Friday, March 28, 2014

A Personal Update.... and I have a plan!

It's been a while since my last personal post. I think it goes without saying I was not in a happy place that day. It got a little worse a few hours later, when I went onto a very dear friend's Facebook page to line up a Skype date, only to find her timeline full of tributes to her life - she passed, suddenly and unexpectedly, on Valentine's day. Last I heard the cause was still unknown.

Finding out that one of my best friends had died via Facebook was pretty awful. Apparently she had to get a new phone just days before her death and didn't have people's numbers in yet, so no one could be contacted any other way.  To be fair, it would have been just as bad if I had received the news by phone.

Her name was Cate. Catherine really, but she relaunched herself as Cate after she beat ovarian cancer about 20 years ago. She was an amazing lady, an inspiration to me and to so many others. She was only 58. Not old enough. She had spent the last year nursing her sick and dying mother, who left us just before Christmas. It was Cate's time to live again, she has most definitely gone too soon. I still can't believe it's real.

Here she is with BB when we last caught up with her in Melbourne, Christmas 2011.



So I think it's fair to say that day was when I hit rock bottom. The good thing about being there is that the only way is up. Things have definitely got better since then. Only a handful of people that actually know me IRL read this blog, but one person really made a difference to me that day, firstly ringing me as soon as she read my post, and then later dropping some flowers on my doorstep. I was in a space where I thought it was hopeless, she reminded me that where there is a will there is a way, and that I can go back to Australia if I want to, and that even if we can't afford to go to Alice, there are other places we could look. Thank you A. You are one of the (2) best friends I have made since my return and I shall miss you.

This is going to be a long post too, because I have been on a huge emotional journey since the last post, but have had no time to write...

Emotionally it has been a really tough time. I have been through so many levels so quickly. At the point when I hit the floor and came to the realisation that we had to get out of here I was actually in the two week wait. After months of desperately wanting  a second child I suddenly panicked that I might be pregnant and that the baby would trap us here. That soon passed though. I have been struggling in the depressing winter months to manage everything. I have to work at least 16  hours a week because of the way the system works. I have actually been doing quite a bit more recently which has worn me down a bit. There is just no way I could do that with two children. So a second child actually makes Australia even more of a must. 

BB is doing extra time at nursery since I took on more work. He's not liking it. I hoped he would adjust but it's just too long a day (8hours). He survives that day  but then he doesn't want to go back for his 4 hours the next morning. He actually seems sad too. Recently he often has that almost crying sad face. When I ask him what's wrong he says he doesn't know and cries just a little bit. Maybe he's picking up on my mood, or maybe he is also affected by the seasons. He often comments that it's dark in the day and where is the sun? He loves being outside too, so days trapped indoors are tough on him. After Easter I am cutting his 8 hour day down to six. Hopefully as the summer comes we will be able to go to the park or somewhere in that time. I'd love for him to live in a place where the outdoors is accessible all year round.

It's ironic too, that I am working with people talking about how important the toddler years are and how to really meet the needs of your child. At the very time I am doing that, I am neglecting my own... I am so conscious of that it is killing me inside. If we went to Australia it wouldn't be about the hours I worked but the money I earn. I could do a day of supply teaching and earn what I am getting in a month here!

BUT - There is also the guilt of taking BB away from his family, especially DD... So I also really tried to think of ways I could be happier here. When I lived in the UK before I dragged myself through winter with sunbeds and St. John's wort supplements. St. John's wort is not an option when you're breastfeeding but perhaps a sunbed could be. They are not the answer for BB though. Maybe his mood would lift if mine did, but maybe not...  The "summer" is coming now though so the worst is over, for this year at least. 

February is always the worst month for  SAD for me. Perhaps I could take us on a sunny holiday at that time. Thing is though I am still depleting my savings even with all the work I'm doing so we just can't afford it. Maybe I could when BB starts school, but the government fines you when you take your kid out of school in term time! 

I had a bit if a reshake in my diet too. I know wheat depresses me! I need to be strict about that again. I think alcohol depresses me too, even in small amounts- not at the time, but after. It also affects my sleep, even just a small glass of wine, and not having enough sleep depresses me too. Being trapped inside depresses me as well, so we made a plan to get outside for at least an hour a day, even in the rain. That's working for us both I think... I have been going to bed with BB most nights too, and tribg to catch up in my 3 years of sleep deficit. I think it's working. 

But deep down I still want to go. I really think it would be a better life for BB too. So I started thinking about where...

As many of you know, Alice Springs is the place where I left my heart. I don't know what it is about that place but something holds me there. Perhaps it is because it is the epicentre of Australia. Although its hard for my family to understand - I belong in Australia. I make sense there. Only two friends from the UK ever visited me in Australia, but they both told me that. I feel much more like me in Australia than I do in the UK.

I would love to go back to Alice, but there a few things that make me hesitant about it. Firstly the property prices are now a bit out of our reach - the £ has gone down against the AU$ and the AU house prices have also gone up since we left. I had a highly paid, full-time job with lots of travel when I was there before so a big mortgage wasn't a problem. A job like that is simply not an option now. Also, although I think it would be the most amazing place to be a little kid, I am not sure it's the best place to be a teenager. Seeing as I am already taking BB away from his family, to take him away from his friends at the age of 10 or 11 seems crazy - he needs stability somewhere.

So I tried to think of other places I would like to live.

Albany came to mind first. I first really fell in love with Australia in WA. I have lots of friends and four years of professional history there. The land and seascapes in Albany are breathtaking, the climate prefect for being outdoors all year round, the property slightly more affordable.  I also have a best friend there, who has a child, G, just a few weeks younger than BB - they fell in love when they met in the summer.


