10 Differences Between Going for a Job Interview Before and After Having Children (and a Career Break)

Until last week, I hadn’t been in a classroom for two years and three months. It’s safe to say, I am not at the top of my (teaching) game. In fact, when you take my maternity leave into consideration, I have only spent eight months out of the past four years teaching.

Before I had Noah, I was responsible for Key Stage 3 in English (that’s years 7-9 for non-teaching folk). At that stage in time, it was exactly where I wanted to be and I gave it everything I could. When I went on maternity leave, I didn’t dream that once I had a child, I would want to abandon my post and work part-time. But once Noah was here, I could not bear the idea of being away from him so many hours of the week, let alone doing a job where I had to give so much of myself. Teaching is a blood, sweat and tears kind of job and I was already bleeding, sweating and crying profusely just being Noah’s mother. So I left. Temporarily.

And now I’m back. I want to pick up where I left off. When I saw a job advertised for second in department at a secondary school that is a mere hundred footsteps away from the primary school Noah will hopefully be going to in September, I decided that was the job for me. Obviously. What could be more perfect? So I went to the interview and the Head came over to introduce himself to me and the other candidate. As he shook our hands, he clearly wanted to acknowledge that he knew something about each of us already. I was “the one who had been abroad for two years” and the other guy was “the one who had achieved ground-breaking GCSE results at a school where he was already second in department”. And I realised, quite calmly (a bit like how I imagine having an epiphany would be with sunshine and soulful music), that this was a one horse race: I was the horse who didn’t even cross the starting line.

The whole experience of applying for a job, preparing to teach a lesson, standing in front of a class for the first time in two years and going through the interview process (as well as the epiphany) was all a bit draining. A lot draining.

Here are ten differences between a job interview before and after having Noah (and a career break):

Difference 1: Location

Before – I’d pretty much have worked at any school within a 45-minute radius of my house. I’d have had a look at the most recent Ofsted report, browsed the school website and if the role was right and the kids weren’t terrors, I’d have gone for the job.

After – I want to be close to my Noah. My husband works in London. My Dad works in London. My Mum works all over the place. I feel that someone has to be close to Noah whilst he is at school and naturally that person should be me. I’m not sure why my conviction is so strong on this point. It’s what I call my Mother’s Random Logic: weird and probably ungrounded, but intense nonetheless. I don’t want to be more than 20 minutes away from his school. And 20 minutes is a push.

Difference 2: First Reference

Before – When applying for a job in teaching, your first reference needs to be your current employer, i.e. the Head. It’s fairly obvious who to put down.

After – In absence of a current employer, your most recent must be approached as first reference. Unfortunately, the head at the school I worked at for four months just before going to Vienna has retired. I had to send several e-mails before I could ascertain who my first reference actually should be and it turns out it was someone who I have never met…

Difference 3: Availability

Before – When a school rang me up and offered me an interview, I could go. All I had to do was ask for the day off.

After – When the school rang me up and offered me an interview, I informed them I was free between 12.30 and 3.30 on that day. When the school informed me the interview process was actually a day-long thing, I had to find someone to look after Noah. My Dad was working, my Mum had a pupil on a driving test, my husband was going to a funeral. The nursery couldn’t take him for the morning because they were at full capacity. My aunt was a possibility but the issue was with the car seat and ferrying Noah to nursery. In the end, my husband missed the funeral.

Difference 4: Interview Attire

Before – I had a wardrobe full of work clothes. For all of my previous interviews in teaching, I wore a black suit with a jazzy accessory to show, you know, I really am quite jazzy. For the interview at my first school I accessorised with hot pink shoes. At my second, I accessorised with a cobalt blue blouse. At my third, I wore a frilly black and white blouse with a slightly Victorian feel about it.

After – I had absolutely nothing to wear. Absolutely nothing. All of my work clothes have spent the past two years festering in my Aunt’s loft. In anticipation of getting an interview, I ordered three dresses from the Oasis sale. When they arrived, every single one of them was too low cut to wear in the vicinity of teenagers. I then had to drag Noah around the high street, buying outfit choices from Next, Marks and Spencers and Dorothy Perkins, none of which I had time to try on until the morning of the interview. Luckily, one thing fit me: a black and white dress. There was nothing jazzy about it.

Difference 5: Level of Polish

Before – I was pretty well polished when I rocked up on the day of the interview. My hair was blow-dried, my make-up was subtle, my black suit was pressed.

After – I only put mascara on one eye because Noah came in and distracted my attention from the other eye by showing me he had put his own vest and socks on.

Difference 6: The Lesson

Before – I would plan the best lesson it was in my power to create. There at the forefront of my brain would be all the things I needed to include in the lesson: engaging but challenging activities, differentiation, SMSC elements (spiritual, moral, social, cultural), progress, learning objectives, assessment criteria…The list goes on. As soon as I found out the topic of my interview lesson, my brain would be buzzing with ideas. I would be nervous about the lesson, but once I got in front of the class, I switched into role and things came naturally.

After – My lesson was distinctly average. Things did not come naturally.

Difference 7: Interview Questions

Before – I could answer the questions. I knew a time when a child hadn’t done what I had asked of them because it had happened just the day before. I knew how the department would be affected by upcoming changes to the curriculum because it had been the topic of department meetings for months. I knew of a time when I had done something in my role which had made a significant change because I had done it last week.

