The changing face of romance with two kids

Over the weekend I decided to have some of girlfriends over – I don’t do this anywhere near as often as I should or would like to. To be honest, I am so elusive at a number of events or get together that I am certain a number of people have wondered about the “real-ness” of Farah’s existence! This is for a few reasons: being married into a half Greek, half Italian family means that there are is fair amount of events to go to as it is involving family. In addition I have a “high needs” parent means that a LOT of time is being taken up with my mum; not to mention that there the other usual ‘dance around the mulberry bush’ situations like sick children, teething toddler, being sick myself after all the kids have been sick and hubby also being struck down… you catch the drift.

Anyway – I tell hubby that I am having the girls over and this is what transpires;

Hubby: his Saturday? I have footy to go to…

Me: um – ok… they’re coming for dinner…

Hubby: oh ok – what are you going to make?

Me: I hadn’t really thought about it but I have a hankering for sticky date pudding so I will be making that for dessert. Why?

Hubby: I wanted to make a lasagne – how about I make a big baking tray full and you can serve that up to your friends and not have to cook

*seriously, at this point I am STARING with amazement about how BRILLIANT my husband is*

But then it gets even better on the day:

Hubby: are you going out this morning?

Me: why?

Hubby: I am wondering if you could take me to mum and dad’s so that I can go to footy with dad as my car is there.

Me: yeah – I can do that; but I still need to get a couple bits and pieces this morning from the shops…

Hubby: ok – did you want to take the kids with you and I’ll do a quick vacuum for when the girls come around?

Honestly – how ROMANTIC is my husband?

*Just as an FYI, I have added a sneaky pic that one of my girlfriends took of the dinner – the lasagne was AMAZING! The man makes his own sauce – from scratch… that he has cooking on the stove for a good portion of the day (the day prior)

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I am Australian, a mum & I’m scared

I go to work 3 days a week – I work for a federal government department here in Perth WA. I have 2 kids who I adore – a near 2-year-old and a 3-year-old who starts kindy next year. We go to that park, we do our shopping at Aldi, Coles and Woolies. Amira likes to have a babycino when we go out to a café and loves bubble tea. They share sushi together. She loves Disney princesses and he likes Blues Clues. We all love shoes. My husband works for the defence force; he likes to cook and loves his new car he picked up a few weeks ago.

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But through all this normalcy – all the ‘stuff’ that I do; that you probably do also, there is an underlying quiver of real fear that clouds my days.

Because I am a Muslim.

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I am an Australian Muslim with an Arabic background on my mum’s side and a Caucasian Australian on my dad’s side – my kids are Muslim. My husband came from a Greek and Italian background. We do Ramadan and celebrate Eid after, I go to my in-laws house for Christmas and Easter and wish them a merry Christmas as they wish us “Eid Mubarak”. I was born here, went to school here and graduated with honors. And now I live in fear of the country I live in, the people around me and what they will do or think about my children.

When I was little I remember talking about the fact that I was Muslim to my neighbours when I was explaining something like why I didn’t eat pork sausages and then when I got older still it was mentioning in passing that I was fasting that day and wouldn’t be having lunch. All this time we were all; myself, my mum and the other Muslim families I knew were just living our lives…

Then September 11 happened…

Then it changed from people asking about my faith or me mentioning it as a quick “fyi” to this sense of me having to justify my faith; havng to explain it and then defend it… having to then, by association defend myself and ‘prove’ my “Australian-ness”. But by that point I was a university student so I understood my faith and myself enough to be able to explain: I AM NOT WITH THEM – THOSE IDIOTS; THEY DO NOT REPRESENT MY RELIGION OR WHO I AM.

The fact that we, the regular ‘just living our regular life’ Muslims, we dispise them more than you.

But now I’m married and have 2 children and I look at them and the situation with Pauline Hanson and her views on Muslims and (Donald) Trumps views of Muslim and I worry for them.

