Time is a slippery beast. Because somehow, we have been in Switzerland for half a year and I genuinely don’t know how that has happened. But at the same time as it feeling like it was yesterday, I look back to that heady Easter weekend when we arrived with a newborn and toddler and as much of our lives as we could squash into nine bags and it feels like lifetimes have passed.

It also feels like a good time to stop, take a big fat gulp of mountain air and reflect on what may have been the most ridiculous (amongst other things) six months of my life. (Before I go on, here’s the start of the story if you missed it.)

So…

Firstly, the honeymoon period is over. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just that this is life now. It no longer feels like a holiday we forgot to fly home from. We don’t get to eat ice cream every day (although frozen petit filous are ok if they keep the peace.) I no longer feel in a permanent state of freefall. Although there are still moments. Google translate is still my pal, but not my best pal. My French is still embarrassing, I still miss entire words out of sentences but I am giving it a go without the help of my trusty side kick more often. And I’m understanding more. Going to the supermarket is no longer the equivalent of launching a space mission, although life admin is still clunky on account of the volume of it here and the language barrier (and my allergy to it).

Most of all I am still shattered. I think I will always be shattered. Exhaustion, is not the sole domain of the mum who moves country, or who has a newborn, or both. It is the permanent state of all Co-Founders of small people. I am not sure why I hadn’t figured this out sooner (optimism that it was temporary, probably) but there it is. I feel exactly as tired as I did when I wrote my first instalment of this blog three weeks into our move which proves that moving to Switzerland wasn’t to blame. The transition from one to two kids was by far the bigger move. Doing both at the same time is, doable, but not recommended if at all possible.

But, we made it. We picked up our lives and we have found a new place to genuinely call home. We are in four whole pieces. We’ve found nurseries (and therefore sanity), people to hang out with, regular supermarkets, stuff to do at the weekend, a gazillion parks, a babysitter (v important). We’ve figured out bin days, parking restrictions (the hard way), where the tip is, how health insurance works (ish), where to go for a really good fondue (priorities), how to get Swiss driving licences (you have to trade in your UK driving licence for a Swiss one within a year of arriving otherwise you can be forced to retake your test. This would be disastrous for me – she who maxed out the number of minor faults you can get and still pass – so we have started the process early. It’s another thing you need a degree in life admin to get through but it makes this whole move feel more official). So in other words, we’ve broadly got the tangible stuff of life sorted.

As for the intangibles, well that’s a bit more messy. And interesting.

I’ve learnt, for example, that moving countries doesn’t equal running away. In fact, it’s the opposite. Because insecurities, faults, fears – the stuff that makes you, you – comes with you and without the cushioning of the familiar, they are magnified rather than the distant specs in the rear view mirror you may have hoped. By the same token, when you’ve made a huge decision to move your life and family somewhere and it serves you up a sh*&&y day / week, it feels more weighted. But then you remember that you had bad days at ‘home’ too and it doesn’t make the decision to be here wrong. Shit happens. No matter who or where you are. That is all.

The upside to this magnified life, is that the same rules apply to the mundane. There’s something about living abroad that makes you feel life more intensely – like when the toddler goes to her first nursery pal’s party (a normal rite of passage for any two-and-a-half-year-old) and your heart bursts with pride as she figures out how to interact with a bunch of girls who are two years older and speaking a different language. When you’re out of your comfort zone, the little things feel like the big things and isn’t that what they say? We look back and realise that the little things were the big things all along. Being here reminds me of that every day and I am grateful for it. Being out of your comfort zone is the best lesson in living in the now.

Whilst I maintain that children are generally way better than adults at dealing with change, it doesn’t mean they are totally immune. Protest, for us, came in the form of the potty. Or lack of it. Having shown early signs of being interested, when we changed her entire universe, the toddler decided she was going to hang onto nappies like the life rafts on the Titanic. This was probably a good thing. Dealing with Play Doh and urine cocktails (a genuine offering on last week’s menu in our house), and exclamations of ‘Mum, mum, where have my knickers gone? from a toddler who has given herself a wedgy, may have tipped me over the edge in the first few weeks. Incidentally, I have now worked out the true origin of the term ‘potty mouth’. It relates to the specific swearing done by parents under their breath when their offspring decides to poo anywhere but the potty but ‘the book’ says that you must stay positive and not react negatively. I digress. Amongst all the poo gags (and I use that word in both senses) there is a serious message in there about change and children and how they do have a limit.

I haven’t felt homesick. Because I don’t think home is just one place. But I do feel people ache because people can, usually, only be in one place. I miss the lifelong pals that I don’t have to make an effort with. Sunday friends. The ones who knew you before you were a mum, wife, expat {insert labels here}. It is the single biggest trade off for choosing this life. Distance from family and oldest pals.

But six months is also enough time to start putting down solid foundations for new friendships. I’ve met some pretty amazing women here, and there’s something about sitting under the magnifying glass of expat life, again, that gets you beyond the niceties more quickly and into the more meaningful stuff where real connection starts and stays. And on the subject of remarkable women, I’m now working with some, both on and off stage for the next TEDx Lausanne Women event in December. I’m still looking for the 25th hour in the day to squeeze it all in but my god, it feels good to be part of something with purpose and sass and no bums to wipe.

So are there times when I wish we’d kept life a bit more simple? Yes. But is it all worth it. Yes. It really is. Because under the magnifying glass of this mother of all moves, the highs are higher too. And when the highs are missing in action, it teaches you what you’re made of.

I’ve learnt that it is possible to do more than you thought was possible.

I’ve been reminded you that you are doing epic s%&t even when you thought you were just going to a kid’s party.

Six months on, life is still big and juicy, even when it’s also small and covered in pee.

And we’re still making lemonade.

 

4 thoughts on “The Mother of All Moves 2.0

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