Living a Double Life

I realized I was in trouble when I found myself sobbing in the restaurant. It had almost happened earlier that day at the hairdressers, when I’d gone for the last haircut. As I gave my hairdresser a quick kiss goodbye I tried my usual goodbye trick with a chirpy “see you next time” but I didn’t pull it off, my voice changed mid sentence and the cracks appeared. I made a quick exit and attempted to inconspicuously wipe away the tears on the walk back to the car. Deep breaths Kirsty, deep breaths.

I’m not sure why I found it so hard to leave Australia this time. It had been a long break, usually I would have been keen to get the children back to school and back in to a routine, but I wasn’t. I wanted to stay. I wanted to keep walking on the beach, to keep going to the Farmers Market, to keep dropping in to see old friends for a glass on wine on the way home. I wanted to watch my children crawl all over my Father while he tried to watch the Footy. I wanted to hear them talk about Granny and repeat all of her little sayings “now there’s something you don’t see everyday”. 

For the first time in 12 years I began to question what we were doing. I looked at the Little Travellers living their very Australian life and I wondered if they too were about to become victims of my self diagnosed ‘Geographical Schizophrenia’. How would they switch back to their old lives after such a big break? How do you readjust when you’re seven? Am I confusing them by having two homes, two sets of friends, two completely different lives?

As we sat in the restaurant across the road from the Melbourne Airport waiting for our flight to Doha, I listened to the Third Little Traveller talk about our beach house neighbours. “When I grow up I’m going to be just like John, I’m going to be an Engineer and have a moustache”. G and I smiled but I couldn’t help but think about all the people we had all just said goodbye to, about what we might be missing.

“Why are your eyes wet Mummy?” asked the Fourth Little Traveller.
“Too many Goodbyes in one day Darling – nothing serious, I’ll be fine in a minute”

From the moment our plane touched down in Doha I began to remember the other life. Initially I saw everything through a haze, a haze of heat that rose from the Tarmac, it was 6.30 in the morning and already 37 degrees.  Everything was different, it wasn’t just the weather, the language, the taxis or the sun with its desert orange glow. The traffic moved at a different speed, someone stopped next to us at the lights with a camel in the back of their 4 wheel drive “you don’t see that everyday” said the Third Little Traveller, “you do in Doha” said the Fourth. I smiled.

Within two hours of being home I made a quick head count. Four little girls on the computer, four little boys building Lego, four bigger kids squealing as they began planning their next performance. Scottish, South African, Canadian and Australian accents compared their Summer break, someone had been to Florida, someone had been to London, someone had been to Calgary, everyone had been spoilt by Grandma. They had all had a great holiday but were all glad to be “home”.

As they all talked over the top of each other, trying to out do each other with their holiday stories, fishing, camping, bike riding, I realized that it wasn’t 2 separate lives for them. For them and their friends it is just the way life is. Everybody lives like this. Yes, we do have 2 homes and 2 sets of friends, but I was wrong, we only have 1 life, it has just covered a few different locations. And, for as long as the Little Travellers are happy we will continue on with the life we know.

So next year, when I’m sobbing through my Goodbyes, I’ll remember, the Hellos are pretty fantastic.

How about you? Have you floated between two places? Have you lived a double life?

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  1. What a beautiful post Kirsty. I do understand what it is to live overseas and pine for home, and to be home and pine for your other home. I’ve decided that I have to find a way to straddle both homes and make it work. There are things my kids and I will miss out on, but then again we will have rich experiences that few others will know. The transitions, however, never seem that easy. xo

  2. Sigh. I have spent a few nights of late lying in bed worrying about what we have done to the children. But soon it will also just be life as we know it. Big hugs to you through the transition. Loved the kids quoting Nana. xx

  3. Beautiful. And I hope you had a wonderful visit and that it feels great to be back again.

  4. Beautiful…you made me cry remembering. Not that we’ve stopped but the kids stay here and i leave – that was our solution to this crazy life. It seems to have worked for the kids and gulp the eldest goes off to uni this week…then I’m back to the sand pit

  5. So well put Kirsty!  My sentiments exactly.

    Loving the word you coined: “Geographic Schizophrenia!”


  6. Oh Lord Kirsty, trying to not blub here. Love this post, it sums it up doesn’t it. I still think the two lives is harder for Mum than anyone else in the family.

  7. Oh Kirsty. What a touching and evocative post. Goodness, you Little Travellers are so blessed to have you and G giving them such wonderful life experiences at a young age. J x

  8. Bloody hell , you made me cry Kirsty. And I have never lived anywhere but Adelaide….

  9. Yes I have. But no where near as rich and as varied and as far away as you. What an awesome job you are doing and what an awesome family you are raising. Just sorry you are so far away and I can’t pop across and give you a hug! (or a year’s supply of tampons …)

  10. Thanks Jane, it was very hard to leave but it all makes sense when you see them reconnect with friends and take it all in their stride.

