M has just been accepted into a ‘dagis’, or daycare, facility starting on Monday. He will be attending 1/2 days five days a week. And with this, my run as a full-time hemmapappa is coming to an end.
The original plan, the plan that I agreed to when still in Burma and contemplating the move to Sweden, was that I would stay home with M and K until August, 2013. My wife and I are committed to being the parents that are willing to take the time and effort needed to be there for our boys during their first two years. My wife stopped working with K and only went back part-time when he was 18 months, and not full-time until he was three years. Coming to Sweden we had agreed that I would do the same so that M’s first full 18 months would be spent at home with me. M is now 13 months, and he is going to be attending dagis. What went wrong?
Well, nothing went wrong. Life is as it is, there is no right or wrong. What changed was me and the reality of both living in a foreign country and being a full-time hemmapappa. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t quite realize how difficult. Don’t get me wrong, it is also incredibly rewarding…just frustratingly difficult too. What I anticipated, but didn’t think would be a huge factor, is the isolation. Taking care of an infant and a three-year old takes up a whole bunch of time and energy. Though my wife told me over and over again that I would have little time for anything else, I still thought I would be getting out and really experiencing life in Sweden. But that is just not the case.
I live in Sweden. I have been living in Sweden for six months now, but I still don’t really know Sweden. There are two primary factors for this. First, I don’t speak the language; and living in a foreign country without speaking the language is like watching a movie on mute. Sure, you can get the general gist of the story, understanding who the protagonist and antagonist are, and enjoy the sites…but, all of the details and subtle plot twists are lost. In the end, you might be smiling and saying you enjoyed the film, but you still never quite really understood what was happening. (And this is assuming that you are watching some action or romance film, forget it for drama or comedy.) Second, I am not immersed with Swedes. I have made a few friends, but only one is a Swede. Without a job or an environment that forces integration, it is very hard for me to be immersed with Swedes. My wife comes home and shares a tidbit from her colleagues, and sometimes makes that comment, “It was so Swedish!” I don’t know what that means…what is so Swedish? Without observing and interacting with Swedes on a daily basis, I am unable to fully understand the Swedish mentality and culture…not that I would ever be able to fully understand, I mean I don’t even understand my own culture at times.
I am sick and tired of living in a country without really knowing how to speak the language. If you read my post ‘Swedish for Dummies‘, you are aware of the dubious start I have taken in learning Swedish. Well, I am now enrolled and will be attending a beginner’s Swedish course in February. Unfortunately, the class is during the day, afternoons, so M is being bundled up and sent off to dagis to take his afternoon nap and learn some Swedish; and K will now be remaining at his preschool all day. (Which by the way he is super excited about.) This is much sooner than I anticipated, and though I will still be with M for half of each day, I have a sense of betrayal to the promise I made both my wife and M when coming to Sweden. But my very wise and insightful wife told me, “We need to do what is best for the whole family.” And right now, learning the language and starting the job hunt in earnest so that we might have an opportunity to remain in Sweden for a longer duration, is what needs to happen…I think.
But still…I just know that in a few months, or perhaps a few years time, I will look back at this step with regret; knowing that I will never ever have a chance to spend such amount of time with my boys, during these pivotal development years, as I have right now.