Missing your Boyfriend or Husband
The Flint and the Flint Smith ladies are all without their men! Dad is in a carehome with a broken leg in pot. This is particularly hard on my mum as she can't even visit him now. Mick is over in Bangkok overseeing online learning at school. He isn't allowed to travel in case the schools suddenly open. This is, in my opinion, utterly rubbish. Betsy's boyfriend is down in Dagenham. As an 'at risk youngster' he wasn't able to travel to spend her birthday with her as planned, so that was a blow for them. Finally, we dragged Annie away from Spain, wanting her to be back here and quarantined with the family, Poor old Annie, what with leaving Bangkok, then London and now Spain she seems to spend most of her life saying, if not goodbye, at least farewell to special people in her life. :(
So, all in all, you would expect us to be rather gloomy. We all do have our down moments, but overall we are doing pretty well at staying positive.
Ways to Deal with Missing your Significant Other
These are our tips for keeping our spirits up:
Communicate Frequently. The Flint and Flint Smith ladies are all doing this as far as we are able. As I mentioned, it is much harder for mum and dad than the rest of us. Dad's sight is too poor for him to easily use a phone and the carers are in the home are very busy, so it is easy to feel like we're being a nuisance when we ring. I am able to ring Mick. I like to chat whilst I am doing my daily 'isolated' walk. This is heading towards Mick's headtime where he is very ready for some interaction after a day of isolation in Bangkok. The girls, communicate late into the night. Their communication techniques are far more advanced than ours and include playing online games, watching shared films and series as well as good old fashioned chatting.
Complete Tasks. This is something that I try to do anyway when feeling anxious and the current situation is certainly anxiety inducing. In our household we have our days divided up into 'tasks' time and 'chilling out' time. (Betsy hates the word 'jobs', but that's what 'tasks' are!) and goals. Our jobs include regular day-t0-day stuff like washing, hoovering, folding laundry etc. (but the iron has NOT been out!). In addition Annie has been keeping busy by painting the fence and garden bench, I've sorted out the garage and Betsy has become a dab-hand at bathroom cleaning! We have all agreed to be mindful that tasks do need doing so as to live harmoniously together!
Remember to be Grateful and Kind. In recent times it has felt, occasionally, that the cards are stacked against the Flints and Flint Smiths. There is, though, a lot to be grateful for. We ladies, at least, can be together; Dad is being well-cared for; the weather is good so we are not completely confined to the house, but can get out in the garden. There's loads more things too. My strategy is to write three different things down every morning which sets the day off positively.
Take a Challenge. I like nothing better than ticking things off a list and tracking my achievements, however small they might be. (I've been doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge for several years now and it still gives me a thrill when I complete it.) Annie has a similar mindset to me regarding challenges. She has made a 'goal calendar for April where we tick off daily the things we accomplish. My own goals are to improve on the piano, do some exercise and either read or blog daily. Betsy has also 'allowed' her name to be added to the April challenge, but I'm not so sure that it is quite her thing. 'Lists' are another one of her taboo words along with 'jobs' and this particular challenge does include an element of ticking off and recording what we've done.
Try to Avoid Over-Worrying. When apart from a loved one it is very easy to focus on them all of the time. This, of course, makes sense and is fine to a point, but it can be anxiety inducing. I am quite a fan (in principle at least, though it doesn't always work in practice) of using Cognitive Therapy Techniques to manage worry. It helps to phrase events as positively as possible. Instead of thinking "we will never be together again," it is, perhaps, more helpful to rephrase to something like "there will be an end to this situation and we can look forward to being back together."
Accept your Sadness. Whislt there is lots that we can do to distract ourselves, fill the time and channel our negative feelings as positively as possible we are still sad to be apart from our loved ones. I'm a believer in transparency in all parts of life, "better out than in" is something I often say. I think being mindful that it is fine to feel sad and to express sadness is a good thing to be. A good cry is cathartic and 'getting the sadness out' will make it easier to stay positive for the majority of the time.
