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The Outsider

1
Until recently having enough friends has never been an issue for me. Growing up in church circles and living in a big, northern  city meant that I was constantly surrounded by people. I had a worthwhile job I enjoyed and I had babies at the same time as my friends. Being part of the ‘in crowd’ was easy. 

Then things changed. My husband and I decided to move ourselves and our two young girls to a small french seaside town where he had been offered a job and we could start a new life. All of a sudden the easy popularity I had become accustomed to

SelfishMother.com
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disappeared. I knew only a handful of my husbands colleagues and no other young families. Long days with my husband at work, two children and no plans stretched out before me. I had no idea what to do with myself. 

Moving to a new country meant that while there was no social arrangements in the diary there was a lot of things to organise. We didn’t have a house, bank accounts or a pre-school sorted yet. While all these were exciting things to think about, they came with a hitch – I can’t speak french. As a midwife working in a large,

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multi-cultural English city I had met and cared for many women who didn’t speak a lot of English. As they let their husbands speak for them I made judgements about their cultures and their role within their marriage, I felt sorry for them and tried to convince them to use translators to understand rather than their spouse. Now I’m on the other side and I realise just how wrong I was to judge. I sit in banks and estate agents concentrating with all my might just to follow the conversation as my husband (who is Belgian and a fluent french speaker)
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speaks for me. I know what the professionals are thinking, because believe me, I’ve thought it all before.

It took me one week and a lot of research to find a baby group in our new town. In England these had been my lifeline and I was desperate for one here. Having run one, and been to, countless parent and baby groups in the past I thought of myself as a bit of an expert on them. In my opinion the bigger, busier and more action packed the better. Turns out I wasn’t such an expert after all. While busy and fun might be the best for the confident

SelfishMother.com
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regulars, it turns out for a newbie its not necessarily the best format. When I turned up, terrified and essentially mute, to this group, I was relieved to see only a handful of mums and babies along with two friendly leaders. They had the time and inclination to talk to me slowly, repeat themselves and not laugh at me as I tried to make conversation in my terrible french. Had it been bigger I would have hidden in the corner and tried to avoid peoples eye. As I look back at my time on these groups in my home country, I worry that I didn’t do enough,
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that I stayed with my friends and didn’t make the effort to let those on the outside in. I’m ashamed of my complacency and my unwillingness to reach out, using excuses such as tiredness or a need to deepen existing relationships as a happy bail out card. Being in the in-crowd blinded me to the needs of others. 

We have been here two months now and it’s slowly getting better. I’m getting used to not being the life and soul of every party and enjoying time on my own and with my children. My language is improving and my confidence is growing.

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Give it another few months and, hopefully, I will be given the key to the inside. 
SelfishMother.com
Catherine Péchèr

By

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- 16 May 19

Until recently having enough friends has never been an issue for me. Growing up in church circles and living in a big, northern  city meant that I was constantly surrounded by people. I had a worthwhile job I enjoyed and I had babies at the same time as my friends. Being part of the ‘in crowd’ was easy. 

Then things changed. My husband and I decided to move ourselves and our two young girls to a small french seaside town where he had been offered a job and we could start a new life. All of a sudden the easy popularity I had become accustomed to disappeared. I knew only a handful of my husbands colleagues and no other young families. Long days with my husband at work, two children and no plans stretched out before me. I had no idea what to do with myself. 

Moving to a new country meant that while there was no social arrangements in the diary there was a lot of things to organise. We didn’t have a house, bank accounts or a pre-school sorted yet. While all these were exciting things to think about, they came with a hitch – I can’t speak french. As a midwife working in a large, multi-cultural English city I had met and cared for many women who didn’t speak a lot of English. As they let their husbands speak for them I made judgements about their cultures and their role within their marriage, I felt sorry for them and tried to convince them to use translators to understand rather than their spouse. Now I’m on the other side and I realise just how wrong I was to judge. I sit in banks and estate agents concentrating with all my might just to follow the conversation as my husband (who is Belgian and a fluent french speaker) speaks for me. I know what the professionals are thinking, because believe me, I’ve thought it all before.

It took me one week and a lot of research to find a baby group in our new town. In England these had been my lifeline and I was desperate for one here. Having run one, and been to, countless parent and baby groups in the past I thought of myself as a bit of an expert on them. In my opinion the bigger, busier and more action packed the better. Turns out I wasn’t such an expert after all. While busy and fun might be the best for the confident regulars, it turns out for a newbie its not necessarily the best format. When I turned up, terrified and essentially mute, to this group, I was relieved to see only a handful of mums and babies along with two friendly leaders. They had the time and inclination to talk to me slowly, repeat themselves and not laugh at me as I tried to make conversation in my terrible french. Had it been bigger I would have hidden in the corner and tried to avoid peoples eye. As I look back at my time on these groups in my home country, I worry that I didn’t do enough, that I stayed with my friends and didn’t make the effort to let those on the outside in. I’m ashamed of my complacency and my unwillingness to reach out, using excuses such as tiredness or a need to deepen existing relationships as a happy bail out card. Being in the in-crowd blinded me to the needs of others. 

We have been here two months now and it’s slowly getting better. I’m getting used to not being the life and soul of every party and enjoying time on my own and with my children. My language is improving and my confidence is growing. Give it another few months and, hopefully, I will be given the key to the inside. 

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