Blog: How the hell did I end up here?

By Chelsea Wallis
Jan. 12, 2015 – Mom of all capes


When I have kids, they’re going to be raised in three different countries.

No, it won’t be the 1 percent, I own a private plane and houses around the world kind of childhood. More like, my New Zealand husband and I may some day be outvoted by one or more Australian offspring living in our house.

Now let’s get this up front, we haven’t started trying yet, and you and I may be having a totally different conversation in a year. But for now, welcome to the beginning of my expat pre-pregnancy journey.

I’m reliving that moment in My So-Called Life when Angela muses: “There’s this dividing line between girls who have had sex and girls who haven’t. And all of a sudden you realize you’re looking at each other across it.” Except now it’s babies. Here I am back at the precipice, staring across that line at the friends who have as one who hasn’t. And that line is looking more like a chasm carved by Crocodile Dundee and designed by Middle Earth Elves.

One conversation I often have with other 30-something expat girlfriends is how accidents would have been so much easier. Oops we’re pregnant! Several of us have been with our partners and husbands for years, and the little things that helped us ignore the biological clock have become major baby deterrents.

The biggest is what I call the white picket fence. It’s everyone’s version of the perfect nest: How many of those beautiful things from your childhood did you promise to your kids? Or things you despised about your childhood that you promised you would make right? It’s the ache that says I can’t possibly bring a child into this world unless I have the mortgage and the dog and the husband and the, and the…

When you’re waiting for the magic sign, hindsight says oops sounds really nice.

I spent the last decade on the road, doing what 20-somethings do when direction in life is defined by why not. I missed the moments I might have had with my grandparents if I had moved home after college. My folks look older than I remember. I’m sad I have to remind my niece and nephews who I am when I see them, that I don’t really know what to say or how to hold them.

What if the instinct never kicks in? I know nothing about raising Aussies or Kiwis, or even how to make a childhood out of a city. Do I?

I was touched recently by a quote I read in an Ursula K. Le Guin novel:

“The only thing that makes life possible is the permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”

Well wtf, maybe that white picket fence is a lot like the pirate code, which is to say more like guidelines.

All those things I won’t be able to recreate for my kids, they’re taking on new meaning. They help me imagine the completely different childhood my babies will have—one that is uniquely their own. And I wonder at all the beautiful things beyond my grasp that they will instinctively know about this land and this culture I’ve somehow ended up in, and all things they will be able to teach me.

Return to print archives…