The beginning of this month marks two years that we have been living in Prague again.
The move has been great for our language, because I'm not sure K would have started using actual Slovak sentences if we had stayed in an English environment (she was pretty young at the time, but she could only say individual words in CZ/SK). As it is she now speaks fluent Czech, understands Slovak perfectly and is able to have a normal relationship with her father and grandparents in their native language.
On a language level I'd say the move has been a complete success, because we've also maintained English (so far) without much effort. It's a lot easier having English as a minority language when the children spend more time with me.
There are a few other ways in which living here again has simplified our lives, but in a lot of other ways it is more difficult than it was in UK. When we lived in Prague before, it was as singles and then as a married couple without children. We moved to UK when K was less than 6 months old, so we never really experienced life in Prague with children.
Some of the differences seem kind of superficial (more things to do with children, playgroups, availability of certain services like LoveFilm, better shopping, better customer service), but they kind of add up when you take them as a whole.
And the one that's currently making my life difficult: availability of childcare for under-3s. In UK (and other places) you have the option of nursery (daycare) or childminders (home daycare) for pretty much any age. In the Czech Republic školka (preschool/nursery) starts at 3 and good luck finding a jesle (for younger children) - there are very few.
I don't want to put my children in full-time care, far from it, but a few hours a week for the younger one would give me time to work and time to think. Time that I don't have at present.
Three-year maternity leave is (really) great, but I would so appreciate some systemic support for those of us who can't take it for whatever reason. It's all very well for a person living in their home town to say there should be no need to leave a one year old with anyone but a relative! If I COULD call my mother or sister or mother-in-law, believe me, I WOULD!
Essentially my only option is to hire someone privately for in-home babysitting. I have been resisting this idea (logistic difficulties mainly) but I think the time may be coming unless something changes.
That's not the only thing that's got me feeling tired and worn, but it's one of them.
The Slovak had a quite difficult time adjusting to being back here - reverse culture shock. I can't remember if I blogged about it then, but it lasted quite a while. It was easier for me since as a foreigner, I had already had to get used to life here once, so I knew I could do it again.
He has been wanting to move away again pretty much since we got back, but I thought we just needed to give it time and maybe it would get better. That's why the two-year anniversary feels kind of significant, because now we have given it a chance. And it hasn't really gotten better. Some parts have, of course, but not enough.
One thing is that between being pregnant, having a baby and actually having paid work to do during the day I don't have the time to find and attend a playgroup that will be expensive and on the other side of Prague anyway. If I weren't working and had been less physically tied down for the past two years I might have found us something, but it would have taken more effort than I could give.
Our Prague friends have mostly moved away over the years and while our real friends live in this region (Central Europe), none are in this city. After a while we start looking around and wondering what actually holds us here, and the answers aren't very compelling.
We would really like to convince several of our friends from surrounding countries to pick a place for us to all move together, because that would be awesome. (Seriously, guys, let's make it happen!) Actually, if that place ended up being Prague I think it would make life in Prague start looking a lot more attractive. Isolation is a big part of the problem.
We go through waves of mildly wanting to move and REALLY wanting to move, but we're pretty much both in the same place now, I think. We don't see ourselves here in ten years. We don't really see ourselves here in three years, in fact.
I think that coming back was the right thing to do, because it gave K a strong grasp on Czech that we can build on in future years and it crystallized our thinking on whether we want to live here long-term or not. It would be good if we could hold out a few more years here so that M will have the same strong foundation K has had, but it may or may not work out that way.
I do love this country and there are definite positives to living here, but I can't deny some things are difficult here, and I am kind of ready for something easy. Which really just means a different set of challenges.
But I'd like to take my children to see the lambing. I'd like to take them to a toystore without fearing the staff will shout at them. I'd like some local friends. I'd like to be able to order in. And I could really, really do with a childminder a couple of times a week.