After – I had a hazy notion I could deal with behaviour and had made positive changes in the past, but the details escaped me. When asked about a time a child hadn’t done as I asked, my Noah’s face loomed into my mind. I am yet to meet a teenager as obstinate as Noah. Teenagers at least pretend they are going to do what you have asked.

Difference 8: Truth and Lies

Before – When asked where I see my career going, I said Head of English. That was what I eventually wanted to be.

After – When asked what I want to be in 5 years’ time, I said Head of English. This is a lie. What I want to be in 5 years’ time is semi-retired from the profession. I want to be standing at the school gate as Noah walks into school and to be there again when he comes out. I want to be a professional writer. I want to have had two books published. I wouldn’t mind having a trophy on my bookshelf for best debut novel or something like that.

Difference 9: The proof was in the pudding

Before – I proved myself at the interview for teacher training, therefore I could train to be a teacher. I proved myself whilst training, therefore I could get a real teacher job. I proved myself at my real teacher job, therefore I could get a promotion with responsibility.

After – The pudding was at a banquet eaten two years ago. In fact, because of changing schools and going on maternity leave, the last set of GCSE results I got from a class that was mine from the beginning to the end of the course was in 2010. And those results were okay. But they weren’t ground-breaking.

Difference 10: The Job Offer

Before – I got every teaching job I went for. I am not blowing my own trumpet. First of all, before I was a teacher, I wanted to be an Editorial Assistant at a publishing company. I went for thirteen interviews before I actually became an Editorial Assistant. Secondly, I was the only candidate at one of my teaching interviews and the only sane candidate at another. But still…

After – Nein.

 

Have my seven years of teaching really been wiped off the slate? Maybe not all of them –  I have had several people contacting me about jobs since I came back. But not jobs that put me right back in the spot where I abandoned my career path. This is all part and parcel of the decision some mothers make to stay at home with their children. It is part and parcel of the decision I made to go to Vienna. For, after all, I was the one with the deciding vote. The hardest thing about being in Vienna (apart from being away from my family), was the feeling of being in limbo: I felt like I had left my life behind in England and had to live in a kind of in-between state of nothingness for two years. I thought we would come back to England and everything would magically be okay. Whilst I thank God every day that I am home, I hadn’t anticipated that settling back in would be so hard. There are so many changes, so many things that have to slot back into place. It will happen. I know it will. But it is taking longer than I thought. And I don’t regret leaving teaching to look after my Noah. I don’t regret it one bit, no matter how much it may have set my career back.

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My non-jazzy interview attire. (Excuse the mess behind me – these are rejected interview outfits).

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three
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The Adventure of Saying Goodbye (to Vienna)

Three more sleeps.

On Monday, the packing company came and packed up eighty boxes of our stuff with minimal disaster. It is now half way to England. My main concern is that the new Christmas decorations I bought will be smashed in transit. But they, like most things in life, are replaceable. Noah took the packing up of his toys fairly well. He grasps the fact that his toys are too big to take on the plane and will be at our “little house” in England when he gets there. There was a minor issue that went like this:

9 a.m. Sunday Morning. I am piling up Noah’s toys along one wall of his bedroom.

Me: Noah, do you want to keep Aylan here or do you want him to go in the big lorry with the rest of your toys?

Noah: In the big lorry.

Me: Are you absolutely sure?

Noah: Yes. In the big lorry with the rest of my toys.

Me: You won’t see him until we get back to England.

Noah: That’s okay. I want him to go in the big lorry.

Aylan, in case you were wondering, is a large teddy bear brought for Noah on our last trip home by my Mum and Dad. My Dad named him Aylan after the three year old Syrian refugee who drowned. He liked the idea of Noah looking after a refugee. Anyway, I put Aylan in the pile to be sent back to England with the rest of Noah’s toys (a) because he would take up a lot of room my suitcase, (b) because it’s stressful when Noah is carrying an enormous teddy around the airport, not least because we are always losing toys at airports and (c) because Noah seemed pretty adamant that Aylan should be packed with the rest of his toys…

4.30 p.m. on Monday, 10 minutes after we had waved the lorry off with all our stuff inside (including Aylan)

Noah: Where’s Aylan?

Fifteen minutes of wailing ensued.

 

Moving abroad for two years is many people’s idea of a dream. Usually, when it comes up in conversation that I live in Vienna, I’m met with responses such as “Wow! How exciting!” And I am the miserable cow who shakes her head and says, “Not really.” For me, it was never going to be easy. My husband knew that when he applied for the job. I am a home bird if ever there was one. Back in May 2013, the job came up in Vienna and my husband presented me with a written proposal listing all of the benefits of going for it. It wasn’t the first time he had broached the subject of doing a foreign posting. I phoned my Mum up and read her out the proposal. Because my Mum saw the £££ signs and (reluctantly) said go for it, because I had just gone back to work after maternity leave, because I wanted to work part-time and couldn’t, because it was a good opportunity for us financially, because it was my husband’s heart’s desire, I agreed. We formed a pact: I would try living in Vienna as long as Noah and I could come home for one week every month and stay with my parents. Last year, every single time I waved goodbye to my Mum and Dad at the airport, every time I waved goodbye to them here, it was with tears in my eyes. I am not given to public displays of emotion but, quite honestly, I felt like my heart was breaking. My husband’s posting shouldn’t actually end until next October, but I knew with absolute certainty that I couldn’t do another year here. Have I cried myself to sleep every night for two years? Of course I haven’t. Have I been depressed? No. Although I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate and drunk a lot of Gruner Veltliner to see me through. Have I made my husband’s life a living hell? Probably. Sometimes. Do I regret agreeing to come here? Actually, no.

