Empathy is a choice

Having moved to the UK only recently, I still don’t know which newspapers represent which opinions, and yesterday, I bought the Daily Express because of their headline “We can’t stop the migrants” (or something close). My husband thought this negative, I thought it was probably true – when people are dying or starving, they won’t stop, we’ve seen it many times in history.

Then I read the article, only to realize that the only opinion they quoted was that of Ukip, the party pushing for the UK to leave the EU, saying that the UK had no moral responsibility to take refugees. They had to stop or it would cause massive unemployment (millions it said). Angry that the EU refused to push the boats back at sea. …What?!

Another article pushed further the opinion of Ukip onto readers. Then another. Ok I get it.

Then, not far from the end of the newspaper, was an article about heroes: two sisters who saved hundreds of Jews in Berlin during WWII. They were heroes it said, they saved hundreds of lives, so many families who would have died otherwise, when others didn’t care!

I finally stopped reading and had to get the fumes out with my husband. How could they not see? How can a newspaper and a country so bent on charity and attention to individuals not see that it is not so different? Yes the time is different, the situation, the number of people, the war, the religion too. But we’re talking about lives, people dying in awful circumstances!

How can they not see??

I am really very afraid that some of them actually do see and just do not care. Like someone I know playing with millions in London. He’s making money, nothing wrong with that… So many times I heard people acknowledge someone else’s pain and then switch on to something else, pass by, or even make it worse because they can. I’m losing faith in people.

And then… Last week I brought a few women’s clothes to a shelter. Nothing grand about it, they needed bras, seriously, who cannot spare a few? I remember how the people there were really nice, giving classes, smiling at everyone, helping out. How the small donation bins were almost full. How the people who needed the help looked really sad, whatever their age. A man of about 40 and a young man of maybe 18-20 entered the shelter while I was there, probably for a class, and they just looked down. They didn’t want to be there. I wouldn’t. I cannot imagine what it is to be needing charity. What some of these people might have gone through to get there. Empathy is a choice this author said. Yes, and compassion too.

Source: Jen Waller, flickr

The Game and The Obstacles

This post is about an idea I had last night to combine my stay-at-home mum need for projects and get my couple back on the lovey-dovey track…

A – My mushy brains and the need for projects

Stay-at-home mum, I feel my brain going mushy. The only activity it would get, I’m afraid, if I didn’t do anything about it, would be through trivial everyday decisions such as:

Should little monkey wear his shoes or his boots? Depends on the weather and the destination.

Should we a) stay at home, b) go to a park, c) go to a softplay/toddler group? Depends on the weather, my motivation and/or my desperation to get out of the house.

If b), should I take the tricycle (a bit big, little monkey can’t get to the pedals, he has fun for 15 minutes then gets bored sitting on it and I have to push it), or the push chair (bulky, he never wants to sit in it, when he gets tired I have to carry him and push the chair, but I always have hopes that he might sit in it, and it can carry the nappy & food bag)?

Should I leave the park/softplay now or later, considering that he is having fun but that if I leave too late I run the risk that he will fall asleep in the car? If he does, should he stay in the car (it’s cold, it’s outside) or take the risk of getting him out to put him in his bed (if he wakes up, he might not fall asleep again that day and get really tired and cranky by diner time)?

I need more brain activity. I need projects. Even if not brainy projects. That’s the conclusion I came to the other day after realizing how much time I’d spent lately trying to find myself a job. I looked online on jobs’ websites. I thought of every possible thing I like doing, or that I’m good at, to see if one of those could be used for a job, or even turned into a company. I read self-development books. The thing is that I don’t really need the money – we could always do with more, of course, but it’s not the main reason behind my search. No, the main reason for finding a job would be to feel useful, find an occupation, use my brain. And because we don’t really need the money, I don’t want to just work in anything, I want to do something I like.

So I looked at volunteering, Red Cross, animal shelters, etc. There are people looking and some very good opportunities can be found online. Problem: I don’t have the free time because my 2 years old son is with me all the time, I’m a stay-at-home mum. Solution: he could go to daycare. For volunteering? No… We’re ok money-wise, but that’s still sounds stupid. Daycare is only interesting and can only be paid for if I work. Volunteering will have to wait until my little monkey goes to school.

Find a job then. That I really like. That I like enough to feel ok to put my son into daycare.

Yes, daycare could be good for him. He would spend more time with children and other adults, and could learn to rely a bit more on himself and become more self-confident. For all these reasons, we had a go recently in a playgroup for children aged 2 to 4 years old – 2 mornings a week for 3 weeks, on his own without mum. He was the smallest in there. Got super tired and cried a lot and couldn’t tell us what was wrong. Other kids being pushy or rough? Adult not nice? Afraid? And we couldn’t explain why we were doing this. I got scared that he might withdraw and learn the wrong things. So after three weeks, we decided that we would stop, for now. He will go and learn all these things but he is still young. School won’t start for another year and a half and we can try again in three months or six months or even a year, when he talks more and gets less tired.

