Month: August 2014

Feeling better

This place was opposite the Babyhaus store. S*x toys, tupperware, vitamins and everything else a new parent needs!

This place was opposite the Babyhaus store. S*x toys, tupperware, vitamins and everything else a new parent needs!

There’s been rather a  lot of doom and gloom on here so I’m trying to do some more cheerful posts! I had a good day on Friday. Maybe even… somewhat of a breakthrough?

First of all I had my “slacker” German class (it’s back on after 5 weeks’ holiday) and I’m enjoying seeing my fellow students again. Plus, since I’ve sneakily been doing the semi-intensive German course during the break, I am suddenly the dux of the class! (in my semi-intensive class I mostly feel like a dunce). Going back also made me realise that I have learnt lots of German in my six months here. There is tons more to learn of course, but it’s nice to be reminded of the progress I’ve made. From a standing start too!

In the afternoon I had a message from a friend saying she’s up at Bad Allenmoos outdoor swimming pool with her daughter. Her text came at that moment all parents of young children will recognise: mid-afternoon just when you’re wondering WTF are we going to do to get through the next few hours until dinner? So we packed our togs and went – it was not super hot but a lovely sunny afternoon and P adores the water. He’s pretty good with the “swimming” in his rubber ring too :). My friend’s husband also showed up and distracted the kids so we could have a decent natter. Win!

Then, on the way home, I ran into one of the few other people I know in Zurich and we had a nice chat. Amazing how a chance meeting can suddenly make you feel connected and like everything is right with the world. Hey, maybe this is gonna work out OK after all!? I reckon this is also a previously unthought-of benefit of moving to a small town – the more people I am friends with here, the more likely I am to see them. Watch this space for when I start to complain that I can’t go anywhere without running into someone I know. ha ha ha

On the weekend we headed out to the big baby/kids store Babyhaus Wehrli and I had the smug joy of givin’ it straight to some newbie, expectant parents who were buggy shopping: “Don’t worry about the second kid you might have down the track, just get the stroller you want now! You’ll probably get a different one once the kid turns six months anyway.” Ahhh they must have thought I was a know-all cow. But it’s nice to feel like a slight expert in sOMETHIng.

I’ve also been cooking and baking a bit, which is satisfying. Food, especially eating out and/or takeaway, is so pricey here, you really have to cook more often. I do quite enjoy it but I hate feeling like I HAVE to do it. Lately it hasn’t seemed like a chore though so I’ll chalk that up as another Good Thing.

A few more small Good Things About Switzerland that I may not have mentioned:

* When I was a few rappen short on my shopping a few weeks ago, the lady at the supermarket waved it off – bring it next time. That would never happen in London

* Yesterday when I ran for the tram, the driver waited and even opened the back door for me as I panted up to it!

* Every time HI takes P to the farmers market, stall owners give him freebies – an apple, a tiny bag of fresh pasta fur Kinder, etc. So nice.

* It is like the 1980s here – I love the fact that kids still walk to school and there’s not a load of OH&S signs on everything

* There’s two suburbs called Pfaffikon within coo-ee of Zurich as well as Dietikon and Dietlikon, both of the latter have an IKEA

 

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Reasons to be Cautious…

Me in pre-Facebook days

Since moving here, I’ve joined an online English-Speaking Parents in Switzerland group that hosts some interesting discussions. Most stuff is child-related, obviously, but child-related is life-related after all.

There was a recent thread about posting pictures of your children online, kicked off by someone saying a childless friend had posted pictures of her kids online without permission, which generated much food for thought for me. I have a few different, conflicting issues with posting pics of my kids (and others posting, and posting pics of other’s kids) online. And because I had unexpectedly lots to say on the matter, I decided to turn it into a blog post.

Reasons to be cautious about posting pictures of children online:

1. Consent – the children have no say in it.

2. Safety – there’s a lot of whacky types online. I hate to check into paedo paranoia, but there are some sickos out there. I don’t know what they look for. Shudder to think. So you want to be careful. That said, however, I would also suggest that this falls into the “critical mass” category of safety. Eg: in UK you probably wouldn’t let your kids walk to school cos no one else does and so if the unthinkable were to happen, your one child walking alone would be an obvious target. Here in Switzerland, mostly all kids walk to school and there’s safety in numbers. Pics of kids online has reached critical mass IMO so you’d be unlucky (as opposed to shame on you) if something dodgy happened.

3. Privacy – a bit like consent, we grew up with pretty much just our close friends and family seeing a few select photos of us. How weird will it be for our kids and their friends to go online and see their whole lives documented? However,  I’m a bit torn here because with family and friends across the world, Facebook is an excellent way to share pics and info. However, I do have privacy settings on photos so they’re only seen by people I actually know well, eg: friends I’d invite to my house for cake.

