The Adventure of being a SAHM (Part 1)

For those of you who don’t know, a SAHM is a Stay At Home Mom. I write it the American way, because I am sure it was originally an American term. In December, I am moving back to England with Noah and I have been thinking about what I want to do on my return. As a result, I’ve been contemplating my life as a SAHM quite a lot. It’s something I never thought I would be. But here I am.

It’s not a glamorous job.

I have just looked in the mirror. I don’t do this as much as I used to. I no longer stand in front of the mirror when I brush my teeth: I make use of the time by sorting through the washing basket, wandering into my bedroom to get my clothes ready for the day or completing some other one-minute chore. I no longer give myself a full length once-over before I leave the house; it simply doesn’t enter my head. The only time I usually look in the mirror is when I brush my hair back into its daily ponytail, and even then, I only really look at my hair. When I do happen to look in the mirror for longer than five seconds, I am often horrified by how my eyebrows have overgrown without me noticing or by how dry my lips are or how my eyelashes seem to be growing thinner and fairer with age. Sometimes I pause there and try giving myself a smile. It’s horrific. My eyes have a slightly demonic glint – it’s the desperation in me to see the same reflection I would have four years ago. The skin is thinner around my eyes and puckers with the effort of the smile that quickly slides from my face. I don’t hate my appearance. I don’t fret about it. I am just slightly mystified by it.

So, I have just looked in the mirror (standing quite far away) and what I thought was this: have I become a Mumsy Mum? What does mumsy actually mean? I googled it and I found:

  • A woman who has an old fashioned appearance
  • A traditional mother
  • Dull
  • Unfashionable
  • Dowdy
  • Frumpy
  • Inelegant
  • An insult
  • Anti-feminist

Hmm. Poor Mumsy Mums.

Never have I felt more dowdy and inelegant as I did when I had just had Noah. My real clothes didn’t fit me. I was breastfeeding so clothes had to have easy access whilst at the same time being discreet. I made sure I had a shower every day but that was as far as my grooming progressed. I lived in leggings and baggy tops and UGG boots (so used they grew a shiny sheen). I put on just under two and a half stone when I was pregnant (quite normal I am told). After the birth, I immediately dropped a stone but the rest of it wasn’t going anywhere until Noah started weaning. I felt like a frump. I felt like the definition of Mumsy.

And yet…

I felt like I shouldn’t be a mum. Noah was always (a) distressed or (b) feeding. When guests came around, there were no snuggly newborn cuddles. Instead, I looked on desperately as he was passed around like a hot potato to see who could get him to stop crying. There was only one person and that was me, or more specifically, my boob. Health visitors and “experts” claimed babies should settle into routines of feeding every three hours. I was lucky to get an hour unattached. Despite this, he dropped from the 75th to the 9th percentile. I spent my whole existence, morning and night, feeding my child only for him to hover at the top of the 9th percentile for three months. I felt pressure to stop breastfeeding but I refused. I was failing him*. And then there was the love. The love I felt for my child. The desperation I felt to protect him. The load I carried in my mind of all the imaginings of bad things that could happen to him. I just didn’t know what to do with all that love. What had I been thinking, getting myself pregnant and having a child? I wasn’t cut out to be a mother!

*(Of course, I wasn’t really failing him. As he stayed in the 9th percentile, his weight gain was deemed “satisfactory”. We discovered at 3 months that his jaw was out of line. Once that was fixed, he piled on the pounds.)

So when I was looking my most mumsy, I was feeling my least mumsy. So much for that definition. I shall never use it again.

At my most mumsy...apart from the red boots
At my most mumsy…apart from the red boots

But, my appearance has changed since becoming a SAHM. I hardly ever wear make-up. I am always casually dressed. But what do I expect? I never go anywhere apart from to the shops, to the kindergarten and to the park. When I used to go to work, examining myself in front of the mirror was a vital part of the job. Did I have VPL? Who wants a thirteen year old girl sniggering at knicker lines on their backside? Not me. Was my top too tight? Was I showing any cleavage? Who wants a teenage boy distracted even more distracted from their lesson on Macbeth because he’s ogling their boobs? Most certainly not me!

