Relocating: How to take it in your stride

Relocating to India after fourteen years abroad does stir things up quite a bit.

Friends weep; there are displays of temper from those who have interests vested in you for messing up their personal equations and acquaintances draw wagers to determine how long you are going to last. Parallels are drawn between you and Lord Rama both having completed fourteen years of exile! My mixed emotions soon began to resemble the stone soup where everyone we met had an ingredient to add. Often, the soup would boil over till I resolutely embraced the Zen way of taking the move a day at a time and just dealing with what that day brought.

Upheavals of this type force you to acknowledge what really matters to you.

Those core values will determine what you retain and what you choose to let go. I am not a pack rat but my home had its share of baggage that I was forced to shed. Friends were allowed dibs on handmade pure wool rugs and artwork displayed in the house, but the exorbitant shipping prices seemed worth it to ship my son’s car or my daughter’s art portfolio. In every decision I made that added to the Keep tray or the Discard tray, I got a glimpse of the empathic fabric of my soul. Today I feel more cognizant of my sentimental nature. There is less drive to appear the suave sophisticate who has everything under control. When pull comes to push, the drive to impress has been overridden by a need to express.

Organization is key– proper prior planning prevents poor performance.

Once the decision had been taken 80% of our time went in planning. Jotting thoughts down on paper and making those To Do lists helped itemize each task and associated steps that completing it would entail. Some jobs had to be started at least a year in advance. For example, the children would need to be familiar with Hindi (not taught in the public schools abroad). All recognized schools in India conduct a written exam in Hindi prior to admission and the child has to score at least a passing grade. We researched and found a weekly one hour class conducted at the local Hindu temple. Our children saw their peers in class and got the impression watching others that it was natural for kids of their ethnic background to know Hindi. Children can be resistant to learning new things. If something is frustrating, convincing them to toe your point of view becomes an uphill battle. Teaching my children through books and online websites did not yield results that a class did where the psychological war was won without a single verbal gun firing. The only stress I faced was disciplining me to be regular but that was a small price to pay for their smooth transition.

Major in the majors, don’t major in the minors.

Time management frankly intimidates me. Maybe it is my innate fear response to my mom’s childhood conditioning- time and tide wait for no man. She is right but I freeze like a deer caught in the headlights of a car if faced with the motivational- Do It Now.

I find there is ample time to do things you want to do- just not all the things you will want to do in a day! So we have to choose. My philosophy is more akin to event management than time management.I filter all my chores through a sieve of twenty four hours and dedicate myself to things that are important to me. That way I do not find myself sweating over stuff that is irrelevant in the long run.

It helps me to be flexible. When the day throws a curve ball at me, if I know where my priority is then I pick and choose my tasks. Instead of resembling a superwoman juggler I have been able to transform myself into a sea where tides might ebb and rise but there is no danger of flooding over.

Quixotically an arena of life this credo has stood me in good stead is human relationships. Just seeing me relaxed in the face of so many upheavals in our life, my children have taken most of the changes in their stride. Nor do other people have to walk on eggshells around me. An overly emotional atmosphere at home can create a lot of stress and the mental baggage weighs down everyone. It is very difficult for family members to be productive in such an environment.

When you are in transit it is inevitable that you encounter people who rub you the wrong way. Your calls might be ignored where previously the same person would go out of their way for you. You might be staying with relatives or friends and they might do things differently than how you treat guests when they come to your home. If your focus is on maintaining the longevity of relationships you will not invest your energy in criticizing and consequently become bitter. You will be accommodating.

Delegate tasks that do not require your personal input or tasks where once you have explained your requirements a professional can take over for you. Hire movers who pack and ship. Peace of mind is worth paying for. So also are time and energy. We hired maids to clean the rental property instead of personally expending time and energy on a job that yields minimum wage return of investment on the time we would have spent. Most property managers never refund your deposit. They will find wear and tear no matter how well you maintain the house so why sweat the small stuff?

Get good in using small pockets of time. I was forced to develop this skill when I had my first child and suddenly there was a complete takeover of my time in her waking hours. So I would sneak out one hour here to finish my cooking for the day, another hour there to attend to business and clients. They were important jobs but equally relevant was the fact that I was bone weary too. I might not have functioned at optimum efficiency yet look at the upside- I was not procrastinating either! The work got done when it was supposed to get done.

Just one hour every day after the kids were in bed was sufficient to plan my packing, or decide what chores needed to be tackled the next day, organize the odds and ends in the garage, and plan drop-offs to Goodwill.

Be creative. You have to get creative when it comes to solving problems unique to your situation. Be a solution oriented possibility thinker. Any Tom, Dick and Harry can anticipate problems. However it takes a certain frame of mind to proactively seek solutions that will work. We used garage sales to dispose beds, furniture. We found buyers for everything electric, everything electronic and even our old cameras and photo frames got picked up. For us it was trash and the utility services would have charged us for disposing our junk- this way we got our cake and we got to eat it too!

Communicate. This does not mean talk a lot but also listen a lot! Not just friends, colleagues too have genuine questions which should not just be blown off with an airy- change is inevitable. The only people settled on earth are in graveyards!

Prepare people for your move. Whether they are going with you or they are going to be left behind take the time to explain your motivation and why the equation makes sense. Emphasize the positives and at the same time do not underplay the negatives. Acknowledge those and then suggest the solutions you have thought of. It instills a great degree of confidence and lessens fear of the unknown.

For children, be patient and answer their questions with honesty. Can their pet go with them? Will they be able to take their toys? Will their favorite foods be available in the new country? Will all their friends be left behind? Who are the new people they can look forward to meet? I spoke to the school counselor, teachers and got their input as to how I could best answer the questions I would get. If your child asks a question you do not have the information for, let them know or research the answer together. Also reassure them that they will stay connected to their old school, teachers and friends.

Children are lovers of routine and continuity.  In the new city keep their routine consistent as much as it is possible. Offer them familiar foods. Introduce them to new foods and flavors gradually. Milk is usually different from place to place. Not only taste but textures of foods differ from country to country so do not force feed. The more empathic you are to your child the easier it is for them to adjust.

Visit their pediatrician. Get their vaccinations and medical records just as you get a transfer certificate from the school. I went a step further and also got my husband and my medical and dentist checkups done so we had a clean bill of health and our records for future reference.

Do not push yourself to meet unrealistic expectations. Relatives might not fully understand how many changes your children are experiencing as you immerse them in a foreign environment. It is overwhelming and your child is not being difficult- just human. Do defend your child as appropriate.  Explain to cousins them making your child the butt of jokes is not helpful. Giving the child space to adjust and ignoring some tantrums on the other hand is. If you feel your child is acting up remove them from performing in front of an audience. Once deprived of a watchful crowd the child feels quite silly and will cease on his own.

Chances are the child may not also academically perform at the same level as in the old school. Do not pressurize the student. Give them lots of encouragement, help and parental attention. The last thing you want to do as a parent is abandon your child completely to a grandparent, tutor or a maid. You are the adult they are most comfortable with and most likely to share their concerns with. Keep yourself available for your child exclusively for a couple of hours each day.

Similarly, the bureaucratic nature of government can make routine chores tedious and time consuming. Factor in that when you make your plans. Stay positive even if out of a list of ten you were able to accomplish only two tasks for the day. Be supportive to your spouse. Understand tough times rarely last but tough people do.






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