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The Big O.E.

Wife, Children and Chattels

Life was clearly not exciting enough for Mark Grimes when he decided to take wife and children from the UK to live happily ever after in New Zealand. Along the way, though, some self-doubts crept in whether he did the right thing as a dad.

Mark is the coordinator of the Christchurch branch of Father & Child.

We started to plan our move to New Zealand after visiting in 2008 for a family holiday.

We had visited the Expos in England and been a member of the Ex-pats forum for 2 years, an online community that discusses and shares all aspects of living and working in New Zealand. This had given Sharon and I the information needed, including the highs and lows of making the move to New Zealand.

Or so I thought!

We discussed the options available to us: Do we qualify under skill shortage? What will it cost? Where to live, north or south? What schools should our children attend? Shipping costs. Shall we sell or let the house? You get the picture.

So what was driving this desire to move to the other side of the world? Sharon and I thought it would be a great move for our daughters Daisy and Eve, they would enjoy a better life filled with fantastic outdoor experiences, rather than the world of gadgets, computers and game consoles and the unsafe world called England.

And for Sharon and me the chance to experience life where we could enjoy the quality of it rather than the daily grind we have in the UK. Our intentions are to work less and enjoy life more!

We planned to live in or around Christchurch on the South Island, a decision dictated by work. My wife had secured a job as a nurse in Christchurch and I had at least a prospect there.

Our House sold late November 2009 and on the 1st of December at 08:30am Allied Pickford’s arrived to pack the contents of our house, our home of 10 years. Two days later the house was empty.

During the first 3 weeks of December we slept on mattresses on the floor, borrowed chairs, a table and a TV from friends.

With our house sold and flights booked, New Zealand suddenly became very real. I was nervous, anxious and frightened at the same time. It felt strange. Very strange!

I said to myself this should not be happening now; we should be celebrating Christmas and decorating the house with the children, enjoying the holidays with family.

Christmas and the New Year whilst living with the in-laws became very emotional. It was hard to comprehend that this could potentially be the last Christmas we would spend together as a family! Nan kept saying that she would miss us and not see us again. She is 89 years old, and yes, she could be right!

Brothers and sisters gave encouragement and reassurance saying to us that it was right for us to move and experience life in New Zealand. Secretly, my wife and I knew that inside they were feeling just like us.
We always knew that this part of our journey would be difficult, and it was!

January went by in a blur. We finished up our jobs, sold our cars. We held a farewell get-together for family and friends and said our goodbyes to friends that we had known for years, aunts, uncles and cousins.

On top of our 11 and 8 year old girls, my wife and I have children from previous relationships, now adults.

Leaving them behind was heartbreaking. We knew they would be ok but it didn’t make it easy knowing that we just couldn`t drive over if they needed us.

It’s now the 8th February at 3pm, we are packed and waiting for the taxi to take us to Manchester Airport. It`s 3.30pm the taxi is here. Daisy and Eve cried, I cried, the whole family cried!

This was probably one of the most emotional times in my life. I asked myself again and again, was it right to take our children away from our family? Grandparents, aunts, older brothers and sisters: people idolised by our younger children.

After flying for what seemed like days we arrived in Christchurch, and lived in motels for the next three weeks. During this time my wife started work, and that’s when I started to feel lost, isolated and alone!

I was with my daughters 24/7 and they were enjoying being on “holiday”: going shopping, trips to the park etc, but that was about to change. Their first day of school in New Zealand had arrived, and what a day it was!

My confident, outgoing daughters had become emotional wrecks at the thought of school in NZ. It finally caught up with them that this was for real and we were staying. Those first two weeks became a nightmare, an emotional rollercoaster especially for me, as I had become the main caregiver while my wife worked fulltime.

Their first week also tied in with me starting a new job.

Well, you can imagine how I was feeling. Outside I was smiling, confident and looking forward to my new challenges, but inside I was crying at what I had done to Daisy and Eve.

This was personal. I had taken them 20,000 k’s away from home and family and abandoned them at a strange school with no friends. How could I do that to the people I love the most?

Each day of their first week at school my cell phone would ring: ‘Hello Mark, its school here. Your daughter is not feeling well.’ This went on for days. Every night Sharon and I had to sit with our children offering reassurance and encouragement to keep them going.

They did not want to listen; they just wanted to go back to England.

My 11 year old eventually became more settled, and at week three went off to camp leaving my wife and me worried sick. Our 8 year old is totally different. She is a home bird, and if she could she would stick herself to me with glue.

Four weeks in and it’s a different picture. Both girls are going to school without the distress they initially felt, however my 8 year old will often need that additional reassurance when I drop her off.

She knows that I will be waiting for her at our meeting point at the end of the day, and knowing I will be there makes attending school more bearable.

Well, my wife and I are working and enjoying our new jobs; the children have now settled into school and made friends, which makes life easier and less emotional for mum and dad.

In short I think we can say that the move to New Zealand was easy, in regard to emotional wellbeing and stress… no way!

You can plan everything, every detail, but you can’t plan for what it will do emotionally to you and your family.

Are we here for good? Only time will tell!

Next: Two In One Go

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