Return to work

Adelaide is a December baby. Early estimates had her arriving on the big day itself but she rocked up slightly earlier, on the 20th (thankfully – not because a Christmas birthday would be the end of the world, but because mama was well and truly ready for some festive bubbles). Because it was the silly season, as well as a potentially complicated arrival, Tim had a glorious six weeks off work. We had a lovely – although admittedly shell shocked – summer. We watched a lot of Suits, several bad movies, and lazed around in our cool, dark lounge room while our tiny one slept, either in her bassinet next to us or snuggled in our arms. We ate meals at any hour around the clock, really only when we remembered to feed ourselves as most of our energy was focused on feeding her (and doing laundry. So much laundry). We took slow family outings, mainly to local parks and beer gardens and walked around the neighbourhood, trying to lull her to sleep, a lot.

I was terrified when Tim had to return to work. It was my birthday the day previously, and we’d had a low key celebration which felt like we were celebrating the end of our freedom. I just didn’t know what I would do with myself without him around to help. I didn’t know what to do with the baby, didn’t know how we’d fill our days. It was such a different feeling to being at work. There, I knew what to do or at least how to bluff convincingly. I was capable and competent – with the baby, I felt like a charlatan. (Although the bluffing admitted to earlier actually implies I was one already.) On the advice of a few friends, I gave myself a list of daily goals to help keep me focused. Lofty they were not. Leave the house once a day. Get dinner on the table. Stay on top of laundry. (And keep the baby alive, but that presumably goes without saying.)

Slowly, things started to feel like my new normal. My neighbourhood had lots of excellent cafes (and indeed bars); my daily outings became pleasurable. I joined my mother’s group which helped enormously. I’ve always loved cooking and most days, the meals were prepped and ready to go by the end of her first nap. Laundry…well, the laundry was managed but not without cussing. And then, of course, we up and moved.

Tim’s just had the longest break he’s had since she was born (sixteen whole lovely days!), and even with the flights and the hectic nature of settling into a new country, it’s felt like a holiday. We’ve taken the time to travel a little but even adapting to a new space together has been exciting. Best of all has been the ever present extra pair of hands, the company during the day and getting to spend uninterrupted time with my two favourites.

He started his new job this morning, and while so proud and pleased for him, I confess something of the old nerves have returned. This time around I know what to do with the girl, at least. I know our days will pass and I am fully confident I can keep her healthy and happy. Filling my time has me a little more anxious. As mentioned, our village is much smaller than any I’m used to and popping out to try a new cafe isn’t really on the agenda. There are certainly new towns to explore, with galleries and sights to see, but it doesn’t feel quite as fun on my own (Adelaide’s critiques are less than fascinating, so I’m not counting her as company as such at this stage). Our train of visitors commences next month with my parents, so that will alleviate some of the potential isolation. I’ve also got my standbys: dinner still needs to get on the table, there’s German to be struggled through, and there is an international play group that meets weekly that the lass and I will join.

Lest you think I am in any way complaining, I reiterate that we’re the luckiest people in the world to be here and to be exploring a new country together. It’s just not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows (or Alps, chocolate and lakes, as the case may be). At drinks the other day, I was told it had taken about two years for another ex-pat to feel settled in, like it was home. I’m trying to be realistic about my expectations and I’m aware that the coming months – particularly the snowy ones – could be hard.

Today, however, the sun is shining. We just did a lap of the town to find the source of the Evil Every Fifteen Minute Bells (a lovely old church, with a playground conveniently next to it). Picked up some fixings for a plum torte. Read my book while she crawled and ate some miscellaneous park ground covering. I know we’ll be alright, really. And of course, if we’re not, there’s always going to be laundry.

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