The Best Days of Their Lives

The everyday stories of family life, told with love and joy

Month: June 2014

Five things you might say when you learn I’m moving to Geneva

We’ve known for almost 4 weeks now that we’re moving to Geneva, Switzerland in a month or so. My partner will be working full-time and I’ll be homemaker and chief adventurer. Oh, and blogger, of course!

When you learn that we’re off, there’s a fairly narrow range of responses that you’re likely to choose from.

  1. You want to know that I’m excited

There is a very popular question that people ask me all the time: “Are you excited?” I’ve found that people will ask more than once on the same day too. At first, I was excited, very excited. Then the novelty wore off and we started planning our departure from the UK and our arrival and settlement in Switzerland. There’s a lot to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the opportunity. It’s more like I’m content with things, rather than hitting the spike of excited.

But I’ve realised that when people ask me if they’re excited, they’re really telling me that they’re excited and maybe they’ve only just heard or only just seen me for the first time since they heard. I love the enthusiasm and energy that we’ve had from family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. So now I’m trying to harness that every time I get asked, even if I’m knackered, to tell you that yes, I am excited.

  1. You tell me that I will get a job soon

All 3 of us in the family are moving and 2 of us have new jobs. One of us will be working full-time in a human rights advocacy role for a non-government organisation working alongside the UN. One of us will be homemaker and chief adventurer. As one of my friends said on Facebook: “I doubt you’ll be idle long!” Men and women have queued up to tell me that they have no doubt that I’ll get a job soon.

I know I won’t be idle at all. We’ve got to find temporary accommodation, then something permanent. We need to set up home, while maintaining a supportive atmosphere around our child, who is going through significant change. Mtoto has a love of physical exercise, hearing stories and developing his language skills. I suspect that I’ll be busier than ever. And right now, I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing.

  1. You tell me that mtoto will grow up trilingual

Switzerland is trilingual, right? French, Italian and German. So mtoto will grow up trilingual, right? Probably not, but it’s fun trying to grapple with this point isn’t it? If we stay in Switzerland for long enough, mtoto will probably be bilingual as he’ll hopefully pick up French quite easily as we hear and speak it every day and we try to learn the language. One of our friends worried that mtoto would lose English if we live in a French-speaking country. We assured them that we have no plans to stop speaking English!

I learned German at school for a year and really didn’t get on with it. And I have some great friends in London who are German but that has never prompted me to try and learn the language. So that one’s out. And we’ll be nowhere near the Italian part of Switzerland so that one’s out too.

Of course, if mtoto loves languages and picks up a third or fourth one at school, we’ll encourage him all we can, but just moving to Switzerland won’t be action enough.

  1. You tell me that Switzerland is expensive and other things you know

As you scrabble around in your brain to pick out anything you know about Switzerland that you can tell me, you’ll probably tell me that Switzerland is expensive. You’re right, too. I can also tell you that I know this.

Thankfully, the only place I’ve seen Geneva topping the polls as the most expensive city in the world is in the hotel club sandwich rankings (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/14/most-expensive-city-geneva_n_5321133.html) and the good news is that we’re not planning to buy any club sandwiches from hotels or anywhere else. Geneva often features in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world, along with Zurich. But London is often there or thereabouts too and we’ve survived here for over 7 years so far!

Other things you might know about Switzerland and think to tell me are that they use Euros there (they don’t, they use Swiss Francs), there are a lot of mountains (correct) and it’s good for skiing (also correct, see previous point). You might also come up with some of those funny rules you’ve heard about, like not being allowed to wash your car on a Sunday. Then you’ll ask me if I’ll be able to wash my car on a Sunday and I’ll point out that I’ve never owned a car and have no plans to change that just now so the rule is largely irrelevant anyway!

  1. Best of all you’ll wish us congratulations

This post may sound like a big whinge but it’s really meant to be a celebration of some of the funnier things that people have said to us so far. Best of all though has been the outpouring of love, friendship and support from so many of our friends. We’ve been realising that there are so many people who we’ll miss that we can’t even count them all.

Hopefully some of them will come to visit, some might keep up with our adventures here and some might even contribute to this blog, coming to tell their stories too.

Mtoto gets his priorities right

We were watching the lions but mtoto was unimpressed. “Mountains” he cried, meaning he wanted to watch the fountains in the old penguin enclosure. “Water from hole in the ground”, he said excitedly to our friend.

