The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

A family reunited

Hoorah! With less than 12 hours to go, I feel I can safely congratulate myself on getting through nine months of solo parenting. On less than 12 bottles of wine throughout that time. Give or take a gin, whiskey or two. You know what, I think I may crack open a bottle of wine tomorrow in celebration.

It is not just the end to solo parenting that I’m looking forward to. Parenting in itself will throw up the same challenges whether there is one parent or multiples parents around. I don’t think in that respect, anything that I’ve had to deal with has been any harder just because I have been on my own. Though I think what has been hard is that there has been no respite from it. No one to give you that time to recharge yourself for the next round and no one to share the load of just how unreasonable small people can be. No one else for me to say, ‘Can you please just tell them…’ in a way that would suggest another person will make any difference to the bickering going on.

It has definitely been an intense nine months of solo parenting. And yet, I feel thankful for it too. Of course there have been plenty of times I have felt like quietly disappearing to my room to escape them but I would not exchange my role for Husband’s. I can imagine the last nine months has been harder on him being apart from us. Watching from afar as we have struggled through extremely tough and turbulent times and not being able to be the support that he wants to be.ย  Equally being unable to join in all the new experiences that we have had and all the new friends that we have made whilst trying to fill too much free time.

But we have made it through, as I knew we would. Although at the very beginning, before the very beginning when Husband first said that most likely I would have to come back alone with #1, 2 and 3, I did fleetingly wonder how that would work. How can you split a family apart and make it work? And for how long can you do that for? I had discussions with other friends in similar situations and we all decided that up to a year was doable. Anything longer is not sustainable. But thankfully we won’t have to think about that.

As I reflect upon the last nine months, I feel in a bit of a daze that so much time has gone by and in particular all that we have been through. It hasn’t been as simple as moving back and settling into a new town with new friends to find and a new routine to establish. All this and a bereavement too. Being on my own meant that I had to get up and get going every day. To do otherwise was out of the question. And there were many times that another parent would have helped the day run much better. I can think of the moments I would rather forget but I am also amazed and proud that we did get through them.

So finally, I feel it is time to exhale and relax a little. For when Husband arrives tomorrow, we will no longer be counting the days we have until our family is split across two continents and different time zones again. I feel that we can now start ‘living’ our new life. That’s not to say that #1, 2 and 3 and I have not been living our new life. We have and we are doing it really well. But it has also felt like we have been living ‘on hold’ too if you get what I mean.

Just last week, we were walking through town and noticing all the different places we have yet to try out and with Husband’s pending arrival, we can now include him in our plans and that feels so much better. We can start thinking about all the places we can explore and take him to visit the places that we’ve already been to. We can start thinking like a family.

This evening, #1, 2 and 3 were so excited it took them a long time to fall asleep. They cannot wait to see their Daddy. It’s been almost four months since they last saw him. I know people say children are much more resilient than we think and they have handled all the changes with acceptance and an open mind. But I have not enjoyed wiping away their tears over missing their Daddy and for him to miss out on Birthdays and school performances and the joy of their company (when all is good) on a regular day. We have asked a lot of the children and I would not want to put them through this again.

When you need to do something and you think at first you haven’t got it in you, it all falls into place eventually. Taking each day as it comes, you discover quite unexpectedly one day just how far you have come and surprise yourself with how good that feels. I have been strong and resilient and also fallen into a crumpled heap during this time. I have forced myself to be brave when I wasn’t feeling it. Being the only grown up in a household is quite scary. You have to lead the way all the time and be expected to know what to do! I will appreciate the company of another grown up so that I’m not the only one making all the decisions and that includes what we’re having for dinner every night.

Tomorrow starts the beginning of another new adventure and no doubt we will need some time to adjust again. But this time, we begin as a family reunited and it’s time we got to be one again.

Double hoorah!

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And just like that

As bright as three shiny new pound coins, #1, 2 and 3 left the house, bounced down the road and around the corner, off to explore new places and be amazed by great things. 

