Monthly Archives: October 2013

“All children are ours”

This is what people say in Poland when they want to express how beloved children are, as if they are some precious collective wealth that we all share. During the many hours I spend in Warsaw public transport, it often occurs to me that people actually do feel some sense of ownership of children in the public sphere. They feel entitled to grope their toes and claim they are cold, or note the shielding blanket hanging over the pram (specifically put there to keep leering old ladies away from a baby who might actually be going to fall asleep if left in peace) and stage whisper, “That child is going to suffocate!” (this happened to Marcin, not me). When they cry, there is a wave of speculation as to the reasons.

Janek’s eczema attracts a magnified amount of this attention. Everybody has their theory on why it is there at all, and their more or less outlandish advice on how to eliminate it. We should smear him with this or that wonder cream, wash his clothes in this or that magic detergent, put him on a diet of pumpkin and rice. We should bathe him in starch, in linseeds, in this particular emollient. We should keep him in a sack of potato flour. And so forth.

Sometimes I enjoy the attention. I find my children beautiful and feel a silly sense of pride when people confirm it’s so (though of course nobody is ever going to approach me and say, what a hideous pair ).  Sometimes I feel hounded and accused- do they think that we haven’t tried every scabbiness-eliminating trick that anyone has suggested? (we have, except the potato flour). Sometimes I just want to read my book and not answer the same questions two thousand times.

One thing is for sure- my days of unobtrusiveness are over, as long as I am parading with them. Because although I have twins every day and the novelty has somewhat worn off (though I still do have moments where I look at them and think, WHAT THE FUCK ), they attract double the garrulous attention that a single baby gets, and that is already quite a lot. I am learning to resign myself to all this public possessiveness, because unless I get myself a car, this is going to be my lot.


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Filed under around Poland, childhood, migrant life, observations on Polish society, twins


Recently I realised that at last, after 10 months of motherhood, I no longer feel a complete sense of alienation from my previous life. From the moment of birth, a subconscious  certainty has prevailed, an unacknowledged conviction that everything which had been important to me or possible for me up until the moment of having children was now irrelevant forever. I long ago resumed a lot of my pre-pregnancy activities, so I don’t think that has much to do with it. What I think is that becoming a parent, in my case at least, caused me to fall  into a state of deep shock which is only now starting to recede.

This shock-state has been marked primarily by a complete lack of perspective; I have felt not only completely cut off from my own past, but also entirely incapable of imagining the future. I still feel  this on bad days; a flinching away from the knowledge that this exhausting business, which I’m pretty sure I can’t stand for another minute, is actually going to go on until I die. At this point, with a little lurch of horror, I abandon this line of speculation and tell myself that tomorrow will be better.

But what seems to be happening is that slowly, this discrete, frightening  period of early motherhood  is starting to merge in my mind into the rest of my existence, to become just another part of my history, instead of a lurid technicolour experiment in Being Present (which, by the way, is not all it’s cracked up to be.) I’m glad that the narrative of my life is healing up like this, and wonder if other people go through this sort of period of severance on becoming parents.

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Filed under dealing with adversity, family, motherhood, post pregnancy, twins


Sunday morning. Two grumpy babies have just gone down for their nap, and nobody knows how long it might last. I am obliging myself to write something  but there is just too much choice. And it occurs to me that for the first time in my life, I really do not have enough time.

There is a list of at least 15 things to do in this precious period of silence, which I can no longer rely on the last for more that 30 minutes. I have to take care of my living space, my body, my intellectual life, my work, my friendships. The margin for not feeling like it is now nonexistent. I can’t rely on waiting until I feel more inspired or physically strong. There is just not enough time to do everything I want and need to do. It’s a terrifying feeling- I can’t afford to make any mistakes, to miscalculate my timetable for a second. I can’t always afford to prepare for work as well as I would like to. I have to count it as a triumph that I just turn up, even if I have been awake since 2 am and have been shat on by a pigeon.

This hollow-eyed state of constantly being on the brink of emergency forces me to accept that I will not always be able do do things as beautifully as I would like. This is how it’s going to look- my children will not be getting organic quinoa with a side of life-giving algae to eat, and my students will not be getting a perfect lesson plan which I have worked on for 3 hours. Time to start feeling liberated instead of hounded by this truth.


