I am not one of those expat mums who can breathe a sight of relief at the weekend when the loneliness of expat life may be relieved by having your other half at home. I am not one of those mums who can reliably say 'yes' to the kindergarten staff when they announce the parents' evening will be on such day. I am not one of those expats, I envy, who can sign-up to meet up other expat ladies for a secret Santa party.
Because as well as the loneliness of being an expat mum, I also have a travelling husband. He is away from home for about half of each month. And this includes weekends as his trips are not a mere 2-hour train ride away. In the past couple of months alone, he has been to Berlin, Tokyo, Tunis, Washington and probably a few other places I can't remember. We have had one full weekend with him (but who's counting??!!).
It is a tough set up as I cannot rely on countless numbers of family members or friends to just pop round and do me favours to help me out. After 2 years here, we finally have a wonderful babysitter but she is not always available. She has her own life.
Are you feeling sorry for me yet? I can tell you it is hard (very hard some days) but we survive.
LJ and I have devised our own little coping strategies. And we are getting pretty good at it. We make sure that, when P is away, we schedule plenty of time out of the house: playdates, visits to the zoo, playground, library, etc. I like to plan the days so they are full of things to do (some more mundane than others) so that we (I) don't get bored and I start feeling sorry for myself.
|PIN me to read later|
- use a globe or a map: we do show her before P leaves where he is going on a globe and point out to a few things people in that country like or do. She also likes to ask what animals live there. Tunis was our camel 'lesson'. Tokyo was about kimonos and how people may dress differently. Of course, she has no concept of distance yet but it helps her label those places (for herself and to talk to others).
- contact: we use Skype or Facetime to talk to P daily. LJ now also understands the concept of sending her dad a picture for him to see on his phone, so we use that as a reminder of his presence on the other side of the phone or ipad.
We sometimes struggle to make the time difference work for everyone. During his last trip to Tokyo, P was about to go to bed when he called us every day and we often saw him in his PJs prompting shock from LJ who didn't understand why he was in his PJ. We had to explain time differences for the first time.
- bring gifts back: the gifts don't have to be anything fancy. LJ used to love when P would bring her the socks and blindfolds of the plane companies he travelled with. She used them with her dolls and teddies. From Japan, he brought her back a little pretend sushi set to play with and this was a wonderful opportunity to explain about different eating habits.