Some things I miss.

It’s safe to say that in the last four months, we have completely changed our lives. We’ve gone from an Engineer and a Stay at Home Parent in a small town/expat community in Brunei to a team of Campground Managers in a tourist village in rural New Zealand.  The Engineer’s Baby has changed from a little baby 2 year old to a full sentences and complex ideas full on Campground Kid. We have a new house, a new routine, new habits, new everything.

Overall, we’re really happy with the change. Working as a team for a common goal suits our little family, even though it’s occasionally pretty full on.  We love love love New Zealand, and the climate, and being back home. We’re doing well at the job, learning new things, meeting new people, and getting a whole new set of experiences for our toolkit.

But as with any change, even the positive ones, there are things I miss.

One of the big ones is my toddler/parent groups and all the great friends we met in Brunei. We had a great routine going, and having a more-than-full-time job really interferes with my ability to find anything similar here. I miss hanging out with my friends watching my kid play with her friends. I miss having the time to see our friends so very often.  I miss coffee mornings and play dates and the whole full-time parenting deal.

Our last time at The Jungle House

Our last time at The Jungle House

In the stay-at-home parent vein, I also miss just hanging out with The Campground Kid one-on-one. We still spend a lot of time together, and we still have a great relationship, but it’s just not the same as being the one at home with her all the time. In many ways, I wasn’t a great stay-at-home mum, and in many ways I enjoy this relationship more (not to mention I love that she gets more time with her Papa), but I still miss the little adventures. I miss moseying off to a playground, wandering around town holding hands, and our random little chats. We had a little coffee date last week while Campground Papa was doing some shopping, and it was a good reminder about how much fun one-on-one time can be. (Goal 1: do this more often).

Visiting the kittens at our favourite Brunei food stalls/playground.

Visiting the kittens at our favourite Brunei food stalls/playground.

I also miss having a housekeeper. We went from all the time in the world (apart from the whole toddler thing) and someone to clean twice a week to no time at all and no help around the house. Our house is small and the chores are pretty manageable, but boy was it nice to not have to worry about them!

And speaking of no time at all, I miss my afternoons off. In Brunei, The Engineer (now Campground Papa) had Friday afternoons off work, and that was always my time. I used to write or read or watch crappy TV or go out for a coffee or get a pedicure or a massage. It was a few hours a week, but it was a really important few hours a week. With the change in pace, adjusting to new things, and a busy holiday season, it just hasn’t quite found a place in our new routine. But I miss it a lot. (Goal 2: do this more often too).

Afternoon off; writing, coffeeing.

Afternoon off; writing, coffeeing.

One more: I miss predictable weather. I didn’t like the weather in Brunei much, but I really really liked it being the same every day. I didn’t have to wonder what to wear each day, or how to dress The Campground Kid. I always knew that it would be too hot, and the only variable was how much it would rain (which didn’t make too much of a difference to most of our decisions). Here, the weather is all over the map. Hot, cold, wet, dry, all in one day. I change clothes and shoes in the middle of the day, I have to carry layers, and I’m just a bit confused by the whole thing after three season-less years.

I’m not writing any of this to moan. Life is good, and we feel very lucky to be here. But writing this list has made me realise a few things that I really want to get into our routine as soon as possible. And in fact, the two goals mentioned above are perfectly covered by a tip that I heard on an old episode of  World’s Okayest Moms (which, as an aside, is great;  you should definitely have a listen, especially if you’re a mum)  The tip was to have a day or two a month, planned in advance, where each parent has half a day off, and half a day alone with the kid(s). This is not rocket science, I know. In fact, it’s just basic family routine stuff. But it’s family routine stuff that I think would be great for us all. Some time hanging with The Campground Kid without distractions; and some time for me to be me outside of work and parenting. Win win win.

Conclusion: change is hard. The grass really was greener over here for us, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss that slightly-less-green Brunei grass and the lifestyle that went with it.

PS – I also miss roti and year round watermelon and iced coffee without all the trimmings and cheap takeaways. But I definitely don’t miss humid heat.

