i have lots of time with small children on my own and i find it a struggle - i am in a rut and need some help

(15 Posts)
qwertzoop Fri 04-May-12 08:50:44

hello

we have been in germany almost a year and eldest child is 4 and in kindergarten in the mornings. younger one will go in aug. so i have every afternoon from 1pm to 7 pm on my own. we have gymnastics and dancing once a week but apart from that the rest of the time is free. library does not open until 3 pm and closed one day a week. i am learning german (big frustration is that i do not have enough time to do more). so the. mothers from the kindergarten mostly do not speak very good english or any at all and my german is too rudimentary to make conversation.

so i guess iam asking what do i do with the children every day. i am fed up with playgrounds. i am hoping to get the older one into. bilingual school in a year - both my husband and i are english so do not feel that the grundschule would be best.
i have found the last 4 or so years hard, pnd, on my own a lot with two very smll children and i do long for them to do a "regular" school day so that i can get my brain moving again. i feel i am not cut out to be a hausfrau with the short school days. i want to try to enjoy the next year or two and not feel like i am dragging though it. any thoughts would be appreciated.

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qwertzoop Fri 04-May-12 14:58:41

anyone?

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Lifeonthecanal Fri 04-May-12 15:08:02

I have no real advice except to say I am in the same situation. I am very isolated where we live and am often lonely. DD is at nursery until 12 everyday, then naps, but the rest of the afternoon I have to fill. Here there are no parks, soft plays etc. Swimming is our lifesaver and we go a lot.

I am not the most creative person but I get lots of ideas from The Imagination Tree blog and set up crafty things for DD. Maybe have a look and see what you think.

Is there anything you can study online? I understand about not using your brain. I think I use about 5% at the moment!

qwertzoop Fri 04-May-12 15:15:52

thank you! just wanted to know someone else out there is in a similar situation. I like germany a lot but the childcare/school setup is not for me but options are limited and I have to keep going with the way things are. Some people are more suited to it than others. Thank you for the blog idea.

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Caterpillar2001 Fri 04-May-12 20:10:39

Hi, whereabouts in Germany are you? The imagination tree blog looks full of ideas; I shall be taking a closer look later on.
I take it that you do not have more time to learn German because the children return from nursery in the early afternoon? At what kind of institution are you learning German? Do they run (optional) afternoon courses as well? Should that be the case and you want to extend your German-learning hours a bit, then you could - depending on where you live - apply to the Jugendamt for the right to a few more hours of nursery care (maybe package the language course as an integration effort?) that would afford you more study time?

qwertzoop Fri 04-May-12 20:30:24

thank you Caterpillar2001. yes both will be home by 1pm. (little one starts in aug). the problem is that in order for the older one to stay at kindergarten longer she would have to change groups and i cannot do that as she is very happy in the group she is in and has picked up german and made friends very well. i will start at the volksoschule in aug 2 mornings. week. my main issue i guess is just finding the hours every afternoon a bit of grind, i wish kindergarten were more flexible but it is not.

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surroundedbyblondes Fri 04-May-12 20:35:57

I would say keep trying with the other parents, also with neighbours etc. We are in Sweden and I have found great friendships and support with my lovely neighbours who are very patient with my mangled attempts at their language. They have helped me and given me tips of things to do with the kids, offered playdates, babysitting, chats, coffees and got me out power-walking with the buggies to the extent that I weigh less than when I got married! They really have helped me to feel at home here and that's important as this is now our permanent home. Don't feel embarassed about what you can't say, or mistakes you make, just get stuck in there and try. Ask questions. Get chatting. Invite your DC's friends round.
I hope it pays off xx

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mrspink27 Fri 04-May-12 20:39:57

Are there any other expats in your area? You may or may not want to explore that as an option! But it might be an option ? Or other MN's living close by?
Do you have a partner and are they working with any one else English who may have a significant other? Is there an international magazine for your local area which may list stuff to do or groups to join? DO you have a hobby/interest which you could take part in?