BB and G last June

Albany is a long way from everywhere though. 

The Sunshine Coast is also a place I would love to live. I haven't lived in the area before, but I do have a best friend there too. S is also a SMC, with a little girl who will soon be celebrating her first birthday. I could happily live there too - in fact I have considered it a couple of times before - it seems like the ideal home in many ways. Property is quite expensive though, and it is a bit humid in the summer. But it is well connected to lots of other places, and there are lots of things to do. Work is hard to come by though.

Friends have suggested other places that would suit me. Geraldton and Bendigo  being the two that I have considered most. Geraldton because it is a place where the desert meets the sea - my two ideals in terms of climate and location, and Bendigo because of its proximity to Melbourne, and it's community ethos. I think I have ruled them both out though for a variety of reasons. 

When I first talked with DD about the move he was really understanding. I have said right from the beginning of negotiations, before BB was even conceived, that I planned to go back to Australia. Although I was totally insistent that it went in our agreement that he wouldn't stop me from going back, I have also felt since then that it would be hard to take BB away from his Dad. I still feel that. It will be hard to take him away from my parents and sisters too... but we can come back for holidays, and they can visit if they choose. 

BB currently sees his dad for a couple of days per fortnight. He spends the first evening and morning adjusting, then has a day of being connected, and then another evening of being sad when he has gone.  If we came back for the Australian summer hols, and DD came to visit us for the UK summer hols they would get two big blocks of time together. Even DD agreed this could be better. When I first talked about this with DD, he said if I came home each Christmas, (the Australian summer) he would take BB skiing etc etc. We could have 6 weeks here. He could then come to us for the 6 weeks summer holiday in the UK. With this plan, I needed to find a place to live that I wanted  to leave in summer. Alice would one of those places, or the sunshine coast, and perhaps Geraldton too. I wouldn't want to leave Albany in summer though, and it probably wouldn't be hot and sunny enough in winter for DD's holidays, so Albany went off the list for a while.

Last time I saw DD though he had changed his mind. He wouldn't want us to spend every Christmas here, he wants us to spend some Christmases in Oz, with his family. Also, he is now thinking of moving to Sri Lanka. It was a good lesson for me. Since I have known him DD has been moving to Paris, then when we visited Australia a couple of years ago he said it was time to go back, then he was moving north of London to be closer to BB, then it was a plan to persuade PP to go to Oz again, then London was the place to be once more, and now he's thinking of moving to Sri Lanka.

PP hates Australia. He enjoys classical music and works in fashion, and finds Australia to be backward and uncultured. He is not entertaining the idea of going there at all. He came here a couple of weekends ago to tell me that he really believes that London was the land of opportunity, not Australia. Both he and DD feel they have a better quality of life in London than they did at home, even though as a high income couple with no kids they rent a flat in Peckham. They value different things to me though - for example I like nature, and they like fashion, they go to the theatre and cinema, whereas I would rather watch the sea, I like big open spaces with few people around, they love the buzz of the city. So in that way we are all right in our choices of where we want to live, but finding a compromise that suits us all is hard.

If DD can ever persuade PP to go to Australia for a short time it will be to live in Melbourne, so for that reason DD would prefer it if BB and I went to live near Melbourne. I have considered it, but there is less chance of work, no best friends (at least not in the parts where I could afford to live) and a the hustle and bustle rat race lifestyle is not so dissimilar to here. I think I have finally accepted that the chances of them coming are way to minimal for BB and I to compromise our standard of living and suffer a lack of close friends nearby while we wait. If they do happen to move there we could join them, but we'll wait and see if they actually do. So Albany, Alice and the Sunshine Coast are still my top three.

Putting a timescale on this move is another thing. At the absolute latest I want to be there before September next year, as that is when BB is supposed to start school here. The thing is though, that now I have made the decision, every day here seems wasted. In this country I am forced to put BB in childcare so that I can work a minimum of 16 hours a week - it's not important what I earn, just how many hours my child is away from me - its bizarre. At the moment I earn less than the childcare costs - so essentially I am running myself into the ground, depleting my savings, and separating myself from my child, because that's the only choice I have. It's bonkers! In Australia he won't have to start to school until 2017, and the support for single parents is based on income generated rather than time away from the child - so I could do less work at a higher pay, be better off and spend more time with BB, who would have a great out door environment to play in. Looking at it that way, every day we spend here seems like a waste of a day of his precious childhood.

I want to go now!

Now is not possible though. There are too many things to sort out. But in the last few days I have gone from moving this time next year (crazy as it would be winter followed by winter, and then back here to visit after a year for another winter), then i thought of going straight after Xmas, mainly because I feel we should do another Xmas, and also because I hate February here, so I want to be gone before then. Then today I have been set the challenge by my friend in Albany, to be there by her 40th Birthday in October. That might just be possible, but probably not. Though that would be UK summer, followed by AU summer, and then back here to visit for next summer... that sounds far more attractive!

I really want to do this. I hope I can. I still have days when I think it's too mean for everyone else to take BB away from his family. Then I get reminders that the most important thing for my child is that I am happy, or messages from friends who's parents moved them to Australian from the UK when they were young and they have no regrets,  or inbox messages on the importance of play, or research that starting school when you just turn 4 is too much too soon. BB is an innate Aussie too - he hates it when the sun doesn't shine. He often says "where is the sun?" and goes out of the door shouting "Mr sun, where are you? Come out!" I didn't teach him that, I promise!

So this blog might be changing again soon - from it's roots as a life in Australia blog, through the life as an SMC blog phase, full circle to a moving to Oz blog... 

At least I hope so!

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