So here is the thing: We are in one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, some would argue the most beautiful. Guanajuato is no less than visually stunning, rich in culture and arts, and full of vibrant, kind, and loving people. But despite the awesomeness of this place… moving here has been a major challenge. To be completely honest, this first week in Mexico is different than what I had anticipated. I expected much more rest, more sun, more delicious food, more creativity, more joy, more laughter. Sigh. So far, those dreams haven’t come true.
We are 6 days in to our adventure and we are feeling pushed. I’m talking maxed-out-before-10am kind of pushed. At 9:30am, my husband and I looked at each other in disbelief, took a deep breath and said, “this is so fucking hard.” He asked me later on in the morning, “is this any easier for you, now that I am home to help with the kids?” No…no it is not.
The truth is, any major transition for a person is challenging. For toddlers? Even harder. And when we’re talking about moving to the other side of the continent with different culture, language, food, routines, conveniences, families can get tossed into a complete whirlwind. And that is us right in this moment. Swirling around in a storm of stress, chaos, non-stop tantrums, sugar highs and caffeine lows, uncertainty, worry, questions, hope, doubt.
It’s hard to pinpoint where the challenges begin and end but I know that for me (and for most parents I know), their stress circles around the kids. Ok, so I know this is a no-brainer right? We move our kids out of our cozy little home with their family, friends, and tight little routine and plop them into a foreign country and are now wondering what’s up with them. Right. Duh. But truthfully, I am surprised by how hard this is for them (especially our 3 year old). And with years of backpacking and travel under our belts, my husband and I felt ready for the adjustment but are quickly learning that travelling with toddlers is a total different ballgame.
Sometimes it seems like our daughters are missing their material things (we left basically all toys back in Canada) and the simple comforts of home like a cozy carpet to sit on or space to have quiet time. Each day it suddenly dawns on my oldest daughter that she is missing something, like her dolls, her runners, and this evening it was her hippo that I have never actually seen her acknowledge in the past. Right. Their beautiful minds are already working in metaphors.
It’s not about the hippo.
But how did I forget to pack the special toys? I heard myself tell her some kind of half-truth about getting them back soon, and I wondered how this could possibly make any sense to her. I told her that I’d like to take her to the store and find some new toys, and she dropped to the floors crying, “My already have toys in my home! My no want buy toys mama!” My heart breaks a little as I start to question myself and our choices. Truth is, I miss her toys too. I miss the beautiful puzzles, library of gorgeous books, basket of dolly clothes and accessories, the lego and building blocks, jewellery boxes and dress up. I am working hard at living simply and minimally, but I also accept that living without our stuff can be the pits sometimes. There is comfort in stuff. I am OK saying this. And, at the same time…I know it’s not about the stuff, but instead, what the stuff represents. It’s familiar. It connects to memories. It reminds the girls of their sense of mastery and knowing. And it’s home. Comfort. Safety. Security. I get it.
Everything feels hard. Getting out of the house. Finding groceries. Learning Spanish. Managing the kids in a challenging (possibly even dangerous) house. Cooking food that someone wants to eat. Finding food I want to cook. Learning how to parent with my husband around. Steps backwards in potty-training. Bed time…it’s like we have 2 newborns again, although thankfully breastfeeding is no longer a thing. We’ve just past mid-day and I can hear our oldest having another meltdown as I write…she just woke up from a nap and is already in tears.
It’s moments like these where I cannot help but ask myself “what the hell are we doing here?” and “how do we know when to pull the shoot?”
What’s most beautiful is that in the very same moment that I recant the challenges of the day, I can hear reggaton beats in the background, bouncing across the cityscape. All it takes is one of my senses to bring me back to the present, with gratitude, for the simple joys that are everywhere. Once I start looking, they becomes impossible NOT to see. The pigeons cooing, the sun beaming through the windows. I sip my black Mexican roast in the most beautiful handpainted mug I could have asked for. Waking up without an alarm clock, not even knowing the time (although let’s be honest, parents don’t sleep in). My inner artist basking beside the colourful buildings, delicate paint peeling off concrete walls revealing its past lives, towering cathedrals holding secrets I’ll never know. Sauntering aimlessly through plaza after plaza, kids in the packs, sampling gorditas, fresh fruit smoothies, and pan dulce. Catching my husband’s eyes, sharing a giddy smile of amazement that this is actually our life. It’s ours. And we can do what we want.
This is what we wanted. We wanted time. We wanted togetherness. We wanted space. We wanted to flip what we were doing, the every-day-hamster-wheel grind that so many of us have been on for too long. We knew it would be hard. And now it is. What I am learning is that taking a risk is messy business. It’s complex and confusing. Delicious and gross. Peaceful and chaotic. A good idea and a bad one. Incredible and fucking horrible. All at the same time.
It is now clear to me that my work will be to accept the uncertainty, and stop waiting for some sort of comfort to swaddle me up and tell me we have made the right choice.
We’ve made the choice. That part is done. So here we are.
Author: Kate Butler
Kate Butler is a writer, a wanderer, a digital nomad. A mother of two, lover to one, and dedicated to living an inspired, colourful life. She co-authors Flipping Moons and has an online therapy practice, LiveLight Counselling.