It has been a long summer holiday for these three. A lot of change. A lot of moving around. A lot of waiting. But finally, a step towards normality. 

Filled with a good mix of nerves and excitement, #1 and 2 started their new Big School just a couple of days ago. Thrown right in at the deep end having never seen the inside of their new school before. What an adventure. And such bravery from them. For what else can be more nervewracking at that age than being the New Kid. The one that doesn’t know what is expected of them. 

  • What do I wear.
  • What’s my teacher called.
  • What do I put in my bag. (Actually this is more for me)
  • Where are the toilets.
  • What if I get scared.

Two years ago I was sending #1 and 2 off to Big School for the first time. They were fine. Two years later, I was sending them off again. They were fine. As I knew they would be. I took them to meet their new teachers, who were waiting to welcome them in class with big friendly smiles. I could feel their hesitation. A few more moments of delay. A few quiet words of nerves. ‘Mummy, I’m scared.’ I know sweetheart but you will have a brilliant day. And I will be waiting at the gates for you.

And of course they did. Brimming full of excitement and hardly believing their good fortune that for school lunch there was ice cream! Ice cream inside some kind of cake. Wow, that sounds exotic. Artic roll? 

The relief is palpable as I hear them excitedly chatter about their day. And the hug. That hug you get when they see you immediately after school. I’m so glad for the chance to get these hugs again. Those arms wrapped around you, filling you with warmth. Then it dissipates like steam and normality resumes. “I’m hungry Mummy.” “Can we go to the park? Whhhhy noooot!”

So you see, I’ve been through this before. I’ve done the whole starting school thing several times. I should be a Pro at this. I should be writing my Get Up and Go List with all three in Big School. Six hours a day of quiet time. Isn’t this what all parents have been waiting for? The countdown to the end of summer holidays and back to school. 

Yes that is quite true. When I was in Gainful   Employment, school marked a sigh of relief that their time was going to be properly occupied and I no longer had to wonder what to do with them outside of the annual leave Husband and I could take.

Equally, since giving up Gainful Employment I have enjoyed seeing their faces everyday. And not just for the last hour, half hour of the day. Some days have been looooong. Some moments of some days could be better but overall, I wouldn’t be without these days. Especially when I think about how fleeting every stage of their childhood can be.

Perhaps it’s because I know how fleeting it is, preparing #3 for Big School has been the hardest. Apparently it always is for the youngest one. Your last baby all grown up. The one you don’t mind crawling into your bed space in the middle of the night, long after the older ones slept all night in their bed. You don’t mind because you know one day it will stop, this little squidgey person snuggling up to you. And one day you want it to stop because they are taking up too much bed space. 

I always enjoyed shopping for school uniform. I think it’s because it was the only time you got so many new things at once! New clothes, new shoes, new bag and new stationery. It seems it’s just as much fun for #1, 2 and 3. (Less so on our pockets though. Three lots of uniform, school bags, PE kit, welly boots.) #2 and 3 have been wearing their new school shoes indoors for days! They are so proud to be wearing their new uniforms and they look so smart in them too.

It’s funny this whole Big School thing. Now that it’s the end of the day, I can laugh about it to myself. How this morning I could barely hug #3 closely and wish her a brilliant day before I could feel the tears threatening to fall. She had no doubt it was going to be ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. Yesterday we talked about how she felt about starting Big School, she was ready. Then she said “you’re going to cry Mummy.” Really? Why! “Because you’ll miss me.”

Ah. She got me there. 

The walk was barely long enough. The Goodbyes in the school yard all too brief. I help her place her bag on her peg and walk her into her new little world. It’s colourful, warm, fun and exciting. This is where #3 belongs. She’s waited patiently for today. For the uniform, the shoes, the friends, the learning. The learning. Constantly telling me that she doesn’t know how to read the words yet. I’m sure it won’t be long. 

