It has been just over a year since I moved to Lisbon with the family. It can barely be called a fresh start. We had a house, our family is there, long life friends too. At the same time, I had never been a grown-up in my homeland, so there was a lot to start and learn. Alongside learning how to be mostly remote and an inter-country commuter, it was an experimental year.
It was easier than I thought
I am going to be honest. I was bracing when we moved to Portugal. I feared what is missing would make life difficult. I feared adjusting would be difficult to all of us. That it would require a fair amount of compromising. Of focusing on the positives to overcome the negatives of a country that was very different from where I left it 18 years ago. But it has been easier than I expected. Maybe it is just than in my 40s it is easier to keep perspective. Or maybe I was just managing expectations to avoid disappointment. But, in fact, there has never been a shadow of doubt on where the balance lies. I had to adjust to driving everywhere, to figuring out school schedules in October rather than the prior June, to no longer be able to go to a favourite restaurant with a same day booking, to the missing supermarket products, to longer delivery times on Amazon (now .es). But all in all, while some can bother they don’t pester for too long. Unlike my big Sis, I am unfazed by not having take away cappuccino at the coffee place as the unforgivable sin. I carry my own cup when I need to.
It was less difficult than I thought
I did not know if I was going to cope with being the travelling mother. Let’s face it, it did not fit my list of pre-conceived definition of a good mother. And it was prone to one of my most common feelings – guilt. But I gave it a go, and with the children’s (and Hubby B’s) support, it has not been as difficult as expected. On the Sunday nights before I travel, we have a ritual to count hugs and good night kisses for the nights I am away. They call me on their way to school when I am on the boat to work. Sometimes also in the evening. 3 nights out for the benefit of being fully at home for the next 7 days and nights. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it, but once I pass the self-judgement stage, I don’t feel that bad. There have been 2-3 events missed, but most times I have been able to adjust to mostly being a very present mother. And to explain to the kids where work is important and indeed I can’t go to one of the school events. And to myself, my biggest enemy.
When I packed my bags for my first trip post holidays in late August, I realised it had been a year of this life. I felt the weight of it, but I also felt somewhat proud we made it work. It worries me every day about what I am missing, especially the night I have to say goodbye with 7 goodnight hugs. But then the fullness of the remaining times have really helped in keeping perspective.
This commuter life has its benefits, no doubt. As does hybrid work. So I share some of my favourite things about my newfound life:
- I get to see friends in London on weeknights. There is no more guilt about kids at home. There is no rush to go put them to bed and then have a late dinner. Invariably I see at least a friend each time I am here, if not more. And we get evenings of undivided attention and good chats. I love it.
- I get to be intentional with the time spent in the office. I focus on 1on1 meetings and a few collaboration meetings as well, where we can solve problems together. Whilst being remote does not delay me, I am not one to underestimate the benefit of sitting back in a chair and having a chat with someone.
- I get the benefits of boat and airplane commute, giving me back more time to write and work on the charity, read, journal or just rest!
My not so favourites
Yes, there are things in this commute that don’t work so well for me. And I think you might easily guess the first one:
- I don’t have a weekly routine. And that has made it hard to give me a sense of flow. I know flow is usually associated with spontaneity, but for me, without a routine, I end up in work mode more time than necessary. And solving for decisions that a routine would have eliminated. I have tried to introduce bi-weekly Zumba, weekly physio and, more recently personal training. It is still flanky, and it makes it a bit jammed some times, but it is a start.
- I fight FOMO every day. I have been much less chased by the fear of missing out in recent years. But being remote from work 7 days when the team is more often in the office, and being remote from home the other 3 days, FOMO is a very easy companion. I feel like I have improved in the last 3-4 months, but I do wonder whether it will ever go away.
In the to-do list
As in everything, there is always a laundry list of things I want to change or do better. I try and not be too harsh on myself, as I really thing this is going better than hoped. But I can’t help but look for changes as there is still very much a feeling of being unsettled.
- I want to be better with my routine, especially in what concerns exercise. I continue to be erratic in the days that I am in Lisbon and not organized in the days I am in London
- I want to be better at meeting friends in Lisbon. The other side of a proper social life in London is that I don’t do much the weeks I am home as I feel I need to be home. I am also terrible lunch company, as mostly I do lunch at my desk. I am keen to not go 3 months trying to schedule to see a friend!
- I want to be less intense about my days in the office. Ensure I do still have the 1on1 opportunities to chat, but more importantly, ensure I have free time to work collaboratively, walk the floor, have the random encounter. That should also help with feeling less overwhelmed by the time I get home on Thursday!
- I want to meet new people in Lisbon. The truth is my network is fairly small. I don’t have a professional network or probably any type of network besides a hand full of dear friends from school times
- I want to have clearer boundaries. For me, for work, for charity, for everything. My sense of boundaries is often limited and even more so when I am going back and forth between 2 countries!
All in all, this year has been great. I don’t look back on the decision to move, and whilst I certainly don’t have it all figured out, I think I have done a lot. I have even started putting together a holiday photo album, which is the type of thing I tell myself I will do when I am 60. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
Photo Credits Sasha Freemind @ Unsplash