In 2014, we moved to Sweden and we had our second child, Leif. Having a baby and moving internationally in the same year was incredibly stressful, and I vowed not to do it again.
Well, it’s 2017, I had a baby a few months ago, and we’re preparing to move back to the US. That thing I’d sworn never to do again because it was so incredibly stressful? We’re doing it. And this time it’s even more stressful.
I was seven months pregnant with Leif when we moved to Sweden, and though I was tired from the pregnancy, I was able to find the time to do the things we needed to do to prepare for the move and then, when we arrived, to unpack. But with Zoë on the outside now as we prepare for our move, I have only minutes here and there to attend to my list of to-dos. In addition, we own property now, so there’s just a lot more to do.
It is only in reliving the stress and anxiety of this pre-move period that I remember, viscerally, how difficult it was the first time. That time, in 2014, one of my very best friends got married, but I couldn’t muster the emotional energy to be fully present for her. I’ve felt guilty about that in the intervening years, but now that I’m in that pre-move space again and remembering how overwhelming and tense this period is, I’ve found some forgiveness for myself.
Because overwhelming is the only way I can describe it. I am absolutely overwhelmed. It’s not that I’m busy and trying to wear that as a badge of honor: I’m emotionally and mentally overrun with everything there is to do to prepare for the move; with everything there is to do to care for a preschooler, a toddler, and a newborn; with everything there is to do to say goodbye to the people and places we’ve grown to love; with preparing myself to once again arrive in a place where I know no one and nothing (which, honestly, you can’t really prepare for: you just show up one day and figure everything out from there).
Yes, we have spreadsheets and to-do lists and we’re sharing the work as much as possible, so it’s not a failure of organization. It’s just the process. Moving is a hard process. Moving far away is a harder process. Moving internationally is a really freaking hard process.
But in truth, the move and its preparations are only tucked away at the margins of everyday life, so it’s shocking that something can be overwhelming from the margins. At the center of every day are our children, evening snail walks, baby baths, the dishes, temper tantrums and heart-melting cuddles, a tiny being learning to gurgle and coo and blow spit bubbles. Trips to the pediatrician and the grocery store, trips to see friends and enjoy Stockholm.
And for me, there’s also guilt about not being more present in this space and writing this blog. I feel like I’m throwing it away after all the effort I’ve put into it over the past year, but I can’t figure out how to keep it up, when my margins and my center are already so full.
Talk to me, people. I know some of my readers are expats and immigrants who do this far more often, who pack up their houses and say goodbye and move country, again and again. How do you do it? How do you balance your life during the months of preparation? How do you stay sane and not lash out in anger and overwhelm every week?
Photos by me, except the one of me. Photos do not reflect content, for which I am kind of sorry, but for which you should be grateful so you don’t have to see pictures of me sitting at a computer pulling my hair out (literally: I sit at the computer and pull my hair out).
For another confessional post, there’s that time I wrote about the color orange.