Maternity leave is a hotly debated topic the world over. I’m lucky that in Austria this translates to a pretty good deal. In fact, I was told when I first considered moving here that if I wanted to have kids one day, I should definitely stay in Austria.
I can’t go into all the details because to be honest, I don’t know them. Hubby thankfully took on all the research of the myriad of options, taking into account financial considerations, and then set it out for me in an easy to digest format.
Schnaps is one of those things that many people associated with Austria. And Austrians love it. Whether they’re taking it for medicinal purposes, using it as a digestive at the end of the meal or just celebrating, you can expect it to have it offered to you if you’re in the country. Now keep in mind that we are talking Austrian schnaps, the alcohol content of which must be above 40%, so this is not the sweet, sticky butterscotch variety you might know of (they call that liqueur).
When to reveal to the outside world that you’re pregnant is always a hot topic. Before it happened to me, I’d always considered myself pretty pro about telling people I was pregnant early on… my close family and friends, at least. While I understand the reasons not to, in the event a miscarriage, which happens far more than most realise, I don’t think it’s something I could deal with without my besties.
But strangely, when I did finally get pregnant, for a long time I didn’t want to tell anyone.
It’s one of those things we only dream about… flying first class. I’ve flown business before, with a free miles upgrade, but first was something that was probably never going to transpire. Yet when I flew to Australia recently, that’s exactly what happened.
We’d initially planned for business class. My back would not have survived 24 hours of economy, so booking something that allowed a fully reclinable seat was an imperative for me to even consider the journey.
The jump in price from economy to business is monstrous… the jump to first is still hard to swallow but comparatively not as hard. So we figured, with the extra benefits of first, why not take the leap. And if you’re going to do it, why not do it properly? So with some trepidation about my back, but a little spring in my step, I boarded an Emirates A380 for my 24 hours of luxury. Was it worth it, you ask? Well read on!
Before I got pregnant, I’d run through a multitude of scenarios in my mind about how it would make me feel. While I was hoping it would happen, I wasn’t sure what the prominent emotion would be. Would I be suddenly overcome with joy? Would I simply feel relief that it had finally happened? Would I burst into uncontrollable tears lasting days as I grieved the loss of my childfree life?
In the end, I think it was mostly shock. When the two lines came up I just thought to myself, right, that’s done then. It was a Friday so I wasn’t working, but it was a busy one, so I just got on with my day. But I didn’t feel any different. And it didn’t really sink in.
Two years had passed since seeing my friends and family back in Oz… two years since I’d had the searing Aussie sun on my back, since experiencing the feeling of crispy summer-sun-dried grass on the soles of my feet… It’s not an eternity. It’s not impossible to endure. Not when I chose to live so far away.
But it had been a hard two years of lockdowns and back pain and then the joyful but also emotional news of pregnancy. And I yearned with every part of me to get home.
And so eventually, after changing my mind, and changing it back, I did just that.
I remember the first time I flew for work. It involved a day trip from Melbourne to Sydney. I was super excited. I felt professional and oh-so glamourous. I wore business-attire (even though it wasn’t at all necessary) and I carried only a handbag.
And the bubble popped.
When the pandemic first kicked off, the world went a little bit crazy stockpiling… the predominant of which seemed to be toilet paper. To me this made little sense. But I understand the theory behind it – the need to be able to control some aspect of something that feels out of your control.
Now two years on, despite Covid still lurking, we have calmed a little. Which is a good thing. But… what happened to all your stuff? Did you use it up… or is it still sitting in a spare room or at the back of the pantry, gathering dust or going off? In one way toilet paper is not the worst contender – it doesn’t have a use by. But what about the rest? What about the yeast? Did all those people who decided, on a sudden whim, that they would buy yeast because they were going to bake their own bread… did they do it… or did they do it once and the rest went to waste?
I don’t come from a large family. I was never exposed to lots of kids when I was younger. I don’t much like them, as I’ve already explained.
I wondered if my view would change when I got pregnant. If I would suddenly be overcome with the ‘miracle growing inside me’. Yeah… sorry, but ew. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful because I know there are many women the world over struggling with infertility and that makes me one of the lucky ones. But I can’t deny that I personally don’t love the idea that there’s something growing inside me I was never under any illusions about what being pregnant would be like, and I always figured it was unlikely that I was going to suddenly become enthralled by tiny clothes or drooling kids. I see a dog, I grin from ear to ear, I see a child, and I cross the street!
Immigration is a big topic in Austria. Let’s be honest, it’s a big topic almost everywhere, and one of those places, is Australia. I grew up in a multi-cultural boiling pot complete with all the challenges that come with a mixing of different cultures, sprinkled with racism and the natural tendency to gravitate toward people that look and act like you do. In the time that I’ve been in Austria the immigration debate has just gotten hotter, with scores of people attempting to escape violence or just seeking a better life for their families. I like to imagine that my perspective is more rational because I grew up in a country that was already rife with these problems. But who knows. Let’s not forget the fact, that as a white Australian, I am technically an immigrant to my own country. I am not actually native. My ancestors are English prisoners… that essentially stole the land from the aborigines.