That my near 4-year-old will have to justify her religion and her cultural background – that my near 2-year-old boy might be negatively labelled because he’s going to grow to be an Australian Muslim man. that even before they were born we had to think about names that would help them to ‘fit’ into a world that would alienate them because of their background.

That no matter how Australian they might be they might forever never really be ‘included’.

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And then I think of my mum – the definition of an “Aussie battler” trying to rise a child as a single parent after experiecing domesic violence and then a messy divorce and living in a country where English is her third language and working two jobs so she could send me to private school and teaching me that education was key. I think about how she brings eid cakes and cookies for her neighbors (who aren’t Muslim) and writes them christmas cards at that time of the year, because she taught me that real Islam is about loving your neighbor and being a good person. I worry for her because she does speak with an accent, does wear a head scarf (hijab) and is so obviously Muslim – but she’s elderly; what is she going to face as she faces the current situation of Australia?

I am saddened by the way things are headed – the “realness” of people’s hate for a common enemy: that we are ALL AGAINST ISIS. I am amazed that people think that we, the Muslim community need to CONTINUALLY denounce ISIS – seriously? Should I introduce myself that way? Should I start each morning that way? “Good morning – I am an Australian Muslim and denounce ISIS – can I get a large skinny latte with 1 sugar please?” if that’s the case, should the reply be: “morning! I’m an Australian Caucasian and I apologise to the indigenous Australians for the stolen generation – that will be $4.50 for the coffee”

I just don’t know anymore. I don’t even know if I am sad or disheartened by it all. I look to my children sitting there playing at their table as they have Playschool on in the background and wonder what will become of us all and feel totally despondent that this country that I was born in, the country that I was raised in and longed for when I spent 3 months in Europe (a one point i cried upon hearing & seeing the Qantas ad that had those choir kids singing “I still call Australia home” – i still well up if i hear it whilst abroad) and a time in Indonesia now has made me feel unwanted. That even though I and my children might look like everyone else and sound like everyone we are on the outside.

But this is my home. OUR home.

Isn’t THIS where I belong?

And so I have to ask myself what I fear almost every Muslim has asked themselves at some point or other in the last year or so: If things got SO bad that I; we would be told to go – WHERE do I go? Where do we belong?

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Pick yourself up and just keep going

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When I was little I use to do dance classes – at the end of every year there would be this massive Christmas concert where we’d spend ages practicing choreography. Then I’d go home and my mum would make me do it again… EVERY… SINGLE… DAY!

Later on in school when I mum worked out that I was having issues with maths – especially division and then algebra, mum would make sure I did my homework and then give me EXTRA equations to work out in addition to what school set out for me.

I HATED it.

I LOATHED the extra work.

Time and time again my mum would say that one day I would thank her; that when I made it into university and was later working a decent job I would appreciate the work she MADE me put in. On the other hand, if I continued to argue about how “no one else has to do it” she would eventually have enough and tell me that anything worth something takes effort.

Years later and I did make it to uni with rather decent grades, years after that I met someone and we had many an obstacle to overcome but I realised that my mum’s practice of making me do things; of getting me to “suck it up and keep going” befitted me in more ways than making me proficient at dance chorography, division and algebra.

I find that I approach parenting in much the same way:

Cleaning up a gazillion times and then having hubby come home and ask “can we clean up the book area? It looks a bit messy” and I think “suck it up and keep going!”

The mania that ensues every night on my work days when we pick kids up from day-care and then have to get both children bathed, clothed and fed and then organise the next day whilst trying to find time to spend with them individually and then put them to bed and find time with hubby – “Pick yourself up, just keep going!”

The times I am at the shops and one child is crying because her little pulled her hair and then he starts wailing because she’s crying – “pick yourself up, & put the coffee in the trolley and just keep going – let’s get some choccies for mummy too”

Life isn’t meant to be easy – that there will be moments, days and sometimes weeks or months where I will wonder WHY?? Where I’ll internally scream and outwardly just take a deep breath… but then there are the other moments where Rocco will stroke my face and smile up at me every night as I put him to bed. Those moments when I’ll hear the patter of Amira’s feet as she feels her way to our room and gets into bed with me and snuggles up close and says she loves me.

