This crazy move to the Alps was only ever going to be for a year – less, in fact, as I could take a year’s maternity leave and we didn’t move until Alpine Girl was seven weeks old. She is now nearly 11 months old so it’s time to start thinking about the next chapter in our life…
It’s always felt a bit strange really. On the one hand we’re totally at home here: we moved ALL our furniture over (except for a couple of garden chairs. Not sure why we left them in the UK. Weird.). We even managed to unpack everything within the first couple of weeks (unlike our last move, where there were unopened boxes in the spare room for about a year…). We’ve made friends here, Alpine Boy is happy at school, and it does feel like we’ve been here forever.
Yet at the same time we’ve never been properly settled – a year is not very long after all, and the end of my maternity leave has always been hiding just behind the horizon, waiting to surprise me.
I think the hardest thing for me has been seeing the seasons change so quickly, with a slight feeling of panic each time another one comes to an end. I spent most of the summer desperately running up and down mountains with a baby strapped to my front (well, OK, walking. Quite quickly though!), trying to cram as many treks in as possible into my one summer here. The same with winter – this season has been fantastic, with non-stop snow on the ground since November, and even another 30 cm overnight on Monday and Tuesday last week. But it’s all passing so quickly, and every time it gets a bit warmer I realise that it can’t last for ever, that our only winter in the Alps is coming to an end. Time is running out on our gap year. How sad.
So as the snowline around us gets slowly higher, and the birds start to sing again, I reflect on all the things I have done and achieved over the last year. Not much really, but hey, that’s the nature of maternity leave I guess.
I was going to teach myself to play the guitar. Fail. I was going to put Alpine Girl in a nursery so I could go skiing once a week. Fail. I was going to make some curtains for the bathroom and downstairs loo. Fail. (Every time we have a wee, or get out the shower, the neighbours get an eyeful. Lucky things.)
I have achieved some things though. Training my children to nap AT THE SAME TIME – success. (Unless you have more than one child, you cannot imagine what a huge and worthwhile achievement this actually is. Otherwise they nap in relay, and you never get time to
have a nap yourself do the housework.) What else? I’m six kilos lighter than I was before I got pregnant with Alpine Girl (or at least I was when I weighed myself about four weeks ago. I don’t have any scales but I would say that, thanks to the copious amount of cake-tasting and wine-drinking I have been doing recently, I’m now probably only about three kilos lighter than I was before I got pregnant with Alpine Girl. Not bad though.). I cook family meals every day. I bake every week. I can do fakie turns on my snowboard. I can make amazing Lego towers. I’ve written a blog (you should read it, it’s great). And I have survived being a stay-at-home-mum to two kids in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country without: (a) killing either child, or myself, and (b) opening the gin before 7.00pm. Success indeed.
But every chapter must come to an end. And so, with a “hi-ho, hi-ho”, it’s back to work I go. The City is calling (as is my bank balance) and there’s an empty desk and a big pile of work with my name on. Who am I to refuse?
But wait! You didn’t think I’d give all this up that easily did you?! Did you not work out just quite how much I LOVE it here?! The solitude, the mountains, the fresh air, the cheap wine? I can’t help but compare it to our life in the London ‘burbs – orange skies (from street-lights, not beautiful sunsets – don’t let the photo above fool you…), planes constantly overhead, screaming sirens throughout the night, packed commuter trains, a fight on our hands to get Alpine Boy into the local school at the end of our road rather than a random one six miles away…
Nope, we’re not going back there. Not yet anyway.
I’ve struck a deal with my amazing boss. The ‘best of both worlds’ deal, as I call it. Yes, I’m returning to work, part-time. But I will be working from home, in my little wooden chalet with my view of the mountains. I will go to London for two days (one night) every fortnight, where I plan on: visiting Starbucks (a lot); going out with my fantastic friends, without having to worry about babysitting; doing cultural city stuff (yeah right, I’ll keep you posted on how that one goes…); and generally enjoying city life without actually having to live there. Oh, and doing lots and lots of work, of course (I think my amazing boss might be reading this…).
We’re getting an au pair to take care of the kids, so it’s all change here. Getting used to having another person around the house might be a bit strange, but I’m really looking forward to her joining our family. It’s been a bit stressful sorting it all out, not least because our first au pair pulled out less than 24 hours after I’d bought three months’ worth of plane tickets to London, but the new ‘Alpine Au Pair’ seems lovely and things are all set for her arrival after Easter.
In the meantime, I have 10 days in which to do all the things I have been meaning to do since we got here.
I guess job number one should be making those curtains…