Hannah, a mother of 3, runs a play-based home daycare in Vienna, Austria. Here she talks about minimalism, embracing her parenting choices and enjoying her children.
Motherhood in Vienna
What is it like being a mother in Vienna? Are there moms groups, support for families, etc?
I really like my city, so I have to say that Vienna is a good place to be a mom! There are playgroups, cafés especially for families, Yoga classes where you can bring your baby, lots of parks and playgrounds! We really have great museums and theaters with programs for kids, even for the smallest ones. There are good places to go when you need counseling and there are tons of opportunities for further education. So it’s really all there, you just have to know where to go.
How do you manage 3 children, specifically the interaction between siblings?
Well, that’s an interesting question and I thought a lot about it. I don’t feel like I have to manage anything really, this life with kids feels really natural to me. Being a mom for 12 years and a working mom for 5 years, I accepted that life is a beautiful chaos. And sometimes it is just plain chaos, without it being beautiful. There is always laundry and a messy bathroom, beds to be made and things to be stuffed away, there is always, always something to do.
But I chose this life and I chose to have kids. I chose to work from home and I guess I chose the chaos that comes with it. And you know what helps me on highly stressful days? To simply think about how much I love my kids and my husband and that it is for them, for us really, whatever I do and that some day, when I’m old and grey, I will say to my husband: “Do you remember when the kids were little? These were the best days of my life!”
It helps me to cope with the chaos.
The interaction between my three kids is challenging, each and every day. They love each other and it is wonderful to see their bond develop and grow every day. They learn from each other, they play beautifully and oh how much they giggle and laugh!
There are big age gaps between them (almost five years between the first two, four and a half between the boys), so they do have different needs and interests and are always in very different phases in their development. So there are lots of fights and tears as well as frustration and that is not always easy for me. But I know this is perfectly normal and I usually try to let them solve their conflicts on their own.
What I do with my kids, and I think this isn’t quite easy to manage, is spend one on one time with them on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s a long chat with my daughter when the boys are in bed, or grocery shopping with my big boy, or a walk with my littlest. But sometimes I manage to have a few free hours where I plan something bigger and these trips are always really special to me. With doing this, taking time for just one of them, I hope that I can show my kids that each of them is special to me and that I love them dearly!
Simon, my seven year old son, once wished to drive through Vienna and as we don’t have a car, we took several subways, buses and trams to drive from one end of town to the other and I can tell you, we had a wonderful time!
Having more than one child is definitely a struggle from time to time, but rewarding and wonderful as well and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
The More the Merrier
I’d say going from one to two was harder. Juggling the needs of a little girl and a new baby boy all while adapting to the life as a mother of two wasn’t easy at first. But I was surprised by how fast we found a routine and how smooth it all went. My daughter was almost five at the time and such a proud big sister who loved to help, so that made it easier for me.
Going from two to three just felt really natural. Having a third child was a big wish of mine, so I was in a bubble of happiness once our little Theo was here.
There’s something I’d love to tell every parent who expects or thinks about having a second baby: yes, you will totally love your second child as much as your first one and yes, you will find your flow as a family of four. Life with more than one child is really a whole lot of fun! Believe me.
It’s a bit of both. As two working parents with two schoolkids and a little one, we do have a routine through the week, especially in the mornings and evenings. I‘m pretty strict about our morning routine because it helps everybodyget his/her stuff done and I try to reduce stress wherever it’s possible. I’m also strict about our bed-routine, mainly because the kids seem to turn into little monsters with endless energy once bedtime is near and I just really need my quiet time in the evening.
I say strict, but mean it in a loving way which means, that we have lots of rituals that just grew over the years. It’s super important to me for example, that every day we’re having dinner all together, where we play a little game. One after another we tell each other what was good about our day, what wasn’t and what was the best part of our day. It is a really lovely thing to do in so many ways and we all grew to love it.
But speaking of routine, it‘s another story on weekends! Then we love to go with the flow, have lazy cozy days or spend the whole day outdoors. Just being together without any plans.
Minimalism and Toys
To be honest, right now I’m interested in getting rid of toys! Minimalism is something that I’m really stoked about at the moment and I‘m trying to reduce our stuff. Not only toys, but in general. Getting “the right” toy instead of getting a lot of toys is something I’ve been trying to do for a while now. I prefer toys that are valuable. Wooden toys, toys that can be used for imaginative play, that are long-lasting and gender-neutral (something I’m also very interested in).
We love Grimm’s wooden toys. My kids play with the wooden rainbow each and every day and I’m amazed again and again how different they use it!
Also we love the cars by Fagus, they are really fantastic!
Duplo and Lego are also pretty big over here.
Yes, these things are quite costly, I know! But they are really worth it and they have a high resale value! Then we have lots of stones and sticks, marbles and various wooden blocks, small carpets, different cloths and wooden animals. And cars, oh my, we have tons of little cars! All these things hold endless possibilities! And yes, Maria Montessori is quite an influence for me – I just love everything Montessori, especially since I attended a training for Montessori for little kids.
I am the biggest lover of children’s books, so I won’t even try to come up with just one. I love love love Astrid Lindgrens books, especially “The Kids of Bullerby.”
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is a favorite of ours, Eric Carle’s books in general are just great.
We love everything from Lieve Baeten, especially “The Little Witch” books.
Do you read parenting books or just go with instinct?
It’s a good mix of both. I was only 21 when I had my daughter and didn’t read much about parenting. My husband (boyfriend at that time) and I decided to just go with our instinct. We dived into our new life with a child and waited to see what awaited us.
When she was three years old I felt the parenting game suddenly got harder. I found Jesper Juul at that time, a Danish family therapist who writes great books. I just love his point of view on parenting and on family life. Whenever I need advice, I find something valuable in one of his books. Recently I attended a training at Familylab, an Institute founded by Jesper to train and counsel families and anyone else who needs help. I’m working on my first Familylab workshop at the moment and I’m just so excited about that!
It is something I read in an interview with Jesper Juul. He said: “What about just enjoying your kids!?” As simple as this sounds, it really opened a whole new world to me. Being a mom with high expectations for myself, it was a relief to think that through and somehow it has become my motto.
Because time flies, right?
Everyday life can be hard, but the laundry will wait, as well as that email you just have to write! But your kids grow and develop each and every day, so why not just enjoy them?
I’m embracing it all! The giggles and the tears, fights and cuddles, the good days, the perfect days and the hard days as well.
Because days are long but years are short and I want to enjoy my kids to the fullest!
For tons of fun and parenting inspiration, follow Hannah and her family on Instagram!
All photos courtesy of Hannah