Pretty problems

Being a mum is bad for our looks, moans Louise Emma Clarke


After spending the summer in cooler climes, I arrived back in Dubai recently and started to moan to the husband about this country being bad for my looks. Skin that is constantly shiny from the effort of carting two children around in the heat, hair that is always lank due to the desalinated water being incapable of washing the shampoo out, and never-ending temptation on the food front that quickly shrinks my clothes when I am back in town. After grumbling for a while, it led me to think about how motherhood has had the same effect on my looks and body image – and my findings weren’t pretty…

Take today, for example, when the seven month old was sick down the front of my new black dress. In the days before kids, this would’ve been a downright disaster. Today, however, I calmly grabbed a pack of baby wipes from the side and did my best at cleaning up the damage, before giving up pretty quickly and forgetting about it for the rest of the day. When the husband got home, he eyed me up and down suspiciously, but thankfully knew better than to comment.

What he doesn’t know is that this was just the start of it. In one 24-hour period, I have had to scrape baby puree from under my nail, clear up the damage from a potty training accident, wipe mascara from under my eyes from when the toddler slipped down the steps of the pool and I had to dive sideways to catch him, and washed away a green bogey that he then decided to hand me when the chlorine inevitably washed out his sinuses. And every mother reading this will know that I didn’t flinch through any of it.

Then there’s the beauty routine. Oh how I gaze lovingly at the bottle of fake tan that I once had time to apply! People laugh at my pale hue and cackle ‘you’d never guess you lived in Dubai!’ If they saw the envious looks I shoot to ladies laying on loungers by the pool on their own, they’d guess pretty quickly that I have kids though.

To be honest, I’m surprised the husband still recognises me. Funnily enough, the toddler didn’t when I showed him a picture of our wedding day recently, which did wonders for the self-esteem.

I don’t beat myself up over the fact that my body will never be the same again, as I have two beautiful boys to show for it – but the constant takeaway menus under the door, invites to brunch, and ice-cream trips with the kids certainly don’t help me fit into my pre-baby skinny jeans (I tried them on recently and couldn’t get them past my knees).

In an effort to reverse this, I decided to work out at home with online videos once the kids were tucked up in bed for the night. I found an old pair of leggings in the drawer (so old the Lycra had become see-through, which must’ve made a pretty sight for the husband as he grilled chicken and threw together a salad in the kitchen for our dinner) and dug out my trainers (which felt funny after nearly three years in flip-flops and sandals). I dread to think what the people downstairs thought was happening as the floorboards shook, but I did keep it up for a while, despite the fact I could barely walk for a week as my muscles tightened in revolt. This was especially difficult that first weekend when I donned four-inch heels and limped off to brunch with my friends. Can you see a pattern emerging here?

Still on the case of regaining my lost looks, I spent hours online one lunchtime when the boys were napping to find the perfect new style and colour for my hair. I then took a taxi to the other side of Dubai that weekend to a recommended salon for a much-needed afternoon on my own. I was thrilled with the results and wore the blow-dry with pride for a few days, before realising one side of my new ‘do felt suspiciously sticky and smelt of fish cake. A few painful tugs later as I wore the baby in his carrier at the supermarket that made me shriek loudly in the household cleaning section and my hair was back in a ponytail. So that was worth it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame Dubai for any of this. I don’t blame the kids either. But it would be nice to throw on those skinny jeans again and see the husband look me up and down without being able to identify the kids’ dinners. Is that too much to ask?

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