4. Cyber bullying and identify theft are real and do happen. If I was an ID thief I reckon a great source would be all the “Belinda Mary Reynolds born 18.11.2013* mum and bub doing well” announcements!  I have no idea if my fears are valid and maybe I’m too paranoid. This is not just an online issue. When I edited my local NCT magazine in London, I would only put the month but not the actual date for birth announcements. Again, I have no idea if this was warranted, but it seemed better to err on the side of caution. Cyber bullying is more of an issue for tweens and teens where I think the 3. Privacy issues are relevant, plus see 6. Setting an Example, below.

5. Ownership – FB might own the crunched down version of pics on its site but if you hold the original, it’s still yours too, right? Is this a statutory rights thing? I’m not a lawyer… Also there’d be an uproar and lawsuits if people’s pics did start appearing in ads or unsolicited places so I don’t think one should panic. Then again, FB is a free service which means as users we don’t really have much power or any binding contract with the company re: our data, so that’s something to consider. Come to think of it, so is this blog… maybe I should start paying a bit of money to (hopefully) ensure I own some rights to my content here!

6. Setting an example – our kids are going to grow up in a very different world than we did in terms of social media and “connectedness”. I’d like to think that my online behaviour sets a reasonable example for what is appropriate for them to do. Of course, they will end up doing whatever the f&ck they want and/or what their silly friends are doing anyway – for a while… but eventually I’d hope they’d be sensible. I guess it’s a bit like drug taking. I hope they’d talk to me about the consequences and would take my experience (ahem) and advice on board. At least a little bit!

In conclusion, I don’t know what is right. I try to limit the amount of pics I put in the public domain and I have a bunch of privacy settings on my Facebook as I mentioned above. I may be overly cautious but I see this as a better safe than sorry situation. For the record, I should also state that all this is just my opinion. I don’t write this to preach to anyone or suggest you should do what I do. Then again, when I read stories like this one, I wonder if perhaps I am not careful enough! And then there’s this father making arty pics of his naked daughter. Hmm. What do you think?

*a made-up name and date – any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The pursuit of perfection

Hot wheels or hot heels… you get what you’re given

Last week, we found out we’re having another boy. I don’t plan on having any more children after this one, so right now I feel a bit disappointed. I was 90% sure it was a girl. Which would have made the perfect little family.

My disappointment in not “achieving” perfection here, and the headline of this blog, takes me back several years to when I used to edit a customer magazine for a semi-luxury car company, the tagline of which was The Pursuit of Perfection (er, not Lamborghini by the way!). The job made me unhappy for many reasons that I won’t detail now. Suffice to say, it was during my employment there that I first sought help for clinical depression. At that time, I was passed to a rather young, freshly qualified and enthusiastic NHS counsellor with pale pink hair who helped me in two valuable ways. One was putting me onto an online Cognative Behavioural Therapy programme (MoodGym) and the other was her “diagnosis” of me as a perfectionist.

Perfection – I scoffed at the time – was something I absolutely did not seek. I’d worked in publishing too long to be an adherent of ‘perfection’ – that way lies missed deadlines, endless do-overs and disappointment. Near enough is good enough: do it well, proof it, fix it, proof it again, sign it off, ship it to print and move on! Bear with me, she said, and take home this document, read it and see what you think. I did and she was right. Perfectionism in psychological terms is not always trying to be “perfect” per se, according to http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/ it is:

1. The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others) that are
personally demanding, in the context of the individual. (Typically, to an outsider the standards are
considered to be unreasonable given the circumstances.)
2. Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such
unrelenting standards.
3. Experiencing negative consequences of setting such demanding standards, yet continuing
to go for them despite the huge cost to you.

I am not going to comment on whether the car company I worked for achieved this goal but for myself, I was glad to recognise and acknowledge these traits and try to work on them. However, like depression, I’ve found perfectionism can rear its head at various times life and screw around with you. And I guess now is one of those times…

I have been thinking about the fact I’m carrying a boy for a few days now and I guess I can only describe it as thus: I feel like people will judge me as though it was a choice I made. “Oh, you wanted a 2-boy family.” When my choice would have been to have one of each. And I know that’s stupid, and selfish and anal and stuff but there you have it. Of course the main thing is he’s healthy and I’m healthy. There are people out there desperate to conceive, or with rafts of other baby- and child-related problems, and I truly am grateful we’re all healthy so I really should shut up. I will love the kid and I will get over this. But if you’ll indulge my wallowing and justifications for a moment or two?

So: I am a girl. And one who enjoys dressing up, shopping and vanity things. And it would have been so nice to have a female child to do this kind of  typical girl stuff with. Plus, in general, when they become adults, women are better at staying in touch, remembering birthdays, helping to tidy up after a dinner party, all that stupid stereotypical shit that perhaps shouldn’t matter but of course it does. (And I know I’m getting about 20 years ahead of myself, but these are some of the conclusions I jump to).