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We had a similar experience on Sunday. Traveling in a boat on the Thames, mtoto was more interested in the pipe discharging water from the boat than the fabulous views of the riverside. Well, he is a mtoto after all!

Ask me a stupid question

Is mummy at work today?

A noticeboard with the word 'tough' writ large, above a picture of a turd.

Tough? Not for me it isn’t.

We were in John Lewis in Oxford Street, London, yesterday. We went in about three times during the morning while I was deciding what to buy. Several times staff there addressed mtoto as well as me, which I thought was rather lovely.

I didn’t think anything more of it until I read Aaron Gouveia’s ‘8 Stupid Things You Should Stop Saying to Dads’ article in the Huffington Post, repeated from his lovely Daddy Files blog.

Then I recalled that one of the women we met in John Lewis had asked mtoto “Is mummy at work today?” Although not precisely one of the 8 things that give Aaron the hump as a father, it could have fallen into that category.

Except for one small difference. I love it when other people engage with my and mtoto when we’re out and about and nothing they say has been a turn off so far. It’s simply an opportunity to make small talk or open up a larger conversation.

Mamma’s at work

Mtoto agrees with me, I know. I know because he spent most of yesterday morning, both before and after the question was asked, repeating to anyone who would listen: “Mamma’s at work.”

It’s a particularly lovely stage mtoto is going through. He says something. He finds it to be so. He repeats it. A lot. Eventually something else crosses his mind, he formulates a sentence and uses it. He finds it to be so. And so we go on.

The woman from John Lewis seemed to be implying that mamma was having it tough while papa and mtoto were out enjoying themselves. And to a degree she was right anyway. Most often, I’d much rather be hanging out with mtoto than be in the office.

Fighting the same battle

But back to the 8 stupid things you should stop saying to dads. Most of the comments are things that people say who don’t know better, like “what do you do all day?” or “dad must be babysitting today, huh?” I appreciate that I might not be saying this in a few years time, but for now I’m happy to engage with anyone who starts a conversation, no matter how silly. After all, I’m one of the experts who says something just to open up a conversation, no matter how daft it is. All I have to do is rebut the question or statement and turn it around. And this is what Aaron is saying really too. He’s making the case for retiring phrases that don’t do anyone any good and he’s pointing out where there’s gender inequality from the less common way round.

I don’t have it tough

I’m a white middle class male. I don’t generally suffer discrimination because of who I am. It’s not so bad for me to have someone say something daft to me from time-to-time. It just reminds me how lucky I am not to usually suffer discrimination that puts me at a disadvantage.

And this is the rub of it really. Us fathers aren’t really suffering because of people’s attitudes, it just can be irritating for some of the people some of the time.

I don’t suffer because of my race. Or because of my gender. Or because of my sexuality. Or for any one or more of a plethora of ways that people make life horrible for others just because of who they are. And it reminds me that I want to continue to make the world into a better place for everyone, not just for fathers.

 

Giving notice

When we started “The best days of their lives”, I intended to write about the days, once a week, when I didn’t go to work and instead cared for our mtoto.

I wanted the blog to look good so I didn’t write up our experience as I was waiting for the time to put into the site.

And so 6 months have passed since I changed from working 5 days per week to 4.

Last week everything else changed. We got an incredible opportunity to turn our lives upside down.

From August, L will be working 5-days a week. And for the foreseeable future, I will be the homemaker and full-time carer of our mtoto.

But that’s not all. L’s new job in Geneva, Switzerland. So we are moving lock, stock and barrel to Geneva from London. It’s only 600 miles away, but it is another country. It’s not even in the European Union.

Yet more. This is also a fantastic opportunity for us to learn French and for mtoto to learn French. So, from a not-quite-standing-start, we hope to bring our mtoto up speaking at least 2 languages.

It’s crazy and it’s completely normal, all in one.

We are planning to move within 2 months so we are in the right country when L’s job starts. Apart from that, nothing else has been set.

So far all we’ve done is give our notice at our respective organisations in London, start telling people that we’re off and give notice at mtoto’s nursery. The director of mtoto’s nursery has been brilliant, making us feel very good about our choices. “We will stay in touch,” she said.

Swiss malt

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Mtoto has been preparing for our move by taking local malt with his vitamins.