We’ve now been here just over two months. I’ve been waiting for it to happen- and to be quite honest I am dreading it. The ‘it’ being that feeling many expats experience once the sparkly newness of being in a new country begins to fade- homesickness. I’ve been dreading this aspect of being an expat much like I dreaded the possibility of postpartum depression when I was pregnant with my boys. Constantly on the alert- I quiz myself- reflect and have come to the conclusion that something must indeed be wrong with me since I am not homesick yet.
We bought this canvas when planning B’s nursery. We love it so much we brought it with us, and now it hangs in the playroom as a reminder of home.
I wasn’t kidding about the postpartum depression paranoia. I have known many moms that experienced it and know that it isn’t a joke. It isn’t something that you can control and your best defense against it is education and support. As I neared the end of my first pregnancy- I reached out to a postpartum doula to be there for me the first couple of weeks once I got home with B. I educated my husband on what it was- and what to look out for. I was ready. I waited. And it never came. Man I was lucky.
I pretty much set up a similar vigil waiting for the clog to drop so to speak, but this time I don’t exactly have the personal coach to get me through. I have read to no end expat blogs and stories about people suffering with homesickness and learned of their trials and at some points depression during their adjustment. What I need to know is- Where are the stories of expats who don’t go through sadness or longing for back home? Am I some kind of icy-veined freak because I am not missing my home country? ( Confession—> I don’t even know what ‘fiscal cliff’ means since we left before if was on the news daily. But this may be one reason I am not missing it.)
I’ve read and reread the different stages and tried to ask myself if I was feeling those things:
1. Honeymoon Stage- sounds about what you think it might be. I don’t know if I really feel like we had this though because I felt so discombobulated without our ‘things’. I think with kids you’re too busy to really sit back and go ‘wow this is so awesomely easy!’. Ha. Right? Besides- from the get-go the boys were all sick. Where’s the fun in that?
2. Culture Shock- Yes the Dutch are very different. But for the most part they speak English. This has got to be huge in that I don’t feel like I live on Mars. People will apologize left and right for their ‘poor English’ when their poor English kicks the crap out of my non-existant Dutch any day of the week. Also the weather is similar to my original home state of Michigan- and even a little warmer. Food is an ordeal, but when isn’t it when you have kids to feed???? Yes, I had my fabric softner and A1 steak sauce shipped here, but for the most part…meh. I don’t feel like we are far away. I wrap myself up in the boys and our crazy life and try to survive the day to day nonsense that we experience.
The drinking age is strange. But I’m not exactly 16 either so it doesn’t really impact my daily life.
3. Initial Adjustment Stage- I wonder if I have been in this stage since the begining. We arrived and had no time to bask in the exotics of the experience. It was adjust-do-or-die. We had the house decorated, a car, a school, a babysitter, cleaning lady and new friends within the first two months. I think these things helped me adjust right away- and OH MY GOD am I thankful. As for the weather- this is something I would love to see improved- but coming from South Carolina I knew from the start that we were spoiled and the amount of sunshine we were used to was a thing of the past. After six years of it though- I think we were ready for a break. You can only live in a place that repeatedly makes you feel guilty for not being outside so much. As for the heat of the summer- I am not even remotely sorry to see that go. So sure- this is the rainiest winter in 150 years, and sure we might see the sun for an hour or so a week- but that’s ok. It’s still above 40 degrees and we only had to deal with snow once. I’ll take that in a heartbeat.
4. Mental Isolation- Maybe motherhood has prepared me for this? We’re used to being isolated, at home with our kids. From what I can see this is really no different- and I seek refuge being with my boys. I never said this made it easy or less emotionally taxing, but it DOES make it familiar. Familiar = comfort.
5. Acceptance and Integration- Not sure what this will be like. I worry that I will spend the next two years not really feeling anything other than being a casual observer from the outside. My hope is that now that the boys are healthy again- we can resume our plans to travel and see more of Europe. I want to learn, appreciate and accept. I want to milk every drop out of this experience and don’t want to come back to the US feeling cheated.
We do lots of this. Life cannot be bad when you have hands like these to hold- no matter where you are.
I’m really curious as to what some of you think. Have you experienced this? At what point do I know I’m ‘safe’? How did you deal? Please link up a blog post if you’ve got one or know of one!