Also, it means I will never have a daughter who has a baby so I can go through the pregnancy with her and tell her what it was like for me, etc.  BUT – this is all a bit silly. Who’s to say that even if I did have a daughter that she would be any of those things? Or that I will “miss out” in any way? For example, I was at a 3 year old’s birthday party the other day and the mother-in-law (MiL) was just lovely and obviously very involved with the family of her son (her only child). In fact she reminded me of my own wonderful MiL (who I know reads this blog, hi Avril!), who has given me some fantastic motherly advice over the years and been very involved with P’s life as well as in the lives of the children of her other son (she also has a daughter, but her daughter has not had children so there’s no guarantees of that “shared motherhood” experience anyway!) . I would hope to do the same for my son’s partners one day. Assuming they have them. Because my son/s might be gay, or not have kids, or be perpetually single, or anything. And that is also fine.

So I guess it kinda comes back to this weird feeling of no choice, or the wrong choice somehow. It’s like – everything else in your life you basically get to decide on (if you’re a privileged WASP like me): where you live, your tertiary education and/or career, if/who you marry, what you wear, the stuff you have – from the car you’re driving to the handbag you carry to how you decorate your home. And while I might not love the fact, it all signifies stuff about you. And I guess I feel like the outside trappings of my life are all fairly well curated. I’m happy with them and the impression that I give off and, yes, I do think about it a fair bit (does that make me a pyscho?!)  But this, well, it’s not my choice – the way it will be reflected on me feels like it doesn’t quite fit. So I feel a bit sad and, if I’m brutally honest, slightly embarrassed? Like people will whisper: “oops, unfortunate, was that on purpose?!” God that’s awful. But that’s why I wanted to write about it – get it out there, see how ridiculous I’m being.

I went online and read a few forums and stuff about this topic. One commenter had a really nice suggestion which was: enjoy your sons and if you feel the urge, just go and buy that frilly dress and donate it to a child in need. I like this idea. Besides, many of my close friends have girls, and I have two nieces. Being “cool Aunty Claire” to them should surely be almost as satisfying! Plus I won’t get the growing-up girl tantrums (when I think how horrible I was to my mum at some points in my life, agh), I won’t have to deal as directly with all the horrid over-sexualisation that’s shoved in girls’ faces as they grow up (although I will make damn sure my boys respect women and join the feminist fight), and selfish, vain old me will never have to “compete” against a fresh, younger version.

I am glad we found out though. I wouldn’t want to deal with these feelings on top of the “baby blues” a few days after the birth. And I know I’ll get over it. But right now, I am a bit sad and, for a perfectionist like me, it’s tough to bid goodbye to what I thought my family “should” be.

Achtung

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I just wanted to write a quick blog to say I’m feeling a bit better and to thank everyone who got in touch to check in on me after the previous entry (and in relation to past entries too). I really appreciate it, thankyou. I am so lucky to have such awesome friends and family scattered across the globe 🙂

So, on a lighter note, here’s some photos of funny stuff I’ve seen around Zurich.

What’s My Scene

And another thing, I’ve been wondering lately

Am I crazy

To believe in ideals?

I’m a betting man, but it’s getting damn lonely

Oh honey, if only

I was sure what I feel…

 

I spent half of the afternoon putting away old, non-maternity clothes. They seem like outfits from another life. Much of it is office wear. I don’t know if I’ll ever put those things on again. Some of it is clothes I bought in Australia more than eight years ago. Is it time to let that stuff go too? For good?

Since coming back from London 2 days ago, I’ve felt unfortunately adrift. I don’t know what I’m doing here – I’ve got no connection to this country with its foreign language I might not ever properly learn. We are trying to potty-train P and I don’t even know how to have the conversation with his Swiss-German carers at the kinderkrippe. Then there’s the stupid heath insurance (don’t get me started), the crazy-expensive everything. The slightly different culture that, while it doesn’t exactly grate, just rubs, giving a slight feel of unease, creating sore spots in unexpected places.

I read an article about Peaches Geldof’s death from a heroin overdose and it was upsetting. Maybe it was an accidental OD. But if two little children and all the trappings of a “very nice life” could not keep her tethered to it, could not solve the emptiness inside, the destructive urge for Something to fill that hole in the soul… Poor Peaches. I sort of understand, you see? And that’s worrying.

There was a lot of talk among my friends in London about the demise of the goth/alternative scene. A festival got cancelled and it seems to have been the catalyst for several people to say ‘over and out’ on the whole shebang. I “retired” as a goth several years back now but it still makes me a bit sad. One less thing to return to, to be involved with, albeit marginally.

I also read about funding being cut for women’s refuges in the UK, and I know similar is happening back in Australia. Along with a raft of other benefits cuts, the way the First World is treating refugees etc, that’s more upsetting. These are people that really need help – people without anything like the resources of those such as myself and Peaches bloody Geldof. What is the world coming to when we are edging the most vulnerable people in our societies ever closer to misery, destitution and even, in extreme cases, death?

Before I moved here, I was very concerned about feeling lonely, isolated, and poor, with a lack of occupation. And all those things have come to pass. I thought I’d shored up some safeguards against it, mainly to do with indulging my creativity. But I’ve found I feel too empty to write much. And I still don’t have that One Great Idea to spark into a novel. So I’m stuck tapping out the occasional blog and spending too much time on Facebook. It doesn’t feel like there’s any place for me right now. What’s my scene?