Over the past six weeks, I have felt an over-whelming sense of relief every time I thought about how close I was to moving home. I felt as if I was crawling towards 19th December on my knees. I even planned what I would put as my last Vienese Facebook update at some point in August.

And yet…

I would be lying if I said that I don’t feel a sense of loss. And actually, it’s quite a strong sense of loss. How can this be? I’m flabbergasted by it. I should be excited. I should be deliriously happy.

It all comes down to change. I don’t like change. I don’t embrace it.

 

Last week, I was washing Noah’s sand toys in the bidet (what else is it for, after all?), when I had a bit of a moment. I looked at his buckets and spades and diggers lined up to dry on a towel on the bathroom floor and I felt winded, I felt bereft. The sadness I felt surprised me. Where had it come from? I am not sad to be packing up our things and moving back to England. As I took a deep breath, I realised that I was sad about what those sand toys represent. They represent a part of Noah’s childhood. The park that we live on represents a part of Noah’s childhood – all those hours we have spent there being cooked by the sun or being frozen solid in the winter. I felt the same when I got his pram and his highchair out. These things are obsolete. My Noah is done with them. He is not my baby anymore: he is my clever, strong minded, curious little boy. When we moved here, Noah was 20 months old, he spoke in nouns, he beat up any child who came within a mile radius of him, he had a little white rabbit comforter called Booby that he took everywhere, he couldn’t scoot or ride a bike. Now he is nearly 4, he loves Star Wars, he doesn’t know who Booby is, he wants to have conversations about what happens when you die. The fact is, Noah has spent more of his life in Vienna than he has in England. It feels a little bit as if, when I get on that plane on Saturday, I will be leaving a part of Noah’s childhood behind. Ridiculous, I know. But sometimes emotions are.

 

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January 2014, at our park

The other thing which makes me sad about leaving is that I am taking my Noah away from the life he knows. I am taking him away from the kindergarten he is happy at, from the friendships he has formed, from the enormous flat he can ride a bike around. Of course, even if we stayed until the end of my husband’s contract, we would still have to take him away from these things. I think I am seeing this through my own eyes rather than a three year old’s. I know what it feels like to leave your home and I am projecting those feelings on to Noah.

“How do you feel about moving back to England?” I ask him frequently.

“Alright,” he says. “I can’t wait to go to my new nursery! It’s great!”

I realised just how often I must have spoken to him about this when he turned to me yesterday and said, “So, Mummy, how do you feel about moving back to our little house?”

Noah is 3 years old. His language is developing every day but it is by no means advanced. He isn’t capable of telling me how he feels about moving back to England. He isn’t capable of understanding it himself. He pooed in his pants every day last week which is something he never, ever did whilst he was potty training well over a year ago. Is that relevant? Is he channelling his uncertainty about moving back to England by pooing in his pants? Or is he just being a sod? He certainly isn’t doing very much of what he is told at the moment. Even phone calls to Father Christmas and threats of him losing presents doesn’t seem to hold any sway with him. He’ll be okay. I know he’ll be okay. I know this experience won’t damage him in any way. But I still feel sad on his behalf, especially when I see him running home from kindergarten every day, hand in hand with his best friend.

 

A few weeks ago, one of my friends asked me, “What are the top five things you’ll miss about Vienna?” “There aren’t five. I will miss absolutely nothing about Vienna!” I exclaimed. But that’s not true. I will miss living on the park, I will miss my husband being home in time to play with Noah, I will miss the wine, I will miss the Sachertorte, I will miss the public transport, I will miss that most things are within walking distance, I will miss the space we have in our flat. I will miss the lifestyle we have been able to afford. I will miss my friends.

 

I know I am doing the right thing going home; I couldn’t bear to imagine the alternative. I have had a hard year in lots of ways. We all have them. Going home is faced with its own challenges: unpacking, cramming all of our stuff into a two up, two down cottage, finding myself a job. I am surprised to realise that I will have to adapt, to settle back in. But I am looking forward to starting up my life again in my beloved Essex. I have not liked living in Vienna but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it as a place. There is a grace and a grandeur about it. I respect it. But there’s no place like Essex.

Auf Wiedersehen Vienna, from my Noah and from me. Over and out.

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There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.
My Noah and Me

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The Adventure of the Day Trips: Dinosaurs and Dürnstein

This weekend we hired a car and got out and about a bit in Austria. And it was good. It was a good weekend. But since becoming parents, a good weekend inevitably involves a lot of hard work, a little bit of bickering and leaves us absolutely knackered for the week ahead. C’est la vie.

A couple of weeks ago, I went into the local shopping centre and was confronted by four gigantic, green, scaly feet with claw-like toenails. I tilted my head back, craned my neck around and discovered a dinosaur reaching up the entire three floors of the building. But what is this? I wondered excitedly. Is something dinosaur-themed coming to our very doorstep?! Something new to entertain Noah with?! Hooray! I noticed some information on a placard near the dinosaur. It was an advert for something called Dino Live. I snapped a picture of the info on my mobile and hurried home to put it all into Google Translate. I went to the website and discovered it was a dinosaur exhibition, but, alas, it was about 45 minutes outside of Vienna. So when we decided to hire a car for a weekend of excursions, I naturally thought about going to the dinosaurs.