I watch her through the window. Overhearing other parents talking about the Parent Syndrome. I have Parent Syndrome too. I wonder if #3 will look up and see me for one more wave. But of course she doesn’t. She’s looking around with a curious happy smile on her face in her smart new uniform and shiny shoes. Full of confidence. She’s looking happy. And then she moves out of sight and it’s time for me to move on. 

But before I do, the Teaching Assistant has already clocked another one with Parent Syndrome. She comes over and asks if  I’m ok, offering words of comfort and encouragement.  I feel even more ridiculous admitting #3 is #3 but she reassures me it’s all quite regular. 

There are days you cry out for ‘ME’ time. A quiet moment to sit down and have a hot cuppa tea uninterrupted. None of the multiple echoes of “Mummy, Mummy”, being able to get jobs done within half the time it takes with three in tow. Sort out boring admin jobs. Clean and tidy. Go out running. Have coffee. Find new cohorts. Regain Gainful Employment. Read a book. Do something new! 

Six hours seemed to pass by quite quickly before I’m back in the school yard. There’s #1 and #2. We go and collect #3 together. She’s all smiles and dishevelled curls. A sign of a brilliant day. 

Later on, we all ask her how she felt. She thinks about it. 

“I almost cried but then I was having too much fun.”
And that is why she’s ready to join in with the big kids.

 

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The end of summer

Perhaps not quite the end of summer. Who knows. There may even be an optimistic few days of balmy weather towards the end of September to send us into a frenzy after our summer/holiday/Singapore standard wardrobe has been relegated to the backs of cupboards and wardrobes. 

I have never known The Weather to feature so prominently in daily life. It’s rather exciting how utterly unpredictable it’s going to be. Rather like the temperament of #1, 2 and 3 all at once. One moment it’s cloudy and grey, the wind picks up a bit and you consider putting on another layer. No sooner have you done this then brilliant sunshine breaks through the clouds and your legs feel on fire, protesting indignantly at being covered up.

My Birthday Treat this year was an outing to York Maze complete with pig racing (put it on your bucket list) and an international corn eating competition no less. (To think a couple of years ago I spent it sipping posh BOGOF martinis at the glossy hotel bar in the Hyatt.) You can just tell the out of towners, the rookies to a British summer by the way they react to the whim of the Weather. Both Mrs Cake Pops and I were like this:

Grey clouds overhead.

She: It’s getting a bit chilly now isn’t it. I’ll go get us coffees.

Me: Ok, go get us coffees. I’m going to put my jacket on.

Sun peeps out.

She: It’s getting a bit warm now isn’t it. I’ll go get us ice creams.

Me: Ok, go get us ice creams. I’m going to take my jacket off. 

This activity is not just reserved for the Grown Ups. I have become a walking wardrobe for #1, 2 and 3. I’m expected to produce raincoats, cardigans, scarves, gloves, wooly hats at their request. And at their change of body temperature, I am equally expected to be a walking coat stand. 

If ever you relocate back to the UK, summer is the season to do so, even Spring if you can. Summer fills people full of cheery optimism and this is what you need when starting a brand new life. Winter receives unfair bad press I think. Why waste a quarter of your life complaining. But from a practical perspective, I’m glad we haven’t waited until December because the last few weeks of getting out and seeing all that is glorious about the UK has definitely softened the edges of transition. 

I’m pretty sure there will be days quite soon where the reality of the change of seasons is less romantic than I remembered. This makes it immensely important to store those days in the outdoors, it doesn’t have to even be sunny,  for the days indoors. But of course by then, I will be excellent at creating indoor entertainment.   

This last day of August marks the end of my first month back to the UK. It’s gone by fast hasn’t it. I can hardly believe it myself. I’ve been very busy looking at what’s around me. Exploring new ground, introducing #1, 2 and 3 to amazing new adventures. Mostly play grounds, parks, woodland walks. We’ve travelled several times to our soon to be new stomping ground and looked at houses and cars together. Involving them in the process of putting together their new life. It’s been a month, only a month, and if you ask them what would they like for lunch or dinner, the answer is still chicken rice. 

