9 Things My 9-Month Old Has Taught Me

Random assortment of baby essentials

Random assortment of baby essentials

It doesn’t matter what anybody says, nothing prepares you for how much a baby changes everything. A cute little bundle lands in the middle of your life, throws everything up in the air and it all settles back around you just a little differently.

I do not profess to be any kind of expert in parenting, in fact I don’t think anybody truly is, even the people who write books about it. My biggest observation after many months of spending time with other new parents is that we are all totally making it up as we go along. But, in my first 9 months of parenthood there are some things I have picked up along the way that I think will resonate with others riding the same rollercoaster ride.

Here are 9 things I have learned:

1. I’m not an Earth Mother and that’s ok

When pregnant, it is easy to make plans and decide how things are going to be. For most people there is a very abrupt and rude awakening, generally during the process of giving birth (which never goes to plan as far as I can establish) or very soon afterwards. One of my rude awakenings was that I am not going to be the ethereal Earth Mother I envisaged. Extended breastfeeding, organic only food, no pouches or jar food, all natural body products, no TV or iPad screen time, lovely wooden toys and no brightly coloured plastic littering the home…..epic fail on ALL counts. In fact, I’ll rephrase that, not a fail but just not how we ended up choosing to do things when in full possession of all the facts about how our new life would actually be. After several months of beating myself around the head with a big guilt-stick I’ve come to realise that really, it’s all fine. If you are one of those mothers who smells of sunshine, skips through fields with the wind in your hair and doesn’t own a TV, that’s fine too. We are all just doing our best.

2. This too shall pass

Those mornings when after a total of one hour of broken sleep you wonder how you will ever survive the day…you will. I can’t tell you how, but you just plough on, dragging your eye bags along with you. It gets better, it really does. A good supply of cake and chocolate helps.

3. A nappy explosion can be a beautiful thing

….especially when you’ve waited several days for it! Oh the relief. Who’d have thought?

Seriously, if it means no longer watching your little one in pain and discomfort, that stinky episode is the best thing ever. For a little while, anyway.

4. It is impossible to keep all the germs away

Whilst I still inwardly cringe each time Little O chews a random toy at soft play, I know it’s impossible to make sure everything that touches her mouth is clean. At some point I have to accept that day to day germs will reach her little body. A lot of time is spent cleaning and sterilising baby equipment at home, only for her to head straight for the grubbiest looking toy in the communal playroom as soon as we venture out. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to stop this happening but unfortunately I’m not Inspector Gadget and I just don’t have long enough arms or superhero powers. I’m sure little O passes on just as many germs when she indiscriminately slobbers on any chewable surface she can find. So for now I’ll stay friends with the hand sanitizer and Dettol wipes but not stress too much when, like today, a fellow baby sneezes in her face.

5. Second hand is cool

Wooden activity cubeI’ve already blogged about this but it really is true that not every toy or item of clothing needs to be brand new. Fabulous bargains can be found on buying and selling sites, in many cases babies get bored of toys quickly which means they are lightly used. All the more reason not to spend a fortune. Before Little O came along I never thought I’d spend so much time hunting a bargain but now I’m a regular buyer of whatever nearly new toy becomes the next big thing.

6. An iPad is the best thing since sliced bread

I was always a person who would pull on my massive judgey pants when I saw parents using iPads to occupy their children. However, I have to admit to succumbing to this, on occasion. It’s a matter of survival. The iPad, with downloaded cartoons and other child friendly delights, has prevented or dampened down many a force 10 meltdown. In particular, the iPad has helped with long haul plane travel, distraction during minor medical procedures and middle of the night hysteria. I’m not saying the iPad is pulled out every time we hit any difficulty, but it certainly is an excellent addition to the parenting toolbox. Back when I was a baby I guess the equivalent would have been jangling a bunch of keys, but somehow that doesn’t work for Little O.

7. My baby has a better social life than I do

Seriously, a whole new social circle opened up the moment the blue line appeared on the pregnancy test. Little O was making friends even whilst in bump form. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed navigating the waters of all the different mum and baby groups around Abu Dhabi. The ones I’ve stuck with have people just like me who are happy for a couple of hours of chatter over some good cake, whilst the little ones happily wreak havoc in a new environment… that said, to fairly distribute the damage I do my share of hosting too. I’d be lost without my mum-mates and I’m pretty sure that Little O will soon realize that she would be lost without her baby chums, too.