  11. I agree, I watched them cheerily say Goodbye to their Grandparents and special friends while I bit down on my lower lip. I know throughout the year there will be the odd “I miss the beach house” or “I miss Granny” but they appear to just move onwards and makes sense of it all. It could all change at any moment but right now, they’re just fine.

  12. That’s it exactly – I feel the same way, just enjoy both homes and make them both work for different reasons. xx

  13. But what you can do Bronnie is make me laugh out loud! Thank you. Kxx

  14. Awwwwwww.

  15. The Expat Life certainly has it’s different stages, I watched all of the different options and I’m still lost on what will be the “right” thing in the future, but I think you guys have it worked out really well. Thanks for the comment Liz. Kx

  16. Thanks Megan, it was a gorgeous trip home (half the problem, I think we had WAY to much fun). It is nice to be back, sitting at my desk now looking out of my window I can see the men dressed in white returning from the mosque . I really am on the other side of the world.

  17. The more I think about it I think we all worry about every decision we make for our children whether it’s schooling/housing/locations/musical instruments…..we’ll always doubt our decisions. 

    Other favourite Nana quote “clean as a whistle”, 

  18. bywordofmouth says

    They don’t know another way, and they are learning every step of this journey … and look at what they are learning.  That people are different all over the world and that they can fit in wherever they go.  Quite a gift really.
    My husband just told me he will be home 4 nights in the next 4 weeks, so much for moving to FLA FOR his job 😉

  19. It all sounds rather traumatic!  I guess it is a lot harder having young children with you too!  I always fancied the romantic idea of living a roving lifestyle, but there are downsides for sure!

  20. Hi Kirsty
    Loved reading your story – you captured the emotions perfectly.  I  spent quite a bit of time o/s in my 20’s but never with kids so I admire you for that.  You are doing an amazing job 🙂

  21. HappyHomemakerUK says

    I question the same thing – but it’s their normal and they don’t know it any other way 🙂 I wish I could take a sneak peek to see how our kiddos turn out. Or just where we are in 10 years 🙂

  22. A beautiful post, where I recognised a lot of your feelings and emotions too!    The goodbyes are the worst part aren’t they?  Emma 🙂

  23. What a life-affirming post – thank you.  I constantly struggle with the thought of making this life we love the wrong choice for my babies.  But maybe they’ll grow up to be just as geographically schizophrenic as their parents, and wouldn’t be able to imagine a different life either.

  24. Been in Atlanta in 5 weeks and spent the summer worrying about the children saying goodbye to their school friends in Dubai, then seeing and leaving their family and friends in Oz and Scotland and then starting their 4th new school (they are in Grade 3 and 4) in French immersion.  They have been absolutely fine – love the challenge of learning a language, made new friends, love the school and Atlanta.  I, of course, have been on a roller coaster of emotions.  Need to stop worrying but think it is in my DNA.

  25. Yes, it’s the same for us too. I’ve lived a double life all my life, though it’s been a kind off triple life since my brother turned 18 (about 9 years back and started living all over the world). 
    I don’t think children find it as tough as us. In fact, last week, i was quietly shedding a few tears after my mom left for Dubai and the V piped up with “don’t worry mommy, I’ll buy our passports today and take you to see your mommy and daddy”.

    I love the way you  express what all of us feel. It’s like you’re inside my head (in a non-scary way). 

  26. We loved having you all home and miss you until next year

  27. Stacy Rushton says

    Just found your blog when a good friend posted the link on Facebook. You speak for all of us eloquently. As an expat for 24 years
     and an expat mother for 20, I had to chime in to reassure you that you are making the right decision. Your children gain so much more in life skills and experience than any school could ever teach them. (Add that to the advantage of excellent international schools!) They also learn the value of immediate family.  My baby girl just let me for university in the States, joining her older sister at Rhode Island School of Design. If you still have lingering doubts, my eldest posted this yesterday on her Tumblr, after we told her that we are moving on again, from Kuala Lumpur to Cairo.  In a Skype conversation after she posted it, we discussed your blog and I asked her if we had done the right thing. Her answer was simple. “You did.” the faith!  You are doing amazing work!My blog:

  28. We’re living our double life with our 4 year old.  This summer vacation was 6 weeks in the US and she was homesick and miserable and kept asking to go “home” to Paris.  Between our place here, our place in the US and Grandma and Grandpa’s house, our little one definitely prefers France.  She was showing a cousin around the grandparents’ house with lots of “this is like my other house” and “just like at my other house”.  He asked her “How many houses do you have?” and she calmly answered “Just three”.  We sometimes wonder if we’re setting her up for a weird lifetime of not feeling attachment or roots, but so many of her friends speak multiple languages, “go home” for their vacations, etc.  She thinks it’s normal.  Hard for us, though.  Hard, hard, hard.  Those goodbyes are killers.  But we also try to focus on the Hellos, and the amazing people we have met along the way; gathering an amazing variety of friends from all over the globe.

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