I have been so impressed with how much the UK outdoors is putting into getting people outdoors. Farms, parks and country houses that offer amazing days out with really fun activities and not everywhere charges an entry fee. This makes me look forward to other events in other seasons.

  

But to be fair, it hasn’t all been green fields and rolling hills. There have been clouds of confusion, blank space in my brain space, a lot of noise from #1, 2 and 3 and juggling a massive to do list in my head. 

You see, I haven’t had to do All The Stuff on my own for a long time. I’ve always had an extra pair of hands which takes the edge off  things in so many ways. Now all of a sudden and even if it’s not going to be like this forever, I am the person getting us from A to B about 90%, maybe a bit more, of the time. I think I’m getting better at it. I have to be but I’ll let you know in another post in a month’s time when we’ve got a new routine on the go. 

Humans, as #3 often likes to refer to us people, are a resilient species. We can draw immense strength when we need it but we also need to soften our hearts and let others in to help us along the way. This process of repatriation is a slow and long one. Quite frankly I am losing patience and I am weary of living out of a suitcase for six weeks with another three weeks to go. I completely understand why #1, 2 and 3 lose their rag and they have done amazingly well. They miss Husband to a heartbreaking degree and I can only provide big hugs and kisses and to wipe away their tears. They have been distracted with amazing outings and lots of fun and they have received warm welcomes from so many close to us who are very happy to see them, as we are them. But it is time they had their own space and familiar things around them. It is time to create and implement a new normal. One that welds both their Singapore and UK sides together before chicken rice is replaced by chicken nuggets forever.

The lazy days of summer are drawing to a close. August has been a wonderful welcome back. I’ve just returned from a week road trip with #1, 2 and 3 visiting family, godparents and friends. I could not say just how fabulous it has been to see the people of England who have helped us recharge for the next few weeks. 

As I turn my thoughts to the start of a new home, new school year, new school and new school system for #1, 2 and 3, here is where the real steps towards ‘settling in’ begin. I’m almost out of the waiting room and I’ve decided to start a new blog about it too documenting whether repatriation is as difficult as I’ve heard others say.

Until then, there’s still time for a last few glasses of Pimms. 

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Thank you Singapore, you have been amazing!

Did you think I would leave Singapore on a sad note? That is not my style. I am going out with a happy face emoji like this ๐Ÿ˜Š and perhaps with a few of these thrown in too ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ฎ.

I woke up from a good nights sleep ๐Ÿ˜ด at the Shangri La Rasa on Sentosa and no one could wake up unhappy โ˜น๏ธ there. #1’s favourite part of any holiday is unlimited, help yourself breakfast buffet ๐Ÿ˜‹. All the places we have travelled to around South East Asia have done this really well. But without thinking I went for the full English fry up instead of roti prata and soup noodles. ๐Ÿ™„

I’m on my way with #1, 2 and 3 to the UK๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง leaving Husband to fend for himself in Singapore ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌfor a while longer. That’s the hardest part of this move๐Ÿ˜ฅ. It would be totes different if we were all starting off this new chapter at the same time but you know, we’ll be ok. I will miss Husband and so will #1, 2 and 3 but we’ll take each day as it comes. 

Hence there’s this slight panic ๐Ÿ˜ต over suddenly parenting three on my own. Especially since we’ve had home help for the last seven years but fear not, I do know how to work the washing machine, I’ll do the ironing whilst watching Netflix and suddenly I’m all for dishwashers even though in my green marital days I told Husband we would never need a dishwasher as that’s just lazy ๐Ÿ˜’ and when we had kids they would do chores around the house like cleaning and stuff. Except I forgot to factor in that they need to weigh more than the vacuum cleaner before they are of much use ๐Ÿ˜•. Though I can already see that #3 has a clear talent for cleaning which will come in handy ๐Ÿค— and #2 is handy with some carpentry and #1 can do laundry sorting.

