If you've just started reading and would like to begin at the beginning, go to the first post about our journey or if you would like to skip ahead to the part that interests you, here are the links to my New Zealand blog posts so far:
1. The Seed
2. The Analysis
3. The Decision
Analysis ParalysisIn order to really process this concept of uprooting our entire family, we needed to take a step back and analyse everything. What was working in our lives, what wasn't and what we were doing on autopilot. It was time to look deeper into our stressors. We began analysing our life, our dreams and goals. There were no sacred cows, we looked at ourselves under a microscope. Were we where we (say that fast three times ha ha) wanted to be on our journey so far? Could New Zealand offer us the change that we were looking for? Weren't we too old? Wasn't this too much of a drastic move? We needed to re-evaluate our lives.
StressHubby and I got married on a public holiday many many moons ago. The idea of getting married on a public holiday, was to enable us to go away for a long weekend to celebrate our anniversary and plan our year ahead. The plan would include work, home, projects, any hobbies we were going to pursue that year, finances and holiday plans. It was kind of like a new year's resolution without all the hype. It was our personal plans and goals for us as a couple and as individuals for our new year together. We looked forward to our anniversary weekends and booked the time and place well in advance. It worked brilliantly because when you're away in an awesome new place you feel relaxed, so the planning was mostly quick and fun and there was plenty of time for discussions and ideas.
We did this religiously until we had children. Ironically, we even planned our children during those discussions and yet they were responsible for the demise of our favourite tradition. The last time hubby and I went away together, just the two of us, was on our 9th anniversary when I was heavily pregnant with Tomato. Knowing that our long weekend days were over, we didn't want to kill the tradition so we went out every year for dinner on our anniversary but it was never the same. We would be rushed and inevitably get side-tracked and our goals morphed into parent goals instead of our own and projects and activities revolved around our BLT.
We knew we hadn't really focused on what we wanted as a couple and as individuals, versus what was expected of us as parents, for a long time and we were both just going through the motions of life, trying to parent children who had their own issues, give our best to our jobs, and spend as much quality time with the people we love. We had a lot of great times and I thoroughly enjoyed lecturing. But holidays became fewer and fewer due to poor prioritising mainly, coupled with Tomato's skin condition which we needed to take into account before going anywhere, so it was easier to stay at home. [see how a silly "little" disease consumed our whole family here] Once the skin issues were sorted, we seemed to continue a largely pressurised existence. All decisions we had made up to that point, had put us where we were and we couldn't really fault them.
It was fine for a while but we had become passengers in our lives which had become monotonous by our own design. Weekends were dictated by birthday parties and school events for our BLT. Hubby's company wasn't doing well and there were some seriously toxic clients who were demanding and draining on him. He was under huge pressure and when he became the pawn in a tug-of-war, it all came to a head. The result was that hubby began to hate going to work. He used to love work. Both of us are 'do-ers' and we love the achievement of getting things done and adding value to our clients and teams, but we were both struggling to find meaning in what we were doing. Not only was this scenario creating unnecessary stress, it was creating health issues. Why were we working so hard doing things we didn't enjoy? We had put ourselves on the hamster wheel in order to support the comfortable way we were living. Why?
In one of Tomato's classes in grade 2 or 3 the students were asked to listen to the news and report back on a news story they had heard. So we put the radio on. The headline story was about a grandfather raping and murdering his 2 year old grand daughter and hiding her body under his bed! Thankfully I was tuned into a bilingual station so that news was in Afrikaans and Tomato was none the wiser. I just couldn't do it, I didn't know how to desensitise her to what was happening to children in the place we called home.
OCD BehaviourI realized of course that my OCD checking of my car (had it actually locked and not been car-jammed) every time I stopped the car, was impacting the kids as they began to check and re-check without me asking. My freaking out that the gate be closed behind them every time they came in or out of our secure complex was, in their minds, totally irrational because they felt perfectly safe. My kids could never understand why they had to have their car windows wound up at the robots and I blamed the aircon needing the windows closed because I didn't want to tell them that I was scared of smash-and-grabbers. The guys at the robots seemed so nice and had such fun stuff to look at. I knew the time was coming when they would have to grow up really quickly and start being more aware but even though Tomato was almost 11 years old at the time, I knew it would unnerve her and she would become insecure and an emotional wreck.
Living in a Bubble
Both hubby and I needed to keep working at a frenetic pace, running on that hamster wheel to earn good enough salaries to keep up the super secure lifestyle bubble. It was entirely possible that we may be forced to retire OUTSIDE the bubble (literally bursting our bubble!) Maybe we weren't so happy to do that.
FinancesDue to my auto-immune disease, which is fortunately under control now, I was not bringing in the large salary that I had in the past, although I was working. This made us re-evaluate our lives earlier, purely based on what we were spending money on. We knew that inflation was growing faster than our salaries. This meant we had significantly less disposable income than the previous five years. We were struggling to understand how to plan for our financial future. It was difficult predicting where the economy would be in a years time, let alone 10 years, although many financial planners would disagreed. I won't even go into the changing price of electricity during this period. Watching my mom stress about whether she would be able to pay her medical aid each month made us concerned for our future. We would have to invest most of my salary, purely to ensure that we could remain in the bubble. But what if we lived to the age of 83 like my mom did? I was hearing about more and more retirees who were struggling to manage on what their financial advisors had advised was a good retirement figure.
Another concern was that hubby's company was poorly managed and the writing was on the wall, he would need to start looking for something elsewhere and he would require a much greater salary. Larger salary = larger stress. This started our questioning. Is that all there was going to be to life? Stressing out every day, rushing from activity to activity and counting down to the weekend? We were waking up just after 5am, rushing to get the kids up and out the house, sitting in traffic for an hour, just getting to school on time, sitting in more traffic to get to work or home and we were exhausted. Then we were rushing the kids through dinner and getting them to bed early so that they got enough sleep as it would be an early wake up call. Was this the life we wanted for our family?
I have always wanted to take my BLT to Disney World in the US, to see Buckingham Palace in the UK and to visit K and G, to visit my brother in Perth and my sister in San Francisco. I want them to experience other cultures and countries, but the Rand is volatile (I can hear you screaming "invest off shore!") We needed to gain a foothold but felt like we were just flailing around with no solid base to work from.
New Zealand offers free medical, free schooling and no need for security or lifestyle levies. Inflation is predictable and the services work. That would shave off almost 50% of our monthly expenses.
SchoolTomato was assessed with some difficulties due to concentration. She was struggling at school and we were sending her to many extra lessons, privately and those provided by the school. She needed a scribe and when she got one, she did well, but when she didn't, she did poorly. She felt stupid and was teased for being different. Every day homework became a swear word and we waged war to get it done. I became a slave-driver forcing her to do what was required of her. She was miserable and hated going to school. It broke our hearts.
After this analysis, it was clear that there was massive room for change. Would we make changes in South Africa or in New Zealand. It was crunch time. We felt a little bit excited about starting fresh, wiping the slate clean and seeing what would happen if we just said "what the hell" and went. Was it even possible?
Hubby had just turned 48. If we wanted to make a change, it had to be soon. Time was not on our side. We would have to make a huge decision in a small amount of time.
"If we knew then what we know now, we wouldn't have done it."
Click here to see Chapter 3 of our journey - The Decision