And yet…

Do I buy less clothes since moving to Vienna and becoming a SAHM? Hell no. I buy clothes all the time to cheer myself up. Just ask my husband. He claims I will need to put some of my clothes in storage once we move back to our shoebox in Essex. Ha. What he doesn’t know is that half my clothes are already in storage – all of my work clothes – and they will be coming back out again when we move home. Clothes in storage? I don’t think so, dear.

When I move back to England, I am contemplating being more glamorous like my Mum and my sister. Maybe I will go for facials, get false eyelashes, get my nails done. I will certainly get my fringe cut more often and keep my roots blonde and shiny. Being a teacher isn’t a particularly glamorous job either, but I was always coordinated. In other words, I always had a necklace on to match my outfit. Now I don’t even know where half my necklaces are.

No, being a SAHM is not at all glamorous. But, it does have its blessings. The biggest blessing is time. Yes, a lot of my time involves the experience of tantrums, the hopeless emotional outpourings of a three year old boy. Here is a list of the tantrums I have lived through today:

5.15am – tantrum because I had taken the fan out of his room

8am – tantrum because I tried to force him to count the spots on the dice when we were playing his dinosaur board game and he couldn’t be bothered

1pm – tantrum because he wanted one of the chocolates my husband gave me for our anniversary last weekend and I had eaten the last one

4pm – tantrum because he didn’t want to wear his shoes to walk back from the park

5pm – tantrum because he wanted to use my iPad (I never even said he couldn’t!)

And when I say tantrum, I mean screaming at the top of his lungs. I mean having to avoid a few slaps and jabs. I mean him being inconsolable for at least 20 minutes. If I had gone to work today, I would have only experienced 40% of his tantrums. If I had gone to work today, I’d probably be feeling less fraught. I probably wouldn’t have just eaten four Oreos (I could have stopped at two). But I wouldn’t have been there on the way home from nursery when he decided to run through the sprinklers in the park. I wouldn’t have heard his squeals of glee and I wouldn’t have seen the delight on his face.

Undoubtedly, I have found being a SAHM hard. It has been that much harder because I am living in a foreign country. But it has been precious.

Who needs necklaces when I have my Noah? My darling boy who runs his hands over my face and says, “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, you’re so beautiful!”

True happiness
True happiness
A great way to cool down in 33 degree heat
A great way to cool down in 33 degree heat

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The Adventure of Extreme Weather in Vienna

It is so hot in Vienna at the moment, I can hardly function. I have never experienced heat like it. The cold tap runs warm. Sleep is impossible. It’s unbearable to be inside. Outside is worse. According to BBC weather, tomorrow it’s going to be 39 degrees. I am dreading it. Afternoons are mostly spent in front of the television with our wonky wretched fan attempting to circulate cool air. Noah spends all afternoon naked, apart from his Mickey Mouse slippers. I spend most of the afternoon arguing with Noah when he insists on turning the fan off or dragging my friend the fan around after me from room to room.

As Austria is land locked and there are no beaches, it compensates by having outdoor swimming pools. There are lots of them and some of them are beautiful, right on the side of a mountain with miles and miles of countryside around. I have only ever been to one swimming complex, Stadionbad, which is in the Prater (click here to see what the Prater is and what else is there). There is a bus right behind our apartment building which takes us straight there. Stadionbad is the more chavvy outdoor pool but I don’t mind. I’m an Essex Girl. I shop at Lakeside and like it. Stadionbad is the Lakeside of swimming pools, everything you need on your doorstep.

Stadionbad costs 5 euros for the day. Noah is free. It has an Olympic sized swimming pool, which I have never been near. It has a shallow pool which has a wave machine once an hour. It has two water shoots. It has a big curve shaped pool with a shallow end and deep end and it has an ankle-deep kids pool. Surrounding these pools is lots and lots of grass, shaded by numerous trees. People bring their own sunbeds, chairs, umbrellas, tents, plastic tables and they are set up for the day. On Saturday my husband had to work all day. I couldn’t face the thought of the whole day indoors, so I decided to brave Stadionbad on my own with Noah.

