x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

I’ve settled back into my habit of keeping a novel always at hand, considering how many books there are to read in this world and how behind I’ve fallen.

I’ve been asking around for recommendations on some good book in an attempt to get back into my normal state of being: reading regularly. One piece of advice that is consistent in most online parenting forums is to be selfish. Take time out for yourself and do the things that make you happy because that’s one of the best ways to be a parent – by meeting your own needs so you are not resentful of meeting the needs of a tiny being completely reliant on you. Then, of course, there’s the whole “take care of yourself so you can take care of others” mindset, which is beginning to make sense.

So I’m focusing on myself and asking the same of Mr T as we slowly learn how to get Baby A to fit into our lives, rather than become our lives and our sole reason for living. I’m taking up babysitting offers from well-meaning family members so Mr T and I can reconnect over a dinner date. I’ve signed Baby A up to a few hours of nursery school, three times a week, so I can head to the gym. And I’ve settled back into my habit of keeping a novel always at hand.

One recommendation was Gil Hornby’s release, The Hive. The much-hyped debut novel by the sister of the British novelist Nick Hornby is driven by the doings of the mothers involved in the school run at a primary school. The main mother in the story, Rachel, likes the look of a new mother: one is tall, dark, and “a study in elegance from her clean, swinging bob to her pretty ballerina pumps”. Another mum with her “expert eye” can look at the figure of any mum and “see straight through to the exercise or dietary regime behind it”.

I had assumed that I wouldn’t have to worry about the pressure of looking presentable on the school run for quite a few years. Very naive thinking.

Because I am on a mission to get healthy and fit, I drop off Baby A in my yoga pants and baggy T-shirt – the one with the hole in the armpit and the loose fit that camouflages the bulges. My trainers are old, scuffed and unfashionable. My hair is, for want of a better word, disgraceful.

In September, (better known as back-to-school month), the results of a survey looking at what a mother’s average morning is like were released. The survey questioned 2,000 mothers and found that on average, they have 26 tasks to remember every morning. Eight in 10 admitted to the difficulty of remembering everything they needed to get done daily – to-do lists included coordinating the school run, organising snacks and meal times and brushing a child’s teeth. There was no mention of getting fashionably decked out to drop the kid off at school.

By the time I pick Baby A up, I have managed to look even worse: I am drenched in sweat, having come straight from the gym. I am a most unbecoming shade of red and sometimes I’m actually panting. Out loud.

I wouldn’t think twice about my appearance if it weren’t for the extreme contrast between myself and the other mums. Granted, most of them seem to be heading off to the office after the school run, so tailored pants, designer handbags and clicking heels are to be expected.

But boy, you wouldn’t believe how obsessed I am with acquiring some lululemon workout clothes paired with trendy, neon trainers and maybe a coordinating cap to cover up that hair situation.

Hala Khalaf is a freelance writer living in Abu Dhabi