by Vicki Larson
There’s been a lot of hoopla in the world of mothers and athletes ever since tennis player Kim Clijsters — her husband and 18-month-old daughter watching — nabbed the U.S. Open, the first mom to win the grand slam title in 29 years.
It’s an amazing comeback story for the 26-year-old who retired a few years ago to become a wife and mom, and who credits her husband, Antwerp Giants basketball player Brian Lynch, for giving her support.
While Clijsters was swinging her way to the top, another tennis mom has been making her comeback, too — Sybille Bammer, a 29-year-old Austrian who lives with her boyfriend, Christophe Gschwendtner, father of their 8-year-old daughter, Tina.
Bammer, who lost her record-breaking run at the U.S. Open in the quarterfinals, also credits her partner for supporting her. And, boy, did he; It was Gschwendtner’s idea that Bammer, then 21, get back to playing tennis after giving birth, and to make it easier for her, he gave up his career as a manufacturing engineer for five years to be Mr. Mom.
Now that Bammer’s back on the tennis and sponsorship track again and Tina’s in school full time, Gschwendtner has returned to work — he started his own electrician’s business — and the jokes from his friends about his decision to stay home have stopped. “Now my life is more interesting. It’s like I have two lives,” he told the New York Times.
His life is more interesting? As a mom who’s been a SAHM and is now a full-time employed divorced mom, I find his statement interesting. Is Gschwendtner saying that staying at home and caring for a child is uninteresting, or that the parent staying at home becomes uninteresting? Or both?
Is Gschwendtner slamming the stay-at-home parenting world?
Let’s face it: We all know moms who drone on and on about their kids and all things mommy, the Dummy Mummy that Observer columnist Rachel Cooke says “fetishise childbirth, and obsess about all that follows it, in a way that is almost, if not quite, beyond satire, and which makes me feel a bit sick.”
Still, I know plenty of employed moms who can hold their own with any SAHM in the droning department, so I’m not totally convinced it has anything to do with whether a mom stays home or not.
But if you read some of the chat and community boards on various parenting Web sites, there are a lot of stay-at-home mothers who feel isolated, pissed off and bored. There are just so many trips to the local park, Mommy & Me classes, sparkly arts-and-crafts projects, supermarket tantrums and “But why, Mommy?” questions a woman can take before she hits her, uh, break point.
When I stayed home to raise my two boys, there were many days when I would crave adult conversation so much that I’d find any reason to be out in public in the hopes that I’d run into someone I knew. If I didn’t, I would start chatting up any ol’ stranger, which perhaps made me appear to be a crazy woman you might want to give wide berth to. And I eagerly looked forward to when my then-husband would come home from work; he’d step in the door and my mouth stepped into gear.
Of course, it was all rather silly as I‘m positive I never actually finished any of those conversations and by now my brain is so fried — not to mention middle-aged — I can’t even remember what any of them were about. Probably the kids.
But there were just as many times when all I wanted was peace and quiet; to lock myself in my room, close my eyes and plan my “Thelma & Louise” getaway — with Brad Pitt, obviously, but without the dying part.
When I went back to work part time, I found a happy balance — my sweetspot, so to speak. My brain was engaged, my skills became current, I still had plenty of time to enjoy my kids (I worked at night), their dad was a little more hands-on and I was getting paid.
Maybe it’s different for men. Maybe they don’t get as restless and “desperate” as we housewives do. After all, you don’t see any Dummy Daddy stories in the media, but there aren’t that many SAHDs, either — although there are probably more now because of layoffs.
Still, I wonder what Gschwendtner finds about his life that’s “more interesting.” Sure, he’s working now, but he’s still the one in charge of Tina when Bammer’s traveling and competing, unlike Clijsters and Lynch, who have a nanny.
Maybe Gschwendtner’s work is a welcome relief from sitting courtside at so many friggin’ tournaments. Now that could get pretty boring after a while!