kids

'I packed up my kids and moved to Paris - and left my husband at home.'

The heavy scrape of bins being wheeled from the courtyard six floors below wakens me to good news and bad. Good news is the garbos of Paris are no longer on strike. Dreams of Paris’ romantic cobblestoned streets don’t usually include bright green plastic bins overflowing with last week’s rubbish.

Bad news is I still have a migraine and there’s no-one else to get the kids ready for school, so I struggle into their room and croak at them to get up.

Almost everyone I know in this world is 17,000 kilometres away in Sydney. I’ve left my husband at home and dragged our three children ages 11, 9 and 7 to France for three months…. crazy, much?

Emily talks to Holly and Andrew about her decision on the latest episode of This Glorious Mess. (Post continues.)

Yes, I’m crazy France-obsessed, the I-only-let-my-kids-watch-TV-in-French kind of obsessed. We had lived in Paris as a family for six months four years earlier and I’d been desperate to get back ever since. So when my husband was offered a great job in Paris and TURNED IT DOWN, choosing another job in Sydney instead, that husband needed to be prepared for some seriously negative feedback.

I didn’t leave my bed for days. That was my feedback to him. I felt… heartbroken. As if my heart’s deepest desire had emerged into shallows and light, only to be stomped all over.

Not everyone saw it that way. People told me to pull myself together. One kind friend suggested I get help, but when I talked to my doctor she dared to tell me I was sulking. Well, so what if I was?

I decided to go, anyway. Instead of three years living with my family in my city of dreams it would be three months, with my three kids, and me. Husband would be left at home.

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I was warned not to do it. My migraines are a chronic condition that can leave me curled up on the bathroom floor, unable to get back into bed after vomiting, and I don’t just get them occasionally. Plus there are certain expectations society has of a wife and mother, and leaving your husband at home, pulling your kids out of school and jetting off to the other side of the world don’t appear to meet those expectations. There was also the terrorist attack that had taken place only months before – people said it was too dangerous.

And the kids didn’t want to go. Well, they did, until they suddenly didn’t.

Luckily my husband was supportive of the idea. Lucky because I would have gone anyway. Is that bad?

Our budget was so tight it could’ve strangled a croissant… but it was three months of magic. Paris is always everything you’d dreamed it would be, which must be why it’s one of the most visited cities in the world.

Oh, the migraines were crushing. The worst one lasted two weeks. My eldest ended up shopping and cooking scrambled eggs for his siblings four nights in a row. To my astonishment and gratitude, none of them complained.

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School was hard for all them. My kids speak French pretty well - but it’s still a second language for them. And my youngest had a teacher who was super nice to us parents but when alone with the kids turned into a mad, mean Mademoiselle. As for the French school system… let’s say they don’t seem to have moved on from the 1950s.

Since we had last been at the school, the school canteen had gone from haute cuisine française to verging on SOMEONE FETCH JAMIE OLIVER. The menus still looked amazing. Four courses every day, the first being vegetables. But the reality was factory-made food coming out of plastic bags.

But my kids didn’t complain. OK, they did, but not as much as they usually do at home (are my packed lunches really that bad?).

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The other kids treated them as exotic and asked questions such as ‘do you ride a kangaroo to school?' The magic of Paris is hard for anyone to resist, even in crap weather. And it really was - it rained so much, the River Seine flooded. And it’s COLD.

But the kids’ school was at the end of our street. The boulangerie was on the corner, with its buttery baking smell wafting up to us. The markets with fresh produce, cheese, delicious crêpes and picture perfect view of the Tour Eiffel was up the road.

And every weekend and Wednesday - no school on Wednesdays - we would be out exploring. History comes to life around every corner in Paris. This is where Marie-Antoinette had her head cut off. This is where Roman gladiators fought. This is where dozens of Jewish children were taken away to concentration camp.

Listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here: 

The kids missed Daddy. I missed my husband, but I was still mad at him for not being there with us. When the school term ended I took the kids on holiday. Single mums out there who’ve braved a family holiday? I salute you. It was hiring a car and driving on the autoroute that did me in. Speeding 130 km in a new car - on the right hand side of the road - manual gear stick in a different hand - changing lanes - crazy French speedsters zipping past me - I felt out of control. I screamed at the kids ‘SAY YOUR PRAYERS!’

We lived to tell the tale. I felt wondrously powerful and independent, and simultaneously determined to make it home to my still beloved husband - who, despite reporting how nice it was to not have to tidy up after himself, missed us badly.

Maybe he’d learned something too, something about how when you’re a team, it’s mean to stomp on your wife’s dream. So we’re preparing to move there again next year. All of us.

Would you ever pack up your kids and move them overseas?

Follow our adventures as we live our French obsessed lives in Australia and France on @frenchobsessed.