You know how there are things in life that look easier than they actually are? Like handstands, setting up your iPhone and baking macaroons. Well I am here to tell you that emigrating is way harder than you might think, and I’m pretty sure most people think it’s really difficult.
I don’t find the administration of it too hard. There are a lot of forms to fill in, you have to plan ahead so you meet deadlines and as much as possible, you need to organise the various stages of moving from one country to another to happen in a coherent order.
Instead, one of the many things I am really struggling with this week (it’s been a particularly tough one) is how drawn out it is. We have been in the UK for 10 weeks now, but our belongings only arrived on Wednesday.
In the last couple of months, Gareth has started a new job, we’ve found a place to live, the children have nearly done a half term of school and I have set up our lives as much as you can when you don’t have any furniture, TV, computer, more than two pairs of shoes.
It was super hot the day everything arrived and it was total chaos as five increasingly sweaty fellas unloaded an entire container of wrapped up furniture and boxes. By the time they had finished it was difficult to see any floor in our cottage, which is probably half the footprint of our house in NZ. The following five days have been about emptying the 141 parcels and finding a place to put their contents, which has led to three trips to the tip (so far) and ironically more trips to IKEA and Habitat to buy new furniture to put things in.
After the last 10 weeks of doing everything on the floor, such as eat, work, sleep, sit, watch TV, do homework with the children; delivery day had become like a much longed for Christmas. As I spend the most time in the house and in general, my functions as mother, wife and copywriter are home based, I have probably been the most frustrated by the wait for such luxuries as a desk, a sofa and a kitchen table.
By Saturday morning, I was well and truly over it. Everyone in the family was getting their marching orders, THE HOUSE HAD TO BE UNPACKED BY THE END OF THE WEEKEND OR I WAS GOING TO LOSE MY SHIZZLE!
To be honest, I have never been too far away from a total meltdown since this whole circus began in February. And whilst I can count on one hand the number of times I have been reduced to a gibbering wreck, I am finding it hard to remember what I am like when life is normal.
It’s obvious I know, but emigrating stops you living a normal life. You are either packing down your life or setting it up. I personally feel like I am in a grey, pause-like state. Gareth goes to work, the children attend school and my days are filled with various emigration activities such as, buy English plugs, paint the kitchen, pay for a TV licence, follow up the council to see if Jackson has a place in the village school, build a shelving unit for Minnie’s room, contact the removal company about the broken chest of drawers, and a hundred other little things that are essentially getting us as a family into a baseline life in the UK.
I find I have to fill my brain with light hearted things so I don’t let it fill up with lots of dark thoughts like; why did we do this? I have no friends. What am I doing with my life?We’ve just taken a huge financial step backwards. Is Jackson’s OCD my fault? I am the worst mother ever. I could go on and on. The Netflix series ‘Jane the Virgin’ and an audio book of Mary Berry’s biography, have provided perfect distractions in the house and car. And as both escapes come to an end, I am sprinting to finish set up before the summer holidays arrive!
Half a year since we decided to come back to the UK and there is one messy room of books, clothes, furniture and computers left to sort out and then my new life will begin. I have no idea what my normal life is going to look like. I don’t know what I am going to be doing. I don’t know who I will be spending most of my time with. And worst of all, I have to work out who is Claire – lived in New Zealand for five years, repatriated back to Berkshire, wife of programme manager on large engineering alliance, mother of young children, freelancer of who knows what, resident of well-to-do village, recovering from back surgery, living on a tight budget and now most definitely in her forties.
Whilst I may save the highlights for Instagram and Facebook (because who likes to hear privileged first-world people complain?) I can confess here, there are a few challenges to emigration and it’s not as easy as it looks.