8. It’s ok to want time out

imageI could spend 100% of the time gazing adoringly at Little O…or now and again I could find some little place to hide out for some ‘me time’. I choose the latter. It took a while to lose the guilt about leaving Little O for an hour or two with Mr O whilst I go off gallivanting, but I soon got over it. My current hideout of choice is the spa at one of the hotels near to my home. After a massage and a delicious herbal tea and chewy oat biscuit, I’m ready to face the world again. Whether it be yoga, spas, a trip to the supermarket on my own (luxury!) or just a quick walk along the seafront, these solo moments definitely save my sanity.

9. Live in the moment

I’m quite good at navel-gazing and getting lost in worries about the future or wasting time wondering what could have been done differently. What the last 9 months have taught me most of all is that time flies. It doesn’t feel that way when the baby is screaming at 3am, but really, it’s true.

Spend too much time lost in worrying and planning and you’ll miss those tiny wondrous moments, generally found in amongst the mundane. A random cheeky smile in the midst of a food-refusing session can catch me off guard and make it all ok. Playing peekaboo for the 50th time that day is fine because I know someday there will be a last time and I won’t even know it. Soak it up.

 

 

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Straight to the Point

One of the things I enjoy about living as an expat in Abu Dhabi is being surrounded by people from so many different countries, each with their own languages, customs and cultures. I’ve been privileged to get to know people from here in UAE and from across the globe. The cultural differences are sometimes subtle, sometimes stark, but always fascinating.

Being English, one of our stereotypical attributes is to be reserved, polite and maybe even a little dithering….think Hugh Grant in full rom-com mode. I am one of those who does indeed fall into the category of apologizing to people who bump into me in the street, thanking people walking through the door when I held it open for them, and so on. I also try to be rather careful about what I say. Over the years, particularly in my professional life, I have worked hard to develop tact and diplomacy skills that could get me into the UN.

In the midst of this cultural melting pot, I’ve learned that unlike me, some people actually shoot from the hip, get straight to the point, no messing. No dressing it up, no hesitant English-style dancing around a subject.

This is generally refreshing and makes a welcome change.

However, when the straight talking gets personal, it can still be a tad surprising to me. This is where my ever-thickening skin comes in handy. I generally take such comments in good grace and eventually see the funny side. I have a multitude of tales I could tell from my time in Abu Dhabi so far, but here for your amusement are my top 5 sharp-intake-of-breath moments:

My ‘face enhancers’…..

  1. ‘Your baby looks like a boy, you should get her ears pierced’ – from a random stranger in an elevator, when the baby was dressed in head-to-toe pink, I might add.
  2. ‘You have gained weight, you looked better before’ – I’m with you my friend, but I didn’t really need to be told.
  3. ‘Your face looks better with glasses on’- from a well meaning colleague. How does one respond to this?!
  4. ‘You look a lot better now you have lost some weight’ – not long after giving birth, from a waitress in a coffee shop I visit frequently.
  5. (Not mine but my husband’s, however it’s included as I love it) ‘You must thank your wife, you have lost weight’ – on the assumption I do all the cooking….

I’m pretty sure my thickening skin is significantly contributing to number 2 above…. but oh, how it comes in useful.

In fairness, some of these are probably true, but I maintain my baby girl does not look like a boy!

Anyway, I’m going to sign off here and head out to purchase several new pairs of glasses….

 

 

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Jim’s Kitchen Table – A Hidden Gem

If you ever needed a reason to go to Masdar City, here it is – a new Abu Dhabi eaterie called  Jim’s Kitchen Table. I visited recently along with Mr O and Little O and feel compelled to ensure that people know all about this rather lovely family-friendly place.

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The outside

It was hitting 43 degrees Celsius when we pulled up outside, so I’m glad to report there is ample parking a short stroll from the door.

After a warm greeting we were seated and a nice sturdy high chair provided for Little O. There’s a play area at one end of the cafe, with padded flooring and plenty to keep the ankle biters occupied including a massive chalkboard for scribbling on the wall and a TV showing cartoons. Little O was a bit small to enjoy it but there was a merry band of children seemingly having a great time.

The place is large and has various seating areas including a mezzanine loft area, perfect for those seeking a more peaceful experience, away from the play area.

