What went wrong?
So we clearly arrived safe and sound and had a chance to explore our new home. Man-child was to have the first week off work so that we could settle in as a family. In reality, his week off work upon arrival was just like his week off work prior to departure – it didn’t happen, he had to work every day except the 4th. He did only work part days, going to the must attend meetings and such but it did make it difficult to get organised.
That first week, when we had time together we confirmed the kids places at a daycare that we liked. It was going to be a chance for the kids to meet other kids and make friends. The daycare was at the local Y and had an awesome program that included swimming, cooking and story time in English, Spanish and French. The program coordinators and teachers were delightful. It all sounded too perfect, boy-child was going to be in the Koala class and I was sure that it was a sign. We could have started them there the following day but since it was still summer holidays, we planned on waiting a few weeks before they would actually start, that way I wouldn’t be too lonely during the days!
We also used this time to check out our new apartment. It was fantastic. The apartment itself had 3 bedrooms and a huge loft/play space, a decent kitchen and 2 bathrooms. It was on the third (top) floor in a complex that was full of kids and young families. There were barbeques in the gardens, toys strewn around the play areas, swimming pools, basketball courts, a gym, playgrounds (multiple) and even an onsite playgroup. All this and the the rent on the apartment was cheaper than the cottage. It was situated near a mall, was not too far from man-child’s work and apparently was also in a great school district to boot. All we were waiting on was the carpet to be relaid in the apartment and the company to co-sign the final papers for the fund transfers.
We managed to start stocking up on things we would need for the apartment. We had new beds and bedding for the kids, we thought we would stock up on towels too – the towels in the cottage were beautiful, white and fluffy until we moved in. I didn’t think that they would ever be white again if we kept using them! There were delays in our boxes last few boxes arriving, read they hadn’t even been sent yet so we headed to a mega toyshop somewhere to stock up on a few extra kiddie essentials.
We stocked the teeny tiny kitchen in the cottage with food that could easily be prepared to take with us exploring. Mostly it was cereal and crackers as the kids didn’t like the local bread – apparently it tasted like cake. Eventually we even found a market that had a great variety of fruit and vege to keep the kids happy.
We even spent a fun filled afternoon in a local town (I have no idea where) sitting in a social security office, applying for social security numbers so that man-child could be paid.
Once all this was done and we were set up to really live life in our new community was when everything really started to go wrong. Firstly they, the company decided that we should be paid in Australian Dollars. They didn’t get that we actually needed to know what our income was going to be. At the time the exchange rate was pretty ordinary and trending downward. We weren’t going to be able to guarantee an income to cover our expenses. The HR departments in both countries got the fact that we needed some security and were trying to sort it out for us. Next was the fact that they decided to not co-sign our lease. They had decided (they being the CEO and company owner) that it was more cost effective for the company if we stayed in the cottage as they already had a lease there. Clearly they hadn’t ever been to the cottage, whenever they were in town they stayed at the Princeton Club! Just to make things even more fun, the head cold/sinus mess that I woke to when we first arrived was now lodged squarely in his chest. He had all the precursor signs of having pneumonia again so we needed to take him to a doctor. At this stage we had no medical insurance confirmed so finding a doctor that would see him using our travel insurance as cover was challenging. Now we had yet another important issue that needed resolution, urgently.
It was then that I decided that it was time for me to get involved. I drafted an email to send to the CEO, outlining the issues that we had faced during the move. It started off being a short email but ended up being many pages. I detailed the difficulties of having my husband spend more time in another country than with us, the constant changes in expectations of the company in regards to how long we would be staying and the inexperience of the HR departments in relation to international relocations. I continued to outline why we were unhappy with living in the cottage as a permanent home. I mentioned that it was not suitable for small children, was filled with antiques and that the gaps in the floorboards allowed bugs of all sorts into the cottage – the kids were waking covered in bites from said bugs that were huge and crawling over them in their sleep. I also reminded her of the kids ages, that one had a day time sleep and the other did not. I couldn’t leave girl-child in the house asleep knowing that she could wake up and try to walk down the stairs to look for me. I couldn’t let boy-child out to play whilst I waited with girl-child as there were no enclosed spaces. Within 3 year old walking distance was a main road, a creek (that had flash flooded in the short time we had been there), a forest area and corn fields. All amazing places to explore, but not as a 3 year old on his own.
I offered to document my experiences of both moves with the company, firstly to New Zealand and then to New Jersey to show how each move occurred and the impact it had on a family, to comment on what worked in the move to New Zealand and what hadn’t worked so well in the move to New Jersey. I figured that as a company that was wanting to expand into more countries in the world it would be beneficial to know the experiences of someone who had been involved in such moves. I was really nervous about sending such a personal email to the CEO but I had to do something, I needed some certainty in our futures, I couldn’t just sit by as she played with our lives.