Parenting is hard. But its amazing.

I think so many of us, when things are “challenging” start focussing on them, then think about the other hard stuff and then the next thing we know we’ve snowballed and suddenly this is all too hard, we quiver and forget that we need to try to find the joy that comes from the mania. See the little things – like instead of focussing on how Rocco is crying about his shoe coming off and that he can’t put it on himself, look to see how his sister has stopped playing and come on over and is trying so patiently so get a wriggly little boy to sit still whilst she TRIES to put on his shoe. It doesn’t matter that she’s not been able to do it, and that now I have less time to get the grocery shopping done – in that moment she showed her love for him, she showed compassion and care and empathy.

That if we stop for a minute; stop berating either ourselves/the universe/our parents/our children/our income (or lack thereof)/our partner (or lack thereof) and take each situation as a moment we might be able to get through it a little better – that we’re one more equation away to understanding the algebra of life.

So for all the times things get too much – I’ll just “pick myself up and keep going”

Because its like that other saying: “this too shall pass”

And if it takes too long or things get a little too hard to handle there is always cake.

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When two could be THREE?

Sometimes, this rare occasion occurs where I manage to actually think that perhaps I have managed to find SOME balance in juggling the life of motherhood with two small humans (now aged 3.5 and 1.5 years) and working woman + running a household and keeping a hubby happy PLUS finding my feet with a mum who is being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…

All this and I hubby will still ask me “what’s for dessert tonight?”

So just as I am thinking that “I got this!” and I am silently high-fiving myself and thanking God for my little angels (lil girl & boy) hubby decides to throw a spanner in the works:

“Hon – you know, I think we should have another baby”

Me: *look on face is (strangely) not shocked – I have managed to pull off a poker face in this instance*

BUT on the inside I am thinking: WHAT THE HELL? ARE YOU CRAZY????

On the outside I am the epitome of calm – I got this – I’ve got the lists, the night-time schedules and plan everything in advance. Underneath I am that crazy paddling duck, ferociously trying to keep above water as I keep us ALL above water!

He continues on by saying that he thinks I am doing a brilliant job with the current two kiddies (thank you) and that really he feels we could handle another one!

OH MY GOD! Does he not realise that this is one more child we need to send to day care when I have to go back to work?

That I can only stay up so long after the kids are asleep to arrange their bags for tomorrow, iron and fold laundry, plan the next day’s meals, wash and colour my hair – because let’s face it: going to the hairdresser is a luxury – dying my roots is a necessity and hence a box dye job is more than sufficient (my theory is you can’t really f%&k up

But with this statement I got to thinking about how poorly divided our tasks are a mother/father unit. I have begun to seriously think about the disparity of tasks when I hear women who have partners that work away (on rosters) will complain that they are “just like a single mother”

I should first put out there: my husband is a fantastic help. He certainly does TRY to get involved. He loves to cook and enjoys to help out where he can… but let’s call a spade a spade here:

When we run out of milk, meat or any household item, 99.99% of the time it is ME that must replace it (and hence why I have created the “box of spares” but I’ll explain that another time)

When the kids want to play outside or rough play, then it’s him they run to… BUT when said play results in tears or a disagreement or dad has had enough it is ME that has to get involved… no matter what else I am doing.

When I am in the shower or toilet there are usually 2 other sets of eyes on me. When he goes to the toilet he can shut the door and have “space”

When the kids go to sleep he gets to pour himself a drink, put his feet up and flip the channel onto Sports… I make another bottle for the late night/just before bed feed, pack the bags for both children for the next day and organise their snacks. I then arrange their outfits for the following day so that when he dresses them he doesn’t have to pick out anything (because let’s face it, he still doesn’t understand why there are ‘day-care clothes’ and regular clothes).

