Faraway File #4 – Pearl: Clevedon, South-West England
This series aims to give a snapshot in to the lives of parents living faraway from home – the good, the bad and the ugly! If you'd like to be featured, I'd love to hear from you – please get in touch!
I am delighted this fortnight to feature as our Faraway Files guest the lovely Pearl – an American by birth, Canadian by upbringing, and now an adopted Brit, living with her husband and 18 month-old son in Clevedon, South-West England. Pearl was one of the first faraway mums I connected with on Instagram (in fact, she popped my direct message cherry!) as I began to have my eyes opened to what an amazing community of lovely, funny, supportive, parents there are out there helping you to appreciate that you’re not alone in this parenting away game!
On top of toddler taming and managing the day job, Pearl is also the mastermind behind Miraculous Mums – a fabulous new project dedicated to celebrating everyday motherhood, with new mums being nominated and featured each week. She started the project to promote honest motherhood, and to give credit to imperfect parents who are lovingly doing their best. The project entries – and the rest of her blog, which includes her own often touching, usually hilarious takes on motherhood – are beautifully written and a genuine delight to read each week. Her photos are stunning too. Follow Miraculous Mums on Facebook and Instagram to meet the mums, laugh alongside them, or nominate your very own Miraculous Mum of the week.
Give us the basics: where are you from? Where do you live now, and what took you there?
I come from an entire family of cheesy and tragic faraway romances.
My grandmother was Swiss, my grandfather American. Truth be told, they met when he fell from a warplane and she nursed him back to health.
They moved to America and had a son, who grew up to travel to Greece and meet my French Canadian mother.
Together they lived in Montana, Alaska, and eventually the Amazon Jungle, where they had my older sister (who is disappointingly ivory skinned for a Brazilian – but still knows how to dance like one).
After a few hot and sticky circles around the sun, the three of them moved to New Mexico, and took on a large saw mill business. This is where I was born and spent my pre-school years.
Everything changed for our family when the sawmill burned down.
We had been in the process of selling it, so had allowed the fire insurance to lapse. My dad (being my dad) had warm-heartedly invited a worker to keep sleeping on site despite it being closed.
One single casually-flicked cigarette butt, and our life as we knew it went up in flames.
In the wake of bankruptcy, our little lives were crammed into my dad’s lorry and driven up to Canada.
Despite the tragedy, nothing was amiss from the perspective of us children. All that I remember from the four-day journey is sharing a huge tupperware of trail mix, and arriving at a farmhouse with a fluorescent pink fence. I loved pink. Canada was awesome.
This romantic interpretation is credit to my parents, who had successfully instilled excitement and adventure into two very impressionable little girls. We grew fruit in the orchard, watched The Little Mermaid most days and eventually painted the entire attic bubblegum pink.
New Mexico was forgotten, as was the reason why we moved.
Many years later I headed off backpacking solo (I used to do that kind of thing) and met my husband on a volleyball court in Honduras. Pathetically and predictably, I fell for his English accent.
We have now lived together in England for 6 years.
Tell us about the pre-baby you.
If I’m very honest, I have always been somewhat indecisive with myself. The open-mindedness that comes with travelling and reinvention is accompanied by a certain risk of lost identity.
I have thrown myself headlong into snowboarding, surfing, guitar, language, and baking, but only one at a time and with such gusto that I eventually had to retreat and recover.
I fell in love with everything and everyone, but tended to move on quite quickly. This has always been a bit of a sore spot for me.
And how about now?
By far this is one of the finest aspects of motherhood: I have grown roots!
Not necessarily into our home or even the English soil, but into my family.
My husband and my son, they are where I belong, unquestionably. I am so happy and fortunate to be able to say that.
How does where you live now compare to your home turf?
For two English speaking countries, England and Canada can be surprisingly dissimilar…
A clear example is the sense of humor; Canadians are notoriously over-polite and quite often drop their jaws over the insults that get given over here all in the name of good 'banter'.