Now since we were living on a farm in the middle of nowhere that didn’t have real ceiling lights there was no way that there was any internet connection. I had to write the email as a word document and have man-child take the document into his office to send on my behalf.
Life continued as I waited for a response. I felt really isolated living in the middle of nowhere not knowing the area nor anyone who lived there. Man-child was still expected at work each afternoon as a minimum so we spent the afternoons driving around the neighbourhood. Whenever we came across a park we would stop and play. When girl-child fell asleep we would drive around aimlessly, trying to find new things to do. I had marked dozens of ‘must-do’ events and places to visit in the guide books we had purchased but of course the books were in the boxes that hadn’t arrived (or been sent). I also had heaps of local sites bookmarked but of course with no internet we were flying blind.
We did find some fantastic places to play and explore but living in such an isolated place made it difficult to just bump into people to begin a conversation. In fact in all of the parks we stumbled across, and there were dozens of different parks, there were very few little kids out playing. It may have had something to do with the insane heat and humidity, almost 100 everyday and 80% + humidity or it may have been because everyone was enrolled in a summer camp. Whatever the reason, it was isolating.
Finally early in the following week I received a reply from the CEO. To say it was the furtherest thing from the reply I was expecting would be an understatement. Instead of an acknowledgment of any sort her response was along the lines of ‘if it was too hard for me, perhaps I should just move back to Melbourne with the kids’. I mean WTF! How from reality could this person possibly be? I replied saying that it wasn’t that living in New Jersey was too difficult, it was the lack of stability that was difficult, that I hadn’t just given up my career for 2 years for no reason. I wanted this experience in the US to be beneficial for everyone and that man-child, as any other father, would be more focused in the workplace if they knew that their family were being well cared for in a stable environment.
It was around the time that it was confirmed that boy-child did have pneumonia and a minor heart murmur was discovered to boot. To make matters worse, it was also around the same time that the owner and the CEO confirmed that they weren’t going to sign our lease on the apartment as our time in New Jersey was going to be assessed on a ‘month by month basis’. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I hadn’t upended my entire life for someone to change there minds in a month or two and send us home. Hearing this I decided that if our trip was going to be cut short it would be on our terms. I didn’t want to settle the kids into a new life, in new school with new friends only to rip them out and move at short notice.
They were the personal reasons that I wanted to throw in the towel and head back home. Man-child had some reasons of his own. These reasons went beyond not actually getting any time off to move and settle in but were more about leaving a position as a senior manager in Australia, managing clients Australia wide and in New Zealand and until we moved to the US, many states in the US autonomously, to not being able to respond to a meeting request without having to consult with a team of colleagues back in Australia. The Australian contingent of the company also expected that when he had meetings interstate in the US that he should drive to them, regardless of the fact that said meeting was a 6 hour each way drive. The same meetings that, when he was still living in Melbourne and commuting to the US for work he would automatically fly to. Essentially they were being unreasonable.
There it is, the reasons why it just wasn’t going to work. I could have saved myself 1500 odd words and just written an in summary post like this. The reasons to go back to Melbourne were as a result of the ‘company’ changing the rules as we went along,
- leave requirements not being met
- country of origin of pay changing, meaning that our monthly pay would be unpredictable
- not being paid through the US arm of the company meant that we didn’t have health insurance other than our travel insurance. That made things challenging, especially when boy-child ended up with pneumonia
- the house we were to live in changed from being a new and funky apartment in a great neighbourhood to a quaint cottage in the middle of farmland WITH NO INTERNET ACCESS
- the job description of man-child changed as it evolved and became a junior role and not a senior role being micromanaged with unrealistic expectations
- the length of stay had gone from 1 – 2 years to a month by month proposition
- many of our belongings hadn’t been shipped over to us – was that a sign that our things weren’t going to be required?
Now that I have written the post in point form, it sounds kind of lame. I really wish that we had given it a go, that maybe if I hadn’t been so pigheaded it would have all worked out and we would have lived happily ever after. Then I realise that if we had stayed and played by their rules it would have been an extremely difficult time where we were isolated and alone as man-child worked unreasonable hours with no stability, never knowing if we would be staying or going.
We had to make a decision, one that would impact on our lives greatly. Would we stay and try and make it work, or should we go home and try to start over. Leaving New Jersey and returning to our old life would be difficult, everything had changed. If we returned we would both be out of work. Sure I could apply to return to work sooner than planned, but now we had no child care. We had given up the nanny that worked for us and the list to get into child care in Melbourne ranged from merely months to years long. I didn’t want to return to Melbourne and have to explain to the world that I just couldn’t fix everything and we had given up. I felt like a failure. I didn’t want to give in so easily. Many tears were shed during the discussion and arguing over what we should do, but eventually we had to decide to be in control of our futures and not be putty in the hand of someone else.
Once the decision was made, life was fantastic, we went on holiday. We spent the remainder of the month having fun. Next installment – the fun parts, my favourite places and great memories.