We are now into our 4th month with Josh living in Amsterdam during the week while the kids and I here in Barcelona. I won’t kid you, it has not been easy. In fact, it has been far harder than I anticipated. Josh has travelled in the past, albeit, not to this extent, not even close. But it was never a big deal for me to manage the household for 3, 4 or even 10 days. But now into our 4th month, I admit, it’s been a struggle.
It hasn’t been a struggle from a “getting it done” standpoint. No, that’s not a big deal. Making the school lunches, doing laundry, dishes, getting the kids to and from school, activities and of course, work for me. No, that’s not a problem. The struggle has been an emotional one.
The first few weeks were fine. Josh would come home and we would go back to our normal routine. But then a few weeks become some more and I started to resent Josh, despite knowing this was not his perfect scenario either. His presence on the weekends felt like an intrusion. The kids and I would have our groove and he was disruptive to it in my mind. I felt angry… a lot. Like every day he would call and I would have no interest in speaking with him. I would, but you could sense the tension.
Then just when I didn’t think I could take any more, he was home for the holidays for 2 weeks. We finally got back into what I felt was a normal routine and bam, he left again for Amsterdam. And the anger and resentment came back. So much so that when the kids and I were getting ready to go visit him in Amsterdam in mid January that I actually, for a split second, thought about not going. I thought maybe I’d send the kids (though since I’m not ready for them to fly on their own, really wasn’t going to happen…but I thought about it) and I’d stay here in Barcelona for the weekend.
What I didn’t expect was for us to have such an amazing time. I felt like we were us again, only better. I’m not sure what triggered this and believe me, things are still not perfect. Maybe it was seeing Josh on his “home turf” so to speak. Or maybe it was just not being here in Barcelona which for the moment is the geographical root of our problems. Our dynamic is constantly changing these days. We are in a strange place not just a family but as a couple. This is unchartered territory for us both. And perhaps it was unrealistic to think that this would take days to adjust to rather than months.
The kids have been forced to become more independent because there is only so much I can do in a given day or even moment. No longer can they hop in the shower with Josh because it’s easy – they need to do it themselves. Ok, so Liam still needs some assistance, but Aidan… Aidan has grown up overnight. I barely need to wake him and he immediately jumps in the shower without me saying a word. He’s always been pretty independent but this is just on a new level. He’s like a new kid and it’s so much easier knowing that he can in a sense take care of himself. He gets himself cereal while I help Liam get ready. Even tonight Liam was complaining about growing pains and Aidan immediately jumped in and brought me the medicine I needed for Liam without me even asking. We’re coming together as a team to help out where needed – and Aidan is doing a great job in making my life just a little easier and I’m thankful for that.
Josh being away has actually helped the boys’ relationship with him – I never would have expected that. We’ve been lucky that Josh’s job in Barcelona enabled him to be home more than when we lived in the States. He was able to take the kids to the bus stop a few days a week and was always home before bedtime. And yet, even though he was here daily, the kids didn’t pay all that much attention to him. Now when he comes home, it’s a big deal and they embrace the time that they have with him. They get better quality time together. If any positive has come out of this LONG journey the last few months, this is the big one.
As I’ve mentioned before, this has been a highly emotional time for me. The kids seem to be doing pretty well but I seem to have breakdown after breakdown after breakdown and I really don’t know what the trigger is. Almost anything can trigger an episode and I feel like overall I’m in a bit of a depressed rut. On the positive side, while winter wasn’t exactly harsh here (one week where we weren’t in the 50s isn’t torture), spring is just around the corner and there is nothing like the smell of spring air that gets you feeling revitalized.
But in a time where our future is unknown and I’ve gone from being by myself not just from 8-5 but now in the evenings from 8:30 on, 5 days a week, it’s a lonely existence. I can only guess that being by myself is part of the issue as I’ve had more breakdowns in the last few weeks than I did before we even moved to Barcelona – but then, we had a plan. And right now we don’t. We have no plan. And it’s killing me. Or maybe the reason is the lack of a plan that’s causing my random episodes of crying on the drop of a dime. I can’t really be sure.
Today I feel pretty good. Maybe it was the 60 degree temps today (sorry not trying to rub it in but you can’t say 60 degrees won’t cheer anyone up because it will!) that made me just feel refreshed. Or maybe it’s because we’ve had this unknown in our lives since August and so the longest part of the journey – at least this part of the journey – is over. And in a matter of weeks (fingers crossed) we will know more. There is a light at the end of the tunnel… ok, maybe a glimmer. But it’s there.
It’s likely weeks before we have anything even close to concrete in front of us to help guide us in some life changing decisions. The good thing is, I feel like the worst, emotionally at least, is behind us. That if we’ve made it thru the last few months and still come out relatively unscathed, that we will make it thru whatever life has to give us in the coming weeks and months. So long as we do it together. Ahhh ex-pat life, you are never boring…