My son was eight months old when we moved to Spain. The ‘idea’ of Spain was pretty appealing; never ending sunshine, sandy beaches, endless sangria. What’s not to like?
The problem is, that’s ‘holiday’ Spain. My experience of Spain was that they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. Two examples of that are; in the year I lived in Spain I never had wifi in my home. I organised it but they turned up on three occasions without the equipment to install it and the fourth occasion there was a storm and they had to postpone so they put me to the BACK of the queue and told me they would be back in four months. The second example was that they never sent me an electricity bill for the first month yet sent a man around with pliers one day to simply cut off the electricity supply. No letter. No warning.
It’s easy to romanticise the idea of a foreign country. It’s easy to romanticise the idea of having a baby. Combining the two was possibly a little bit too much to take on. So with an eight month old baby I was in a foreign country away from all my family, trying, and initially failing, to make friends and feeling incredibly isolated. My husband was trying to balance work in the UK with visiting us but would often go three weeks at a time without managing to get out (spoiler alert: I’m now a single mum). I found myself utterly alone with Eddie. At first I tried to convince myself that I was silly to be unhappy; I was in the sunshine, I spent my days at the beach with Eddie, we had a pool in our back garden but who wants to be in paradise alone? Those are just things. Those aren’t people. It was during this time I came up for the idea for Mum Plus One a lifestyle blog for single mums because even then I felt like a single mum.
When we had moved to Spain we rented for one year and I was determined to see the year out. I threw myself into making friends, going on road trips, hosting mum and baby meets at the house, doing a ‘mince pie and wine night’ at Christmas. You name it, I did.
In that year I had a lot of quality time with Eddie and I learnt to cope very quickly. I employed a Spanish nanny who was my sanity and helped me understand Spain a bit better. I became a pro at travelling single handily with Eddie as I’d travel back to England to visit family. It’s amazing what you can do when you have to. I’d never driven abroad before but was soon driving around like a local. Navigating Spanish supermarkets was another hurdle and I did occasionally cheat by visiting Iceland. Having a baby is such a ‘growth’ experience and so is living abroad. Even though Eddie was so young I feel his experience of Spain really shaped him and it made our relationship so strong. We are a real ‘team’. Slowly life became easier – there were days spent at the beach as he toddled on the sand, fresh orange juice for breakfast every morning and learning to swim in the pool in our garden but there were sacrifices too; when my nanny became seriously unwell my mum phoned and with three hours notice I had to board a flight back to the UK the same day. Now, getting on a plane when you know you’re going to say ‘goodbye’ is hard, holding it together while single handedly travelling with a toddler is harder. When I got to the hospital nanny was unconscious, she remained ‘asleep’ until she died a few days later.
I don’t for one minute regret the year I spent in Spain – it was a real experience but becoming a mother is hard enough, let alone doing it on your own in a foreign country. I saw the year out and then returned to England with Eddie, we’ve moved to Gloucestershire to be near all my family and although the sun doesn’t always shine, Weston ‘Super – Mud’ is the nearest beach and I don’t have a pool in my back garden – I’ve never been happier.
A Guest Blog from Jessica Rose Knowles
Jessica is mum to two year old Eddie and has recently moved to Cheltenham. She blogs for Hello magazine and her new blog Mum Plus One will launch on Mothering Sunday. You can also follow Jessica on Twitter or Instagram.