“She gave us this gift from back home” Understanding they are good neighbours, friends even. But what her voice and her skin do not say is she left this home her country 40 years past. There is no forgetting. She cooks one way one day and the other the next, speaks to her children in the language for them to access the knowledge, the culture. They learn the major tongue elsewhere. Uprooted at six months old he lived here for forty years. What his voice does not say he tells strangers willingly: “I am from there” he smiles and chooses to remember. He tells stories and asks for them, visits landmarks with his children. Did they laugh in school at his name, at his parents' voice, until he owned them? “Not from here, different” some say, some whisper. What does it take to be accepted or tolerated? What does it take to not be? A voice, a skin, a remembrance of identity – food, people, places, customs? Blend in some cannot, would they want it or not, a mixture made over time they have a foot over some line, drawn with changing references it forgets history and choices.
We made an offer on a house today and it was accepted!!! And I’ve stopped watching BBC News 🙂 We know what we need to know. The times are uncertain, it might get worse, but it might not…
Our options are therefore:
- To live in fear and worry and wait to buy – for how long? Do we want to maybe live in rentals forever, knowing pensions funds are uncertain?
- To buy a small house to repay as fast as possible to sell in 5/7 years when it is too small for us – at the risk that we cannot sell because it loses too much value or because houses don’t sell well then
- To buy the house we want and can (currently) afford, which gives us the space we’re looking for for another child and the possibility to stay forever if we want, at 3 or more
We are 34 and 37 this year and put like this, I find that our choice is actually almost simple… We don’t want to live in fear. We don’t want, in the event that we (manage to) have another child, to take the risk to be stuck in a too small house soon. We’ll do our best with we can do to make things work out, for ourselves and our son – maybe travel less to Europe if the pound continues to drop – and we’ll try to buy this house 😀 I feel a lot better now that the decision is taken!
I thought I would make a not-so-very important point here. Nobody I know has been really nasty about it but there is a kind of assumption that if you don’t work, then you have time to, and should, clean the house… It is almost a shame to not do it yourself, even for mums who work full time! Hum. Well, we can afford it and so we have a cleaning lady, even though I do not work…
But really, who says that because you are at home taking care of your child you should also do the cleaning and cooking and washing and shopping? Properly taking care of a child takes time, and I don’t have much more time than my husband for all these other things, and I don’t like to do them anymore than he does.
So we’re paying someone to do the cleaning for us. This way I have time to play legos and read books. I can take my son to toddler groups, music classes, soft-plays, and go for nice walks to playgrounds and big puddles to jump in with our boots. All the while taking care that he doesn’t hurt himself in imaginative ways. Every morning is different and afternoons are dedicated to his naps and a little rest for me, not to cleaning the kitchen or hoovering. On week ends we try to go out all together.
My husband cooks and I take care of the dish-washing (with the dishwasher) and the clothes-washing and shopping!
Bubbles. It’s my son’s new word and new interest, so it’s now on the background of the blog. They’re great bubbles, fun and pretty and see-through. I’d like for things to be like this all the time. And I expect my husband would also like things to be like this for me all the time. No worries, just black and white like or not like, happy please and no complaints when we travel – we just went to Amsterdam. I love the town and the people, but he heard that I regretted moving out. No, I don’t regret moving, but it’s not so simple.
I really like our new life here, in Wales. The nature, the space, the people and people speaking English. I can already see the benefits this move had on my health. I suffer less from anxiety and I’m less on survival mode all the time. To the point that I’m really imagining the possibility to have a second child. Despite the fact that I’m still breastfeeding – yes, he is almost two years old, but he is still benefiting from it and I’m scared that I would have to make him stop, he is so happy like this. And despite the fact that we don’t really know the area yet. And that we only have one salary. But we will know the area if we stay long enough, it is so good for children, the schools are good, the people are nice, and my husband’s salary is good. I can see us managing! It’s new! I’m hoping! I’m enjoying life, seeing my son grow up and not scared all the time. Taking the time to visit farms and forests. Enjoying the easiness to go out of the house (no stairs!). Suddenly things look and feel good. We will take care with our expenses and put money on the side and we will try to buy a house as soon as we can. It will take a bit of time. If we stay here.
And that’s where it is difficult for me. Will we stay here or will we move again. I’m a bit lost there. I know what I want for our son. But will we be able to stay? Will we want to? Could we get bored or never settle? How do you settle…?? I loved Amsterdam and despite the fact that there were things I didn’t like so much, it really hurt when we left. I lost my roots. I lost confidence in us settling anywhere. I realized how little we left behind us after so many years. Not so many friends, most move around and having a child and anxiety issues changed things. Maybe we’re also not so good at it. Do we really need anybody else? Yes, it’s really nice to have visitors, people we know and trust. But could we really stay here, or anywhere?
Anyway, I was glad to go to Amsterdam, to see a few old places. I realized that I’ve already moved on for the most part. I love the city but it’s not home anymore. It’s good to know.
I’ve just finished making a crochet stuffed toy for my son and he points and smiles at it 😀 Watching him play with it, my brains got away with themselves and I imagined him grown up, keeping that toy somewhere, maybe treasuring it because I made it; or myself treasuring it because it is a reminder of when I made it. Like my mum treasures my favourite stuffed toy that I took everywhere with me after I got it as a present when I was 6…
Except that she had not made that stuffed toy. This is something that I do, I stopped working and I crochet during naptime. That’s me, not her. My maternal grandmother wouldn’t make a crochet toy either, she was too busy running the house with four kids. Neither would my paternal grandmother who loved working and had a good and busy career.
Does that mean that the stuffed toy I made will have more value for me, or for him, one day? Will it end up forgotten in a box, or prized on a shelf? I have no idea and there is no way of knowing, because we are in uncharted territory.
