Leaving Godzone

THE BALANCE has been paid, the tickets are ours, and we’re off to England. Not yet, because of course we are no-way-near ready, but in a month not far away.

So, we will leave Godzone, for six months, six years, forever – we don’t know. We will go to a place where children don’t walk to school. Where parents must pass through security and metal detectors to get into their child’s classroom. Where teachers can’t hug their pupils. We will go to a place where the Little Mister will be surrounded by cousins, great aunties and uncles, family. Europe will be a hop skip and jump away, with its castles, ruins, history and stories. We will leave our big house and garden from where we can walk to the shops, the swings, the city, the sea, the zoo. We will leave this place as the barbecues of summer still sizzle, and we will wrap the Little Mister in merino and down jackets and shield his face from the biting cold that is the English winter. We will, next year, decorate a tree while the ground outside is frosty, the nights come early, and the fairy lights twinkle from late afternoon. We will visit Christmas markets, go to see the windows and lights in town, and later make a snowman with a big orange carrot for a nose.

We will spend the next few months running around trying to get ready to say goodbye. We will cry when we hug and kiss those we love here. We will pack boxes while he sleeps, scrub window panes while he plays, and call packing companies and letting agents when he is distracted. We will worry about money, about jobs, about our new life. We will worry whether we are doing the right thing. We are doing it all for the Little Mister.

Who, by the way, had his passport photo taken. This, my darling Little Mister, looks more to me like a photo of you about to start school at four. When did you get so grown up?

London Calling

WE ARE taking the Little Mister to the other side of the world. After months of deliberating, we’ve decided to do it. We’re going back to London.

It began as an idea we both thought would fade. Never in seven years had I wanted to live again in London. We started thinking about it in those sleep-deprived blurry first few weeks of his life. It was so hard, we were so tired. And here we were, half a world away from the people who could help us most. They came to us, yes, but what would happen when they went? Home was calling me back.

Milin’s first half year has seen our lives become so much harder, but also so much richer. I have discovered an amazing network of mums, I have made wonderful new friends, and the Little Mister has had it pretty good too. His life here is superb. We walk in the sunshine most days, it’s easy to get around, people are good to us, we have so much fun in baby club, the ocean is close. Life is simple and good. But, it’s not enough.

London will be hard, we know. But it will also mean the Little Mister can be surrounded by family and grow up with cousins nearby, just as I did. He will miss his New Zealand family, but we will be back of course. He will have two homes. He too, one day, may grapple with this same geographic conundrum that we do.

When I handed in my notice on Friday, my little suggestion suddenly became a reality. I don’t know where we will start on this process of packing up our lives and starting them again on the other side of the world. I don’t know what we will do, whether we will find jobs, or whether London will spit us out and send us back to Godzone tired and beaten. But I do know that come the end of the year, our little family will embark on a new adventure. We will be leaving behind much-loved family and friends. We will be leaving behind our home, Milin’s first playmates, and a lifestyle that I have come to love. But we will be heading for the open arms of others who won’t miss any more of this beautiful little boy’s growing up journey.

The Big G (Guilt)

While I was pregnant with Milin, I had a feeling that once he was born certain emotions would be magnified. I expected, for example, to feel responsibility more intensely. And I do. I thought my experience of fear would be greater. It still is. (I’m constantly terrified of doing this whole parenting thing wrong.) But what I was not prepared for was the guilt.

I have been working two days a week since Milin was four months old. Undoubtedly, the first day back was the hardest. I worried constantly. Was he taking the bottle? (He was.) How many mls had he drunk? (Not enough.) Was he staying awake for too long? (He was.) Was he getting day sleeps in his cot? (Not enough.) But, despite the worry, I knew that he was with his favourite person, his dad. I knew he was happy. And I knew Tony would be fine.

I had expected to worry Р and constant updates, photos sent by text, and numerous phone calls helped to ease my nerves. Yet what almost overwhelmed me was the feeling of guilt. Guilt that I should not have left my Little Mister.

Most evenings that I have been at work, I get home and Milin is asleep. Sometimes he is swaddled up snuggly and taking up a tiny portion of space at the bottom of his cot, with his bunny by his side. Sometimes, he is in Tony’s arms, and they might both be sleeping, exhausted from simply making it through another day.

But I have come home and felt my heart break into pieces as I turned the key in the door and heard him screaming. Poor hungry Milin, in his father’s arms, waiting while the milk was warmed. If I had been home he wouldn’t have had to wait.

I know you have to leave them one day. But I wonder if I did it too soon. Milin looks for me when I am gone. Now he is more aware of his world he tries to starve himself, knowing I will come home in the evening. Tony is the best dad in the world. But sometimes, when Milin gets hungry, or when he wakes up suddenly, he just wants his mum. And sometimes, I’m not there.

I asked a colleague, working full time with slightly older children, how she did it. She said it didn’t get easier.

I can’t imagine not working. I have worked hard to be doing what I enjoy, and the buzz of doing it drives me to want to do it more. It also helps pay the bills. Is that selfish?

When I returned to work part time, I was in no way prepared for how hard two days a week would be. I am learning to cope with the constant tiredness. Tony and I are getting better at juggling the logistics. Expressing is hardly convincing me that women’s liberation was a good thing – but Milin will surely one day take formula. All these things will get easier.

The Little Mister loves hanging out with his dad. Tony makes him laugh, he plays the guitar, he reads him stories with more voices and jokes in them than I can think of, he pulls funny faces. But sometimes, I’m simply not there to hold Milin close to me and kiss him. When it comes to the guilt, there is no answer.