So on Saturday morning, I crammed Noah’s lunch bag full of snacks and Noah duly packed himself some toys in his Postman Pat rucksack and a felt watering can (which is actually mine and is supposed to have Peter Rabbit in it…). I packed Noah the following snacks: a pot of grapes, carrot sticks, a cheese and pickle sandwich, raisins, dried apple chips, a kipferl (sweet, horn-shaped bun), a packet of 3 plain biscuits, a yogurt, a babybell, a peach, a Humzinger, a cereal bar and some cheesy breadsticks. Noah packed everything on the surface of the table which his train set is on apart from the track (several trains, cars, a runway, roadsigns, a crane, a helicopter, a boat…) and odd bits of Playmobil which were so tiny I will probably never be able to find them again. All this would come in very handy at the dinosaur exhibition.

Noah has recently become a bit (okay, a lot) whingey. I very much hope it is a phase because it absolutely does my head in. He started on the way there. Having eaten his grapes, raisins and kipferl within the first ten minutes of the journey, he then wanted one of the choc chip buns that my husband was eating in the front seat. I didn’t have one for him. He couldn’t possibly be hungry. The whinge started up, loud and relentless. “I’m switching my ears off! I don’t listen to whinging!” I declared and pressed an imaginary button on each ear. Noah then took offense to the music on the radio station and started up with, “I don’t like that song. Turn it off. I want another song.” Repeat times 100. Unfortunately, despite having turned my ears off, I could still hear him.

I thought the dinosaur exhibition would be quite good. I surmised this for the following reasons:

  1. The dinosaur I saw in the shopping centre was impressive and, presumably, expensive. Impressive and expensive advertising usually means an impressive and expensive event. Right?
  2. The Arena Nova (where the exhibition is set up) looked gigantic on the website.
  3. The website showed pictures of children inside dinosaur eggs so I imagined it was going to be quite interactive.

When we pulled up to the Arena Nova, we were directed to a small building alongside it which looked like a cheap hotel… nay, it was a cheap hotel, designed by someone who had a liking for corrugated iron. It was in the middle of what looked like an abandoned industrial estate. The exhibition was okay. It consisted of various large models of dinosaurs. It was a bit like a dinosaur Madam Tussauds, but the dinosaurs weren’t made of wax. Not like Madam Tussauds then. There was also a room playing a short film about dinosaurs, some rows of tables where you could colour in a dinosaur (I did) and a tightly packed row of four dinosaur rides (the type you get outside a shop). We paid 5 euros to get our picture taken on a dinosaur but there were no dinosaur eggs for Noah to climb in and create mischief. Within 20 minutes we were done, but we decided to go around another time and eek an hour out in there. Basically, it was okay. Noah enjoyed it well enough. But it was underwhelming.

Noah and the dinosaurs. He wasn't really glowing, I just have no idea how to use the settings on my camera.
Noah and the dinosaurs. He wasn’t really glowing, I just have no idea how to use the settings on my camera.

On Sunday, we drove to Krems, a little town on the Danube, about an hour outside Vienna. From there, we got a boat along the Danube to a picturesque little town called Dürnstein. On the way, my husband showed me a picture of some ruins of an old castle on the hill at the top of the town and informed me there was a pathway leading up to it from the centre. I agreed to have a look, thinking Noah would be interested in looking around an old castle. It was also the castle where Richard the Lionheart was kept prisoner. Unfortunately, as soon as we got off the boat, Noah decided he wanted to go home. He refused to walk or scoot and further. “We’re going to an old castle to look for a dragon,” I told him. He was suddenly much more willing to move.

We walked up the cobbled streets of the town, past various shops selling tacky souvenirs, and eventually happened across the pathway to the top. Except, I really wouldn’t call it a pathway, it was more like one long, uneven, ancient, broken set of continuous stairs. Some of the steps came up to my knee. Noah was having none of these stairs so my husband put him on his shoulders. He also had a rucksack on his back and carried Noah’s scooter. What possessed us to bring the scooter? I have no idea.

When I was 6 months pregnant with Noah, I was diagnosed with a problem with my pelvis called SPD which affects 1% of pregnant women. It was uncomfortable when I walked. I had a couple of sessions with a physio and was assured it would go away once Noah was born. It didn’t. It was far, far worse. The birth also resulted in a small tear in my hip. Noah was 7 months old before I could walk normally, without feeling any pain at all. Three years later, it hardly ever bothers me apart from when I (a) attempt to go for a run (b) do any kind of high impact/high resistance exercise or (c) as I discovered yesterday, climb up an ancient set of stairs for 20 minutes in order to see some old ruins.

Half way up, my left hip had stiffened and that leg decided it wasn’t going to support this adventure up the stairs any more. The top of both legs ached the whole way around my groin (sorry, I hate that word but I put it into the thesaurus and nothing else came up!). I stopped for a little rest on a boulder and rooted around in my bag for my drink. It wasn’t there. I must also mention that it was 30 degrees. The following conversation ensued:

Me: (to husband) Where’s my drink?

Husband: I don’t know.

Me: What do you mean you don’t know? I asked you to put it in my bag.

