Global Mom: Split Between Two Different Countries

From Global Mom: A Memoir

(Continuing from last post, “Ceiling Talk”…)

**

Despite the fact that Munich as a location was in many ways an ideal spot to drop us (we had roots there, as I’ve mentioned before, and were both German speakers), no one, including myself, could imagine leaving Paris. We had dug some serious grooves, as Kristiina Sorensen put it when I told her the news, and what place on earth could ever suit us as well as this place now did? So from that point in the early fall until the end of the school year, we conducted a test to see if living in one country—France— and working in another—Germany—would be not merely feasible, but preferable in terms of stability and consistency for the children. Randall lived during the weeks in a small hotel room outside of Munich, and I managed during the weeks with our four children and their four worlds of needs. We texted and called and emailed, stitched together our family with fiber optics, dangled in a world wide web.

kmmatrimony

kmmatrimony

Living in two different countries. One country for the employed person, another for the family, the occasional weekend together, if we were so lucky. More often, it turns into monthly or quarterly visits. Writing that today sounds so ludicrous it makes my fingers go rigid. But many families deliberately choose to do exactly what we were considering doing, and for the long haul. As I already knew from my circle of expatriate friends, more and more companies seemed to tacitly encourage such a thing. After all, with no family around to go home to, their employee could be counted on to work until or after midnight, could take international conference calls throughout the night, and be back at the office at 6:00 a.m., on Saturdays, on Sunday, on holidays.

Friends like the Sorensens and others from church and school and the neighborhood helped fill in some of the gaps when one has an absent father, and Parker, now an inch taller than Randall, became my right- hand man; a trusted, loving, fun and easy-going friend. Not a surrogate spouse, but my man-on-site who took care, literally, of some of the heavy lifting. He picked up brothers from their Parc Monceau school, carted heavy things up from the dusty cave, hauled the Christmas tree across town and up our building’s entry steps, and hauled it out again in January.

With the volleyball and basketball teams at school, Parker had to make his way by train or plane to sports trips all around Europe, the Mediterranean, and northern Africa, and at the same time he was pushing his way through the college application process. We saw Dad nearly every weekend for twenty-four or forty-eight hours, connected daily by every technological means known at the time, and kept extremely busy. Life was spinning as quickly as I had ever experienced it, the hum was rising, the date, June, 2007, drawing us ahead.

(Next post, we’re heading into the unknown. . .)

5 thoughts on “Global Mom: Split Between Two Different Countries

  1. My gosh, what you’ve described here Melissa, parallels so closely the separation between family, with the exception being that I was home, eventually, every evening. My professional was incredibly demanding of personal time, professional and personal time…there was no clear distinction. I would rise before the family, get ready for the day with the usual necessary routine, inhale “breakfast” and tear out the door for a slow commute to the office for another sixteen hour day including night meetings four out of five days per week, crawl in at home around 10:30 pm and immerse myself in hours of paperwork to cover the day’s activities, crawl into bed at 2:00 am and get up at 6:00 am to do it all over again. This often included a sixth and periodically seventh day of the week.

    Coupled with a spouse with a profession of her own this routine was a recipe for disaster and the marriage ultimately failed. It was catatonic, a crisis without solution nor the resolve or time to resolve our divisive issues. We had the beautiful family, two beautiful cars, beautiful trips for distant family, a beautiful dog, a beautiful neighborhood, a beautiful city. But there the beautiful ended. It all ended.

    That you and your loved ones were able to keep it all together was amazing and admirable. Fortunately we have never had to deal with living apart for employment reasons. My wife’s family went through the very same separation for several years, not separate countries but a long-distance ferry ride to the mainland for her husband’s work which was sufficiently distant as to make daily commuting impractical on numerous counts. He was therefore a weekend father and husband at best…yet they survived it all the same.

    And there, amidst all that you had to cope with, was your dear Parker. What an incredibly strong and resolute family you have Melissa.

    • Don, your description makes me weary. And sad. Our modern world imposes a tempo all its own, it seems, and who avoids getting drawn into that suction? Sorrow, too, for the dissolution of your marriage. I am heavily sorry.

      Thank you for always mentioning Parker’s name. It’s like a waft of pure oxygen, just hearing it.

      Melissa

      • As always Melissa it is a gift to read your written word, to explore your journey. Alas, I have married again, Andrea being a treasure in my life for thirteen years now…a friend, an inspiration, a kindred soul.

        And as for Parker, he will always remain in your heart, mind and soul and through your words and images we, your engaged audience and friends, share in that sense of his being, then and now. We are forever enriched having known of this special young man and what he gave, and left to this world, a legacy you can be very proud of from and through your son.

  2. Hey Melissa, your situation sounds crazy in comparison to what my wife an I are about to try. We are currently living in Australia but Laura (wifey) is from England so we’re going to try live 6months in Oz and 6 in the UK.

    Your thoughts or recommendations/words of caution?

    Laura misses her family so much thy we just have to give it a shot…?

    Thanks,
    Patrick

    • Patrick,

      A good friend, whose partner had traveled a lot (too much) during the early years of their marriage while they also had four young children once gave me sound advice: “Whatever you can do to keep the family together, keep the family together.” I tsounds as if you are moving with your wife, just being 6 months in one location, 6 months in another. Sounds reasonable to me, if you can manage professions at a long distance like that. (And if you can, wow, your jobs are flexible!)

      The stresses of being geographically apart are significant. Ask any family who knows about military deployment for months at a time. These soldiers often need counseling/training and decompression time before they ever return to their partners/families. And their families need powerful onsite support groups to manage the pressures. That research is quite revealing.

      The other dangers of living apart geographically are obvious, almost cliché. They are real. The tendency toward leading parallel but emotionally and spiritually independent/disconnected lives is so threatening to the stability and wellbeing of the family unit. So one has to be mindful about what one is doing and deliberate about not drifting apart.

      Just my observations, for what they’re worth!

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