Filed under motherhood, time management, twins

10 things at 10 months


I stole this idea from blue milk, who periodically writes a list of 10 cute things and 10 less cute things about her kids. I love reading hers and hope I am not breaching copyright too blatantly by doing my own.

10 (more charming) things about Janek, 10 months

  1. Your giggle. When you see something you like or which interests you, you let out this little snicker of pleasure.

  2. The way you like to put things in other people’s mouths. It makes you laugh.

  3. Watching you eat, like a greedy toothless little old man. You often try and stuff something into your already-occupied mouth. You seem to be utterly indiscriminate.

  4. The way you shake your head from side to side. When you try and nod, your whole body moves up and down- it seems the nod is harder to master. You do it when you hear music.

  5. The silly tongue wobble that my mum taught you has really stuck, and you do it sometimes in the small hours, just for the fun of it.

  6. The way you stare at people in the bus and try to get them to notice you.

  7. The way you crawl, thumping your hands down and panting with excitement.

  8. Your little white teeth- they change your face completely

  9. You can stand up for a second on your own- this defiance of gravity amazes and delights me.

  10. You have got your pincer grip. I love watching you pick things up with it.

10 (less charming)things about Janek, 10 months

  1. you are teething, and waking at night, and refusing to nap in the mornings which I have always relied on.

  2. Screaming when you don’t get what you want. It splits my ears.

  3. I am worried about your eczema, which is often very bad, despite all the smearing and medicine we give you.

  4. I am terribly afraid that your penchant for finding dangerous objects and putting them in your mouth will lead to tragedy. I have already fished a piece of glass out of your clenched jaw, and Marcin’s mother a 5 grosz piece.

  5. Your poo. It’s like cleaning up grown up shit, now that you are stuffing yourself with solids.

  6. The way you use your sister to help you stand up, which pisses her off mightily.

  7. Your tendency to get quickly attached to long objects that make you gag (the toothbrush, the syringe for administering Nurofen), and then scream bloody murder when we take them away.

  8. The way you always wake up screaming your head off from a nap.

  9. You like to shit in your high chair. I am not amused by this.
  10. The way you launch yourself from high places with nary a thought for the consequences

10 charming things about Maja, 10 months

  1. Your smile, with your two bottom teeth poking up. Adorable.

  2. The way you like to fall asleep cuddled up to one or the other, with your downy little head tucked into an armpit.

  3. Your soft, beautiful skin.

  4. The way you like to put your face in the bathwater and slurp.

  5. Your undying passion for the vacuum cleaner (when it’s turned off).

  6. The way you wrinkle up your whole face, show your gums, and pant. You are so far from knowing how to simper it’s a joy.

  7. The look of concentration you get on your face while investigating something that interests you.

  8. The way you flap your arms with excitement.

  9. The way you smile at your brother.

  10. Your sleep pout.

10 (less charming) things about Maja, 10 months

  1. You still vomit when I try to give you formula. I am tired of the milking machine, and my life would improve so much if you could tolerate it.

  2. You wake at night and need someone to soothe you back to sleep. This is making me haggard and crazy, especially because Jasiek also wakes at night.

  3. You are going through a stranger danger phase. This is hard on your poor parents who can’t hand you off to other people as much as they would like.

  4. I wish you were a bit more interested in solid food. You get fed up after 5 or 10 minutes in your high chair. We are going to Australia soon and I am hoping for you to be drinking less milk by then.

  5. The way you writhe when having your nappy or clothes changed. It would be so much easier on everyone if you just cooperated.

  6. The way you love eating paper, and pulling books out of bookshelves to dismember them and shove the pages in your mouth.

  7. The way you refuse to eat your evening bottle until you’re half dead from exhaustion.

  8. Your clinginess. You claw at my ankles and whine whenever you get tired or upset, and howl when I don’t pick you up. I feel terrorised.

  9. The way you beat your fists in a tantrum when you want out of your high chair.
  10. The way you crawl into small spaces and can’t get out again.


Filed under family, motherhood, twins


Here is a story I am telling myself lately to make drudgery more bearable and help me to tolerate that  horrible Sisyphean sense of cleaning constantly and still living in squalor. It’s this: there is some sort of beauty and dignity in keeping your floor visible and your dishes clean. So there.


Filed under feminism, motherhood