Husband: You didn’t.

Me: I did! When we were on the boat, I put it in your hand and asked you to put it in my bag which was around your side of the table. You took it and said okay.

Husband: I didn’t hear you!

Me: Well, that’s just typical. What did you do with it?

Husband: I poured it into my water bottle. If you want a drink, have some of mine.

Me: (enraged) I will not! When have you ever known me to drink out of anyone’s water bottle?!

Husband: If you really need a drink, there’s one here. Don’t cause an argument over a bottle of water.

Me: I’m not causing an argument. You are!

Husband: That’s it! Let’s go home! Let’s go and get on the next boat! The day is ruined!

Noah: (voice of calm and reason) No, Daddy. Mummy hasn’t ruined it. We can’t go home, we still haven’t found the dragon! Mummy, have some of Daddy’s drink!

Three years ago, I would have abandoned the quest to get to the ruins and stormed back down the stairs. My husband would have stormed down after me. We would then have spent the next twenty minutes in a stormy silence until I had some wine and/or chocolate and my husband had some food. Then we would have made up. But it was not three years ago, and Noah would have been upset if I stormed off. The boy wanted to see the dragon so I carried on up to the top, walking like a crab (i.e. sideways) with my right leg leading. By the time we eventually got there, Noah’s own mood wasn’t too hot either. In his eagerness to refuse to do anything he was told, he forgot about the dragon entirely, which is fortunate because I’m not sure what story I would have had to concoct in order to explain why the dragon wasn’t there.

Naturally, when we got to the car at 4pm, Noah was knackered and promptly fell asleep. Naturally, the knock on effect of this was that he went to sleep an hour and a half later that night. By the time I was eventually able to extract myself from his toddler bed, my whole body had ceased up.

But, still, it was a good weekend, my Noah.

Being strangled on the boat (just before my bottle of water bit the dust)
Being strangled on the boat (just before my bottle of water bit the dust)


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

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

10 Things I Now Know About Taking a Three Year Old to McDonald’s (In Vienna)

Today I took Noah out for his first McDonald’s. Here are 10 things that I learnt:

  1. If you are walking or relying on public transport, a lunchtime McDonald’s is better than a 4 o’clock one. 4pm is the start of Noah’s witching hour (or three), the time when all of his inner demons surface at once. I should always be home by this time, but, somehow, I never learn.
  2. The main appeal of a Happy Meal is the toy. The toy should come inside the box with the food. If the toy is waved in front of the child’s nose by the (un)helpful serving lady before you have even got to the counter to order, then the food has no real appeal.
  3. Think about the reasons you have decided to go to McDonald’s. Does your child like fast food? Does your child desperately need another piece of tat (i.e. the toy) to take home? Do you yourself enjoy McDonalds? If the answer to these questions is no and the only reason you wanted to go to McDonalds in the first place was to get a strawberry milkshake which you haven’t had for about five years but now desperately need, I suggest you find somewhere else that sells milkshakes and go there instead. This is what happened when I attempted to order a strawberry milkshake:

Me: Can I have a strawberry milkshake, please?

Serving Lady: Eh?

Me: A strawberry milkshake, bitte?

Serving Lady: Milk? No. Fanta? Coke?

Me: Coke light, please, bitte.

  1. If you order ketchup because you know your child won’t even contemplate the idea of eating chips without ketchup, make sure the ketchup is given to you before you go and sit down and lay all the food out. When we finally found a seat in a far corner of the restaurant, I opened Noah’s box of nuggets up, tipped some chips in and then discovered there was no ketchup. “Where’s my ketchup?” Noah asked. “They don’t have ketchup,” I replied. A fist full of chips was thrown on the floor along with “I want ketchup!” I had to leave the food out, willing that no one come and clear it up, take Noah and his scooter to the counter, queue up, ask for ketchup, get charged 30 cents for ketchup which I surely must have just paid for 5 minutes ago, and then return to the table to face a now freezing cold chicken burger.
  2. If there is the choice of sitting in a hard and uncomfortable booth, or some large comfy-looking bucket chairs, go for the booth. The bucket chairs are big, therefore optimise the opportunity for lounging and reduce the opportunity for eating. They are also screwed to the ground, making it uncomfortable if you need to keep leaning over to force feed your child unhealthy food.
  3. Even if you took your child to the toilet mere seconds before ordering the food, he will need to go again before the meal is over…in fact, before the meal has really been started. After Noah had eaten one chicken nugget and two chips, he lay across the chair and casually told me he needed a poo. “Are you sure?” I demanded, shoving my chicken sandwich in my mouth as quickly as I could, because there was no way I was taking it to the toilet with me. I sniffed the air: Noah smelt like he needed a poo. I picked up Noah’s food and attempted to put it back in the box with minimal loss of ketchup. I then headed to the toilets. Half way there he had changed his mind about the poo and wanted to go home instead. I found another table and unpacked his food again, telling him we weren’t going home until he had finished his dinner (because there was no way in hell I was going home to cook him another meal after this experience). Five minutes later (i.e. half a chicken nugget and five chips later) he needed a poo again. I repacked the food, took him to the toilets, sat him down and waited. He didn’t do a poo.
  4. Listen to your child when asking him whether he wants chicken nuggets or a cheeseburger. If your three year old is anything like mine, he will know his own mind with 100% confidence. If the boy asks for a cheeseburger, get him a bloody cheeseburger.
  5. Don’t promise your child ice-cream before you get your facts straight. Seeing as I had failed to get my milkshake, I decided a McFlurry would more than make up for it. I coaxed Noah into eating his Happy Meal with the promise of an ice-cream afterwards. I have actually given up chocolate but I decided the pieces of chocolate in McFlurries are too small to actually count as chocolate. After the failure to communicate my desire for a strawberry milkshake at the counter, I decided to opt for the self-service ordering machine for our desserts. I put my card in the machine. I selected the English option. I selected desserts. I selected a Kit Kat McFlurry. I was told it was not possible because the grill was in use. Not to be deterred by such a random obstacle, I selected a Smarties McFlurry instead. Again, not possible because the grill was in use. I dragged Noah to the counter. “McFlurry?” I asked pointing to the blatant McFlurry machine. “No,” the woman said, and turned to the next customer. I was now left with the task of finding Noah his promised ice-cream. Four shops later, he got one.
  6. If you are relying on walking or public transport, check the weather. If that is too organised for you to manage, always carry the umbrella you got for Christmas in your mummy bag with you. What do you mean, you don’t know where it is?
  7. Don’t expect your child to be grateful for this outing. After we had got soaked waiting for the bus, then had an incident getting off the bus because Noah had lost one of his shoes, and I was then dragging Noah home on the scooter in the pouring rain, he announced: “Mummy, this is a DISASTER!”

