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Seize the Opportunity

A life-changing experience such as suddenly finding yourself as a non-working expat mum Down Under can be a positive opportunity to reinvent yourself and discover new skills you never knew you had.

Start With the School But Don’t Rely On It

It‘s possibly a place to start, but unlikely that you will find all you need in terms of personal satisfaction and social interaction attending the obligatory school coffee mornings laid on by the well meaning school parents association. It obviously depends on the school and the age of your kids. Mine didn’t require the school run (thank God), so meeting parents hanging around the gates was not an option for me. My kids were equally abhorred by the thought of Saturday sports so again this was not an option for meeting other parents. We considered forcing our kids to do Saturday sports for this opportunity but decided that they might sue us for psychological damage in years to come, so didn’t pursue the idea. Particularly after we realized it would mean that we would all have to get up early! You may need to look further afield and put together an action plan of how you are going to get yourself settled and happy.

Know Yourself and What Makes You Happy

Firstly, you need to know yourself and be honest with what interests you and makes you happy. I would recommend a few sessions with a good life coach if you find yourself unsure of how to pursue your personal goals or in need of some more general guidance. Maybe they will suggest you need to find work, but they should also help guide you generally towards a better understanding of yourself and what you need to do to achieve self satisfaction and fulfillment.

Mental Challenge and Personal Fulfillment

In my case, I need to be with people and have enough mental challenge and structure to my week. In the early months I did some voluntary work with a local charity I found through a volunteering website and am now helping out at a Sydney based Sudanese settlers centre. There is plenty to choose from.

I have also embarked on acquiring new portable skills that might prove useful for future freelance work opportunities, should the expat life continue, as well as for general enjoyment. I am studying digital photography at a local college, have joined a local writing society, and am working on a distance learning course in basic journalism through one of the TAFE colleges. I’ve also taught myself the fundamentals of blogging and web site development using an online trainer. I now have my own blog on living as an expat in Sydney which features some of my photos.

Different Ways to Keep Fit

With its outdoors lifestyle it’s much easier to keep fit in Australia - and now I have the time to do it. It has been necessary, however, to change my approach.

Having been a karate student for many years in the UK, I struggled to find a similar club. After several failed and disappointing attempts, resigned myself to the fact I was going to have to find something different to do. I was also getting older and less keen to pick up injuries, so the reluctant decision to quit was probably the right one.

It’s not always possible to recreate your life in this or any other respect, even though it might seem natural to try and do so. I was actually warned against this by more experienced expats and can see how struggling to achieve what can’t easily be achieved can get you down. You should be prepared to try new things and come to terms with the fact that you can’t recreate your old life in a new country.

Instead, I set myself the personal goal of improving my distance swimming technique and now swim distances in a proper Aussie outdoor 50 meter pool I never thought possible! I also joined a local fitness-in-the-park group, tried yoga, and even had a go at the Chinese martial art Wing Chun. I would have done none of these had I still been in the UK and think I am fitter as a result.

Trying something really different and discovering new talents is open to you when you don’t have work constraints. One of my non-working expat friends, a solicitor in the UK, loves her time here without the constraints of work. She goes off on long road bike hikes and has taken up Latin and the clarinet! It’s all about balance — include fitness, mental stimulation, and social interaction and you will flourish.

Be Kind to Yourself and Go for It!

So, embrace your newfound freedom from the treadmill of modern life in the knowledge that you are supporting a fantastic opportunity for your whole family and literally expanding horizons. Don’t feel guilty about doing things for yourself either, as a happy spouse usually means everyone else is relaxed too. It always helps to look at the big picture and remember that you will probably look back on your expat adventures with great fondness and you will always have stories to tell. Keep a diary and you can sell your memoires when you get back home! Remember that with all your experience as an expat, you will be completely unflappable on your eventual return to whichever home life finally takes you.

Originally from Chester in the UK, Kathryn Bunce is a pure sciences graduate who once worked within technical sales and marketing in the chemical industry and more recently as a private tutor. She moved to Sydney with her husband and their two girls in 2012 and is now enjoying life as a non-working spouse. She runs a website and blog to record the highlights of life down under.

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