And that’s just to name a few – I am not even getting into what each of their favourite snacks are, what Amira (miss 3.5) really means when she says “remember how yesterday I went see the princesses with Yaya and yesterday before that I went with mummy?” or that I take then to their doctors’ appointments and remember how many ml’s of Neurofen each of them are allowed to have or how many nappies are packed in the day care bag… or that I have already started to think about and put aside money and s

I remember reading a story a while ago about the “default parent” – that is me… and in most cases it is the mother that is the “one responsible for the emotional, physical and logistical needs of the children” … So forgive me for internally rolling my eyes when he makes a comment about how “we” can handle another child.

This time last year….

This time last year I was getting ready to have a baby.

HOW on EARTH did that year fly past?

This time last year I re-packed my bags and rechecked my stocked fridge and freezer and took my little missy out for the last time as a proper dynamic duo. I sat with her and talked to her again for what seemed like the hundredth time about how mummy was having the baby tomorrow and from tomorrow she’d have a real life brother to do things with together. At that moment I remember seeing both the excitement and trepidation in her eyes as I knew she didn’t quite understand what was happening. I knew though that she did understand that something was changing as she did that thing she does when she’s anxious, nervous or scared about a situation and brings a hand up to her neck and will pinch it until she calms down. Every time she’d come into our room (where we’d already set up her old bassinet) she’s point and say “that belonged to Amira – for baby now.” I’d hold her close and tell her that she was my angel and I loved her and her brother more than anything.

Well – the procrastinator in me didn’t even get a chance to post that (above) yesterday. Instead here I am on the 11th of November sitting away at work. This time last year I was sitting/laying in a hospital bed being induced. This time last year I was thought to myself “oh God, here we go again!” as I rode wave after wave of contraction and realised that I much, MUCH preferred to have had labour brought on naturally than to be induced – you live and learn though don’t you?

I remember wondering what this baby would be like; a boy – something I had no idea how to raise. Not to say that when I was having Amira that I knew how to raise her, but her being a girl and me being a girl, I felt somewhat more prepared and “capable”. Being an only child and being raised by a single mum meant I was more than apt to address all things girly… but not so much where it came to boys and their boys bits.

A year later and I now REALLY know what colic is about – the first 6 weeks and his constant crying compared to the now toddler I see every day is so different. You, my dearest Rocco are this smiley, loving child who hugs back and laughs and is playful and keen to explore. Already I can see that you’re definitely a “boy” boy – this hatred you have to be cleaned where your sister was the exact opposite and to this day despises dirt and asks to clean her hands, face etc. Already I see you pulling thigs apart so indelicately and your need to climb is far, far greater than Amira’s ever was. And then lastly but most importantly there is smell you have – this unmistaken smell that I assume is what comes with having a boy. It’s not a bad smell… just something I have noticed that Amira never had after that newborn smell wore off. There is this unmistakeable smell that I know is you… and I love it.

I could go on and on… but let’s not. Happy first birthday my darling boy.

Baby number 2: Dear Rocco

How is it that (nearly) ten months have passed? Where did that time go? How is it that you’re turning 1 so soon and your sister is going to be 3? It seems like only yesterday I was staring at you in your hospital crib worried about what was to come – scared about how things would be between us all whilst at the same time in awe of what was happening: I was now a mum of TWO! I remember wondering how Amira would be with you now; hopeful that she’d take this new role now that you’d entered our lives as a real, breathing and needing human rather than just this big belly protrusion.

I remember enjoying the silence; of the fact that because you were the second one, you and I were actually able to enjoy some one on one time before everyone else arrived. I remember eating breakfast whilst holding you that first morning just staring at you with pure wonderment and being amazed that I was a mum again… to a boy this time! I hoped that I would be able to give you the attention you deserved but still give Amira the attention she’d been receiving; I remember being so scared that you might miss out on the time and affection I gave to missy when she was a newborn that I might not have with you.

