I try not to spend time on self-pity — not just in terms of writing, but, more importantly, in terms of what I allow to inhabit space in my mind. I try to focus on what I have (which is a lot) instead of what I don’t. But, the truth is that living abroad can sometimes be an incredibly lonely experience.
Of course, I have my family. My children are wonderful, but I’m the mom, and they’re the kids, and they aren’t here to be my companions. I have Dan, but he’s out of the house for about 55 hours each week, and the vast majority of the rest of the time is taken up by wall-to-wall parenting and sleep (if we’re lucky). Jo is here, which has been wonderful in terms of giving me tons of opportunities for adult conversation, but in the hours where she isn’t cooking or watching Liam so I can get something done, she takes advantage of the opportunity (as she should) to explore the city unencumbered by kids, to rest and catch up with people at home, and even, on occasion, to be social with new friends.
The schedule of managing the household, keeping both kids on their schedules and getting B back and forth to school each day, plus having only made a few friends here (and they are almost all moms, and are balancing busy schedules themselves) means that I have almost no social interaction outside of my (not quite) weekly dates with Dan. I go out on my own, twice a week, for an hour each time, but always alone. I have coffee alone. I go for walks alone. I go ice skating alone.
And it’s been getting to me.
I am missing my friends at home very badly. I am missing play dates with other mom friends, dinner get-togethers with friends with kids, weekend days spent with my family, afternoons at the barn, and, most of all, girl nights where I could hang out with a friend or two or seven, and just be me, instead of being me-as-a-mom.
A few days ago, I met up with a friend of mine for a run. She had her little one (Liam’s age) with her and I had Liam with me (B was at school). We’d been trying to arrange to meet up for a run for weeks, but stuff kept getting in the way — the weather was awful, Liam was sick, her son was sick, Liam was sick again, it snowed again. But, finally, we had a day when everyone was healthy and the weather was agreeable, so we met up and went running for an hour.
It was fantastic. It was just what I needed. I hadn’t seen them in months, and it was so nice to chat (besides, she runs faster that I do, so it was also inspiring for my running speed). It was lovely to see them again, and it was great to just have a little friend time.
I think it’s pretty well expected that someone in my situation — a stay-at-home mom, in a new country, where I don’t speak the language — would feel this way from time to time. So it’s not a surprise. But still, sometimes, it isn’t fun. I’m starting to understand why people who had been through relocations like this strongly encouraged me to get involved in “mom groups” when I arrived . . . which I didn’t do, because they really aren’t my thing. But it’s been hard to make friends on my own, and, more importantly, to make strong connections in this environment of having so little common ground with many of the people who I meet, and not being able to communicate well, even if I did.
As a basically introverted person, I’m not overly bothered by not having a lot of social connection . . . most of the time. Most of the time, I find my solitary hours peaceful and centering, rather than lonely. But sometimes, it’s really nice to have some friend time.