We’re home. About four months now. As I type those words I’m wondering how that is even possible? Where has this time gone? The beautiful summer days? Just gone in a fog of tiredness, stress, anxiety, worry and then the wonderfulness of catching up with family and friends. The joy of being close to home for family occasions, the girly catch ups and the family support.
The repatriation back to Ireland has been ok. But hard. I didn’t expect it to be easy and I went into it with open eyes and that definitely helped. But we arrived back to a country with a housing crisis. With high rents, lack of availability in housing and childcare and its definitely been a stressful time readjusting. Add to that then that Rob has a huge amount of travel in his new role and that he was gone 6 out of the first 7 weeks that we were here and I realise now that during that time, I just about kept my head above water.
Anyway, here we are and we are in our new home two weeks. We love it! It’s ideally what I would build. We are hoping to buy a family home in the next year if we decide to stay in Ireland long term but for now we are just happy to be in the area that we want in Galway so that we can focus on the kids and getting them registered for schools etc.
For me, I have been so consumed by them and in such a sleep deprived fog that I haven’t taken much time to think about my own transition and what’s next for me. I’m starting a post grad in digital marketing in the coming weeks and thinking that in early 2019 I will return to work full time. It all feels very strange having only worked part time and when suited me over the past four years. I feel a bit redundant, like I’m starting again. An ole wan, with no career – the kept wife. Clearly my confidence has also taken a blow by being out of work to.
I guess that leads me onto the main crux of this piece. What does the trailing spouse do when you’re home? You’re still trailing. You’re still picking up the pieces. Organising the shipments, the unpacking, the schools, the daycare.. Planning the lives of your family and trying to ease the transition as much as you can for everyone else. But you’re not the trailing spouse anymore. Before you’ve even had a chance to catch your breath family and friends are asking when your going back to work? The moms at the school gate ask what do you do? The mortgage broker wants to know what your plan is for the future… I haven’t stopped spinning and I don’t know the answers right now. My support system of expat friends is gone. My friends that kept me sane and called over for coffee no longer live down the road. It’s all new for me here. I don’t have many friends in the area. No one to call upon for advice about childcare or keep me company while Rob is away with work and I have the kids alone for 10 days straight. His family are close and they’re wonderful but I can’t rely on them all the time. I need my own community. My own network. I need my returned expats who understand what we are going through.
It’s weird being home in Ireland and feeling more foreign than I did in my third year living in Puerto Rico. In so many ways my heart aches for the sun, the beach, our friends and the people. Yet, my head knows that home is home and it’ll feel like home again. It just takes time. Like starting an expat assignment all over again.
We knew it was coming. We came to Puerto Rico for two years and stayed for three. We always intended to leave in 2018. We discussed our options and made a decision and yet when it was final and flights were being booked it hit me like a train. The feeling that the adventure is over, the indipedence of travel and freedom that we have experienced over the past three years is coming to an end.
Our time here has far exceeded any expectations that we could ever have had. Surrounded by amazing friends, beautiful beaches and quality family time we have had such a great time. I couldn’t have asked for better and all good things must come to an end. Now, don’t get me wrong. Life has its challenges no matter where you live. The inconsistency in services here in Puerto Rico, the hours spent waiting for appointments, the dangerous driving etc have all been challenges. Never mind living through a category 5 hurricane last year. I’m a believer in life is what you make of it and while those things have been frustrating they didn’t really impact on our lives here. There’s always ways around it and I adjusted quickly.
So when faced with the decision of where we were going to go we had a decision of mainland US or home. Home won out for us. The job was more attractive for Robert and now having a three month old little girl who hasn’t yet gotten to meet her family in Ireland we realised the importance of being close to family.
We are going to live in Galway close to Rob’s family and we have rented a beautiful house on the beach front in Spiddal that will be a great starting base for our family back home. Rob is going to be travelling for a huge amount of the first year with his new job and that’s also going to be an adjustment.
When we came here we didn’t know anyone and it worked out great for us and we made wonderful friends. In fact, I really feel a close connection to my expat friends. Like we have all been on a journey and can laugh about experiences and like its a private joke that other people wouldn’t understand. I’m hoping that it’ll be easy in Galway to get to know people and to establish ourselves there with a community thats just as strong as the one we have had here.
I’m looking forward to finding a part of myself that I lost here. The part of me that worked outside the home. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do – study for while or return to part/full time work but it’s definitely something that I need to do for me. I’ve been home with my children for three years now which was never really in my plan. I certainly don’t regret the time that I’ve spent with them but I’ve missed having a professional working life and I can’t wait to drink hot coffee again!
So much change, so much to organise and so much to look forward to. Puerto Rico will forever have a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to return and bring Mary Kate back some day and show her where she was born.
A few months back I wrote about my personal experience as the trailing spouse and how it has left me feeling deflated about a return to work. I’ve lost confidence in my ability to be more than the care giver.. minding our son and ensuring that there’s shirts ironed and food in the fridge. You can see the original blogpost here….
For my own sanity I need to start getting back in the game and I’m putting on my big girl pants. I’m so afraid of putting myself out there to work again that I need to build up that confidence again. So I’ve started to make a plan…
First of all I’m starting a diploma in Digital Marketing. It will include social media marketing and SEO. I know most of this already but the refresher will do me the world of good. The changes in two years since I was in full time employment have been drastic too so I’m sure there’s something to be gained from this. It’s all distance online learning so it gives me the opportunity to work it around my schedule and Michael and still have time for the activities that we do here and my never ending battle in the gym to some day regain my pre mammy body!
Next on my list are online advanced courses in web and graphic design.. Again skills that I’ve used before but need a little updating. I’m hoping if I have time then before the summer that I may undertake something in photography and/or video editing.
Then when all this is done it will be time to put myself out there again and start using these skills. The plan will be to work from home and freelance but hopefully on long and short term projects. Essentially I would also like to produce a marketing toolkit – a how to guide with basic instructions and guidelines for small businesses. I don’t believe in social media experts and I see people being ripped off constantly so essentially I would like to make this guide available for training purposes and show people how they can do it themselves.
Lastly, I’ve always been passionate about volunteering and charity. I’m meeting with a volunteer from a local orphanage this week to discuss how I can get involved. I’ve committed to run a small fundraiser for them in the coming months as well as some other things in the pipeline. We already support a child in Uganda so I really want to be involved hands on as well as financially.
As scary as this is I need it for my sanity. I need to gain my personal and financial independence. I need to be more than the trailing spouse and I hope by the end of 2017 I will be a long way to doing this. And who said living in the sun was all about cocktails on the beach? Trust me… they’re nice too but I need to be more than just that!