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The menu is varied and covers meals from breakfast, lighter bites, mains and sweet treats with a range of specialty breads and lots of drink options. As a person who always checks out the desserts before anything else, I was not disappointed.

We visited at lunchtime. In celebration of losing a kilo this week I decided to forget all thoughts of slimming and just order what I fancied (the irony of this does not escape me).

I selected lamb rogan josh followed by banoffee pie. Yes, a classic combination I thought.

Lamb Rogan Josh

Lamb Rogan Josh

The rogan josh was tasty, plenty of lamb and a rich sauce with a generous sprinkling of fresh coriander. I felt it could have been a bit spicier but that’s just my taste. The rice was, well, rice. The chapati which Mr O chose as an alternative to rice was the slight downfall of the meal, being quite stiff and chewy, but overall if our empty plates were anything to go by, it was really quite nice. The generous slice of banoffee pie was delicious, although I’m glad we shared it, as even with my childlike sweet tooth I couldnt have demolished a full one.

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Banoffee yumminess

For the little ones there is a fairly extensive kid’s menu. We selected the cute sounding ‘Teddy Bear Toast’ for Little O which comprised toast spread with peanut butter served with banana, blueberries and a strawberry. Most of it ended up on the floor but this is no indication of how good the food is, every mealtime with Little O ends this way!

The cafe also has a retail section with fresh flowers, art, candles and a range of high quality food items for sale including Hawkshead relish all the way from the English Lake District.

Shelves full of tempting things....

Shelves full of tempting things….

I found our jaunt to Jim’s Kitchen Table to be a great change of scenery, in the unique surroundings of Masdar City. Very close to the airport and well-signposted from the main road, Masdar City is easy to find and has other attractions including an organic shop. It would be easy to while away a few hours here.

Try it, I think you’d be hard pressed not to like it!

*I should point out, this review is totally independent and not sponsored by Jim’s Kitchen Table*

 

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The Next Big Thing

The elusive wooden activity cube

The elusive wooden activity cube

Been there, done that....

Been there, done that….

Nobody can accuse me of not having my finger on the pulse of Abu Dhabi motherhood. I’m pretty certain of the Next Big Thing.

A celebrity parenting-advice-giver? A utopian soft play area which allows parents to enjoy cake and coffee inside its padded walls?

No. The Next Big Thing for all the cool kids is….. wait for it…. a wooden activity cube. Previously it was the Jumperoo, but that’s soooo last season.

Furthermore, the cool kids know that buying such items NEW (shock horror!) is for Rookies. Those in-the-know seek out the nearly new.

Is it just me or do the facebook selling pages have some kind of magical powers that lure us in, whispering ‘buy me gullible parent, buy me!’?

Something spooky definitely takes hold of my fingers and forces me to type ‘next please’ each time I spy an age-appropriate, clean-looking piece of baby toy heaven.

In my previous life I wasn’t known for buying second-hand but since Little O arrived, I’m all over it. It started with Jumperoogate. Everyone NEEDS one, I’m told. Little O showed a passing interest whilst observing a fellow baby bounce around in one. Cue a fervent, obsessive search for a second hand jumperoo at the best possible knockdown price. We also hunt in packs. A fellow mum-in-the-know helped get me in first on a facebook posting to claim a Jumperiffic bargain. I am forever indebted to this wonderful woman. The Jumperoo was an excellent purchase. It continues to amuse Little O and keep her safely in one place whilst I indulge in luxuries such as quickly grabbing random cold stuff from the fridge for lunch, or dashing for a quick trip to the water closet.

It’s not just an Abu Dhabi thing, believe me. Reliable sources tell me that cities far and wide are awash with mothers scouring facebook for baby tat with the diligence and dedication once reserved for our day jobs.

Somehow, the toys being scouted follow definite trends. Actually, its really quite logical that swarms of mothers with babies of similar age search for the same things at the same time. Which brings me back to the wooden activity cube. I’m now the smug owner of said item. There remains a large group of babies within a 10 mile radius being deprived of this item until such time the nearly-new supply catches up with demand. For those with one to sell, have a heart and list it quick!

In the meantime, I’m furtively eyeing up the most popular toys at mum-gatherings and polishing my crystal ball ready to predict which item will soon be all the rage. Smart trike, anyone?

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