And when Amira very cautiously entered our hospital room and didn’t want to touch you as the rest of the family stared at you with love I remember being so excited to see my little angel, I walked with her down the hall and told her that I’d missed her and that Rocco was so excited to spend time her. I remember telling her that mummy loved her so much and that she would always be the person who turned me into a mummy and that my heart belonged to both of you. In the weeks to come I remember the challenges of you crying almost all the time when you weren’t sleeping or eating. Crying so never-endingly that Amira would say “put Rocco down and please play with me mummy” or “Rocco noisy”. Trying to explain to a 2 year old that her little brother had colic and that it wasn’t his fault and that I was so sorry I couldn’t put him down because he needed me. I remember how it broke my heart; it broke for you dear Rocco because all I wanted was for you to be ok; to stop being so red in the face and to be ok and know and understand that I loved you so very much. My heart hurt because I hated myself for not being able to play more with Amira when she asked; for wanting to cry even more than I did which was almost each and every day because this parenting caper with 2 under 2 seemed so hard mentally, physically and emotionally. I remember crying in the dark as I held you, crying as I’d lay with Amira and put her sleep and crying in the shower because this was HARD on levels that I couldn’t even begin to explain to your dad. Crying because I expected more of myself.

But things did get easier – Over the weeks I found my footing and the colic dwindled and then a new set of challenges came (as is the way with parenting): you my darling Rocco did not want to take a bottle, then didn’t want formula to not taking a bottle from anyone except me. You tested me and challenged in in a way that your sister never, ever did. With her, from the very beginning I felt this knowingness – like she was (and so far) so much a mini me that there comes this sense of innate understanding. But then there were other times; even during your colic, when I’d try and coincide your naps with Amira and I’d have us in bed all together; and as I’d lay there with one of you on either side of me I look at both your faces and felt my insides explode with such joy and happiness I knew that this was what I was created for; that nothing else prior to being the mum to both of you mattered. I’d take in your smells and how you’d both curl into me and how Amira’s little arm would be hugging me but she’d have her hand on your chest. I remember desperately hoping that I would never ever forget this feeling, taking a mental snapshot of us all; thanking God for this glorious gift.

With you dear Rocco, from the very first time your dad and I lay eyes on you; you seemed like this old soul – you’d look at me with such love and adoration and be so beyond excited to see me. Where Amira made us worked for smiles you throw them out at us; you included daddy in more things than Amira ever did at this stage and for that I am beyond grateful and you absolutely love and adore your big sister. Each morning I am amazed at how excited both of you are to see one another; it is the MOST heart-warming feeling to know that you both share this bond. I hope and pray that it never changes; that it is always this pure, honest and uncompetitive. I love knowing that when no one except mummy can console you there is actually only one other person who CAN: Amira… my little mini me.

The last four kilos

They say that the first step to change or acceptance is admitting you have a problem – so here it is:

I have a CRAZY sweet tooth

I also LOVE to bake

One would think that these 2 things coupled together would make for a beautiful marriage; and yet in a way it has. But at its core all is does is exacerbate the issue. This love of baking and sweet tooth has, in some ways served me well – it means I am usually the one to bring desert when invited to dinner, it means that it is usually assumed that I will be making cake (or something of the equivalent) for family gatherings and that when I go out with Amira (lil miss 2.5yr old) and she’s a cake or picture of something sweet she will look to me and say “mummy make this one for me?” where other children would probably ask “mummy buy this one for me”.

The flipside of this union is that it means the last four-ish kilos I desperately yearn to lose (so that I return to post pregnancy weight) allude me. It means that whilst I may have steamed veg for lunch (my lunch today) that I am resigned to the notion that I will probably give in to having some of that butterscotch self-saucing pudding that I have left over in the fridge. It means that in my mind, I can hear my tummy laughing at me and mocking me “haha – we’re here to stay! You’ll not get rid of us unwanted kilos now – we are now permanent residents; citizens of the belly domain!” and that when I walk into a store these days and they have started to stock their swimwear for the upcoming summer season (it’s still winter here in Australia) they too laugh at me saying “ooohh – remember us? You used to be able to wear us – you’re DREAMING now! Walk on muffin top!”

Hmm – am I sounding a lil crazy?

And yet the quest continues