Friday, 14 September 2012

Week19: Play and Poo

’What do you want to wear today?’ the mum asks.
’Poo!’ her 5-year-old daughter replies.

It’s the fourth week of Swenglish in Sweden and just like the fourth week in England, I’m hanging out with a single mum and her child (who is only a couple of months older than the child I stayed and played with in England). The everyday life is pretty much the same: food on the floor, pee in the bed, not wanting to get dressed and toys everywhere. But of course there are also the joys: being served (pretend) poo soup, taking part in a fashion show in the living room and having a pillow fight.

Through this project I’ve gone from being indifferent to kids to actually liking (some) kids – they’re a good excuse to dress up in curtains and talk about poo, but I’m still not sure that I want my own ... Tonight I’ll experience what it’s like not being able to do what you want all the time. There’s an author talk my host (and I) would like to go to, but instead we’re planning to watch a film suitable for a 5-year old and eat crisps. All the parents I’ve stayed with so far say that the love they feel for their children make up for the worries and the stress of everyday life, and the things you have to sacrifice. I guess you don’t understand what it’s like until you’re in that situation yourself ...

The emotions and everyday life for a parent might be the same in Sweden as well as in England, but I’m just beginning to understand that the childcare system works in a different way. In Sweden kids are allowed to be at pre-school from an earlier age and for longer hours which means that mums can work or study full time, and it’s also common for dads to stay at home with their kids. In Sweden children now start school at the age of 6 as opposed to 7 when I went to school - English children start when they are 4 or 5, and in England it’s not unusual for a mum to stay at home until then, but it’s very rare for a dad to do the same thing. So far I’ve found that in general women in Sweden are more careeer focused than women in England. If this is because of better childcare I don't know.

Career or not, it’s a full time job being a parent. As you might have gathered I love talking about pee and poo – it seems more accepted in Sweden! – but I’m not that keen on actually dealing with soaked sheets and wiping bottoms. You can’t have one without the other though ... 

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