Late last week I realised my family and I have been living in Brisbane now for 6 months. 6 months! It’s been a challenging time but one that keeps getting gradually easier.
It’s funny how you can remember so much from the rare moments when your life changes instantly. I distinctly remember when my DH called me to tell me the news. It was a Tuesday, I was sitting at an outdoor table at uni, on a beautiful early summer’s day, close to a lecture theatre I’ve attended for 4 out of 6 semesters – a very familiar place. But as the exam period had just finished the university was quiet, very few people walking around and everywhere was leafy and green. I was enjoying some quiet reading time in the sunshine when the phone call came in. DH had traveled to Brisbane that morning for a second interview for a position that was a fantastic opportunity – a rarity in this economic climate. I thought DH was calling to let me know how it was all going and hoped in the next few days we’d find out whether he would be asked back for the next round of interviews, but feeling ambivalent about a possible move to Brisbane. However, I was soon in a state of shock as DH told me that they’d already offered him the position and wanted him and I to attend the company Christmas party that Friday night! I was speechless – DH knew I’d support him all the way for such a good opportunity but I was shocked at the quickness of their decision. My mind was overwhelmed from thinking of what a move interstate with two young children meant in practical terms and also desperately trying to think of who would be available to mind our kids while DH and I went to Brisbane for a full 24 hours!
In the end it all worked out – we attended the Christmas party and met some lovely people after I had spent most of the day driving around Brisbane’s northern suburbs trying to find which area felt like it could be our home and looking at schools for our 7 year old. The next morning we flew home and that evening I had my closest girlfriends around for a beautiful birthday dinner all the while trying not to blurt out the news of our move until all the contracts had been signed.
I spent the next couple of weeks researching what schools had vacancies, travelling to Brisbane a couple of times to check out potential rental properties and suburbs to live in. Life is busy enough in the lead up to Christmas without organising logistics of an interstate move!
Then the real shock came – a few days before Christmas we discovered I was pregnant! I couldn’t believe it. After all the time it takes us to fall pregnant I couldn’t believe that this had to be the month I fell pregnant! Talk about timing!
Just after the new year DH started his new job in Brisbane, commuting Monday to Friday from Sydney. Also the morning sickness kicked in and as I was so busy with culling and packing our things, not to mention 2 young children at home with me, I was exhausted and that made the morning sickness much worse for me. In my previous pregnancies I only had very mild morning sickness so I was really shocked at how difficult it was to eat. Needless to say I lost a few kilos in the first trimester.
We finally made the long drive up to Brisbane with our children and our dog, Yoshi, about two weeks later and we lived in a house in Newmarket for a week until our new home in north-west Brisbane was ready for us to move in. We moved into our very large house (6 bedrooms!) the day before my son started at his new school and unbeknownst to us our dog ran away within a few hours to the school across the road! He has no road sense so we were amazed that he didn’t get run over in the process. Luckily DH had gotten a new dog collar made for him the day before with my mobile number on it – I received a phone call from a lovely person who found Yoshi and we immediately ran across to pick him up. So relieved and so grateful!
Throughout February and March all I can remember is feeling exhaustion like I never had before in my life. Most days, after school drop off, I would come back home to bed and fall asleep while my 3 year old daughter would lie next to me watching tv, occasionally waking me up saying in a very annoyed voice “When are you going to get up Mummy?” It took every ounce of what little strength I had left to drag me away from bed a couple of hours later and make her lunch and attend to the usual daily chores of washing, tidying up as well as studying. We also had the added challenge of our daughter’s frequent tantrums. It was obvious she found the move difficult and with me being so tired all the time she probably wasn’t getting the attention she needed. Several times a day I had to deal with her screaming tantrums but I stayed firm and consistent and after a few months they died away to nothing.
I frequently became a very grumpy Mum for those two months and I hate remembering that but I felt so wretched most of the time. When I got to 13 weeks I kept thinking ‘any day now and the morning sickness and exhaustion will disappear’, but they didn’t. They didn’t leave me until we had a week visiting family and friends in Sydney in early April, when I was 20 weeks pregnant!
After we returned home I started to feel somewhat normal again and realised I had fallen into a kind of weekly routine with my study and home life. I think it helped my body and mind getting over the shock of living in an unfamiliar place by having a weekly rhythm to my life and discovering places that would become my local haunts for grocery shopping and places to study when my daughter was at home with the babysitter two days a week. I haven’t spent much time yet discovering Brisbane, mainly our local area, Southbank and Paddington but I look forward to do so when our new baby is through the first few overwhelming months.
One aspect of living here that was disappointing at first was the loneliness. Apart from my brother and my sister-in-law (who live on the other side of Brisbane) we knew no one in Brisbane. I had expected that I would meet people through my son’s school and possibly the neighbours but our house is on half an acre and is set up in a way that we don’t actually see our neighbours – completely different to the cul-de-sac with no fences situation we had in Sydney. We knew our neighbours really well in Sydney and most Sunday evenings would have drinks with them on our front lawn.
The parents at school all seem really nice but until recently I had no opportunity of getting to know them. The only school function that had been organised had a very poor turn out and I think most of the mums at school assumed I was a mum of a child in Kindergarten/Prep and not Year 2. Once I had met people they would say ‘hello’ but that was it, even though they knew we didn’t know anyone. But during June and July I’ve had a few opportunities to get to know some of the mums at school and we get along well which is great, so there’s hope!
I had once been told that Australians aren’t as friendly as you think they are. I now know what that meant. Yes, Aussies are friendly to you when you’re out and about but no one invites you anywhere. No one seems to want you into their lives. That was the shock. My DH and I have always tried to be welcoming to people we meet and like and we’ve had loads of his colleagues over for impromptu dinners, especially before we had two children. Many days the only conversation I get with another adult in person is the ‘hello, how are you?’ from the person at the counter in our local chemist or fruit & vegie market. There is just no one to talk to! So in the past six months I’ve become quite the tweeter – some days I will have really interesting conversations with people I’ve never met on twitter – it’s been a Godsend! Some days I think I’ve probably been on twitter too much and it might become annoying to have me constantly pop up in people’s twitter feeds but I haven’t lost followers yet! I’ve never been a good phone caller and I’ve realised I’m going to have to change that as I’d prefer to spend time talking with family and friends but as most of them have slightly older children they are back at work these days and so I never know when is good time to call!
So there you have it – a challenging six months – not because Brisbane is a bad place, far from it, it’s just the reality of moving to a new city with young children and being pregnant at the same time. I’m really looking forward now to holding our new baby in my arms and to go exploring to places I keep hearing about. This is a good city and deserves to be explored.