Do Something Romantic. Being apart doesn't mean that you can't still indulge in a bit of romance. My mum, for example wrote my dad a letter for one of the careworkers to read to him in the home last week. I thought this was a very speical thing to do. There's something lovely about receiving n old-fashioned card or letter. Being romantic doesn't mean you have to 'splash the cash' but if you're feeling extravagent then why not. Judging by the review Mick wrote here, I can tell that he was very happy to have a special anniversary gift last week!
Stand by your Man and Tell the World you Love Him
I once heard Tammy Wynette saying she has spend a lifetime of defending the song 'Stand by her Man' to feminists. I am a feminist and to be honest her defence of the song doesn't help her case! I do like the song though, and choose to interpret it along the lines of if you've got a 'good guy' in your life then what's wrong with shouting out that fact of the rooftops. (Perhaps that's because I'm always talking about Saint Mick of Thana). Absence, it has been said, makes the heart grow fonder. There is no doubt that our hearts are full of fondness right now. Perhaps you are also missing a partner. What strategies do you have for managing time apart from a loved one?
A Reprieve from Empty Nest Syndrome
As my friends and family know Mick and I really struggled when both girls left home to go to University. I've talked a lot about the girls finishing school and posted about managing Empty Nest Syndrome several times. It is strange then to be posting about how to manage having grown up children back at home...
Annie is in her third year at UCL, but was abroad in Spain as an Erasmus student at the University of Salamanca, and Betsy was studying at York, when the Coronavirus brought them both back home to me in Broughton. (I should probably say me back to them, as thery had both returned back before I left Bangkok to return to them and my parents).
I guess to show that I had really managed my Empty Nesting Anxiety successfully I ought to be saying that it is now a hard adjustment to have two fully-fledged grown up women back living in our small bungalow. That would be a complete fib though - whilst the circumstances leading to their return are rubbbish, I am DELIGHTED to have them back with me. It is hard on the girls though; it feels like Betsy has had uni life interrupted before it had hardly begun, and Annie has had to leave an independent and full life behind (one that she might not return to) and instead hang out with her old mum. In addition, both girls have to get used to being around each other again.
Tips for Living With Grown Up Children
We are only two weeks in, but so far are doing ok. These are my tips and blunders so far:
Empty Nesting No More
I've always been a firm believer that I am the girls' "mum" not their "friend'. I think though, the final thing that can help for a harmonious return to grown up kids living at home is to change this mindset just a little bit. Of course, I am still their mum with all that comes with that, but in terms of actually sharing the same living space, treating the whole experience as equal friends (well nearly equal) living together will ('m telling myself) create harmony. I have a feeling if I tell my girls that's what we are doing though, they might just laugh at me and ask who I am kidding. Perhaps I am trying to return to my lost youth!
Expat Life in Bangkok
What a week it has been! Another long haul flight, another set of tough goodbyes and another lovely re-union with my Saint Mick of Thana. For the next ten days I will be back to living life as an expat!
Dad and mum constantly make me proud to be their daughter. They manage what seems to be one thing after another, digging deep and always encouraging me to focus on my life and not to worry about them. “Your place is in Bangkok with your husband” is a phrase I’ve heard more than a few times in recent months! As such, I’m having a quick visit (longer than the two days I managed in January before dad’s accident!) to my Bangkok home.
I’ve mentioned before how living with one foot in the ‘expat world’ and one foot in (Miranda alert), what I call the ‘real world’ has alerted my senses to reflecting on the pros and cons of both lifestyles. Luckily for me I feel immense gratitude, that in both worlds, are family I love being with. That’s not to say that I don’t wish the flying time between Bangkok and Broughton was a little bit shorter!
Benefits of Expat Life
Disadvantages of being an Expat
Summing Up Advantages and Disadvantages of Expat Life
Overall, I think the advantages of expat living outweigh the disadvantages. This particularly applies in professions such as teaching where, during the holidays, there is time to explore exciting travel opportunities and seek adventure, or alternatively spend time with family back in home number one.
