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Saying goodbye to your kids is hard when they live on the other side of the world

They had plenty of walks, dinners, wine and ice-cream as a family together over 10 days in Sydney, but now they are back in Ireland without their daughters

It’s 4am and I’m wide-awake. I’m not worried about anything, it’s just jet lag.

I’m 36 hours back from Sydney, Australia, where I was visiting two of our daughters. My husband and youngest daughter were with me too.

That’s a lot less than the time it took to get home due to a flight cancellation from Sydney to Doha because of drone attacks in the Israel-Iran conflict. Thankfully, we rerouted through Singapore and not Dubai, or we would still be swimming in the floods in Dubai Airport.

I didn’t get to swim on the beautiful beaches of Coogee, Bronte or Bondi – unfortunately I broke my wrist while walking the dog in the park the week before I left Dublin. I was grateful I could still travel.

It was wonderful to see the two girls – we really miss them from the house.

It’s comforting to know that they travelled with their boyfriends. Alannah, our eldest (25), is in her second year there after doing the compulsory three months’ farm work – in her case it was working on a fertiliser plant in Mildura, a fairly remote part of Victoria, Australia, Our middle girl, Cliona (23) is only in Sydney a few months and is contemplating staying a second year already. I can understand why.

Covid was hard on their generation.

They are probably two years behind where they should be in terms of travel and life adventure. They are making up for it now. It’s good to see them becoming independent – sure isn’t that what we raised them to be! To fly the nest and find their own place in the world. I just didn’t expect it to be the far side of the world.

Even if it were Canada or the US, it wouldn’t feel as bad. Either would be more accessible, not to mention, cheaper, for them to fly home for a special occasion, such as their younger sister, Ella’s 21st birthday later this year.

I’m a home bird myself. Much as I love to travel, I love coming home. I’ve always been that way.

I had great summers as a student in Munich and Cape Cod, as well as a third year Erasmus in Lyons, but I was always homesick. It’s real. I could honestly only relax when I reached the halfway point of my stay, knowing I was getting closer to going home. So, I know for sure that moving abroad is not for everyone.

I guess you don’t know until you try. Neither of our girls seem to be homesick, which is good thing, as moving to Australia is an expensive way to find out. They must take after my husband, Gary. He would happily live in Australia, or anywhere for that matter with a warmer climate and a greater outdoor life than Ireland.

I love and value my family and friends too much to live abroad. It’s that simple. I know once you’ve good social skills, you can make new friends wherever you go, and it’s so easy to keep in touch with free FaceTime and WhatsApp video calls, but you can’t beat that in-person hug, that catch-up on a walk and a coffee, or over dinner and a glass of wine.

We had plenty of walks and coffees, outdoor lunches, dinners, wine and ice-cream as a family together over 10 beautiful days in Sydney.

On our final evening, after spending the day on the beach and watching the sunset, we were on our way back to our apartment with the three sisters walking in front, chatting and laughing, In that moment, I wished we were on a family holiday in Portugal, and we were all going home together on the same flight the following day.

Saying goodbye again was hard. Not knowing when we would be together as a family unit again was even harder.

Only the previous day, on the Saturday afternoon, a man had stabbed and killed six people in Westfield shopping mall in Bondi Junction, two hours after Alannah and Cliona had been shopping there. We had just been saying how safe Sydney felt.

I know these types of random incidents can happen anywhere, but I was so glad to be physically beside the girls on hearing about the tragedy and knowing they were safe, instead of waking up to the news the far side of the world and my heart sinking with the possibility that they were in the mall at the time.

We must have been in that mall ourselves every day at some stage earlier in the week. It has five floors of beautiful designer shops and restaurants and is just 30 seconds from where Cliona lives. Every second accent you hear there is Irish. It’s a miracle there wasn’t an Irish person among one of the victims.

I’d believe the statistic from earlier this year that 22,000 Irish had been granted working visas to Australia in the previous 12 months.

So, what’s drawing and keeping them there?

For some, their friends are there already, so their social scene is similar and familiar to home. For others, it’s the weather and great outdoor life.

We saw a group of lads meeting for a catch-up over coffee at 6am to watch the sunrise, while other people were out running, swimming, walking dogs, pushing buggies and doing yoga – all before they started a day’s work. Health and fitness are key to fitting into life in Sydney. If you didn’t land there fit, you’d certainly leave there fit – even after a holiday.

So, I’m back in Ireland where it’s grey, dull and cold, but I’m okay with that.

The first thing I did was go to see my 89-year-old mother who lives across the road from us. Friends and family were good at calling in to see her, taking her out for lunch or dinner and just keeping her company while we were away. I rang her every day, but it’s just not the same as being with her in person.

I’m looking forward to catching up with my good friends over the next few weeks for a walk, coffee, lunch or dinner to tell them how the two girls are getting on in Australia, how proud I am of them for being brave enough to find work and accommodation the far side of the world and how I hope and pray that they stay safe and will eventually decide to come home.

  • Catherine Moonan is based in Santry, Dublin. She is the author of The Pitch Coach and was the pitch coach for the Dragons’ Den pitchcoach.ie
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