Scummy Mummies Guest List: Why Swimming Lessons are the 7th Circle of Hell.


Just excellent

I can’t think of how to describe Helen and Ellie of Scummy Mummies, other than to say they are so hilarious it’s ridiculous. Snorty laughter type funny.  They tell it is how it is, with a touch of ‘I can’t believe they just said that’. Which frankly, is a really excellent combo.

Here they are doing what do best: being funny, whist talking about the unsung hell that is taking your kids swimming…


  • When you become a mum, you acquire new superpowers to help you cope with some of life’s most repulsive experiences. I was astonished to find I could calmly deal with a monolithic tantrum in the middle of M&S, an ear-splitting rendition of Let it Go, and being doused with several bodily fluids, sometimes all at once.

  • But there is one thing that has broken me. It has driven me to the darkest depths of despair, unleashed my rage, and left me a dribbling, sobbing mess. I am talking, of course, about swimming lessons.

  • Sure, learning to swim is an important life skill, like being able to boil an egg, or open a bottle of beer with a spoon. But the process of getting there is unbearable. It’s like trying to wrestle a pack of wild animals in a small sauna, while they shout “BOOBIES BOOBIES BOOBIES”at the top of their voices. And that’s before they’re even in the pool.

  • Things were different when I was growing up in Australia. I can’t actually remember learning to swim – it was something I just knew how to do, like speaking with an upward inflection and barbecuing things.

  • I would toddle off on my bike, wearing only my togs and thongs, a towel dangling over the handlebars. I went swimming in deep bodies of water, jumping off diving boards and swinging off ropes. I was happy and carefree. And I only nearly drowned a few times.

  • So I looked forward to taking my sweet baby to the pool, envisioning us giggling and smiling as we splashed about. What I didn’t realise was that I was about to enter a new circle of Hell.

  • And here’s why:

  •  The changing rooms are heated to approximately 57 degrees. Why do they do this? It makes you sweat, causes stress, and encourages boiling rage.

  • Our carefully packed swimming bag always gets emptied into the puddle on the floor.

  • My son likes to add to the chaos by doing a pee, usually such a big one that I canonly assume he’s been saving it up all week, just for this moment.

  • Changing rooms induce verbal diarrhoea in my children, who love to loudly describethe scene before them. My favourite quotes have included:


  • “Your tummy is HUGE, Mummy – do you have another baby in there?”

  • “Mummy, why is your front bottom so hairy?”  

  • The whole place is an emergency trip to A&E waiting to happen. You have to spend your whole time watching out for head-splitting slippery surfaces, finger-jamming locker doors, and the random biohazards other swimmers have kindly left on the floor. Things my children have tried to put in their mouths include:

  • An old lollipop

  • A used plaster

  • A (human?) hairball

  • A moldy swimming cap

  • A wellington boot (not ours)

  • Then it’s time to jump in the water and begin the lesson. Or, if you’re my children, sit on the side of the pool refusing to go in for ten minutes, then ignore the teacher completely while dicking about with an old verruca sock you found in stuck in the filter.  

  • Afterwards everyone gets to do the first bit all over again, in reverse, while wet, tired, hungry, and cold. This is extra fun in winter, when you get the added challenge of having to dry hair while finding missing gloves.

  • Let’s be honest, the best bit about swimming lessons is getting home. There’s a huge sense of achievement in knowing your children are one step closer to being less likely to drown.

  • Plus you get to reward yourself for having made sure they got some good, healthy exercise, by downing half a bottle of Chardonnay.

  • And it’s not forever – they will learn to swim, eventually. I just wish the process of my kids learning a survival skill didn’t nearly kill me.

A new episode of The Scummy Mummies Podcast is released every fortnight – listen free via or  iTunes. We’re on Facebook and Twitter – @scummymummies. 
And, just for luck, here’s another snap of Helen and Ellie being winners:

Love. Love. Love.

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  • Reply Helen Ugwu July 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Hilarious! Love love love this! The self-sacrifice involved in taking small children swimming is absolute.

  • Reply baffledandthebuttonpusher August 9, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Oh the reverse bit is awful! I could just about handle the getting ready bit in 57 degrees of baby pool heat by putting a costume on at home. But getting dry (drip drying while attending to small wriggling child) is a whole other world of awful. Love this laugh out loud description of swimming with kids – it’ll keep me sane next time I’m cursing under my breath in Peckham Pulse family change.

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