I continue to be torn between ‘expat life’ and ‘real life’. I do miss my Saint Mick a lot and not having my strong female friends close by is pretty hard when I’m back in the UK, but on the other hand, being away from my parents is hard when I’m back here! I love the lifestyle expat living affords and coming back to Bangkok feels like coming home. However, I also love being back in my other home - the same village I grew up in where I have a shared history with family, friends and neighbours, that an expat can never really have. (I’ve even heard myself being gossiped about in the post office!) Weirdly, although I enjoy all the perks and benefits of expat life, which I’ve highlighted above when I’m here, I don’t really miss these perks when I’m not. A large portion of fish and chips from the local fish and chip shop makes up for a lot!
Are you a Christmas Scrooge or Bob Cratchit?
Our family love Christmas. Saint Mick of Thana turns into Bob Crachit, full of Christmas spirit and good will. He is generous to a fault and surpasses even Tiny Tim in his kindness. The girls are full of Christmas cheer. They don their Christmas pudding earrings and Santa hats with aplomb. In accordance with family tradition we all play Christmas songs loudly in the car from November onwards.
My personal Christmas highlight has always been the school carol concert. This year I’m back in the UK so missed it, but now both girls have graduated from school it would have probably been too bitter sweet to attend anyway.
To be truthful Christmas does feel a little bit strange this year. I think it is because although we only have a week to go we are still not all together as a family. In fact, I had a full on row with the staff in Morrison’s the other day. I was definitely in the ‘right’ but uncharacteristically (I hope) I did react as a bit of a Christmas Scrooge. I have needed to remind myself it is more important to be kind than to be right? Anyway … what about you …
Where are you on the Scrooge Scale?
I’ll pass no comment on the responses, but feel relieved that perhaps I’m not too much of a Scrooge after all. Actually, as I write this I have Coronation Street on the TV. Playing in the background of the soap opera is the song ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ which is juxtaposed against Barbara Knox, playing Rita Fairclough, crying into her photo album, bereft with loneliness. It is a pertinent reminder to add ‘Do you check on your elderly neighbours?’ to the above list. I guess that is the key way to demonstrate the kindness of Tiny Tim.
Reflecting back, over the years our Christmases have been very different. From safari trips and hot air ballooning in the Serengeti when we lived in Tanzania, to scrumptious all you can eat and drink lunches at our favourite Sheraton Grande restaurant in Bangkok to wonderful lunches with the most delicious food you can imagine at my brother’s and his wife’s house we have always been very lucky at Christmas time. This year Annie comes home tomorrow so then Christmas can really begin. I am sure that any lingering Scrooge will dissipate completely with the joy of her arrival. (For a day or two at least anyway!)
Coping with Empty Nesting Anxiety
I posted last week about viewing the whole experience of being an Empty Nester in a positive light using Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for my examples.. I joked about trying to not over parent and leave the munchkins to spread their wings in peace. Like many things it is much easier to say something than actually follow through and this week I’ve come remarkably close to overstepping the mark several times! I can only thank my kids for their levels of tolerance of my constant urge to over-parent.
I’ve noticed that whilst things are going super well with the girls, I can ‘play it cool’ and stay reasonably detached, but when there is even the teeniest glimmer of any problem (however small) I am suddenly there, offering unsolicited advice, suggesting ways of fixing things, judging and generally being an all round pain in the neck!
To be serious, any desire to over parent at this time does stem from real worry about whether the kids are doing ok as it is quite likely that they will feel at least a little bit homesick and have their own ‘stuff’ going on. The irony is that in trying to help it is easy to exacerbate this. A worry (another!) is that I don’t want the girls to ‘not tell me’ things about their life because of how I respond. I’m also concerned that they have both inherited, to some extent at least, the ‘Flint worry gene’ and that this creates problems for them in their own life! This is definitely not good! If only I could go back in time and learn earlier about role-modelling. Of course I can’t, but it is never too late to try to improve. I am therefore determined to put proper strategies in place to cope with Empty Nesting anxiety. This is what I have come up with: