We are trading our sandals for gum boots. We are going to live in New Zealand. At the moment one can find us in our little home in South Africa frequently doing a happy dance. One can also often find me feeling sad. My husband and daughter are NZ citizens, so we were inevitably all going to be South African Kiwi’s one day. We just didn’t know when we would make the move. The time has come, and we are about four months away from boarding the plane.
Making the choice
I am well-travelled, and I have lived in three other countries, but I have never been to New Zealand.
The decision Three Years Ago
When I met my husband, we had the choice of living in New Zealand or South Africa. He was living in New Zealand at the time.
I had been living abroad for three years and had just settled in a new job in Johannesburg. I had been traveling solo before that and being around my family again felt like luxury. My husband has family here that he had not spent time with for years. Although, my late dad tried to convince me to go to New Zealand. My then boyfriend was keen to go back and take me with him. I just wasn’t ready to leave again, and I felt like I had just started planting new roots again. I could only be honest with my new boyfriend and I knew that my feelings could have been a deal breaker when I discussed it with him. It was a difficult decision and the discussion went like this:
Me: “I have just come back and I kind of feel like the grass is greenest where I water it. I have a brand-new patch of grass. My patch is not looking too great, but I have a tiny piece of gravel and the grass is starting to grow. I’m enjoying watching this little patch of mine and I’d like to see what it can become.”
He replied: “I would like to bring some fertilizer.”
And the rest is history. We stayed here. And boy oh boy did he bring fertilizer! He even fertilized my egg! Today we have a beautiful blended family. My step kids and our little grandchild are already in New Zealand. We have a lush and green African patch of lawn with a garden in full bloom. South Africa has been so good for us.
The Decision Now
This time around the decision came about very slowly and very quickly all at the same time.
I knew that we would eventually end up in New Zealand and after having a baby it was purely a matter of time. This move has been on my mind for a long time and I was going to have to face some fears, gradually. It wasn’t something that I was going to be able to get my head around suddenly.
I don’t know what life is like in New Zealand, but I have some preconceived ideas about how our lifestyle may change.
I don’t even understand the cost of living over there, but I made up a whole lot of garbage in my mind, some of which may be true. Initially I had some fear about not having a domestic worker and what kind of affect that may have on my marriage. I felt somewhat anxious about not being able to go to the hair salon as often as I would like to or not to have my nails done regularly. Anxiety when I thought about my child’s healthy diet and the extortionate price of an avocado over there.
So, I slowly started making some lifestyle changes. I changed one thing at a time, as and when I could cope with it.
I stopped having my hair highlighted and I started buying nail polish and doing my own nails. When our full-time nanny absconded the workplace, we decided not to replace her. Instead we got a domestic worker twice a week and started making use of the school’s after care service when we needed to work for a full day. When our part-time domestic worker went on holiday for three weeks I decided not to hire a replacement for her during those weeks, and we coped.
There are many other things that will be so different over there that I don’t even know about, but I needed to find comfort in our ability to handle some of the petty pressures as a couple and a family unit.
My husband and I manage our home and life like a winning team and one day I just woke up and felt ready, it felt sudden.
We spoke about it and decided that it’s time to go and start a beautiful garden elsewhere. It is super exciting.
The irrational responsibility I take for my female input in the decision process.
My husband and I make our decisions together based on what we need for ourselves and how we can best compromise.
He is very much the captain of our ship and he grounds me with a voice of reason. But, I give a shitload of input and he gives me so many options of where I would like us to be and what kind of climate suits me best, etc.
I can’t help thinking of how this relates to wildlife and nature. I think of the little male birds who work so hard in building a nest and then the females come along and knock it down when they’re not happy enough with the nest.
When we decided to stay in South Africa the first time around, he made 50% of the decision and I made the other 50% but I initiated it. We are in it together, as together as one can be. But, there is this irrational anxiety that comes along with my input.
I remember when our daughter was born I had second thoughts about our decision to stay. I questioned myself and thought about how I would feel if something terrible happened here and it was my idea to stay. This is an extremely stupid way of thinking. Life happens everywhere, good and bad things can happen anywhere. I’m not sure if these silly thoughts are normal but I’m inclined to think that it’s part of the petrifying responsibility that comes with parenting territory.
Making decisions for myself that ultimately lead to decisions I make on behalf of my child.
I am an advocate of ‘happy parents mean happy children’. I believe that when we choose what is good for us as parents our whole family thrives.
However, since I became a parent I get very emotional about the decisions I make. Choosing a name for my daughter was one of the hardest things for me to do. We chose a name that we liked but it’s not ours, it’s hers, for life. The responsibility that comes with most parenting decisions is massive.
