When I first laid eyes on my beautiful first born I was a sweaty, exhausted mess. The first time I laid eyes on beautiful Cheltenham, was much the same. Jet-lagged and haggard, but utterly in love.
It’s quite a gift to be able to live in a different country with my little family. It’s not something that I take for granted. My husband and I have lived in five different cities together, my six year old is on his third location, my twins are on their second “home.” I realise that there are many who have lived in far more places than I, there also many people who have lived in far less. There are as many ways to live as there are people in the world. Each place we have lived has a piece of my heart forever and friends that I will always treasure.
Being a Mum in England is exactly the same as being a Mom in Canada, only with a million differences, and much less snow. First of all, no one understands me when I ask for water. I was once offered wine when I ordered tap water, and did not need much of a push to continue with the suggestion. Once I received a latte when I was sure I had asked for water. I have begun to order water in a false British accent, although, on second thought, maybe wine and a latte are what I REALLY need. Thank you England, for your intuition.
At parks and playgrounds in Canada, there are no fences. Children just run willy nilly. They can dart away or onto a road. It’s extremely stressful, especially for me, the mother of three potential runners. There was one golden park in Ottawa, Canada, that I discovered by accident and was completely fenced in. I can’t tell you how many times I drove my minivan through the Starbucks drive-through (we have so many drive-throughs in Canada and I miss them), followed by watching my kids play while I sat near the gate and enjoyed a coffee without worry of child abduction or escape. Now, I can do this exact same thing at any park of my choosing and some of the parks even have cafés that sell tea, coffee, and treats, right in the park for parents and children to enjoy! It’s literally heaven. I cried happy tears when I realized all the parks are fenced in Cheltenham.
I know what you are thinking. It sounds like all I do is fail at ordering drinks and live at parks. Even if this is true, it’s not all glamour. There is the school run. I honestly did not know what “the school run” meant when I first moved here. Basically, it’s a time when parents and their babies engage in an all out war of the wills every morning (this bit is universal, I am positive), then all pile in a car or run down the street after children who are all inexplicably riding scooters- my kids don’t have scooters or play football because we strive to be outsiders for life. If driving, the traffic is terrible, and you must park wherever available, pulled up on curbs (that’s kerbs for you UK lot), facing anyway you like (this is just parking in England in general). Then, you have to drag all your children crying to the school and hopefully you are on time because repeated tardiness could actually result in a hefty fine for parents. It’s tremendously exhausting, and we get to do it twice a day. In Ottawa we had school buses that practically stopped at your front door.
When you are an expatriate, it’s important to try to use the local lingo as much as possible and beware of double entendres. We now call them underwear-pants and pants-trousers, so basically my children are completely confused, as are the people who overhear me saying to my child, “you will have to wipe your muddy hands on your pants, because I don’t have anything to wipe you with at the moment.” To add to the horror of this particular example, it turns out that it was not mud on his hands, it was in fact duck excrement, which is another pitfall to watch for while at the park.
A lot of my life has remained unchanged since moving to England. I am still a mom to three wild boys who is trying to keep it together and sometimes succeeding. I had to learn to navigate the world of special education in England for my oldest child. Autism and ADHD always keep things interesting. I have met a lot of lovely people and pushed through a lot of red tape to ensure that my child receives the education that he deserves. It wasn’t easy, and it was painful, but we grew from the experience. Now that it’s all sorted, my son absolutely loves his school, classmates, and teachers, and is honestly disappointed every time I tell him that it is Saturday. My identical twin newly four year olds run our family on jet fuel it seems. I honestly don’t know where they get their boundless energy, unless they are siphoning it from my husband and I, then it all makes perfect sense.
Overall, I don’t feel at all different being a mum here in England. We are all facing the same struggles and joys, wherever we are situated. It’s been a lovely experience getting to know my English Mama friends, they have also absolutely been the most helpful when there is a culture clash and I don’t know what is going on. I am still unsure as to exactly what a Chocolate Tombola is, or how it works, but my English mate helped me to donate what was needed to the school. My English friends tell me about the best playgroups and the top pubs and the most fun Zumba classes!
This early spring has been absolutely gorgeous. Spring might be my favourite season in England. Everything is in bloom, yellow, purple, pink, and white. My family and friends in Canada are experiencing an especially white springtime. White as in it is still snowing in April. Winter is my favourite season in Canada, but I can’t say I miss winters that linger into summer. Beautiful Cheltenham, hopefully I am appearing less haggard and sweaty lately. Even if I am not, it’s pretty fantastic to live here. I am definitely still in love!
A Guest Blog from Danielle Deschenes
Danielle is a Canadian living the dream in the Cotswolds with her handsome husband and three adorable sons. She is a writer, painter, singer, musician, decorator, child herder, adventure seeker, autism mom, twin mom, and cheese connoisseur. In her free time she is a classical music teacher specializing in voice, piano, and theory.