I haven’t had much time for this blog lately. Life has definitely got in the way! It feels like a new chapter in my Zurich life is beginning – or maybe it’s already begun. And that chapter is loosely titled: Work
I’ve been doing bits and pieces of work for a while, of course. Maybe I never really stopped. I seem to remember submitting in a very scattered piece of writing the week before I gave birth (thankfully salvaged by a kind editor who was aware of the situation and forgave not being up to my usual standards!) and I’ve been chipping away at various things ever since. Including taking on quite a lot (too much!) freelance while Himself was away for a month. It kept me sane. Or rather, helped me feel insane in a reassuringly familiar way.
But now things seem to have ramped up a notch. The baby is 8 months this week (time flies!) and I’m ready to put some regular childcare in place and increase, or at least formalise, my workload.
What about those German classes? I did a few back-of-envelope calculations this week during some much-needed downtime (thanks to Himself and the in-laws being around) and, well… I find myself in a bit of a quandary. Assuming I can find a childcare place for the baby (I’m thinking half-days at this stage) should I use that time to work, or to learn?
Picking up my German studies again is something I’ve been trying to do since I stopped prior to our Australia trip last October. It’s been a year. Oddly, despite thinking I’m “going backwards” by forgetting some of what I learnt, I actually feel more confident to bust out some Deutsch lately. Maybe it’s just my brain is so full of other stuff I have to give less fucks about being embarrassed. Tiny things like making myself say “Ich habe ein termin mit Laura” at the hairdresser instead of “I have an appointment with Laura” – which they would totally understand of course, but it’s so much better to attempt German. (and I’m sure I got tenses, articles and spellings wrong there, but the point is, I should say it anyway). Because otherwise, I just speak English and then I hear English in reply and how does that help?
And working is… work. I dunno. I’ve always worked. I like it. I get a lot of my personal identity out of the work I do. Maybe (probably) I identify more with being a writer-and-editor than I do with being a mum, for better or worse. I’ve done the latter for much longer, after all. So there’s that. Versus being a student, which I’m not exactly bad at, but maybe not great at either. I don’t know if I enjoy learning as much as… doing? Doing my job? Doing a job. Being a parent? Maybe I shouldn’t include parenting in the mix. It’s not something I can chose to do or not right now.
So working versus learning. It’s something familiar versus something new and challenging. But the familarity of work also has challenges within it. And, of course, I get paid for working. Whereas I have to pay to learn. Speaking to another expat recently (about a job), she said she didn’t feel 100% at home in Zurich until she joined the workforce here. And I get that.
Then again, there’s no doubt that learning more German will also help the assimilation process. And it will probably even enhance my career prospects in the long- or medium-term. Hell, maybe even in the shortish term if I can get to the stage where I could do basic translations/editing from German to English (with the help of Google no doubt!).
Work also stresses me. Quite a lot sometimes. Does language learning stress me? I think maybe not so much.
Assuming that I can, and will, work for the rest of my “working life”, but I can probably only learn German now, while we’re here in Switzerland (for however long that may be) I should probably take this opportunity… But if I have to pass on work to do so? Tough one. I guess I want to do a bit of both. But I don’t want to do a bad job on either. Hmm
I also have to give up some parenting time, particularly to do both. It’s quite a juggle. And time with friends? I haven’t yet attempted language learning while having a baby so that will also be interesting.
I read a really good article recently – Why Does Learning a new Language Feel Soo Bad? – about how we often feel it’s a moral failing if we haven’t mastered the local language. It really struck a chord with me. I don’t want to tie my self-worth up in German lessons. But I do seem to tie it up in the work I do (and in parenting, and maybe my social life). And now all these things are duking it out for my time. I’m not quite sure where that leaves me.
Quite the juggling act indeed… I looked through your post a second time to see if there was a point in there where you specifically asked for opinions, ha. You didn’t. So I’ll start with empathy… Totally get it! I was playing netball for the Swiss team here, which was a LOT of work, I was writing for a publication, working on my novel and learning German, and even then before babies and without formal work, I felt overwhelmed. It was the language learning that tipped me over. I realised at some point that this is what being a toddler is like: absorb, absorb, absorb, until you are saturated and need a nap. Repeat. BUT. It was great for me. I don’t remember half of it, but it gave me confidence to do exactly what you said above, more and more. Now I speak my terrible German to anyone who’ll listen, and everyone thinks us Aussies are so cute for trying anyway. Absolutely nothing to lose. So… My opinion. Do German. Just for a few months. 🙂 It doesn’t have to be years! But take this opportunity if you can, it’s an amazing one to have.
I don’t mind opinions, especially from those who’ve been there, done that 🙂 Someone told me you need a base of around 3k vocab to kind of muddle by and learn/get good from exposure after that and I’d need to at least do A2 to get close to that so I will… although 20-year habits (working ) are hard to break! Also #dontmentionthenovel