I knew it'd be hard moving to a new country. What I didn’t consider was how hard it would be as a new mom (mum?) in a new country.
My first year as a mom in America, I was already living far away from family so even though they were a three-hour plane ride away, I felt like I could handle it for the most part. However, I was endlessly tired. Oops, I mean knackered, as they say in New Zealand (for the longest time I thought my Kiwi friends were saying they were naked which made me feel very awkward).
I didn’t think about how tired I'd be moving my family overseas. It was hard living on my own in the past and putting myself out there; making new friends, living fearlessly. Now I had to try to do that with a wee human attached to my hip. And I didn’t think about how much my son would change and how the challenges of the first year of his life were passing, only to progress into newer challenges (hellllooooo tantrums!).
When we arrived in New Zealand a little over a year ago, we didn’t have furniture for the first three months. Our house was not insulated so living without furniture made our new home a large, empty freezer. Thankfully some coworkers of my husbands pitched in a few items to help us get through but we had to get out of the house multiple times during the day in order to stay sane.
|We bought the stuffed bear upon arrival. Needed something comfy!|
|Bought the camping chair and lamp. Wooden chair borrowed from a coworker|
Driving on the other side of the road was not as hard as I imagined. At first, being on the left felt wobbly, but it became relatively easy when following traffic. It was parallel parking and turning that gave me the most fright. Only one time, and that was ten months into living here, did I make a left turn to find myself on the right side of the road. Luckily, on this usually heavy-trafficked road, there was only one car and he laid on the horn for quite awhile as I swerved. It only lasted a few seconds, but was enough to raise my blood pressure.
|My husband driving our rental car upon arrival|
I’ve actually really liked making my way around the city (but don’t get me started about my most-unflattering-ever NZ driver’s license photo). There are some bad drivers here who make Boston drivers look good, but for the most part, they’re friendly.
I find them to be fussier about signaling (indicating with the indicator which I often get confused with the wipers as they’re on the other side of the steering). And I find most of them to be welcoming to those of us trying to merge on to the motorway. Most offer a wave in appreciation if you allow them through, something I'm not used to seeing in the States.
Maneuvering my way up and down and around the narrow roads, I am reminded of the roads in Jamaica where people (school children, too) walked straight on into the traffic and trusted that the driver wouldn’t hit them. Here, pedestrians are diligent about cross walks, but I do see people risking their necks by stepping out into heavy traffic. This is not a “sue-happy” country. It just seems there is this unspoken trust, “you won’t hit me”. And if you do stop in the middle of the road to let them walk in front of you, they're baffled but appreciative.
So to settle us into the Wellington life, my son and I would try something new everyday. Soon we found a favorite park by the ocean, a spray pool/swim class, a local library stocked full of Hairy MacLary books, and the Te Papa museum, among other fantastic places. Te Papa is THE place to go in the winter. The best part: it’s free! Pay for parking! That’s it! And to make it even better, they have “imagination stations” set up throughout just for our wee ones to discover on their own. What a wonderful education these children are receiving, along with the inner message that learning about and exploring their world is important.
We eventually found our way to a tumbling class at the reccenter. The class provides mats, climbing structures, a trampoline, balance beam, and more for him to roam. The best part, after the class you get to spend as much time as you want in the pretend town, Tiny Town. Kiddos can maneuver their way through the little town with ride on cars and bikes, little playhouses, and a bouncy house. No need to know what side of the road to be on.
Before I sound like a tour guide for Kid Friendly Wellington, I am mentioning these places because they have been a wonderful introduction, not only to being a mum to a toddler, but to the current women in my life. Without these friendships, I would not be able to live here. Truly. The women, who have become family to me, are some of the most brilliant, confident, artistic, compassionate, women I’ve ever met.
They have welcomed my family into their lives with open arms. I don’t think I could even begin to put into words all that they have taught me. One of my best friends happens to be an American who has lived here for a few years. I remember the first conversation I had with her she said, “If you make a Kiwi friend you will have one for life. They are fiercely loyal.” I have found that to be true. We share parenting stories full of tears, laughter, and sometimes a bit of whine (and wine). Any doubts I may have about motherhood, they are the perfect guides. When I'm knackered and can't go on another hour, they cheer me on. Even my good mate who isn't a mum, will be a beautiful mum someday because she's absolutely wonderful with my boy. They are the type of women I want my son to learn from and I am so grateful he looks to them and knows he can trust them.
As I think about the trials of moving to a new country with a toddler, still relatively new to motherhood, I think about what a pleasure it has been navigating Wellington. Don’t get me wrong: I'm not wearing rose-colored glasses. I’m well aware of potholes everywhere. But so far, it feels to me like Wellingtonians look out for one another, just as we moms do.
For now, a year into this move and two years into parenthood, I’m happy to say I've found my way.