I think the key is to keep plugging away in order to establish a circle of acquaintances/friends and to make sure you get out of the house and "do" something every day esp given your pnd. Even if it is just the supermarket, park, swimming pool etc.

I can only imagine how hard it must be - I have found it hard enough reesatablishing in a new town 10 miles south.

Thatisnotitatall Sat 05-May-12 00:06:44

Hello qwertzoop

I am a bit like you, my kids are 6, 4 an 1, and I have been here since the eldest was 1.5 and I was heavily preg with DC2. I can make myself understood in German and and get by but my grammar is pants and some days everything seems to work fine and other days I feel like I understand nothing!

I did VHS twice, once evenings when DC2 was a tiny baby, and once just after he started Kiga (mornings only) when I was preg with DC3, but my heart has never been in it, as there have never been any other English speakers to bond with and I have felt a bit on the side as everyone else has been Polish or Turkish, plus I have always had the kids home in the afternoons and night wakers, so homework has been consigned to evenings which are my only times to tidy and spend with DH! He is in bed now but I am taking 10 mins!

Just wanted to say I know how the isolation feels. I get annoyed though when people complain about having to look after their own kids in the afternoons as I know others in the UK would love to be home but have to work to pay the bills, as I used to have to in the UK... One definite pro of living here is that we can manage as a family of 5 on one wage! I have just given notice to work though as they were trying it on post maternity leave, wanting me to come back on the same pay and twice the hours! Only a €400 job so no rights, but don't want to be taken advantage of, at the same time giving up the rare job that comes along with not-fluent German in rural parts is a blow!

Don't know what to suggest though, except VHS, you could work for them too offering evening English courses, which is what I do in addition to the private school €400 job I have just given up on... It's something. You can always join more toddlers groups and hope you click with somebody!

Good luck!

Weta Sat 05-May-12 09:04:24

I've had periods of having childcare in the mornings only and having the kids in the afternoons, though now they are a bit older they have school two afternoons a week (we're in Luxembourg not Germany).

I really like that kind of setup when they are small so maybe I'm not the best person to advise! but I wanted to say that I think it will all seem much easier once your youngest starts at the kindergartens - if I've understood correctly, at the moment you have one child all day and the other one in the afternoons. I think once you have the mornings totally free it will feel like a different ball game - presumably you might be able to do a german course in the mornings, and then the kids will already have had an outing and excitement etc at school and you might feel happier to spend time with them once you've had a whole morning to yourself. Plus I think once they both reach 4 or so things automatically get a lot easier as they require less constant attention and care.

I always felt less pressure to take them out to things etc if they've had a morning at kindergarten or wherever doing fun stuff and being with their friends. I'd agree with the suggestions above of craft/swimming etc. how about baking with them? though I always insist that I can only bake with one at a time and they have to take turns (either swap child half way through or one today, one tomorrow).

The other thing that has saved my sanity is a rest period after lunch... mine are now a bit older (4 and 8) but the oldest had an hour of quiet play in his room till he was 6 (while youngest had a nap) and now the younger one has quiet play and the older one has a bit of tv time as he's allowed half an hour more. With the ages of your children maybe they could each have an hour in their rooms to play?

I honestly think it must all seem very overwhelming at the moment with the language difficulties and having one child all day, so maybe try to look at the period from august as a chance to make a new start develop a new routine? say one day library, one day gymnastics, one day playground, one day swimming, one day craft...

qwertzoop Sat 05-May-12 12:42:05

thank you for taking the time to respond. it is not about not wanting to be with your children -no one ever says that to a man. yes lots of people have no choices about working but in Germany there is still an attitude that women should stay at home and the options for childcare are limited. I have deliberately not gone into the international schools because I want the children to learn german, but I have had what I feel is over four very intensive years and I want more time for me. That does not make someone a bad parent - are parents who send their children to school all day bad parents? I see lots of grandparents looking after children here and I see 11 or 12 yr olds in the supermarket at 11.30am. For me the german school system is very inflexible and based on a notion that every woman wants to stop working when they have children.

