Journal: Happy wife…happy life? Or, how to make a new life

It’s funny how punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence, like “Let’s eat, grandpa” vs “Let’s eat grandpa”…Poor guy.  (I have such a baby brain today I couldn’t even think of a good example, credit to cybertext.)

I wanted to write today about the adjustment to life in a new place.  Am I a happy wife?  I’ve never felt such in the role of ‘wife and mother’ than I am here as the tagalong to the winemaker’s harvest. Wine people are passionate, and they spend a lot of time talking about wine, my wine chat only goes so far.  So here, in wine country, the people I meet aren’t really getting to know me, just me as wife to winemaker and mum to Isobel.  Which is fine, it’s a novel change from the busy city corporate life I’m on hiatus from.  Is it important that I’m a happy wife right now?  I’d say yes and no.  (and I am btw, just pondering the question)to

We are only here in New Zealand for 2 months and only away for 3.  We’ve been talking about taking this trip together with baby before we even started trying to have the baby.  I always thought it sounded exciting, but the reason I was keen for it was to give my husband the opportunity to work in this region, an experience he has always wanted and very valuable for his CV.  Once we had the baby and the time was approaching, he was struggling to find a job where it was also feasible to bring us with (accommodation being the major challenge) so when he found this one it cemented how important it was to be here as it isn’t easy to get a business on the other side of the world to sponsor your short term visa when they don’t know you from Adam.  I was starting to get the fear shortly before we left as I was worried this precious period of my first year with my girl and the irreplaceable maternity leave was being wasted far away rather than in London, the city where I have so many friends with kids and there is so much to do.  So coming here was daunting.  On the positives however I knew that being away from London would mean I eliminated the distractions from Isobel, the socialising more for me than her (many coffees/lunches/mee t-ups where she is sleeping or has been sitting in the pram playing with the same toy), so I could really concentrate on this incredible period (6-9 months old) and make the most of every moment together.  Now we’ve been here for 2 weeks, both are true.  I miss London, I miss the variety of activities, I miss having lots of stuff (all her toys, books, gadgets etc) and I miss our friends and family.  Yet on the flipside, she’s changing every day, she’s crawling, she’s learnt to clap her hands (yeah doesn’t seem like a big deal but my god when you’re watching her on the monitor meant to be sleeping and she starts banging those tiny palms together, you couldn’t be more proud!) and I am here, engaged and watching for every single moment.  It’s really cool.  Most importantly, my husband is getting this great experience, yet he gets to come home every night to us, and often a hot meal and his clothes washed.  He’s sacrificed a lot for me in the past and I think it’s fair to make  decisions better for one at time than both as long as the balance is right and the long-term decisions work for the family.

Having a baby is a terrific way to meet people, particularly when not working.  Even in the smallest towns there are some facilities for babies.  The Kiwi government seems quite similar to UK in that they provide a lot of resources for young families.  The best thing we’ve come across is Playcentre – it’s like a nursery/daycare but entirely parent run and very low cost for access.  The local one here runs 3 mornings a week from 9.30-12.30 and the facilities are fantastic.  Isobel was so excited to interact with other kids and there were great things for her to play with.  As she’s an infant, there is no cost either so it really is perfect.  I am coming to the conclusion that it’s unlikely in a short 2 month period that I’ll make many lasting friendships, so instead I am just focusing on filling our time with fun and interesting activities and primarily ensuring that Isobel has a good amount of socialising, stimulation and development.  Here are my top tips for settling into a new place:

  1. Join local groups with a baby it’s easy, playgroups and classes, but this applies to anyone be it a book club, knitting group or hockey club
  2. Be a tourist extraordinaire – there is so much to do and see, in any place, so make the most and get out there and do it.  Within 1.5 hours (a decent nap duration for the car journey) of here are an incredible seal colony, a nature reserve where you can see the rare kiwi, NZ’s cultural capital Wellington and a recreation of Stonehenge(?)
  3. Find a project – baby’s do nap, so I do have decent time to kill, especially once the harvest really kicks in and my evenings will be spent alone as hubby works late, so this blog is my project.  It’s a great record of the experience we’re having and an experiment to find out if our experience is interesting/valuable to other people.  I’m really enjoying the instagram side of it too.
  4. Facebook groups – there is a facebook group for everything, type in the name of your town/region and there will likely be an array of groups come up.  I’ve joined one for local buy and sell, breastfeeding, babywearing, various events and markets.  Now I can probably tell you more about local goings on that the regional tourist centre!  Ensures every fun and random activity we know about to visit if so inclined.
  5. Church – or other place of worship, if it’s your thing.  You’ll never find a friendlier or more welcoming place, in my experience.  I have visited the local one here, and it’s extremely warm and friendly but I am around 40 years younger than the average parishioner

Every experience is what you make of it, and it’s been really good to push me out of my comfort zone to see how I manage with a new life and new place.  We often talk about the eventual decision on whether or not to stay in London and this has provided me with a lot to consider about how or where I could feasibly do that and be happy.  I am so pleased to have this experience and opportunity to be here, particularly as it’s allowed us to have an amazing holiday en route, but I’ll be really ready to make the most of Londontown when we return.

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