Today’s Our Land Series post was written by a woman that I think is brave and doing good good things for moms around the world. A few years ago, when my son Tucker was even younger than he is now, my husband Robert and I talked about him going to Afghanistan for six months in order to save some extra money for our family.
It would have been a as-safe-as-possible situation, and would have allowed us a bit more financial freedom. It would have meant that I’d be raising our little boy alone during that time. Robert ended up staying here, knowing that him missing six months in the life of our two-year-old would mean missing milestones and memories. It meant that our little boy would be timid around my husband upon his return. No amount of me being able to sleep in on the weekend felt okay with that.
Jess, of Parent Guide, was faced with a very similar situation and ended up making something amazing from it.
More than a year and a half ago, my husband was offered a job working for a mining company in Western Australia. We talked long and hard about this for weeks before agreeing that the benefits outweighed the negatives. The decision didn’t come easily. His new career meant that he would move halfway across the world, leaving me alone to raise our son in San Francisco.
The decision to stay in San Francisco was largely due to my support network. I had friends and family who, while distant, helped out occasionally with babysitting. They weren’t the best support network but it was all I knew. I couldn’t imagine starting over from scratch. Australia is a big place, and I didn’t know a single person there.
I wish I could jokingly say that it was great to take a break from my husband. I really do. For me personally, being apart from my husband is one of the hardest things I have had to deal with.
We were high school sweethearts and have been together ever since. While his exterior is starting to show signs of age, his mischievous smile has not changed a bit and throws me back to our younger years. Not only is he my husband, but my very best friend. Despite all these years we still stay up talking late into the night about life, pointless hypotheticals and whatever else springs to mind. I wouldn’t dare hesitate to call him my soul mate.
Once a month for three days my husband would fly back and visit. He would spend the first day jet lagged but for two whole days a month we were a family. I would cherish the two days and replay them over and over in my head until his return the following month.
When it was time for him to leave, it was like having a piece of me leave with him. A piece of me filled with joy and happiness. I would hold him tight one last time, as if the most important thing in the world from me was about to be ripped away. To an extent, it was.
I really struggled through the weeks between visits. It is a strange feeling to describe in retrospect. Life continued to move around me but seemed to feel slower, as if I was detached. I lived with a mild ache in the pit of my stomach that only seemed to worsen the longer I went without seeing my husband.
As I continued through my day to day life I would occasionally notice unusual traits of his in strangers. A slightly goofy yet deep laugh, a sneeze with a mouth closed. These days were the hardest as it was like having a minute piece of my husband here but without the most important part, something I could touch. Sometimes these strangers would catch me staring at them in an unusual way, not that it was staring, more looking through them as I toiled through the recently surfaced memories.
I remember one time at the supermarket I thought I saw my husband at the far end of the Aisle. Similar clothing choice. Similar height. Similar walk. I frantically pushed my cart towards the end of the aisle, mouth ajar. To any onlookers I would have looked completely crazy. Much to my disappointment, as the mirage that was my husband turned the corner, I caught a glimpse of the stranger’s profile side on. It most definitely was not my husband.
While I found the days hard, the nights were worse. As the day came to an end and the ambient sound of the outside started to quiet down, I was left with nothing but my thoughts and a bed that, without a second body, felt like a wide and empty wasteland. I wanted to kick out. I wanted to scream, but the only thing that would come were tears. With tears being all I had, I would resign myself to quietly sobbing into my pillow until sleep came.
After a year, it became apparent that this wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t the only one who was struggling. One afternoon my son, Adam came home in tears. When I quizzed him what was wrong, the reply was devastating.
“All the other kids get to see their Dad every day. It isn’t fair!”
Something had to change. After long phone conversations that went well into the night we looked at our options. There were not many. Adam was growing up fast and needed a Father figure in his life. Having been born and raised in America this was not an easy decision.
A few months later we moved to Australia. My husband met us at the airport and the squeal of joy that came from Adam as he ran up to my husband cemented the idea that this was the right thing to do.
“Do we really get to see you every day until forever?” Adam asked.
“Until forever” My husband replied.
Taking in the moment for a brief second, I too ran to embrace my husband. In an instant I felt the stress from the last year melt away, I didn’t care about the past or future, I only cared about this moment. About now.
While Adam found it incredibly easy to make friends, I struggled to socialize. While I attempted to go to mothering groups, I never seemed to find common ground with others, besides the fact that that we were all raising children. This small, shared piece of common ground was not enough for me to feel connected. Everyone just seemed so different. I really grew to miss America.
In this strange land with a strange accent, I felt like an outsider. While my husband was very supportive and it was amazing to be a family once again, I really felt I was lacking a social circle.
Adam, on the other hand, was making friends at every turn.
“I can count to 100, can you?” Adam asked another child roughly his age. The reply was a confident “Can I?” and proceeded to count to 100. Just like that, they were the best of friends. They played in the sand, climbed trees raced sticks and chased seagulls. When playtime was over it was like separating two friends who had known each other for twenty years.
This happens each and every time we go to the park. Without fail, Adam will make a lifelong friend having little more in common with the other child than the same colored shoelaces. He made it look so easy. Despite my years of experience, kindling a new friendship just seemed beyond me.
Out of the blue an old friend from America emailed me. I had fallen out of touch with her and she had no idea I had moved half a world away. We emailed back and forth and I really started to look forward to each reply. This was my small piece of home.
Over the weeks, the emails slowed to a trickle before coming to a complete halt. I read back over the email trail and found myself depressed that it had come to an end. I thought long and hard about why I enjoyed the email conversation so much and then it hit me. This conversation included subtle things that I found comforting, a particular brand of cheese, a reference to a local national park. Small comforts that were simply not present in conversations I engaged in in my new home.
These realizations lead me to an online forum where moms discuss raising children, daily life and just about everything else. I took to the forums with vigor, soon becoming a recognized regular. It was like a social circle with typing in place of talking.
I actually learned some amazing parenting advice from this forum. Practical and unique advice that would be useful to many moms. The problem was, this advice was buried amongst many posts pertaining to gossip and rants that simply was not fun to read. Then it hit me. What if I took the best pieces of advice and built them out into articles to help others?
Currently having no hobbies (A serious must for any mother, you will go insane without them) I decided to build a website based around parent advice. A month later parent.guide was born. I dare say that I owe my sanity to this website. Being able to channel my energy, or what’s left of it after chasing around a young child, into this online community provided me with the outlet I needed to not feel so uncomfortable each day.
I now talk to other mothers on the forum about baby topics before turning them into articles to help others. This process has checked two boxes that I needed to feel comfortable in my own skin. A slice of Americana and an outlet in which I can express my creativity. I didn’t know that it was these two small things that I use to validate my existence. It was a long journey to this self-realization but I feel like a stronger person for identifying it on my own. While having other people accept you is wonderful, nothing beats the feeling of self acceptance.
While my Australian social circle is still extremely small, seeing my husband and Adam interact and grow close once again has made this adventure worthwhile. Maybe one day we will move back to America but for now, I am happy to call Australia home and am now are very busy creating a fantastic parenting website to share all my ideas and experiences, you can see if for yourself at: http://parent.guide/.
Aw, right? Here’s a bit more about Jess: Jess is a full time mum who has nearly 20 years experience as a nanny. She recently moved to Australia from the US and is still adjusting to life in a foreign country and runs a parenting website: http://parent.guide
Airport runion: © michaeljung – Fotolia.com Paid for.