Ok off my soap box - I am not a german. I feel there are circumstances most expats are in - no family or friends nearby, no one to be with who does not have there own small children (no chance or dropping round to see granny or a friend for a chat without it having to be a "playdate"). It is not about offloading your children with someone else (or leaving them on their own at gymnastics crying because you have to be somewhere else. -which is what I have seen here - probably because the mother has older children who in the uk would be in school a that time).

anyway sorry back to the point. I know lots of people to say hello and have a very superficial chat to but like many people I have no one to lighten the load. My husband is sometimes not home for me to go to a fitness class once a week at 8pm so even doing things in the evening is not really that feasible. I want to do things for me, outside of children and I am frustrated. Being happy in yourself helps to make you an effective parent.

It is frustrating with the neighbours - there are lots of children around here and one (american) mom I meet occasionally, but the others are only two or three doors down the road but I have never spoken to them. One mother does say hello and her daughter has been round to play (without mother - to give mother a break maybe?). anyway so i do not know how to know my neighbours better - if they do not speak english then my german is not good enough now to make a meaningful conversation.

I haven't joined the expat stuff as again I want to be exposed more to german but maybe i do need to join and get to know people through that.

I shoud add that is only very recently that I was being woken up probably every night by one of the children - four yrs of bad sleep is enough to make anyone fed up - luckily that has got better.

Yes new start needed.

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qwertzoop Sat 05-May-12 12:51:58

sorry one last thing - as you are not meant to use the playgrounds between 1 and 3pm and the library is closed at that time (and all afternoon wednesday) and there is nothing indoors tht i have found except the softplay at 11 euros a time. so they don't make it easy!

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admylin Sat 05-May-12 13:03:01

qwertzoop it'll get better soon, this is the hardest time especially alone with no family or friends. I know because I've been there, hold out for a few more months then it'll get better and easier.

I was in a similar situation when my 2 were tiny. I was lucky because we had a lovely long afternoon sleep so didn't need the playground until after 3pm anyway.

My day with my 3 and 4 year old was: take ds to kindergarten (aiming to be there by 9am at the latest) then on the way back do the shopping, bank, post-office jobs that I had to do with dd in tow, stop off at a playground for 15 minutes on the way home.

Then we'd collect ds, have lunch and a nap/quiet hour or two and after that I tried to have something planned for every day. One afternoon English playgroup, one afternoon a German playgroup for foreign dc, one afternoon a friend came to visit with her dc, one afternoon we went into town for an icecream or a wander, feed ducks in park etc then the other afternoons were just playground days.

It was abit boring but it does get better as they get older and get invites to play or even sleepovers if your lucky! Hold out until August and you will be able to plan your mornings (I was lost at first when both dc went to kindi!) and maybe put them down for more hours if they become available. You definately need to get know people especially families with dc so you can share baysitting or afternoon playdates so you get more 'time off'.

Weta Sat 05-May-12 15:22:31

I feel for you so much and it's doubly hard when you are culturally out of step with everyone around you. We were in France for several years and it was the other way round, with all the mothers seeming to work full-time after 3 months and consequently very few activities available for young children.

Don't feel guilty about feeling the way you do - it's genuinely tough, and the main thing is to get yourself into a better space. I definitely think you shouldn't be reticent about joining some expat groups. It doesn't need to stop you learning German, but it might give you a better group of friends and people to share the load a bit.

I've found here that my 4yo is now invited to play at friends' houses by himself, so that kind of thing may naturally start to happen with kindergarten friends sooner than you think. Hang in there! and there's nothing wrong with feeling you need a bit more time to yourself after four very demanding years in a different country smile

surroundedbyblondes Sat 05-May-12 16:36:58

I do understand how you feel. I had always worked and paid my own way til moving here. It's a luxury to be able to all live on DH's salary, but staying at home is expensive also! I have felt very frustrated being 'just' a mum some days.
Hugs

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