Any time, my Noah. And, actually, comparing this outing to some of our other adventures (E.g. The Adventure of the Prater on the Boiling Hot Afternoon, The Adventure of the Eurovision Village and the Balloon, The Adventure at Zoom Ocean), it wasn’t a disaster at all.

I need a poo
I need a poo


Mums' Days

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

The Adventure of the Prater on the Boiling Hot Afternoon

The Prater is a big park, about 5km wide. It includes a fairground, a big outdoor swimming complex, countless restaurants, multiple playgrounds and many more things I probably haven’t discovered yet. It’s my favourite place in Vienna. One of Noah’s beloved haunts is the bouncy castle area where there are bouncy castles of all different shapes and sizes. This morning I promised him we would go to the bouncy castles today. He was very excited and sang If You’re Happy And You Know It all the way to kindergarten. I say sang, but what I actually mean is bellowed, jumping off his scooter every time he had to clap his hands.

What I didn’t count on was the sweltering 30 degrees heat…

I stuffed my bag with snacks for Noah, suncream and drinks and picked him up from nursery. As soon as we got on the tram that would take us to the Prater, Noah wanted a drink and a snack. This was when I discovered I hadn’t put the lid on his beaker properly and everything in my bag was covered in apple juice, including the briochekipferl (sweet bun) I had bought him for a snack. I was also covered in apple juice after attempting to remove the unfixed lid. What annoys me about this is that I have done this same thing SO MANY TIMES. Why have I not developed a natural instinct to CHECK THE LID every time I fill his beaker up?

When we got to the bouncy castles, the place was deserted. There were literally no other children there. I asked the man for an admission ticket and he told me to go and check they were okay because it was very hot. They were fine. It was hot but the sun was sheltering behind some clouds.

Noah started climbing up the gigantic inflatable slide. The problem is, he loves a mate. If he is around other children, even if he doesn’t know them and doesn’t speak their language, he is happy. As I watched him flit solo from one castle to another, I realised that this is why people have children close together: to provide a 24/7 friend for the first born. I have friends who have fallen pregnant again less than a year after having their first child. When Noah was a year old, I was flabbergasted by these people. I was still of the mind-set that I was never, no way, absolutely not, going through pregnancy, birth and newborn angst again. But, today, as I watched Noah bounce around aimlessly, looking a bit lost, I felt sorry for him. I thought about how all of his toys are “sisters”. I thought about how he pointed at his friend’s baby brother last week and said, “I want one of those.” When he appeared in front of the deck chair I was lounging in and asked me to play with him, what else could I do but gamely make my way up the inflatable slide?

Noah alone, alone, all, all alone, alone on a wide, wide bouncy castle...
Where is everybody?

Five minutes later, all the bouncy castles were scorching hot. Noah stepped on one and started screaming. And that was the end of the bouncy castles.

What I had hoped would take up over an hour of our afternoon, came to an abrupt halt after fifteen minutes. Next I let Noah have 3 euros to go on three rides. He managed to choose the three most inappropriate rides for his age:

  1. A machine where you had to manoeuvre a scoop to pick up balls and drop them in a goal. He couldn’t do it.
  2. A game where you had to shoot water at targets to make parts of a scene move. He couldn’t do it.
  3. A digger that moved sand from one place to another. He couldn’t do it.
Can't do it, Mummy
No can do

We had some ice-cream and then found a playground. It was deserted. Noah called it, “my own park”. Other children had left some buckets and spades in the sandpit. There were also a pair of pink sandals in the sand. My first thought was, Oh my god! Who would leave their child’s sandals in the sandpit?! My second thought was, I am exactly the type of person who will one day leave my child’s shoes in the sandpit…

Chillaxing in the sand. But will he get a stripy sun tan?
Chillaxing in the sand. But will he get a stripy sun tan?

Then it was time for the journey home. This is usually when everything starts to fall apart on our outings and today was no exception.

