Work picnic

20140521-224314-81794545.jpgYesterday, Dan’s work division hosted a picnic for the employees and their families.  A lot of times, when his work has an event, we skip it, because these things aren’t always family-friendly, even when they intend to be.  But a picnic sounded perfect!  We decided to go, and we were all very much looking forward to it.

This is how I imagined this was going to go (before it happened):  there would be food, drink, and socializing; there would be space for the kids to play, other kids for them to play with, and not too much worry about spills and messes; we would get a chance to visit with some friends, and I would get to meet some of Dan’s co-workers that I don’t yet know; good times would be had by all.


In reality, this is more of what it was actually like:  there was food, drink, and socializing; there was plenty of space for the kids to play … but every bit of it was at least semi-hazardoous (we were alongside a river, at the bottom of a steep hill that the kids wanted to climb up and run down, at the top of the hill were two bike lanes and a low wall . . . which had a 20 foot drop down to a highway on the other side, and there was a large, low and very hot grill); there were several other kids of just the right age for the boys to play with;  we did get a chance to visit with some friends (several that I hadn’t seen in qiute a while) and I met many of the people Dan tells me about every day, but there were also lots of people crowded around in a pretty small area, nowhere good to sit, and several people who made it very clear that they weren’t happy there were kids there at all; good times were generally had by all, and we all ended the evening happy but EXTREMELY worn out.


Also, I hadn’t realized it, but I’m around more Austrians than expats these days.  I’m so used to assimilating now that I don’t really remember entirely how to be American.  And I’m very out of practice at being American while NOT accidentally being rude to a non-American.  (I think I’ve squarely entered that part of expat living where I’m not at all a local but it’s getting uncomfortable to put my old culture back on, too.)  I’m also an introvert (maybe now more than ever) and I so often underestimate how much these types of social events — especially with many people I don’t know — will take out of me.  (As an interesting note, every couple there was made up of pepole from two different countries.  I guess that’s how you know you’re at a UN function!)

A rare picture including me!

A rare picture including me!

Although it might sound like I’m complaining about the evening, I’m not.  Ths is life with kids.  We went, we supervised the kids intensely, tried to convince them to eat while sneaking quick bites of food between managing cups of juice and preventing Liam from literally diving into the brownies.  It was fun, and social.  We managed a few half-conversations with some old and and new friends between moments of running after the boys.  Our kids had a FANTASTIC time playing with the other kids and were so happy to have made some new friends.  We all had a really good time, in fact.  But, the days of the relaxing, carefree social picnic are behind us, at least for now.


Even introverted mommies need a social life

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.