My (Un)Glamorous Expat Beach Mama Routine (A Day In the Life)
I’ve talked here before about how I left the states to travel, fell in love on my first major stop (Chile), stayed, had a baby and am now living the expat mama life on a beach where I fell in love. It’s been a few months, and inspired by Jill's Day In the Life post, I thought it would be fun to offer a peek into what it looks like day-to-day to live in an “exotic” local and work from home part-time while raising my little one. It sounds so glamorously surfer-chic to live on a beach in Chile, but as you'll see below, my life is pretty mundane in all its simple loveliness. Those aren't even my feet in the photo. I haven't had a pedicure in about 14 months. Both my partner and I work from home part-time, so our biggest challenge is staying focused on goals and not losing too many hours hanging out around the dining table during meals (not a bad problem to have). Our second biggest challenge is giving and getting space to do our individual things and to spend one-on-one time with our baby girl while not meddling in each other's developing parenting skills too much (oh, so hard!). One way we’re rising to those challenges is by keeping a daily schedule (of course, the challenges being ever-present, I use loosely the term “keep”). Here’s a general layout of our day, though starting times often slide anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and there are a lot more trips to the bathroom or changing table than noted. All-in-all, it's a good looksee at our relaxed, (un)glamorous life: 8:00 am – We’re all more or less awake in our king size bed with full-size crib “sidecar” (which our one-year-old slept in the first half of the night, per usual, before climbing or being brought over to mama around 2 am). Dad gets up to tend the fire (we’re in winter down here and a wood stove heats the house), take a shower and make our daughter’s breakfast smoothie. Flower and I stay in bed nursing and cuddling in the morning light. Like most mornings, I take her to the toilet for her morning pee and poo (we do half-n-half EC and cloth diapering), then get her dressed for the day. 9:00 – Papa takes the flower for her smoothie while I take a shower, dress and fuss with whatever. If I haven’t yet dressed her yet, papa gives it a go with aplomb (though I usually at least lay out an outfit for him). I dream of using my little slice of morning freedom to do a little yoga, journal or otherwise luxuriate, but usually I cut "my" hour short and go relieve him at the table and start breakfast. 10:00 – We’re having (or hopefully finishing) breakfast together as a family. My partner then goes about doing whatever he needs to do for the day for work, around the house, etc. He’ll be back for our late lunch together, after which he’ll take lil' flower for a while. 11:00 – After a little play time, breakfast cleanup and diaper change, it’s time for the flower’s morning nap. We nurse to sleep in bed or employ our Boba Carrier for a little zonking beach stroll. She’s snoozing after a while and I head back to the house to put her down in her bed (a 3-sided crib with the open side attached to our king size like a "sidecar" co-sleeper), then finish cleaning up, etc. 12:30 pm – Little flower wakes up and wants a little wakey-nurse, so we hang out on the couch together (if it’s cold, the fire’s going, so it’s the best sweet and toasty spot in the house). I do a round of diaper change/bathroom visit and then set her down in the play area we have in the dining room while I start thinking about lunch and thus tinkering in the kitchen. Flower generally has a snack of fruit (she devours pears, and enjoys bananas, but apples seem too hard yet even though they are great teething helpers) and healthy cake or cookies I've made. 2:00 – Lunch is served. I’ve made some sort of hearty veggie chicken or lentil soup, salad, bread for us adults, and some unattractive yet tasty mushy bowl of love for the flower (she just got her bottom teeth, so is still chewing-challenged, and though we also let her self-feed a lot of times, the grain/veg/chicken/avocado mushes I make help me make sure she gets “enough”). She eats some fruit and/or cake for dessert, a few pieces of carrot or potato from our soups, etc., too. 3:30 – I’m done clearing the dining area, and am setting about “working” at odds and ends at this, the start of "me" time. Today, I worked on this blog post and answered work email, but other days I may Skype call a friend in the states, or get to a backlogged organizing project (why are there no shortage of those; why do they never end?). I’m working on re-invigorating my ceramics work, so right now I’m often poking around my studio trying to make order out of the chaos that seems to be more storage than workspace. Soon, it will be ready though, and watch out world! Papa is out taking a walk with flower to help her ease into an afternoon nap, then he pitches in on lunch dishes, does some laundry and works a bit more on whatever it is he is up to in his workshop or in the house. He is the lord of cloth diapers, the sweetie, and since electric (or gas) dryers are a serious luxury in a developing country with no oil or gas reserves, i.e. electricity is very expensive, we opt to hang dry all our clothes. So, there are always a slew of cloth diapers and baby clothes drying around the wood stove (not the glamorous, romantic crackling fire scene you were imagining, huh?). 5:30 – Flower is awake from her nap by now and having a snack with papa. I’m making the most of a few more rare minutes of “me” time while I can. Our one-floor beach house doesn’t offer much separation, so from time to time I'm called to answer a sweet “mama! mama!” or consult on food options, etc. This is one of the great things about working from home – I am readily available to help papa with little when mom is all she really wants. Her two bottom teeth are only a couple weeks old, so they’re still bothering her. Our nursing sessions have increased with the teething, which is sweet for us both even if it makes it hard to get other things done. I know that even though we’re not trying to wean and will likely be sharing “mama neh-neh” time for at least two years, I see how fast time is already going, so I cherish our special milky moments. 