Impediment 1 – I had allowed Noah to bring his bubbles. Every five minutes we needed to stop for ten minutes so he could blow bubbles.

The lyrics I'm forever blowing bubbles take on new meaning
The lyrics I’m forever blowing bubbles take on new meaning

Impediment 2 – Noah was hot, sticky and tired and I had forgotten to bring the scooter pull. He didn’t want to walk so I had to walk leaning sideways so I could steer the scooter, dragging him along next to me.

Impediment 3 – There is a souvenir shop, aka tack shop, which I decided to take Noah inside because they sold Austrian dressed rubber ducks and Noah’s Nan (my husband’s mum) collects them. Of course, he wanted the ducks too and picked up the Mozart duck, the Dirndl duck, the lederhosen duck, the I heart Vienna duck, the courtesan duck…and any other type of duck they had in the Austrian themed duck basket. “You can’t have all these ducks,” I said. “I want them!” he insisted. This exchange was repeated six or seven times before he had a melt down and I told him he could choose one duck and he had to pay for it out of his pocket money. He’s rich; he can afford it.

Impediment 4 – The duck didn’t appease Noah. He started crying and refusing to wear his hat or get on his scooter. We made our way to the station by me pretending I was walking off and leaving him and him chasing after me, screaming. Meanwhile the sun was beating down on his bare head. I was illogically furious that he wouldn’t wear his hat, even though we have had this battle since he was born, before he even knew what a hat was. I banned him from watching television for the rest of his life.

Impediment 5 – We waited at the tram stop for fifteen minutes and no tram arrived. There was an announcement which I couldn’t understand as, unsurprisingly, it was in German. There was also something in German on the board which usually says how long the train will be. I painstakingly typed it in to my Google Translate app and was told “disability due to road traffic accident”.

Impediment 6 – Back in the train station, we passed a vending machine. I needed a cold drink and reasoned Noah probably did too. The only drink Noah would contemplate was a Capri Sun. I had an altercation with the machine which wouldn’t take any change and then spat two Capri Suns out at me. So I was having a Capri Sun too, then. We had to get down two escalators to get to the right platform. The impediment was that I was now holding Noah’s scooter, his hat, two rubber ducks and two cartons of Capri Sun, as well as gripping Noah’s hand for dear life.

We had to get a train and then a bus. When we sat on the bus, we opened our Capri Suns. I took one sip and vowed Noah would never have a Capri Sun again. I nearly choked on the sweetness. I checked the back and found it contained more sugar than it did fruit juice. And I am supposed to have given up sugar. As well as chocolate. And wine.

Noah calmed down. He informed me he would now wear his hat and enquired as to whether he would now be able to watch television when we got in.

All I could think about was Prosecco. I have stopped drinking wine indoors for fear I was turning into an alcoholic (I so need a glass of wine at the end of the day…), but I knew there was a bottle of Prosecco in the cupboard. If I got in and put it in the freezer, it’d soon be cold. But if you open a bottle of Prosecco, don’t you have to drink it all because otherwise it will lose its fizz? Would it be wrong of me to drink a whole bottle of Prosecco tonight? My husband is working late so I knew I’d have to do dinner, bath and bedtime alone. Surely I’d deserve a drink? But what if something happened and I’d need my wits about me? Reluctantly, I decided against putting the Prosecco in the freezer when I got in. But I still can’t stop thinking about that bottle in the cupboard…

I don’t mean to imply you drive me to drink, my Noah. Really, I don’t mean that at all.

A selfie...It never fails to surprise me how big my nose appears in a selfie...
A selfie…It never fails to surprise me how big my nose appears in a selfie…

The Adventure at Schloss Hof

Noah is a spirited child. This means he is emotional, forceful, determined, relentless and sometimes so naughty that I stand by hopelessly wondering how on earth I should be handling him. I have met my match in this three year old boy. Many readers of my blog, mostly faithful friends and family, have said, “He’s so naughty!” or “I can’t believe his antics!” But there is so much more to Noah than that. If I only portray Noah in this way, I am doing him a disservice. Noah is also an imaginative, intelligent, loving, theatrical, splendiferous little boy. He is my treasure. He laughs easily. He delights in life.

Yesterday, we hired a car and set out to Schloss Hof, an immaculate palace near the border of Slovakia. The Austrians of old certainly knew how to make a palace. Noah had a great day (so we did too) and was not naughty at all…okay, so he was at bath time but this post is not about bath time!

Here are ten things simple things that Noah took delight in:

  1. A table in the car that he could put his drink, book and tablet on. Next time we need to buy a car, I’m getting me a VW Golf with tables in the back!
He even got in his car seat willingly
He even got in his car seat willingly

2. His snack bag. A couple of weeks ago he bought himself a Disney Cars lunch box in C & A with his pocket money. Yesterday I filled it with snacks, most of which he had eaten by the time we got to the schloss.

“I’m still hungry” said with a mouth crammed with food

3. Lots and lots and lots of space for him to run around in. Noah has issues with walking and usually wants to go on my husband’s shoulders ten minutes after setting out from the house, however, he has no trouble at all with running everywhere.

You can't catch me!
You can’t catch me!

4. The playground. Another thing Austrians do well. There are several playgrounds within walking distance of where we live and every main attraction has a playground. Back in England, it’s an effort to get to a playground – you actually have to get in the car and drive there!

