I had never previously lived permanently in Spain. The apartment used to be my holiday apartment when I worked in the UK. It was easy to fly out from London and have a couple of weeks in the sun. I had thought about selling it many times, but now I was glad that I hadn’t. Fortunately, I had a Swedish passport so I knew that as a citizen of an EU country, I had every right to live as a single mom in Spain. Still, it was a foreign country that I had never permanently lived in.
The first thing I had to sort out was social security and health care for the both of us. For that I needed a job and was lucky enough to find one as a yoga instructor. It is not cheap to keep up health care and social security payments in Spain. Out of my rather meager income I had to pay 250 Euros every month. That left me with 500 Euros for food and other daily living expenses. As my income was under a certain level, my daughter received free meals in school.
Registering my daughter for school was easy. All I needed was proof that I was an EU citizen and had a home in Spain. The local town hall gave me some paper work which I had to take to the local school to register. It was fairly simple, the staff at the school were very helpful. They helped my to apply for discounted school books and made sure my daughter could take advantage of the many free services offered, such as the Spanish State Health Service.
I also arranged for my daughter to receive private Spanish classes. This proved to be a great idea. She learned Spanish quickly as she already spoke French, and managed to make Spanish friends. Having Spanish friends helped my daughter a lot and she settled in her new country.
The biggest problem for me as a single mom with a child in a foreign country was the daily living expenses. I soon learned that a lot of supermarkets sold off food cheaper between 6 and 7 pm so these became my shopping hours. On top of that, I also joined loyalty shopping schemes and was able to accumulate vouchers of food along with other household products.
The biggest problem was the cost of utility bills. In Egypt we had paid about 10 Euros per month for electricity and a bit less for water. Now in Spain, we were paying about 80 Euros per month. It was tough to find the money and I had to be really frugal with our food bills. Of course, having a car was impossible.
Four years on, we are managing much better. I have a much better income thanks to the Internet but I still teach yoga. My daughter thrives in school, and we have even been able to set some money aside and buy a car. I feel a lot more positive about the future but I realize that I am still a single mom in a foreign country. This is never easy and I miss my husband a lot. My daughter talks about her dad very fondly, but I know that her heart is breaking every time she mentions his name. Still, we are safer in Spain than we would have been in Egypt.
Written for Kidvisory by Annie Wall