I used to be smart…right?

Life abroad has its ups and downs.  Life as a mom has its ups and downs.  And I just hit downs on both.

Before I get into this, I just want to say that I know it’s totally normal to have moments and days and weeks like this.  Moving so far away from home, trying to settle into a new life with a new language, and putting forth every best effort to find friends is taxing.  I totally get that this is how it’s supposed to be, and this is how I’m supposed to feel.  And man is this hard sometimes.

I speak Danish well.  I was blessed with a language-learning head, a little bit of perseverance, and lovely, incredibly patient, in-laws who’ve helped me so much.  But honestly, I don’t speak Danish well enough to be 100% myself when I’m speaking it.  A lot of the time, the words come easily, but sometimes they don’t.  It’s great that I’m able to communicate fairly well, but it’s frustrating when my train of thought is constantly halting, jumping, and false-starting because I can’t fish the right words out quite quickly enough.  It’s frustrating to have a funny comment that I can’t quite figure out how to put into Danish words, or to be explaining something, only to give up halfway through because the round-abouts I’m taking to explain things I don’t know the words to are just too much.  To be blunt, I feel dumb a lot.  And when I think about it, of course I’m not dumb–I learned Danish for goodness’ sake.  But I still feel dumb.

And feeling dumb isn’t making the job thing any easier.  I’m not quite job-searching yet, but we’re moving in September, and I’m hoping to find some sort of a job in the fall/winter–whether it be an at-home daycare, or a job outside of the home.  But just assuming that the at-home daycare doesn’t work out, I’d have to job-search.  And that is scary.  Completely apart from having to do this all in Danish and in Denmark where I know very little about the job market, I feel totally unequipped to be job-searching.

I’m going to go to the job center in not too long, present them with my educational and work background, and just hear what options I have here in Denmark, which I’m sure will help a lot.  Because as of right now, I don’t feel like I can do anything.

For most of my life, I felt smart.  In first grade, I was reading chapter books.  In second grade, I got to learn cursive.  In third grade, I was the fastest typist in the class.  You get the picture.  This continued through elementary school, middle school, high school, and, surprisingly, even college.  I know it sounds super smug, but I just got used to being one of the “smart kids.”  And that was a huge part of my identity.

There was a time when I was in college, working three jobs.  And I turned out some of my best work that year, yet I also remember having time to have fun with my friends, and plan my wedding and our life together.  Nowadays, I’m proud of myself if I manage to vacuum once a week.  (Although, come to think of it, I don’t think I vacuumed more than once every couple of months back then…)

The thing is, I’ve been not much more than a wife and then a mom for the past couple of years, and I feel like I’ve gotten gradually less and less intelligent.  I also haven’t been able to have a job for two and a half years now, which leaves me feeling less than competent.

I know that at one point, I was really smart.  I know that at one point, I was even really confident, and I felt like I could really do anything.  These days, I don’t feel like there’s any job that I could do well.  In my head, I know that I would actually be the best candidate for many jobs–that I would do them well, and be happy doing them.  But in my not-head, I feel completely inadequate.


So, I’ve made a small plan to get myself back on track.  My goal for the week is to make up a list of books I want to read that I can get from the library in Denmark, and go get them.  And that’s pretty much it for now.  But I’m going to try to use Theo’s naptimes to do more than giggle at posts on BabyCenter asking how people sanitize their baby’s high chair trays (ummmm….wipe with the damp cloth I used to wipe the baby’s face, anyone?) and watch terrible TV.

It’s okay that I did those things, but now that I feel like I’m coming out of the survival mode fog, I feel like I need to get my self back, and a part of that self is reading, learning, writing, and doing smart things.

Any recommendations for books (they don’t have to be “smart” books, haha!) or ideas for getting that old confidence back?



8 thoughts on “I used to be smart…right?

  1. Hi Zeta, smart woman! I just finished reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. I really enjoyed it – not sure if it’s English or Danish you’re looking for, but I sure enjoyed the English version :-). Now I’m reading a book on Ayurveda. I love libraries! BTW, you’ve been creating some really wonderful knit things, and raising a baby, both of which require much intelligence in a different ways. Keep on keeping on :-).

  2. I can totally relate to this feeling. I was also always just…good at school, at being a student. And I think you get used to that feeling. And then you move to Denmark and are dumped in a new language, and even though you can get by you still suddenly feel…so stupid! It’s quite frustrating. I’ve been thinking about motherhood and your post about liking Theo’s toddlerhood a bit better than his newborn-hood, and I think a lot of new moms probably feel that way and perhaps feel a little guilty for not enjoying the baby stage as much as they thought they would. But it’s such hard work! And it’s never quite what you expect or imagine. Plus, as an introvert I know that I need time to my self to recharge, and I am slightly anxious to see what happens when I have a baby around all. the. time. 🙂 I’m most definitely looking forward to it, but there are certainly parts that I worry about. Does Theo go to vuggestue or a dagpleje or will he? I was thinking that might help give you a little more me time. Hang in there! And good luck on the job search!! I can totally understand that being overwhelming. I basically put it off for a year, and then I got pregnant so I can put it off for another year 🙂

    • Ahh, I can relate with all of this–I feel like we could probably chat for forever 😛 I’m a really strong introvert, so I was a bit worried about that as well, but as long as he naps, I feel like I get my me time that I need so far. I also feel like motherhood is actually more “work” now than it used to be–a lot more active, picking up after him, making food, cleaning CONSTANTLY. But the beginning was a lot of worrying, not being able to communicate, and the hormones and sleep-deprivation fog just made it harder, so even though it was maybe less work back then, it was emotionally more difficult.

      Theo doesn’t go to dagpleje or vuggestue yet, but he will when I get a job (whenever that will be, haha!) I sometimes wish I’d gotten one before I had him, so I had something to go back to, and I wasn’t starting a new job (not to mention my first job in Denmark) at the same time I’m spending my first days apart from Theo, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. Do you know how long you want to wait before getting a job? Or how long you’ll be in Denmark for?

      • Plus if you’d gotten a job before getting pregnant you’d have gotten paid maternity leave 😉 I don’t know how the women here go on a year’s leave and then go back to the same job. It would feel so…strange to be gone for so long. But I don’t think you should beat yourself up for getting a job now instead of then. I try to remember that even if other people do it differently, we did it a specific way because that’s what worked best for us. It’s too easy for me to forget that and compare to everyone else around us. Plus by not working your husband got to get your tax deduction, so it comes out even 🙂

        We’re only planning on being here another 2 years. My husband’s also American, and we’re here while he works and gets his PhD. So I may never work in Denmark. My excuse is that it’s hard to find a job in my field – libraries – without speaking Danish because it’s so customer service oriented. And we were always kind of planning on having our first baby here while I didn’t have to work. But really I couldn’t face looking for another job so quickly (I’d gotten my previous job just 1 year before) and in such a new and different environment. I’m sooo thankful I had that option. But it’s weird because I’ve never not worked before, so that took some getting used to. I volunteer one day a week at a library, and it’s enough to have that to put on my resume for when I get back.

        Do you have to do your job search and everything in Danish? It sounds from some of your posts like you’re doing pretty well in Danish. I would freak out if I had to do it all in Danish, but I’m still not comfortable having normal conversations that go beyond “I come from USA”, lol.

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