how awesome is it to have two homes?
No matter how you spin it, in the beginning splitting your time between two homes is pretty terrifying for a child. Suddenly they have to spend time in a scary new house where nothing is familiar, not even the little squeaks and sighs that the house makes at night. None of the dark corners have been explored yet and everything is different to their ‘real home’. Plus, to their utter horror dad now shares his bed with a stranger so jumping into bed for a cuddle when you’re scared is now just plain weird. And none of their stuff is here so they feel like a weird visitor.
So no, having two homes is not especially awesome when you’re 8.
To be honest, I don’t really know the answer to this one. But I felt conscious of how they were feeling right from the beginning so I can tell you what we did to try and make it a bit easier for them. Which was actually tricky, because we didn’t have much money and Jake (husband) was still setting up the business so work was sporadic and lets face it, doing stuff takes money. Fortunately, I’m on very intimate terms with Kmart and Gumtree so that made things a bit easier.
In the beginning literally all we had was a big empty rented house with no furniture in it – what remained of our meagre possessions after we sold everything to fund our trip over still had to be shipped from Tassie and even then it was mainly just kitchen stuff and tools – so we had to start from scratch. That first weekend they were on camp beds and sleeping bags – we didn’t even have pillows for them so they brought their own, which in retrospect was a really good thing (their mum is one smart cookie) because they had something comforting and familiar with them that even smelt like the home they knew and made them feel a bit safer.
As soon as we possibly could we got beds, new bed linen and pillows so that they could start to feel like this home was a bit more permanent and not just a camping style adventure. We encouraged them to bring toys and books from their mum’s so that they had things that belonged to them at our home as well. And we put pictures and posters on the wall and hung fairy lights and tried to make it into somewhere they wanted to spend time. So that’s the superficial-y stuff we did.
The other thing we did was talk to them as often and as openly as we could, acknowledging that it was all new and that we understood that they felt scared in a new house so whatever they needed to feel comfortable, we would do. Sometimes this meant leaving every light in the house on, or that Jake would sit with them until they fell asleep, or make sure that they had a torch next to the bed if that made them feel safer. And we explained to them that even though mum and dad didn’t live together anymore and that meant that they had two homes now, we wanted them to think of this as their home too – not just dad and Gwen’s house that they came to every second week.
So it’s a work in progress, but I think the most important part of helping a child feel safe and comfortable with two homes is the thing that’s just constantly happening in the background – time going by.