Swimming pools really aren’t my thing. In fact, I hate them. I hate getting wet. I hate how your swimming costume bottom stays wet for the rest of the day, no matter how hot it is. And don’t get me started on public pools. I don’t mind proper swimming as there is a purpose and benefit to it, but larking around in a swimming pool is not my idea of fun. If I sound like a misery, when it comes to swimming, I absolutely am. Noah’s swimming education is my husband’s domain. He takes Noah to his swimming lesson every week during his lunch hour. So I was really taking one for the team when I told Noah I’d take him swimming on Saturday.

When I opened my eyes on Saturday morning, I’d changed my mind about swimming. Maybe we could go to the Prater instead? Maybe Noah could go on a few rides and go in the playground? Then Noah came running in and scrambled over me, settling his naked self in the middle of the bed. “Mummy, are we going swimming today?” he asked, bouncing up and down. “Yes,” I sighed, “We are.”

Before he left for work, my husband gave me a lecture. He told me Noah is capable of swimming on his own. I mustn’t hold on to him all of the time. I must let him jump in on his own. I must take him on the slide. I should encourage him to do his “rocket” and his “engine”. He only needs to wear two of the armband floats rather than three. “Maybe I’ll tell him the slide is shut?” I suggested hopefully. “Don’t be ridiculous,” my husband said, looking at me from underneath his lowered eyebrows.

The first challenge of the day was putting sun cream on my own back. I enlisted Noah’s help which resulted in so much sun cream going over my swimming costume that I had to change into a different one.

When we got to Stadionbad, I spread our picnic blanket out under a tree and we were ready for the pool. But wait…I had encouraged Noah to bring his scooter. I was worried about leaving it there for anyone to come along and take it. How could I live in Vienna without it? I draped our towels over it, trying to make it look like a chair rather than a scooter and hoped for the best.

All ready for the pool
All ready for the pool

We went in the big pool and it was cold. It was only ten thirty and the pool hadn’t warmed up yet, despite the heat. Noah clung to me. He refused to show me his rocket or his engine. He refused to jump in. He refused to swim. I was at a loss. My imagination stalled drastically. What do people do in swimming pools with their children? I tried Pop Goes the Weasel, which is all I remember from my own swimming experiences at three years old, but Noah wasn’t a fan.

So we went on the slide. I don’t know if it’s because I have such a flat bottom (I am the direct opposite of Kim Kardashian. She got my share of bottom muscle/flesh, I’m sure of it. No one has a bum that big), but I always find these slides uncomfortable. My sitting bones bomp uncomfortably over each join in the plastic (i.e. every metre). Although Noah is a big fan of the slide, he is not a fan of the steps leading up to the slide, which have soggy bits of grass all over them. He is not a fan of the black rubber mat you stand on whilst getting on the slide. He is not a fan of the water that rushes out of the top of the slide. But still, we went on the slide five times. It was then 11.30 and I could claim it was lunchtime. And my bum was bruised.

A small roll for lunch
A small roll for lunch

After lunch, I wondered what we could do next. Noah made a half-hearted attempt to play in the little playground (two swings, some springy chicken things, a roundabout and a sandpit) but it was too hot and he ended up sitting on the grass gazing at the other children, chewing the ears on his toy lion. I took him to the shop so he could choose himself a swimming pool toy to keep him occupied. He’d seen a boy with one of those long thin float tube things and coveted it, but he didn’t choose that, he chose a water gun. We went to the kids’ pool and he played with the gun happily for ten minutes, taking great delight in squirting me. But then he threw the gun down and sat on the side watching it drift away, elbows on his knees and his chubby fist pressed into his chubby cheek.

What else was there to do? We got an ice cream and went back to pack up our stuff. Noah laid on the picnic rug sleepily and refused to move. I felt his pain. There was nothing I wanted to do more than lie down on that rug and have an afternoon siesta. But if he sleeps at lunch, he is up till nine and I love the boy dearly but I don’t need his company till nine o’clock at night. So I picked up the rug and rolled him off. Then I put him on the scooter, which no one had stolen, attached the scoot n pull and dragged him home.

The moral of this story is, always leave the swimming to my husband. I am much better as a fond observer.

My Noah and I are looking forward to Thursday when it’s going to drop to a chilly 26 degrees.

A much needed new bit of tat
A much needed new bit of tat



The Twinkle Diaries