“We don't have to do something special to have fun together”
How does a single mother of five get through the day? Therese Hellström has found a way. The key? Everyday routines that actually work. But sometimes, she let’s go of everything that needs to be done, all the requirements and expectations, to just be in the moment, something we all need to be reminded of once in a while.
– Every now and again you just have to take a minute and enjoy yourself. That’s when I look at the kids, really look at them, when they’re jumping on the trampoline for instance, and remind myself just how amazing they are, she says.
As soon as the alarm clock rings in the morning It's full speed ahead at a quarter past six. Therese gets ready in just a few minutes before it’s time to wake up the children. Because then it's all about them. Breakfast, teeth brushing and getting dressed, as well as school bags to be packed. Among other things.
- The other day the 6-year-old (Oskar) had to go to school in pink unicorn socks and he wasn’t happy about it. But it rained the night before and so I couldn’t hang laundry on the clothes line in the yard, says Therese.
At eight o'clock sharp, the whole family leaves the house. The eldest four go to school by themselves. Nowadays, Therese only accompanies soon-to-be 2-year-old Hanad to preschool.
- Oskar has just started going to school by himself. Just having to drop off one kid in one place makes things a lot easier, Therese says.
She takes the bus to work at Fritidsbanken, a non-profit organization that lends out used sports and outdoor equipment. She works part-time so that Hanad doesn’t have to stay all day long at preschool, so at 1:20 p.m. the working day is over. Time to head back to the bus stop again.
She picks up Hanad from preschool. He refuses to put on one shoe, but when Therese puts him in the stroller and gives him a piece of bread to chew on, he forgets why. Eldest daughter Johanna, who has just arrived home with her bus, tags along when it’s time to pick up Oskar from school. Hanad has another melt down, it’s unclear why, but suddenly he lights up like the sun when his big brother comes running towards him. After the happy reunion, they continue towards home. Slowly though, since little Hanad finds a stick that takes up all his attention.
Once they get home, Therese gets started on dinner, hash with potatoes, meat and onions. Roasting it in the oven instead of on the stove is a life hack she just learned. Saving time and allowing her to do other things at the same time.
- Dinner is often late at our place because I have other things I like to get done first when I get home. Sometimes I get help from my teenage daughter, who either vacuums or keeps an eye on Hanad. I vacuum at least twice a day and air the bedlinen. I even do the kids beds if I have time. I know it sounds silly, but I like the feel of a fresh linen when I finally get to go to bed.
The children stand at the table and talk to each other while Therese puts the food on the plates. Perfect, there’s enough left over for lunch tomorrow too. Cooking isn’t Therese's favorite pastime, not at all actually, but the moments when the family sit together at the kitchen table are the best time of the day.
- That’s when we get to talk about anything and everything. And since everyone is of different ages and has different perspectives, it can make for really fun conversations. We can sit and laugh until we cry. These are the moments I think I’ll miss the most when the kids move out, says Therese.
While she puts the dinner away and airs the bedclothes, the kids play football in the living room.
- The children like to hang out with each other, despite the age differences, I hope it’s something that will continue and help them stay close as adults too, says Therese.
An important evening routine is that everyone watches Bluey together. An animated children's series about a dog family and the challenges they face in their everyday life.
- It's a program that everyone likes and that we can watch together, says Therese.
At half past eight everyone has eaten their evening snack and the teeth are brushed. It's time for the three youngest to go to bed. Therese says good night to Ellie and Oskar who go up to their rooms. Ellie is listening to an audiobook and has the night light on. Oskar wants it to be quiet and dark. Down in the living room, Hanad falls asleep on Therese before she puts him to bed.
At 9 p.m., the house is quiet. Only Therese and the teenagers are awake.
- This is the time I make myself a big cup of tea, maybe have some ice cream and watch a series and just relax. I take the time and spend time with my big kids, who I don't get much time for when everyone is awake. I can barely talk on the phone during the day without someone else wanting my attention at the same time, says Therese, who remarks that life is rushing by at a very fast pace.
- I’m medicated for ADHD and I thinks that’s why our routines are crucial for getting the chaos in my head in order. But sometimes in the summer for instance, I ignore all the routines and we go out and just have fun when the sun is shining. Somewhere you have to take a minute and just enjoy yourself. I watch the kids jump on the trampoline and remind myself how amazing they are and that we don't have to do anything special to have fun together. It is nice. I have really lovely children. Or maybe it's me who did a damn good job with them.
The family consists of mother Therese, 16-year-old daughter Johanna, 14-year-old son Noah, 9-year-old daughter Ellie, 6-year-old son Oskar and soon-to-be 2-year-old son Hanad. They live in a house in Skelleftehamn, far north on the Swedish east coast.