Upon arrival in England, I made quite the first impression by confusing the common expression “Are you taking the piss?” (meaning: are you joking?) with “Are you peeing on me!?”, the latter which I proudly asked all his mates at the pub during our very first rendezvous. Oh dear.
Effectively for two years I fluctuated between feeling confused, insulted, or misunderstood. Thankfully nowadays I can chuck insults around like the best of them. Is that something to be proud of??
Tell us about your children.
I have an 18 month-old son named Finley. I love him more than foot rubs and good books and empty beaches and salted caramel, ALL put together in a Mulberry handbag and multiplied by oodles.
He is quite the cheeky little handful.
We also have a 7 year-old fur baby named Barkley to whom we give much less attention than we used to and feel guilty about most days. But we still love him just the same.
How was your birth experience?
It was hilarious/hideous/happy. Actually you can read it here!
If family was visiting the town where you currently live for a day, what must they see and do?
When my family is visiting I always take them for a walk on the Clevedon Pier and stuff them with traditional English scones and jam. The pier was built in 1869, preceding most everything in Canada!
We like to hop in the car and visit National Trust sites; some of the old estates are outstanding.
I always let my mom climb into the wrong side of the car and watch with giddy anticipation while she tries to figure out why there is a steering wheel in front of her. Gosh that cracks me up.
One thing you can get far away that you can’t at home?
Here in the UK we have the National Health Service. It really is quite good, and prescriptions are free for under-16s.
Also there are Hobnobs, Robinson’s squash (not a vegetable), crumpets, KISSTORY, men in kilts, and let’s not forget the almighty Salad Cream, which all of a sudden I cannot eat pizza without.
One thing from home that has been a godsend?
The French language. In Canada even the cereal boxes have a French and English side!
My mother enrolled my sister and I into French immersion schooling, which has not only proven useful whilst travelling, but has enabled me to speak mainly French with my son.
Now instead of “poo poo” he says “caca ”, which coincidentally is a very good adjective for the caliber of my French.
Maman essaie, mon petit chou (Mummy tries, my little cabbage).
What do you love about being a faraway mum?
Being so close to Europe! You can get flights to incredible places for £40. I still haven’t gotten over that. Finley has been to nearly as many countries as he has toes. Give or take a toe.
And what do you struggle with?
Hands down, being away from my family.
I remember the school yard expression reserved for wussies: “Awww, do you want your mommy?”
Honestly sometimes I DO want my Mommy. When I’m ill, when my husband is working too much or when I’m failing at mumming myself and needing her caring arms around me.
There is nothing that could have prepared me for how hard it would be to start a family without my own nearby.
What advice would you give to new parents living far from home?
As early on as possible, identify a few close friends with whom you can be completely open and honest with.
Treat them as family.
Ask them to hold your baby so that you can shower/sleep/exercise/cry. Open your door to them, even when your house literally looks as though it has been turned upside down.
Speak honestly with them about your feelings, and listen to theirs without judgment.
Parenting, like licking your own elbow or pushing a broken car up a hill, is a venture requiring teamwork.
It is really, really hard with just two hands.
In a nutshell what have you learned from being a faraway mum?
That “home” is defined by people and not geography, that it is never too late to recreate oneself, and that pizza is hands down, indisputably, best served with Salad Cream.
Thanks so much, Pearl, for sharing your beautiful perspective and gorgeous photos with us! That notion of growing roots ‘into’ the family you have created is so poignant, and a feeling that really resonates with me. Thank goodness those roots quickly grow thick and strong when you’re far away from home! Can I also take this opportunity to say that Miraculous Mums is a genuinely lovely project and I look forward to reading the entries every week. Thanks for bringing a little light to my Sunday evenings by showcasing such great women! (Also, yes - being able to banter like a Brit is definitely something to be proud of!)
(Hands up if at any time during this post you attempted lick your own elbow. Perhaps you are trying to do it now. Goodness me you look ridiculous!!)