16. Like Falling in Love (4 November ’16)

Emigration is emotionally taxing. As mothers and wives, we tend to carry the emotions for our entire family. We “keep it together” through all the preparation, through the physical move, and for as long as we can after we arrive. It is the most difficult and most thrilling time of our lives.

Today I thought about the things my family and I miss the most. It isn’t the Biltong, or “South African Marmite”. It isn’t Woolworths or the luxurious cars we used to drive. When I asked my children what they missed the most, they said, without hesitation, “our old house”. We never lived in a fancy house…so I had to think a while why they’d say such a thing. I realised that it’s not the house they missed at all. It was all the memories. It was our first family home. Our children were raised there for 7.5 years. It was their happy place. We had birthday parties, Christmas and casual Sunday braai’s at the pool. We had friends and family who’d be at every one of those occasions.

After 7 months in our new home country, it occured to me that once I saw my children settling in and knowing that they’d eventually be OK, it was time for me to allow myself to feel OK, to let go of the weight of everyone elses emotions and see my family as someone on the outside looking in.

…and that’s when I realised that I don’t care about South African groceries. I have found substitues for almost everything and have adapted so well to them that I don’t feel the overwhelming need to have family send over my favourite chocolate or breakfast cereal. There is nothing I need that I don’t already have.

Suddenly my phone rings, and I have Facebook post “Likes” during NZ daytime hours. “During NZ daytime hours”….This means I have friends. Right here in NZ: I have friends who care, who have become a part of my life and some who have been an absolute saving grace on some of my darkest days.

We all know about the freedom that NZ offers us and our children. The beauty of our new surroundings, the peaceful sleep we now have at night, the parks our children can play in, the streets they scoot around in….but a good friend once told me that to make the most of our journey, it would be up to us to write our own new history, to make our own new memories – because THESE are the things that build the foundation for a true home. Looking back over the past few months, we have made SO MANY! Our 8-seater patio table can now be filled with good friends, and our braai burns almost every week. We have bought a car that fits 7 people, because we need it for our new tribe, and our grocery cupboard is filled with all of our now regular NZ favourites.

Like falling in love, suddenly, and all at once, I realise, we are home.


15. Our Truth (4 October ’16)

Our truth, after 6 months in New Zealand:

This week will mark 6 months since the day we arrived in New Zealand. In April this year, with a good job secured and work visas in hand, we came with our two young children filled with hope to a new land of opportunity.

For the first couple of weeks I blogged about every amazing thing we experienced. I photographed everything!! Every park we visited, every new insect we saw and every new food we ate was fully documented.

Soon after we arrived, I was to have my first birthday away from South Africa. It was the same week when my husband started his new job and the same week my children would start at their new school. It was the worst birthday I’ve ever had. I sat in our new home, alone, staring at piles of laundry through the tears than ran from my eyes. We had not yet made any new friends in NZ and due to the time difference, I did not receive a single phone call from South Africa until late that night. It was then that I realized the enormity of our decision and the distance we’d placed between us and our former home.

I passed off these horrible feelings for ones that are natural and just “part of the process”. I put it behind me, pretending to my family that my “birthday day” was just fine. Pushing through the next few weeks, I kept a positive attitude. Despite my miserable birthday, I was still very happy with the decision we’d made and it made my heart so happy to see the freedom my children had on a daily basis, to feel the adrenalin lift out of our bodies and to feel like we were finally “living” a life that we all deserved.

Finally our container arrived at our door and it was, as everyone describes “like Christmas”! Having all of our own belongings made our decision even more concrete now. THIS was our new home! We were all bursting with excitement. I blogged about this again and how wonderful it was to open boxes and discover things we seemed to have forgotten we even owned. Life was good!

Fast forward 6 months.

When we left SA, I had just one single fear. It was that our youngest daughter (7 years old at the time) would not take the move very well. I was worried about how she would adjust to the change. She was a sensitive and emotional child. “You’re worrying for nothing”, everyone said. “Kids adapt so easily”, they said.

Well, it is 12.26am right now. My family is fast asleep and my ELDEST daughter is asleep in our room. Children surprise you sometimes and in our case, a big surprise it has been. Now that she is suffering from anxiety and a level of depression that we’re still trying to understand, I am at the mercy of our eldest, previously incredibly independent 8 year old daughter (the one I thought would be just fine).

For all the amazing opportunities, the safety and the freedom that we have in NZ, I can tell you that when your little girl sobs herself to sleep in your arms, when you can almost hear her heart breaking because all she wants is to “go back home” – and when she tells you that she wants nothing for her birthday, nothing for Christmas and that she will give it all up to see her friends and family again, it is the most difficult thing not to start packing your bags and booking the next flight to SA!

I have been an active member on a support group for immigrants for over a year now. I have given tons of advice, checklists and helpful information to so many people. I thought I had this whole immigration thing sorted. Not once was I prepared for the emotional toll my children’s unexpected immense sadness would take on me as a parent.

I have struggled with the culture shock but have found ways to work with it. I have struggled with lonliness but have now made some amazing life-long friendships that I know I will take with me, no matter where in the world we end up. I can rationalise anything that I feel uncomfortable with and am not familiar with. But this is by far the thing I am struggling with the most. As a parent I tell myself that in years to come, our children will be OK, that they are young and it is still early days yet. I tell myself everything I can to justify our decision to our daughter. The truth is that it is not possible to tell an 8 year old child exactly why you left your home country. For all the beautiful things that South Africa is, there is a lot of darkness, grim stories of horrible events that have happened to us and loved ones – that we simply cannot imprint on an 8 year old mind. It is a helpless, empty feeling to just have to tell your child to “trust” that the right decision was made for them and then expect them to be OK with that explanation.

Do I regret moving? No. If you are already living in NZ, it is not difficult to draft a quick comparison, a list of pro’s and con’s and be sure that this was the right decision. No. I only wrote this down, perhaps selfishly for my own therapeutic need, but also for the parents out there who might be struggling with a similar situation. I wrote this for the parents who feel like they might have made a mistake in removing their children from their home country and everything they know. I want them to know that they are not alone – and I guess I want to know that I am not alone.

I feel that for all the positivity shared on this page, for all the hard facts that we share with each other every day, we owe it to ourselves, and each other to be honest and truthful about the incredibly difficult days that come with immigration, the things there are no instructions for on any website that we can share with one another.

I am so grateful for the support and love of our newly formed friendships in NZ. We could not do this without a support base. We are all in this together!