6:00 – I’m officially “back on duty” and move about getting flower’s evening smoothie and snack together, while preparing some “tea time” for us. We eat in a more traditional Chilean style which means a good breakfast, big lunch, and no dinner, but rather a substantially “tea”. We eat toast with mashed avocado (Ever notice how much of the imported avocados in U.S. super markets come from Chile? Those avocados come mostly from the valleys in our region, so we generally have a lot!), tea with milk, some other spread or cheese, tomatoes, and something sweet. Today, I made a sort of apple/carrot/oat cake that is sitting warm in the oven for all of us to enjoy. I also made cookies today, mostly for the flower. Her appetite is fickle, and she continues to be on the small side, her weight ever a concern, so I’ve learned to have lots of extra, tempting treats available for when she just doesn’t want to eat her "regular" food. Yesterday, I discovered she really likes peanut butter, so I have happily added that to my back-up and snack list (“natural” peanut butter is not easily found here, so I make it myself and sweeten it a little with honey). 7:00 – It’s bath time. Papa plays with flower while I get her bath ready, then we settle in together for a lavender and orange-scented splash-fest. After about 20 minutes, we get out and get pajamas on. The sun has by now gone way down and if we didn’t get out for a walk in the morning, I’m bemoaning not seeing the ocean about now and vowing to get out in the day tomorrow. We live in the prettiest location and its surprising how often I pass a whole day busy inside. In the summer, we often leave the house as a family as soon as we can in the morning, enjoy the sand and breakfast on the beach, then go about our "business" back at the house. In the winter, though, we stay cozy inside more hours than not. 8:00 – We say goodnight to dad, head to the bedroom to nurse to sleep, and enjoy our last one-on-one time of the day. I put flower down in her bed and head back out to hang with her dad. We enjoy a beer, a cuddle, a discussion, a little backgammon, or a little more work (or all of the above) for a couple of hours before heading to bed, too. 11:30 – We join little flower in bed and are thinking about dreaming, if not already on our way to dreamland. If it’s a restless night for flower, she’ll have already woken once or twice before I come to bed. In the early half of the night, I can often help her back to sleep with a pat on the chest and “shhhh”, or a little lullaby bounce on my shoulder. 2:00 am – Flower wakes up and wants nothing but "neh neh neh", so I pull her over into the big bed for a drowsy nurse. We both fall back to sleep together. She’ll stir and nurse a couple more times or just off and on from 4 – 6 am, then sleep by my side until around 7 or 8. We welcome the day again with lots of “good mornings”, singing the Good Morning song from Oklahoma, and then “Here Comes the Sun” when we raise the shades around 8:30 am. What I like most about our daily schedule is that both my partner and I feel like there are spaces in the day when we can freely focus on things away from our daughter, while still maintaining flexibility, connection, and a sense of teamwork. I generally still do the most caretaking for our daughter, but having a good dose of help around the house and with the flower helps me to not feel overwhelmed. However, since this schedule is notably liquid, we often get off track and a little weighed down by how fast things pile up, especially if we sleep in late (but WOW, we can sleep in late if we want!). My love of flexibility not withstanding, I’ve noticed our days go much more smoothly when we follow the schedule. As I've mentioned, one of the areas that get tricky for us is in the things where our responsibilities overlap when we’re in the same space during “our” times. It’s very easy to ask my partner who is in the same room, but on the computer, for help with some little thing and since he is always happy to help, he gets easily sidetracked by me. The same goes for me. If I’m in the same room as he and my daughter during his time with flower, she will often come to me or I will just take care of something I see that’s needed. In order to take full advantage of my “me/work/other” time, I often have to “hide” in another room. I haven’t quite built up the nerve to just get in the car and out of the house, but I feel that coming soon. She is after all only just now a one-year-old and I try to be as available to her as I can. We also each have a tendency to chime in about what the other is doing with our girl, especially if she is having a hard time, because we both always want to help. This leads to some conflict sometimes as we need to find our own ways as parents in addition to teamwork. We are finding our way, and doing pretty well, snags and all. So, as you can see, my glamorous expat beach life is not so much glam as just plain good and normal (with a twist of excitement born from badly spoken and/or understood Spanish). But I can hear the ocean from my bedroom even if I can’t get there in a given day, and my partner and I are free of the 9-5 grind. It's sort of Peter Pan glam. There are so many ways to live life, aren't there? I’m very thankful for the creative and easy-going option I’ve found for myself, for my daughter (who was born in this house), and with my partner. I hope that the sand in our little one's toes and this relaxing ocean vibe follow her a whole life long, no matter where she (or we) end up.