As a mother to 5 children who had a full time job, was studying and with a husband who worked away our family ran like a military operation. 3 different secondary schools, various activities, football, sea and army cadets, part time jobs that involved 6am starts at the newsagents and late shifts in fast food restaurants.
I had routine, I cooked once a week to stock up the freezer, I studied while one of the children was at football training and matches 2 nights a week and Sunday afternoons. I washed daily, school uniforms, football kit, work uniforms, the ironing would be done as and when needed and housework would be done on the odd morning I had at home and everyone was out. Eventually employing a cleaner for 3 hours a week in the final year prior to becoming an expat.
As a concequence what I’ve never been able to do is make plans, book in advance. I’m a spur of the moment person and when we lived in the UK, I had no problem getting in the car or catching a train to go off and watch a football match in Birmingham or at Wembley. We’d find ourselves unexpectedly child free on a weekend where the other paretns plans happened to coordinate, or when left with only one child who’s granny said ‘yes she’d love to have them for the weekend’ with only an hours notice and ususally we’d be on route with said child at the time of the phone call.
I was fortunate that my work was as and when needed and I could do a lot of work from home, phone calls etc. With the youngest in boarding school, I was able to work evenings and as long as I left some form of dinner, either food or money for the chip shop, the other 3 children would usually be in and out during the evening so I could leave them on their own if hubby was away. Neighbours, friends and parents would be available in an emergency, as would we for them.
Since becoming an expat I’ve not worked or studied, in the last year of the kids living in South Africa the eldest was driving so he did the school runs. I tried to establish a routine and failed, it’s taken me nearly 4 years to accept I don’t have and don’t need a routine any more, there are still some things that are ingrained that I feel the need to keep doing which is bulk cooking once a week for the freezer, wash as and when needed, I paid someone to do the ironing prior to the kids leaving home. I tried to have set days for my voluntary, charity and fundraising work, but then everytime I got into a routine a visitor would arrive or my car would be off the road and with no public transport, I’d be stranded.
I have plans, ideas, things I’d like to do, places I’d like to see. I book our holidays pretty much last minute and if where we want to go isn’t available then we just go somewhere else. I want to go to the Western Cape in September/October to see the flowers in bloom. We have visitors until the 16th of September and at some point over the next 2 weeks I will know my dates for a visit to Dubai, so until then I can’t plan the Western Cape trip.
In November, December or January we will be leaving South Africa, it still isn’t finalized as to where we will be going. Being a mother to 5 children, having had a career, been a mature student, dealt with a move abroad (that didn’t go well) emergency trips back to the UK with no notice when my Dad had a heart attack 2 years ago, 3 months notice to organize the youngest child to return to the UK to attend boarding school, dealing with tenants from hell and the last child leaving home and going through empty nest syndrome, dealing with depression and chronic pain., means I’m equppied to deal with most things that life has to throw at me.
But what I can’t cope with and don’t deal with very well, is everyone elses need to know what I’m doing, when I’m doing it and where.
Without a firm date and knowledge of where we are actually going I’m unable to answer any of your questions other than the ones about how I feel about it all, which to be honest, I’m at the stage where if I’m forced to think about how I feel, I’ll probably snap your head off, so it’s probably best not to ask. All I can do is research a move to Dubai, to the UK, removal firms, obtain quotes, find out the regualtions for moving the cat and dog to either country, llok for employment, but not apply, save website pages for agencies for both countries ready to register with them, the same with housing in either countryupdate my CV, have a clear out, start sorting through paperwork, clothes, kids toys they’ve left behind and start my goodbyes, because that’s the only thing for sure I know I’ll be doing and that is leaving this beautiful country that I’ve had the pleasure of calling home for nearly 4 years and out of all the above, that is going to be th hardest thing I think I’ve ever had to do.