your current country and at the same time honour and celebrate your roots. You beautiful, multicultural global unicorn you.
P.s in case you have never had the pleasure of a pickled onion I’ll show you what I’m banging on about. Brits, you’re welcome for the food porn.
Now before I start this post let me say that I know that I signed up for this lifestyle and everything it entailed. Yet, that does not make it easier when the long days of harvest set in during the early autumn and I slowly, but surely, lose my marbles only to regain them again around Christmas time. In many respects, being married to a farmer is excellent. We have flexibility (most of the time) when he needs time off, we live a fairly comfortable life, our children get to grow up playing in endless fields and they definitely will learn the value of hard work. However, being a farm wife can often be overwhelming and lonely, especially when you’re a very long way from home. I used to think that the homesickness and farm wife lifestyle were two separate issues, but now when I look back at times that I’ve yearned for my home most, it generally coincides with harvest or planting.
The term “harvest widow” is kind of morbid but it actually refers to those crazy times in the farming calendar that fall in July and then again in September – late November when as a farmer’s wife you rarely see your husband. Most mornings he is up before me and the kids and most evenings he doesn’t return until long after I get to bed. Pros of this – I get to watch Gossip Girl unashamedly all evening while quaffing wine in my thermal PJs. Cons – I have to juggle the two kids and the craziness of dinner and bedtime (usually after a very long day of work at school for me!). It’s insane, it’s intense but it’s our life. Over the past decade I’ve come up with some coping mechanisms, that I’ve had to really hone since having two kids (single mums, I have MAD RESPECT for you! It is not an easy gig being alone!). Now I must admit that this year has been especially hard with the addition of our second daughter and I have felt tiredness like you wouldn’t believe. But here we are at the end of November with the final stretch of harvest before us and I can happily say I made it. Perhaps a little softer from comfort eating, teeth a little more stained from red wine and hair more than a little crazy from 4 month roots but I made it. So I thought I’d share some coping tips with you all. Even if you’re not a farm wife, I’m sure many of us have husbands who are away a lot and like to feel like we’re not the only ones going through this.
Some tips from the international farm wife
- Focus on the fact that this too shall pass. I cannot reiterate the importance of those 4 little words. It will not be like this forever, the crop will come off the field and life will return to normal.
- Think about all the benefits. You get so much quality time with the kids, all the cuddles, all the kisses (OK, all the stress too but this is about being positive!). You can watch all the crappy TV you want without your other half moaning. You can paint your nails and wear your face mask in blissful solitude. Want a long bath, take it and your husband wont be disturbing you asking where easily located items are.
- Say YES to help. It is tricky in our situation as my family live across the Atlantic but I have had to become a lot more comfortable accepting help from my in laws and most importantly asking my mother in law for help when I need it.
- Get people to come to you. My dear friends are always happy to pop around with a coffee or tea (or wine, it is always 5 o’clock somewhere) for a chat. It isn’t the most exciting but after talking about potty, poop, dinosaurs and why the dinner you served is not poison all day, adult company is not just appreciated it is NECESSARY.
- Plan something that is just for you. Now this is tricky as harvest usually takes away the other main caregiver but if it rains and he can be home then go out and get your nails done. Enlist grandparents or a babysitter to watch the kids and go on a night out. You cannot become a hermit for 3 months. It will wear you down trust me. Hell, I just like going to Walmart alone for an hour. It is BLISS I TELL YOU!!!
- Try to get out to the field for a visit. I usually pack the kids up and stop for a coffee or take out and take my husband lunch or dinner. I really treasure those 15 minutes he stops in the car to eat with us and I know he does too.
- Send pictures of the kids to him so he doesn’t feel like he’s always missing out.
- Make the most of rainy days and Sundays. I know it seems crazy to say but rain days are your best friend as your husband will usually be home at a sociable hour. It truly is learning to dance in the rain.
- Have a well stocked wine fridge. You are deep in those parent trenches girl, take a load off sometimes!
Do you have a husband that works away from home a lot? How do you cope?