I really don’t think I’m cut out to be a mother. Or a housewife. At all. Even slightly. Having arrived at my host family’s house at around 2.30am, it’s safe to say I was lightly disorientated and absolutely exhausted after having travelled since 6am with a coach, the tube, a plane, three trains and a local bus to reach Erlangen, Bavaria. And that’s not even counting the extra hour.
I came into the house with the whole family asleep as we’d agreed, and pretty much went straight to bed. I was knackered, but it didn’t change my slight concern in that I had absolutely no idea to expect.I had only corresponded with the family via email until I arrived. This is my first Workaway experience, so my worries weren’t unusual, I suppose.
My trepidation and tiredness must have contributed slightly to the bizarre set of dreams I had that first night, including but not limited to encountering an ex-boyfriend at a dinner party thrown by my host family (the weirdest of coincidences). I suppose that’s down to having gone through all the places in central London, particularly Victoria Station, where we used to meet up and part ways. Nostalgia abounds. Dream-ex aside, I was then told by my host family that I wasn’t doing a good job because I was supposed to be watching the kids, not “chatting”. Rude. Brilliant start.
And now I had to meet my host family for real! It felt like I was meeting them all over again… Thankfully, they were lovely and the morning went smoothly, if a little awkwardly. They really do seem to be the perfect host family for me, as the mother is from the Czech Republic, like my mum, and also is bringing up her 8 and 4 year old daughters, and 3 year old son, to be bilingual. Her husband is from the local area in Germany. They will soon have their fourth child, and so needs a bit of help around the house, which is currently being renovated.
Yesterday, I got up quite late and had breakfast as the kids milled around in the house, playing. They are EXTREMELY energetic. Like, ridiculously, I helped prepare the meal for later (a Czech favourite of mine, knedlicky – a kind of dumpling made from bread – with mushrooms in sauce), and some soup for the next day. Other jobs were things like hanging out laundry and emptying the dishwasher; nothing too taxing at all, and I spent the day chatting to my host. It turns out that she and the children love “Watership Down”, by Richard Adams, though they haven’t seen the film, so we talked about that for a while. She’d also like to visit the Peak District and the Lake District in England, being a big fan of Arthur Ransom’s books. Now I think maybe I should have given in to my dad’s urging me to read them when I was younger…
I was surprised how accepting and trusting Marketa was, in the afternoon she asked if I’d like to go out for a walk with the kids to have a look around the town, a former village attached to the larger town of Erlangen. And the kids tend to run around inside or outside as they like. I find people are a lot more friendly here as a matter of course; everyone in the street greeting you with a “Hallo!”, so I suppose the kidnapping paranoia isn’t as high as in England.
We sat down to dinner at around 8pm, and by this time I was absolutely knackered! Again! After loading the dishwasher and hovering the kitchen, I was free for the night by 9.30, but I was so tired that I didn’t do anything but take another quick shower and go straight to bed. I don’t think I could be even slightly productive if I had kids; they take up so much energy and attention! I suppose I’m a bit selfish to always be putting someone’s needs before mine! Having had a quick chat about excursions, we agreed that I’d go out during the day on Wednesday and Thursday for some day trips to Nuremberg and Bamberg. I’m interested to see the museum in Nuremberg and some historical sites. (Note the scholarly interest if you’re reading this, mother and father.…) I’d also quite like to see Neuschwanstein Castle, but it might be a bit far for a day trip as it would take around 5 hours each way to get there and back. Perhaps at the end of my stay here?
I’m speaking a somewhat baffling mixture of Czech and German; German is spoken between the adults, German between the father and the children, and Czech between the mother and children, as the kids understand both. It kind of makes me sad that I don’t speak Czech at home with my mum anymore; we keep forgetting. It’s quite comforting though, to speak it here! If I don’t remember a word in German, I’ll usually know it in Czech, and sometimes vice versa. My host reminds me a lot of my mum and my aunt in terms of speech mannerisms in Czech!
This morning (after another rather bizarre dream about my ex, WHY? JUST STOP!) I woke up at around 6, having gotten a good night’s sleep, and I just faffed around for a while before getting up to have breakfast with the family from around 7am. The house became a complete flurry of activity at this point, as the girls were getting ready for school and preschool. The family doesn’t have a car, and so though the elder daughter walks to school, someone has to cycle with her sister to “lesni skolka”, (Czech) the preschool she attends in the woods about 3km away. We started on clearing out and cleaning the kitchen shelves (no small task!).
My host and the youngest child had a nap whilst I cleared the garden of weeds and dead flowers (surprisingly satisfying), and swept the front patio. We had some lunch, and then I checked my emails and Facebook quickly before the eldest girl came back from school, and my host headed out on her bike to collect the younger from pre-school. I headed out for a walk in the woods and fields nearby. I was out for a couple of hours, and realised that the surrounding area is absolutely beautiful!
The Bavarian forests really are fairytale country. The weather has been lovely for the last couple of days and though I wore a hoodie and scarf, I quickly realised I didn’t need it. It’s the lambing season, and I saw some of the local farmers out shepherding their animals through the fields. It only took about half an hour before I was away from the town and into the forest, so quiet that it was a surprise to ever see anyone else walking, which I did only a couple of times. I’m considering going for a run there in the next couple of days… Eh, who am I kidding? I won’t go for a run. I’m tired enough!
After I got back, my host was preparing to go out yet again to take her eldest daughter to a music lesson; does she ever stop? Evidently not! I put in a new load of laundry, cleaned the bathroom (another weirdly satisfying job), and am now keeping an eye on the two younger kids as they play in the back garden, in a sandpit which in England would no doubt have been the DIY litter-box for all the neighbourhood cats. Who knows?
I’m also aware that a full dishwasher awaits unloading, but I’m writing this to procrastinate. I knew this already, but I’ve found that I don’t mind not having wifi, the only internet access here being a desktop computer. But I’ve got lots of other things to occupy me; the only things I have to do are sort flights and insurance for my further travels to Asia, but I can do that when I go out in a few days. There’s convenient free wifi in town too, if I get desperate.
As a first Workaway experience, it’s going brilliantly so far. I’ve only been here for a couple of days but I already feel like one of the family. The children seem to like me and I have a lot to talk about with my Workaway hosts. I’m quite sad I’ll only be here for a couple of weeks, but maybe I will be able to return in the future. I am so tired though. Return to my opening statement; I CANNOT see myself as a mother. I’m not selfless, particularly organised, or entirely patient. I’m doing my best. I think it takes a certain kind of person to be able to run around after children all day! I am not that person. One or two might be okay! I don’t mind at the moment, as they’re nice kids and my work around the house isn’t strenuous at all, but I’m not their mother! I might think differently if I had to do it full time!
Workaway is great because I really feel like I’m getting a lot for very little. I’ve been here for two days and spent under 10 Euros (a rip-off Starbucks specialty coffee, a plain old McDonalds cappuccino, and a bus ticket); I’m getting food and accommodation for free, in exchange for 4-5 hours of light housework and childcare each day, and even getting a couple of days off. So far, it’s looking to be a pretty sweet arrangement. And honestly, you couldn’t ask for a better location, or a nicer family.