Saturday, March 29, 2014

Happy happy

Two years ago when things were breaking down with Zoe's dad, some of my close friends and friendly acquaintances tried to support me by saying "this is just a phase", it will get better. "It is very hard now but just think of it as a phase". If they had told me things would be just as bad two years later I would probably have done things very differently. I knew it was not going to be a pretty end, but I didn't know it was not going to end. The pain and the confusion. The bouts of depression, the crying over spilt milk. Last night I was out for the third time that week, this time with a large set of colleagues or former colleagues, celebrating another one's birthday. It was a diverse set of people including old friends as well as one of my PhD students. As I teary-eyed tried to explain a friend of mine (who is an amazing listener and has more insights than most other people) how it was difficult for me to be out among old colleagues like this, it almost became too much and I felt nauseous to the level that I worried I was going to get sick. My ex was there too and although we are amicable and had had a nice chat about Zoe's reading and math abilities (she surprised me the other day by reading letters) I wasn't comfortable to say the least. My friend seemed understanding and said that when I was drinking again he would take me out and we could have fun. I tried to get another friend's attention but he was already too drunk, so drunk that when I said goodbye and gave him a hug, he held on too long and confused the hell out of me.

Walking home through the dark, cold streets of Stockholm's Ostermalm where girls are platinum blonde, red lipsticked and short skirted, just tipsy enough to seem happy but still in control, I couldn't help thinking what I had told my ex a couple of weeks ago. That I regret splitting up. If someone had told me what it was going to be like, I had worked more on it, I had not let him give up on me. I would have tolerated the crazy fights and worked harder on the problems. I don't care about nail polish* and I don't care about cooking. I still think people give up on marriage way too easy, but I also think they don't give each other time. Just a bit of time to themselves which is what I needed. I'm bitter and sad and opposite most of my posts here, this one has no positive ending. At least yet. 

*My ex never let me wear nail polish

Monday, March 17, 2014

Everyday life as a single mother

I often wonder how other single parents do it. I don't know many and the ones I know I'm not close enough to to actually ask that question. So I rely a lot on what I hear in the media, in magazines and actually what my own mom tells me about her experiences from my childhood. But most of these sources talk about emotional issues, larger problems and overly dramatic events such as custody battles and big life changes. Nobody talks about the day-to-day life of actually being able to get through the day, fed, cleaned and well-rested at night, both mother and child, while still working full time. The gist of the problem is of course that there is nobody you can send down after milk if you forget and find out at 8pm when Zoe is in her pajamas. There is nobody who magically does the dishes while you sleep. And Sweden has no pick-up service laundries, instead you have to take it downstairs at a scheduled time. I certainly haven't cracked the nut yet but here is a list of the things I do have down, which make everyday life easier and doable for me:

  1. I get food boxes from ("the seasons", an all organic food delivery). These are boxes with all the ingredients for dinners, either for 3 or 4 days. A box arrives Monday and Zoe and I have food for the rest of the week. It is delivered at my doorstep.
  2. I have a cleaner. Completely crazy because of the size of my apartment but I still have a bathroom and a kitchen and I still cannot imagine when I would be able to vacuum apart from the evening when oh, Zoe is sleeping (right…)
  3. I have two babysitters who are very flexible and who I can ask to pick Zoe up and feed her dinner, so I can work extra long on deadlines.
  4. I do laundry at night: I take the load down when Zoe is awake, she goes with me. Then I leave her sleeping to go down and put it in the dryer and a second time to pick it up. I have told her that I do that so she knows I will be right back if she wakes up. She has never woken up yet. I remember my mom doing the same with me. 
But there are also a lot of things that I haven't figured out yet and that I don't now how to deal with:
  1. Zoe watches quite a lot of TV when she comes home from daycare. I have to cook quickly and often quickly means in 30 seconds, so Zoe watches TV while eating snacks, crackers and cut veggies. She uses my iPad to access netflix with all their kids TV. I'm pretty okay with most of what she watches but I would like her to spend less time on it. I often join her after dinner and we chat about the shows, while having a cup of tea.
  2. I'm not a morning person and neither is Zoe. She is (like most 3 year olds) very slow in the morning and needs constant coaching to get ready. It takes me almost 3 hours from getting out of my bed until I'm at work. And Zoe cries for 3-10 minutes when I leave her at daycare. Still.
  3. Picking up packages, taking back library books, buying specialty items are all a nightmare. I don't have any flexibility on a weekday to go the long way home from daycare to pick up a package or pass by a hardware store to get a small light bulb for my exhaust fan. These are small things but annoying when I haven't been able to see what I'm cooking for over a month.
  4. Missing Zoe. I miss Zoe terribly when she is not with me. Although the initial freedom is nice, I feel cut in half when I don't have her. I'm sure her dad find it equally hard.
  5. Having someone to share your day with. One thing I miss the most about being by myself is that I have nobody to share the day with. When something annoying happens, I'm stuck with it inside my head and when good things happen I get to share it on Facebook and get five likes. When Zoe says the cutest thing I cannot tell anyone (but this is also a problem with us having our 'own' language), instead I try to write some of it down.
Many of these issues are not often discussed, perhaps due to triviality and lack of interest, perhaps some are unique to me. But I'm constantly working on improving my everyday life, both for practical reasons and for improving my happiness.

A mochi attitude

Zoe and I pass by a Japanese food/sushi shop every day from daycare and her love for sushi always has her pressing her nose up against window. But since they only serve sushi during lunch we never had any reason to go in. Today she asked herself though and I said why not. She was fascinated by all the sushi ingredients, asking "what's that" to all of it: the sea wheat, the tubed wasabi and the shrimp flavored crackers. I found they had frozen red bean mochi, which I really like, so I picked out a pack and lay on the counter where an elderly Japanese guy was talking in Swedish on the phone. Zoe saw a little stand with key chains, some shaped as soy sauce bottles, others as Mumin characters (!). It was exactly at her eye level and we looked at them together, me prepared to buy her one if she like it. She looked at all of them, and took a magnet down from a display, asking why it was sticky before proceeding to take one of the key chains down, except they were tangled a bit so she was attempting to take the second one over the first one, making the first one almost fall off too. The Japanese man interrupted his phone conversation and grabbed the chains out of her hand, and said very harshly and quite condescending in Swedish: "NO NO, you can't do that, you have to let your mom do that for you". Zoe looked at me and asked what the man said because she still doesn't understand much Swedish. I told her, but decided that I was not going to buy anything from a shop with that attitude towards kids, so I took the mochi back to the freezer while explaining to Zoe that we were leaving. She followed me diligently and quiet out the door but as I walked out the shop the shop keeper yelled after me "You have to look after your child". I almost exploded; I turned around and yelled back in my best Swedish "I did look after her, you idiot". I had been right there. Right next to her, my 3 year old looking at colorful plastic things at her eye level, which she carefully tried to explore. She was not about to knock anything valuable over, she was not misbehaving or in anyway doing something I didn't think was appropriate for a child to do in a shop. As we walked home Zoe said to me "Mom, that was a very stupid man". I agreed, adding that we will never go there again.

Zoe was quickly over it but I mulled over the incident for hours. Since I had no other person to share the story with and move on mentally, I grumbled and coursed over how some people just don't accept kids as real people. And I wondered why the man thought it was a good idea to tell us off and lose a potential customer. Then I thought about the mantra that holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free inside your head. I wrote this blog post and moved on.