The guilt I feel about keeping my children away from their grandparents is starting to wear me down because after all, it’s my choice as an expat to be here.
Can you believe we have been dealing with Covid-19 here in Singapore for 10 months now? Do you remember those sweet and innocent days of January and February when we all thought (or hoped) it was something of nothing and we were all going about our business in a fairly normal manner? My parents visited early in the year, and little did we know that we wouldn’t be seeing them again for the foreseeable future. I think if I had known, I would have been a lot more patient when my Mum said “Oh, I don’t mind where we go. You choose.” For the umpteenth time. I’m such a bad daughter. We had no idea of what was to come. So young, so carefree!
But it’s worth remembering that in some ways, we have it much better now, hard as that is to believe. The Singaporean government has done a good job of keeping the virus under control as best they can, and when I look at my home country of the UK, I can’t help but think that we lucky expats are all in the safest place. The kids are back at school, (there are no words for the level of thanks I have for that, and for our teachers. There’s not enough wine or chocolate in the world to express the gratitude I feel for not having to attend any more zoom classrooms with a 2-year-old), we can go for dinner, the beach, see friends, and feel a level of safety that other nations dream of.
I miss my family. I miss my parents, my brothers and sisters, and nieces, and nephews. I miss my friends who are having babies, and suffering life crises, and getting married or splitting up. I’m here, they are there and there’s no chance of getting to them even if I need to. I feel for the women I know here who are pregnant or have recently had their babies and who want their mums. And who can’t have them. Or the families split apart because work travel has kept one or other parent stuck somewhere alone. Or the people who are new to Singapore, know no-one and are finding it harder to meet new friends as socialising has changed.
Thinking about all of this difficult stuff all the time is doing me no good whatsoever. The guilt about keeping my children away from their grandparents and cousins (which has always been with me) is starting to wear me down now because after all, it’s my choice to be here. And I think that’s something every expat mama faces, but it’s being exacerbated by the pandemic. The stupid, stinking pandemic which is denying us the chance to make visits home or have visitors come here. It’s tough facing all of this without family support.
Unless I’m the odd-one-out, (which I sometimes fear I am) we are all struggling with our kids in the world at the moment. I don’t mean in a general day-to-day way, like when I forgot to send the kids in Book Day clothes and they’re the only ones in school uniform. I mean in a, “Can we actually keep our little ones safe in a world that doesn’t seem to know how to keep anyone safe?” kind of way. I’ve recently been having horrible Covid dreams. My son keeps disappearing and no-one can find him until the very end of the dream, and then I wake up. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this never-ending, quiet, gnawing stress is affecting all of us, and for me it’s taking the form of bad dreams, and sleeplessness, and irritability (to be fair, the last one is fairly standard for me.) For others, it’s making itself known in more aggressive ways, and even though many of us aren’t talking about it, perhaps we should be.
With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year rolling towards us with terrifying speed, we can probably expect the guilt and longing for home to grow. Another year and another celebration away from friends and family. But maybe the best way to see it, and the way I have been trying to look at it (not always successfully, of course) is that this is time with our kids that we might not have expected (or asked for, or needed in the case of my little maggots, who have developed an amazing knack for needing a snack in the middle of “mummy-needs to-get-something-done-please-leave-me-alone” moments). My husband working at home means he gets to have a few minutes of the workday where he can see them, when they get home from school or when they want to tell him something “SUPER IMPORTANT, Daddy. So super important!” And whilst if I had one wish, it would be to be rid of this virus, and to be on a plane to see our extended families tomorrow, we have to look to the positives, right? And the little family bubble I have here in Singapore is still here, and is safe and healthy. Maybe I am nailing this parenting malarkey after all.