So. No job. No volunteering. For at least another year and a half to two years. I need projects.

B – Running projects

Thinking about it, I realize that I already have a few projects running:

  • Being a good mum and providing a good atmosphere for my son to grow well: it entails finding activities for him for his education/entertainment/exercise while looking out for his safety and not forgetting to give him drinks and food made out of good products without sugar, salt or chemicals. Also generally spending time with him, loving him, and cleaning up the messes. I have good days and bad days 🙂
  • Knitting/crocheting: I have lots of big and small projects for ourselves and presents, plus I go to a knitting group.
  • Read books: not just novels but also self-empowerment/improvement ones. TV is ok but limited. This is not going extra well.
  • Blogging 😉 I have good months and bad months.
  • Follow free courses online (or MOOCs) for a few weeks: it can be about anything I like, astronomy, education, philosophy, programming…
  • Finish my PhD: bascially prepare and practice my presentation. The rest is done.

Despite all this, I realized that there is one project missing. Or at least one topic: my husband. I wouldn’t label a husband-project something like “being a good wife” because it sounds awful. So I’m going to call it The Game 😉

C – The Game

I had a dream last night in which I was on holidays with a friend. There I met a guy, really nice, great to talk to. We spent lots of time together, getting closer and playing with that knowledge. I needed that guy close. I was falling in love. Then I woke up, married, and I had the horrible thought that if we weren’t more careful, this dream could actually become reality for one of us one day, and would mean the end of our family.

The objective of The Game is therefore to get closer to my husband, spend time with him, become more of the lovey couple we were before having our son – because lets face it, love expands after the birth (meaning that you include more people), but not time, and the less time you spend with your partner, the less love you ultimately feel.

Laying in bed after that realization, I came to list the obstacles that exist to get closer to my husband. I’ll call them The Obstacles.

D – The Obstacles

Trust: trusting that The Game will work, that we are still compatible in other ways than just caring for our son, that my husband wants the same thing (getting closer) and that he is not already looking elsewhere… I find that talking helps with this, at least for me.

Image: I feel crap, ugly, unkept. I haven’t been to the hairdresser in at least a year, I haven’t bought new clothes in months or years, and I’ve started putting a bit of weight (that I’d lost before the pregnancy and also just after, when our son was little) back on… I need a hair-cut, new clothes, and to lose weight, or at least to be more careful with how I eat.

Fatigue and patience: I’m a stay-at-home mum, in the evening I’m tired and I want time for myself, and if I can’t, I lose patience. Honestly, I know that I already do get some time for myself thanks to the crochet I do and the knitting group. Still, some more time out could be a good idea. Maybe I could go to the cinema, start yoga, get massages, or start a sport? Sport could also help with the weight. Then again, more time for myself might be useful but it’s maybe not the answer to The Game…

Time and hormones: I still breastfeed, it has hormonal effects including the reduction of libido, and we co-sleep with our little monkey, meaning that the bed is generally not available during the day (little monkey naps there, and when he isn’t napping we need to look after him) or at night… I’m not going to stop breastfeeding now, and a separate bed is not in plan yet, we’d need to get a bedroom ready. Could be for another project. But right now, what I could do is create time when little monkey naps, and maybe also hire a babysitter for afternoon or nights out?

With all this in mind, here is the plan, for now:

1) To get my looks up;

2) To be more patient, more hugs and more listening to my husband;

3) To create (and propose) time with him, for boardgames, diner, museum, cinema, or else. Hopefully, trust should also build from this.

Finally, keeping it as a game project for myself, I am not going to tell my husband about this. I won’t tell him why I’m doing what I’m doing and I’ll try to organize things as surprises. This way I can have some fun watching his reactions and hope that he’ll get interested 🙂

Game on!

Source: Samantha Whitney, flickr

No news, good news

Well, it’s been a while. Busy, busy, looking for a school for our son, looking for a house in the village of the school we choose, looking for a playgroup in that same village so that he can make friends and hopefully keep them when he goes to school, thinking about the future, finishing the left-overs from Amsterdam – my PhD, blahhhhh – and working on my crochet projects…

All the while my son grows up, his vocabulary and his understanding explodes (it is so amazing to see) and he starts to tell us more clearly what he wants. Winter slowly leaves and as the weather gets better we go out and enjoy Wales’ absolutely amazing nature, and plan for camping trips.

That’s it really, it keeps me busy 🙂

Homemade scones
Park in South Wales