There are many things that I love about my childhood, and try to reproduce, and other things that I have tried to do differently. But my only point of reference when it comes to being a parent is my parents. So I keep comparing myself and our life to them, to what they lived and what they decided. I guess it is because I am scared, I need a point of reference to know that it’s going to be all right. What we do now is not new so it’s going to be all right.
But I am not my mum or my parents, I have already lived a different life than the one they had at my age. Everything is new, from myself as a parent to our move to the UK.
It’s scary, so I try to recreate parts of the childhood I had, the environment, the Christmases, some birthdays maybe, some time spent with my parents (where I now play the parent 🙂 ). To create memories like the ones I have in the hope that he will grow up healthy and happy, and remember some of these memories fondly. There is nothing wrong with that. I want him to be happy and safe.
But taking some of what was good in my own and my husband’s upbringing (we have to learn to be a parent somewhere…) and basing some decisions on our parents’ experience shouldn’t stop us from making something new.
Because we both grew up in the countryside doesn’t mean that growing up in a city is totally wrong for a child. It is different. Because I lived in a house or a friend had a dog, does it mean that we should make the some choices? Because my mum worked when I was little, does it mean I should too? Or that I shouldn’t? Because a friend didn’t get along with a sibling, does it mean we shouldn’t have a second child? Because my dad was an only child wanting siblings, does it mean that our child will feel the same way, even if we, as parents, are different from my grandparents? Because my husband and I had siblings, does it mean we should have a second child soon? And make ourselves miserable if we can’t?
Have two children. Have at least three (I actually heard that one). Don’t wait too long to have another, but don’t have them too close or they’ll never get along. Move to a house. Get a pet. Stay close to the family, but not too close or you’ll go crazy. Don’t move to a small village/a big city/another country… So many rules we make for ourselves based on our fears and our own, our families’ and our friends’ experiences!
One of the first things we learned as parents is to (try to) not listen to other people’s opinions. You never see the end of it and everyone thinks differently! But I find it more difficult to not listen to my own deeply ingrained certainties of what we should do and be as a family: that it should be that way because that’s the way we will be safe and happy. There is no certainty in that; we are not our parents.
Happily, it also means that some of the things that they went through may not happen to us…
Uncharted doesn’t necessarily mean dangerous, it is just new. Uncertain. Free.
I don’t cook. It’s an accepted fact in our family. I can cook an egg or rice or pasta, but nothing more complex, and even that I usually don’t because my husband prefers nicer/more elaborate foods.
But my husband is away this week. This has always been a problem: I usually eat really badly while he is not there. Except that with my son now I really ought to make an effort.
So tonight I cooked a bit: home-breaded chicken in small pieces (he loves breaded fish, so I thought, lets try) – first in flour, then in mixed egg, then in breadcrumbs – with pasta and (frozen, lets not push grandma in the nettles as the French say) vegetables. All in all I spent a bit more time on this than on making French toast, which he loves and devours in minutes!
Anyway, he didn’t eat a thing! A piece of bread, a bit of yoghurt, wouldn’t even try the chicken… Even though I know he’s going to be hungry later on. Well, I’ve got some left for tomorrow lunch, we’ll try again 🙂
Then, in the middle of my reading about him and his wife, Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, my husband came home, we prepared diner and ate before putting our son to bed. On my coming back in the living room, we started talking about our move, his new job, and how important it is for both of us that it goes well, not only for practical reasons but because I know how much value he puts in his work, and because his career has become, somehow, a matter of pride for me too. I do not work anymore and his work is perhaps the only form of intellectual pride that I currently have. We talk about it, I see what he does, it is my way of participating in something different and talking of something else than the diet and nap schedule of our son.
Gradually the discussion evolved until it came to a subject that I have been ruminating for a few months already: my loss of status as a stay-at-home mum. It’s crazy and annoying and frustrating how much value I have lost in the eyes of some people since I stopped working to take care of our son!! I have become a waste – of time, money and potential! My education (I have a master’s degree) and my use to society is lost: I do not have a career.
But what these people do not understand is that I have no doubt that this is not true. I don’t know that I could continue staying at home otherwise. The individual, the wife and the mum that I am today are a result of my experiences and my education, which I know have been useful to my husband in the past (when making important decisions or organizing events) and are now useful everyday to both my husband and our little monkey.
The discussions that we have with my husband and my capacity to follow his line of thought when we talk about his work or his ideas are not a waste. It can even be useful for his work, once in a while. My knowledge and interests are and will be useful to my son, in his everyday life, from the knowledgeable decisions that we (will) take to help him grow, to his school work. It will give him someone to talk to, someone to discuss ideas or historical topics with, if not just someone to help him with his maths…
I might go back to work one day, or not. Both are equally possible and will depend on many factors. But even if I don’t, I know that I will be useful to society, if “only” by what I bring my husband and my son by being me!
It has been said that “behind every great man is a great woman”. To be sure, when a couple is concerned, who the great men were married to has probably made a huge difference. Clearly Mary Shelley was an educated woman, as were Marie Curie (1967-1934), Emma Darwin (1808-1896) or Sophia Tolstoy (1844-1919). These women are (mostly) not as well known as their husbands but even the ones who didn’t work made a difference in the lives and the work of their husbands, and most probably in the lives and intellect of their children as well. We do make a difference in their lives as they make a difference in ours.
Anyway… Big discussion for a weekday evening. Nothing new, it just rings a bell. So I went back to reading about Shelley and his wife.
Mary Shelley, as well as being an educated woman, was also the daughter of the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) who wrote A vindication of the rights of woman in 1792. Funnily enough the first paragraph describing the book on Wikipedia is the following:
“A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be “companions” to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men.”
Already back then 🙂