For me, the decision we made to go to New Zealand had to be for us first, before it was about our child’s safety and future and whatever else.
This is what is best for us right now, as individuals, as a couple and as a family.
However, this decision will shape so much of my child’s life and her future, it’s scary. It will probably even affect her decision on choosing her life partner.
I also get emotional about the smallest things. This will affect the way she speaks. I love the way she talks to me in her little voice and South African accent at the moment. Soon enough she will be calling me Mummy instead of Mommy and her accent will be different to mine. The small things and the big things are about to change for her. We are in charge of deciding so many little things on her behalf based on what is best for our family unit.
The reasons for leaving – Running away from the bad vs embarking on a new adventure.
It’s not even necessary to mention all the reasons why people choose to stay in this awesome country of ours. It’s also not necessary to mention the statistics of emigration and to talk about why people choose to leave.
For us, we always found comfort in the opportunity to leave at any time if we really had to leave. But lately I have been feeling uncomfortable with the notion of “having to leave”.
I don’t like the feeling of running away from something. I feel we should be doing it because we want to and not because we have to. We don’t have to leave. The thing is that we don’t feel unhappy here. We are leaving because we want to start somewhere else.
But, maybe if this country was managed properly the thought of leaving wouldn’t even cross our minds? When I was born, one South African Rand was equal to one US Dollar and I could safely play outside on my own. Today that sounds like a fantasy for South Africans. That is unfortunately how much this country has deteriorated in 35 years, at the speed of light really. I have a rather nice property in Cape Town that I consider to be an investment for myself and my daughter but when I look up at the exchange rate and the country that I am investing in I feel like I need to question myself. It was time for me to re-evaluate where and how I invest.
Maybe I am already running away.
Maybe I am fooling myself.
But, I live in my own little happy bubble and I prefer to convince myself that we are going on a new adventure and to plant a new little garden.
We are happy here. Maybe we can be even happier in New Zealand? I don’t think that happiness has too much to do with the outside anyway.
The grass will be the greenest where we water it.
The culture of accountability that leads to the safety in countries like New Zealand.
As crazy as this may sound, this is one of the things that scares me. In South African culture we are gutsy people. We are quite cocky in the sense of believing we can achieve anything because we can somehow do what we want. And we tend to get away with the things that suit us. We grow up as very resilient to other people breaking different laws to the ones that we ourselves break. For some of us it’s okay if we do not pay our E-toll bill and if we go 5km/h over the speed limit, but it’s not okay when other people steal from us in house robbery.
A safe country is not a country where everyone abides by the law. It is simply a country where every single person is accountable if they break any one of the rules.
I have this belief that in New Zealand you have to follow all the rules very rigidly, even the petty ones. As I have a rebellious nature when it comes to things that I consider silly, like minimum school attendance, it makes me panic a bit. I need to have a serious attitude adjustment. I am going to have to tone down the anti-establishment attitude. This means that I will have to cycle in the bicycle lane only, so I don’t get wrapped over the knuckles.
I’m feeling a little bit afraid of getting into a feeling of being pushed into a box. I hope I am wrong about this and that I won’t feel boxed in. I’m not used to feeling like I am going with the flow all of the time. I like rules, but I never like all of the rules.
I have a few other little concerns that I am still getting my head around but I’m confident that there is enough time for me to sort out the rest of my mindset.
There are plenty of things that I am looking forward to.
I am super excited to safely be able to sit anywhere in a stationary car if my baby falls asleep. That is one thing that I think is super basic. It is a basic human right for my child to sleep and it’s a pretty basic right to freedom for us to be safe while she sleeps.
Another ill-informed idea that I have about New Zealand is that it rains almost every day. Or that it is at least newsworthy if there has not been any rain for a week. Hence me talking about “trading in our sandals”.
Thank goodness I am a pluviophile (lover of rainy days) and I’m not at all phased by overcast weather. I know I will be so okay with the climate because when I lived in the UK the weather suited me perfectly fine.
So, for now, I look forward to gum-boots weather, but my sandals are also going with me.
I can leave African soil at any time, but Africa will always be in me.
With Love and Gratitude,
P.S Thank you so much for all the questions about the migration journey. I will try to cover all of them in the best way I can. If you are one of the avid followers of this journey please feel free to follow all my platforms and watch my stories if you don’t want to miss an update. I am not always posting the same content to the respective platforms. This is still a parenting blog too, I promise (lol), sometimes lifestyle just takes over a bit. I love your comments and questions. Private questions are welcome. I understand this is a difficult topic.