When you move from one country to another, you have to be flexible about your living arrangements. Ultimately, you are going to be unsettled for a significant period of time, and you need to be OK with that. I think there are ways of making it less stressful, but they require money being no object. It would be things like setting up a house in advance of you moving, or living in a furnished house for three months whilst you wait for your belongings to arrive on a ship, or owning properties in various parts of the world…that sort of thing.
I have learnt a lot about myself in this area of emigration. Main thing being, to have the ability to make the most of a situation when it’s not comfortable for me. In our family, I am the home maker. I don’t mean Gareth doesn’t have a part to play in building our home, his DIY skills are second to none and he puts up shelves like a champ, but as it’s me who is at home more and handles the day to day care of our children, it falls to me to make wherever we are habitable, be it a hotel room or an unfurnished rental. Also I am a woman and in general we are naturally more aware of the environment we live in, examples being: I keep track of how long it’s been since sheets were washed, I prefer used mugs to go in the dishwasher, not left on the bedside table and I am aware that a toilet does not clean itself.
When you are moving a little family to a strange and far off land, their comfort and sense of home is a priority, because if they are unsettled then everyone is. You get less sleep, dropping them off at school takes a really long time, things get broken, tears are an hourly accurance and the number of times you have to go looking for a lost toy increases tenfold. This means, whenever we move into a new place, the first task is setting up the children’s space.
At the moment Gareth and I are sleeping in the living room of our rented house. We bought what looks like an extra long foot stool that folds out into a double bed for us to sleep on. It’s not a sofabed so there is no mattress and we are effectively sleeping on an upholstered plank of wood. We stay in the living room so the children have somewhere to sit during the day. They often eat packets of crisps and digestive biscuits whilst sat on our bed so we sleep on a crumbly, upholstered plank of wood.
The children however have brand new beds that we put up in 24 hours of moving into the house and I still have blisters on my hands from screwing in 10,000 slats on the bunk bed of Minnie’s dreams. They also have drawers and wardrobes and special boxes to put their toys in. Our suitcases are still open on the floor of the bedroom we don’t sleep in.
However, the children have somewhere to sleep and to be sent to when they are doing my head in. They are not allowed to complain about being uncomfortable and not being able to get to sleep. And I can tell them to pick up their stuff and put it in their bedroom and they have no excuses. This means living in an otherwise unfurnished house, is bearable.
When we moved to Christchurch, we lived in a furnished house until we bought the house we then lived in for the next five years. The upside of this was that we didn’t have to buy a second toaster, kettle, set of cutlery, crockery, pans, sharp knives, glasses, iron, ironing board and microwave like we have just done here. However the downside was that we slept on beds that other people had slept on (I can put this to the back of my mind for a week in a hotel but for three months it wears me down), there was a much higher chance of us damaging the landlord’s things and it’s generally a much higher rent. I think it’s harder doing it the way we are now as in order to curb the costs you do have to live without a lot of things, but I still probably prefer it because I don’t actually like living in a place that someone else has set up.
It’s been a really sunny week here, the weather is gorgeous and the place we live in is stunning – there are so many walks I could do from our house and as I am beginning my rehab from back surgery I should be making the most of the opportunity, but I’m not. Instead I am spending the week painting in our house. The owner has a list of things he’s committed to getting done to get the house tidied up for us. I’m super pleased this list includes a new shower in the bathroom! But there are things I wanted to do to make this place our home. I know it may only be for 12 months, and it’s time and money we won’t get back, but this is our home for now and I want to enjoy being in it, to have family and friends come visit. I want it to fit the rhythm of our lives and even though we don’t own it, I want it to feel like ours. So I am painting and putting up new curtains that were on sale in John Lewis.
It’s one of the biggest challenges of emigrating but building a home is one of the most important things you do, so that your family can be happy wherever you are.