Is anyone going to get off their bum and push me? Mummy? Daddy?
Is anyone going to get off their bum and push me? Mummy? Daddy?

5. A deckchair. There were a few deckchairs in the playground. Noah was so taken with them that we had to carry one with us to the picnic area, so the little lord could lounge in it whilst eating his lunch.

More apple juice, your highness?
More apple juice, your highness?

6. Hide and seek in unusual places: behind a tree, in a flowering rose bush, behind a set of wrought iron gates…the opportunities were endless.

You count and I will hide behind these gates!
You count and I will hide behind these gates!

7. Ice cream. Say no more for I myself delight in ice cream.

“I’m going to have a big, big, choc choc ice cream!” he says, then orders himself strawberry

8. Bits of gravel and a leaf. Since going on a scavenger hunt in the park this week where I told him stones, leaves, rubble, pine cones etc were “treasure”, Noah has now taken to collecting leaves and gravel and insisting my husband and I carry it around in our pockets. Yesterday, I was the leaf carrier and my husband the gravel carrier.

Picking up gravel, bit by bit
Picking up gravel, bit by bit

9. Music and dancing. Noah’s Vtech Innotab plays music as well as games and books. It’s helpful when we go to a restaurant to keep him busy for ten minutes. Here he is dancing to “A tisket, a tasket”.

Join in Mummy!
Join in Mummy!

10. Noah loves twisting spaghetti around his fork and then putting a quarter of a child’s portion into his mouth at once.

Noah with a child's portion (?!) of spag bol
Noah with a child’s portion (?!) of spag bol

My Noah, when you are grown up, your pickley ways will be admirable qualities rather than tiring ones. Never lose your love of life.

Mami 2 Five

10 Top Tips About Taking a 3 Year Old to a Museum

What with it being Bank Holiday yesterday, we decided to go to one of Vienna’s many museums. We chose the Technisches Museum (in other words, the Technical Museum). When you are travelling with a small child, you may not get to see all the cultural delights a city has to offer. Here are my top 10 tips to consider if you are thinking about taking a young child to a museum:

  1. Choose the museum carefully. There has to be some sort of bait. When we went to the Natural History Museum, it was the dinosaurs. At the Technical Museum, it was the “big, big, slide and a children’s play area”.
A big, big slide you say? Let's go!
A big, big slide you say? Let’s go!
  1. Avoid distractions en route. Under no circumstances should you allow your child to spot an extensive playground with a range of intricate climbing frames. If you do, your trip to the museum will be finished before it has even started. If you can think up a fun game that involves blindfolds or closing your eyes for long periods of time, now is the time to go for it. If you succeed in actually getting your child to the museum after spotting such a distraction, rest assured, his heart will remain at that playground and he will be sure to let you know it.
  1. Don’t go to museums that are expensive. You will not be staying there very long. An hour is realistic and that’s taking into account stopping for a drink. An hour and a half is ambitious.
  1. If there is anything you particularly want to see, forget it. The agenda will not be in your control. If you have a particular interest in the museum you are planning on going to, get a babysitter.
  1. Take a large bag full of snacks. In the hour we were at the Technical Museum, Noah consumed a Goodies oat bar, two Humzingers, cheese dippers, a Babybell, a quarter of a ham sandwich, some carrot sticks and a chunk of watermelon.
  1. You need to accept that there will be three stages that your child’s mind will pass through: enthusiasm (when you tell him you are going to a museum in an excited tone and wave the bait under his nose), reluctance (when he realises it means leaving the cars he has lined up in military fashion along his bedroom rug), rejection (pretty much the moment you step into the museum).
  1. Your child is unlikely to learn anything. Museums are cultural. Museums have amazing things inside them. Museums are educational. Not for 3 year olds.
What's this all about?
What’s this all about?
  1. Remember, all your child really wants to be doing is either:
    1. Watching Youtube
    2. Watching television
    3. In a playground

Have some sympathy for him.

  1. You will need more bait to get him home, especially if you are travelling by public transport. You got him all the way there, you got him to be semi-engaged for an hour, he will want to leave, but he will not want to walk anywhere. Noah was promised a cake. My husband took him into the bakery to choose any one he wanted. I gave the bakery a wide berth as I am doing the 21 Day Fix and have not been fixed yet (in other words, I am on a diet). Noah chose a cake with layers of thin pastry and fresh cream between each layer. If you are letting your 3 year old choose a cake, it is advisable to supervise them yourself. Noah doesn’t eat cream. Doesn’t my husband know that? How many times has he heard me order an ice cream for Noah in a restaurant, expressly asking for no cream? How many times has he seen me spooning the cream off the top of Noah’s ice cream, muttering the whole time about how I’d asked for NO CREAM? He ended up sharing his cake with Noah…

Sorry for the outburst. My husband is a wonderful father who usually has a good understanding of Noah’s likes and   dislikes. I just really wanted a cake too!

  1. This hour in the museum will exhaust you. By the time you get in, you will need a glass of wine. If you are on a diet, you will settle for a cup of tea. It would be nice if you could put your feet up for a while, maybe read a book or have a little snooze. But no. A small and adorable little person is asking you politely if you will play hide and seek with him.

Ok, my Noah, you hide and when I’ve counted to a hundred, I’ll come and find you.

Who doesn't love a see-saw? I do!
Who doesn’t love a see-saw? I do!
You Baby Me Mummy

My Noah and Me

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