Among all the advice I’ve been given about parenting the regular way like the rest of the world, these are my new best friends first and foremost…. ๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿท๐Ÿบ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿธ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿน๐Ÿฅƒ๐Ÿฅƒ๐Ÿฅƒ. And in the UK these new friends cost way less than Singapore. Bonus. ๐Ÿค—.

But that aside, I’m packed up ๐ŸŽ’ and ready to start this next new adventure of our own. Thank you for all your kind words of friendship and support these past few weeks. I’m so grateful for friends who have had #1, 2 and 3 over for all day, and I do mean all day, play dates, when the packers were around. Thank you for making the time to fit in last minute catch ups and dinners. Even at the very last hour for one more glass of bubbles.

Of course there’s a part of me that’s still sad ๐Ÿ˜ซ. Like not being in the same time zone as Brilliant New Adventure and having to wait hours for a reply to my photo and ‘what do you think of these?’ messages. But I’m so very glad that nine years ago, fate would put us both together again. โค๏ธ.

Besides some of the more obvious life changing experiences involving travel, parenthood and Gainful Employment in a new country, the biggest and most significant experience I’ve encountered is the network of inspiring women I’ve met. ๐Ÿ’ช. Having reached that 40 PLUS milestone and starting afresh in your 40s, it could seem a bit daunting. Note I say could. But I’m totally nonplussed about that. I’ve been surrounded by strong, independent women all these years who do nothing but support each other in everyday things, sporting achievements and Gainful Employment advancement to have learnt a thing or two about communication and camaraderie. ๐Ÿ‘.
For the past nine years I have had the support of many amazing women to get through all these new challenges. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without you. I will miss your sound advice and good shoes ๐Ÿ‘ . But I know you’re just one whatsapp away.

Even though I have mentioned on other social media platforms that Twin One has a certain knack of encouraging my running ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธprowess, I would not push myself as far without her watchful eye ๐Ÿ‘€. I’m pretty sure she’ll continue doing so when I’m over there too. And so she should. ๐Ÿ‘. But covering four running routes in this last week whilst residing at Windsor Castle has taken a toll on my knees but filled my heart. 


  
There’s still a lot I’ve not done in Singapore and I keeping hearing of new hidden gems all the time like Mrs Imperturbable’s love of torch ginger and foraging for fresh herbs at Fort Canning.  As I sat there on a sun lounger watching #1, 2 and 3 charge around the poolside, I couldn’t help but feel thankful for all the amazing experiences I’ve had. The opportunity to travel to places I would never imagine I’d make it to and still more that I didn’t get to but feel I must some day.

At this juncture, I have new opportunities ahead and I have additional experiences, expectations and understanding to add to it. That’s quite something to keep in mind. 
Yes, I’ll miss Singapore and Asia. I’ll miss being in a culture that is also partly my own but now I know far better how to integrate that part into the lives of #1, 2 and 3. Lion dancing around the living room. Lantern walking in the garden. Earl grey chiffon cake for afternoon tea ๐ŸŽ‚โ˜•๏ธ.

This Singapore sojourn has been an amazing experience for Husband and I but it’s time for a new chapter. And almost like fate is guiding us towards it, just as I’m walking into the breakfast room this morning I happen to bump into an old friend who made the move to the UK just two and a half years ago. Hearing first hand of how it has been for their family has been so good to hear and we are already looking forward to catching up in the UK.

And don’t think I’m not thinking about all you people in the UK who I can’t wait to see! I just need to find a car ๐Ÿš™ and house๐Ÿ˜ to live in before I’ll be making our first British summer road trip. 

And you know what? I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings. ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ˜Š

Thank you Singapore. I’ll miss all that is good about you. I’ll miss all these faces and so many more. Let me hug you all again right now. ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ˜˜

But for now it is time to say Hello again UK! See you tomorrow ๐Ÿ˜.

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