Expectations

“I’m just really disappointed that no one did anything about the noise next door to us last night. We have a young family, and this was not what we expected.” said the tired, annoyed guest.

“I get it. We have a young family too. But we just didn’t hear it here, so we didn’t know. I’m really sorry.”

It was one of my first real customer complaints, and it was from Fred*. Fred who used to be my manager when I was just starting out in the world of Human Resources. Fred who thought quite highly of me  but nowhere near as highly as he thought of himself and had expectations for me. Fred who was my manager before I changed jobs, studied for a new profession, changed jobs again, moved to Brunei, became a parent, moved back to New Zealand and changed jobs again. Basically, he was my manager a whole lifetime ago.

If he recognised me, he didn’t say anything (I guess a different hairstyle and 20+ kg will do that). But I recognised him. And seeing him reminded me of all that career history and just how much has changed. I don’t just look different, I AM different, in so very many ways. The last six years have been great and hard and eventful and transformative.  When I worked with Fred, and when I saw him last, I was young and up and coming and had my life ahead of me. I was destined for big things. A family and a flexible job and managing a team are not small things, but they’re definitely not the things I imagined as a 26 year old starting a new career.

As much as I am happy with the choices I’ve made, and happy with where we’ve ended up, being reminded of the change was a very vulnerable feeling. And being reminded of the change while simultaneously being told I wasn’t doing my job very well was a very very vulnerable feeling.

I think I managed to hide my embarrassment and get on with helping other guests. But by afternoon, it was still nagging away in the back of my mind. Complaints always bother me, and it bothered me more that it was from someone I know (or knew). Then I remembered a situation where Fred had made some rather large mistakes.  It wasn’t necessarily relevant to this situation, but it made me feel a little better.

And THEN I spotted a line on our park information sheet: “If you have a problem with noise, tell the management immediately. Tomorrow is too late.”

YEP. Tomorrow IS too late.

And this made me realise that this whole thing was about expectations, realistic and otherwise. It wasn’t reasonable for him to be angry at me for not solving a problem I wasn’t aware of. But it was definitely reasonable for him to be annoyed.  It wasn’t reasonable of me to expect myself to get it all right every day and get no complaints, especially not seven weeks into an entirely new job and an entirely new life.  It definitely isn’t reasonable to expect all expectations (mine and others’) to be reasonable.

But most of all I realised how almost every time I fall into shame, it’s rooted in expectations; either my expectations or the expectations of others (or at least what I THINK they are). As soon as I start comparing reality to expectations (reasonable or unreasonable, real or imagined) my mind starts to spiral.

I am really happy to be here, to be doing this. It’s still early days, but it feels like a good fit for me and for us. But even though it’s a good fit at 31, it’s a far cry from the expectations anyone had for me at 18, at 21, at 26. Heck, it doesn’t really meet the expectations anyone had for me at 29 or 30.

Going against expectations isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I am mostly inclined to think it’s mostly a great thing. For others. But for ME, my mind usually translates it into a bad thing. After all, I’m a “good girl”. I meet expectations. If I’m not meeting expectations, there must be something “wrong”.  If my kid isn’t meeting expectations, I must be doing something “wrong”. If my life isn’t meeting expectations, I must be doing something “wrong”. (and so on and so forth)

Do you know who is really really good at ignoring expectations? Toddlers. I could learn a lot from her.

Do you know who is really really good at ignoring expectations? Toddlers. I could learn a lot from her.

I KNOW this is a load of tosh. I KNOW it’s just a bit of crazy-making perfectionism rearing its ugly head. But KNOWing doesn’t always make it easier. So with all of that in mind, I have a resolution for this new stage of life:

Cut the comparing and throw those expectations out the window.

I’m going to have to start with baby steps. My first inch forward is writing about it, both here and in my long-abandoned journal.

But most importantly, I’m going to start now. Today. After all, tomorrow is too late.

 

* Name changed to protect him or me, or maybe both.