Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Outstaying the welcome?

The first six weeks with a brand new baby are the most difficult. Living in someone else's house without really having your own space adds to the degree of difficulty. We've been at Bridget and Marty's house for just over six weeks now and the dynamic has changed. Unavoidable really when you inject a new born baby into the equation, but there are other forces equally at work. I feel now caught between a feeling of total appreciation for being provided a place to live, relieved to have a permanent base for a while and a feeling of being trapped somewhere that I don't really want to be. It is no doubt difficult for Bridget and Marty's family too having people staying in their space for such an extended period of time. And now to add to the mix, my mum is also here. Oskar and Rav have given up their bedroom to her for the week long duration of her stay. They don't mind too much as they get to sleep in the room with the 50" TV but I'm sure that they would rather that there was nobody else living in their house now. Even though I have got her bribing them by cooking up batches of cake and vanilla slices.

The plan had never been for us to live in the same house as these guys while we were in Broome. The situation just sort of evolved to this. I contacted Marty back in November of last year to see if he knew a local real estate agent that could help us rent a house for three to six months, telling him also that Tori was pregnant and that we were planning for the baby to be born in Broome. That way we could set up our own base for the initial period after the baby was born and have those guys just down the road to catch up with on a regular basis. It seemed like an ideal solution. But all of a sudden we got wrapped into their plans which included the building of a new house and a six month stay in France in which case they would need a housesitter anyway. I was assured that we would have our own place to live in Broome without need for an estate agent, maybe we'd even have two places. And so it continued throughout the last six months of our journey. Are you sure it's all still ok for us to come and stay in the new house, I would ask. "Absolutely, of course", was the answer. Is everything on track with the building? Will it be ready for us? "There will definitely be a completed bathroom and a number of other rooms", was the response as recently as May. "Though it's not looking like we'll be in France now". Do you mind if my mother comes over for a couple of weeks after the baby is born, I inquired. "Well you'll have the house to yourselves, so you can have anybody you want come to stay", was the answer. I don't blame Marty and Bridget for the situation. Their intentions were certainly for the new house to be completed and also for them to be in France. But a combination of a long wet season, problems finding a manager for their store and other assorted family issues made it all a bit too much. By the same token, I refuse to feel now that I am imposing in any way whatsoever, as the situation is also not of my making and we now don't have any viable alternative. But it is far from ideal. Regardless of all else, it would seem that we have another six weeks thrust together. Two families including four children and a baby. And for the moment a grandmother.

We've had many people stay with us over the years, but the longest I've had visitors lob into my house for an extended period was when the two young cousins came to stay with us in England. They were straight out of home, two young girls of nineteen and twenty who were used to being looked after in all ways by their mother. Our apartment was barely big enough for two people, let alone four. Apart from Tori's and my bedroom, we had a tiny spare room that could only fit a single bed if it was oriented in one particular way and a small lounge room that fit barely more than the fold out couch and the TV. I forget how long they stayed. It was at least six weeks. Perhaps it was a couple of months. I was often working nights and when I would come home from the office, I'd find somebody asleep in every room so had nowhere to go to wind down. In the end it was completely driving me crazy. The girls had never done anything domestic in their lives and so expected that Tori and I would just do everything for them like their parents always did. Both had hair that hung halfway down their backs, so long strands of hair filled the house in every possible corner.The sink and shower were regularly clogged. It never dawned on them to actually clean up after themselves. Tori would cook every meal for them . They never offered to do the dishes even once during their stay. They didn't buy one thing for the household. To make it worse, one of them was particularly rude, especially to Tori. Selfish and rude. Not my favorite combination. We couldn't believe that they took everything so easily for granted. In the end, Tori and I decided that when the toilet paper ran out in their bathroom (we had our own separate ensuite) that we would not replace it and we would just see how long it took them to get it together to replace it themselves. We had hidden all of the spare rolls that were located in our ensuite as well as the tissues and monitored the situation with eager anticipation and amusement. When the roll was finally spent, it took them two days before they replaced it. I'm not sure what they had done in the meantime. Nor did I really care. When they finally moved out, we were relieved. I haven't spoken to the rude cousin since, nor do I care if I ever do again.

I've always been conscious of pulling my weight when I've stayed with somebody else. I always contribute financially and try to do my bit around the place. I don't think there's been any issue with that during our stay here. But living in people's pockets for an extended period will often cause some angst. The smallest things can start to irritate. Tori would like now to be somewhere else. She is feeling battered and bruised from child birth and breastfeeding and is often up all night with Kim. It has left her feeling fragile. And she feels that she is receiving mixed signals about how welcome we really are here now. The main issue of contention has been more to do with the kids than any issues between the adults. It is now school holidays and while Oskar and Rav have loads of friends that they can go off and visit as well as all of their stuff around them, Jaz and Finn have no such luxury. They have a mother who is exhausted from lack of sleep and preoocupied by a new born baby and a father who has to work during the day. And all of their friends are thousands of kilometres away in Warrandyte. So they are mostly bored sitting around somebody else's house. On the days that Bridget has taken her boys fishing or surfing or crabbing or off to the block, our kids have not been invited. Their total exclusion from these activities seems a real and blatant snub. The kids all seem to play well enough when they are together, but the boys bitch and moan about Jaz and Finn behind their backs. And clearly not very far behind their backs because I know about it. It's all left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Even though I understand that the boys are young and are missing their own space, I find the situation and the way that it's been handled somewhat disappointing. I am looking forward to being back on the road, just the five of us, with the scenery once again changing with regularity. But with Kim on board now the whole thing will be a completely new situation. I expect in reality that wherever we were living during this time things wouldn't be ideal. They never are with a newborn baby. Not for the first six weeks. And I'm not sure that a caravan park with shared bathroom facilities or camping ground with no facilities at all will be a step up. At least here in Broome we are settled in the one spot and we are in a town with facilities such as the hospital and midwives. And we are with friends. That much hasn't changed. And Bridget still is cooking most nights which is as delicious as ever. The kids will go back to school next week and the dynamic in the house will change once again as everybody settles back into normal routine. Then it will only be a few weeks before we are off to Cape Leveque for a week's holiday. By then Tori will be physically healed and Kim will be around seven weeks old and hopefully more settled. I'm hoping that the trip to the cape will whet all our appetites once more for continuing our exploration of Australia and we will then be coming back to Broome to pack things up and once more take to the road.

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