The end of my current bout of maternity leave is nigh. Sad face. Except…I don’t feel THAT sad about it, yet. I’ve done my time in the sin bin of sick and shit, thanks very much.
I’ve also tried my hand at a great many baby groups. They’re all about the bloody babies aren’t they? Baby this, baby that. Mums are reduced to second-rate punters who turn up, part with a fiver, bounce around for an hour with clicky knees and a vommy cub, then fuck off home until next week. Some are great. Some genuinely impart wisdom and are halfway enjoyable. Others are just bollocks – bollocks in the guise of half-inflated pink balloons.
What I think is lacking from the market is a mummy group. You take your baby along, sure, and you pay, sure, but you’ll be damned if it’s all about them. They can just ride it out for a while, or act as a compliant prop. This is YOUR time to shut out reality and have your senses caressed with mood lighting and a mid-session coffee while you interact or ignore, thrive or skive as you see fit.
I’d dearly love to see these mummy groups launched onto the circuit:
We all know a mum or two who takes shite photos of their kids and plasters them all over the tinterweb. I’m probably one myself, to be fair. But I mean the relentless feed of what is basically the same photo, taken 0.5 seconds apart, for a whole minute. Where the careful mum may take ten images, delete eight, keep one because little Jake looks silly, and Facebook the last one, the enthusiastic mum will just whack all ten up there. Possibly in an album entitled “Gorgeous family fun with Jakey”.
So, why not have a photography class dressed up as a mummy group? The subject: a squawking child. If yours is being a shit, just snap another baby who looks cute. The apparatus: iPhone, DLSR, polaroid, whatever the fuck you like. The stage: someone can bring along a chenille blanket and a pile of leaves, someone else can bring a portable heater, and that’ll do it. The result? You hone your skills and stop pissing off your friends with shit first smile / first food / first selfie selfies.
Getting two or mums together for a play date is the most heinous of all admin tasks. You’ll all have differing nap times (well, your babies. Real mums don’t nap) and it takes literally an hour to exit the house anyway. Some of you might have to factor in dropping off / picking up older kids, walking the dog, working part time, visiting your fella in prison, and so on and so on. A group chat on Facebook or WhatsApp can often peter out as the intense diary scrutinising and back and forthing gets too much to bear.
What you need is to lock yourselves in a room with your calendar, and not leave until you’ve booked in a play date, a back up play date, an emergency venue back up, a sequel, a back up sequel, and so on. Plot in six meet ups and one of them is bound to stick. This group doesn’t count as a meet up, though. No, this group’s just for learning. Give a mum a church community hall and she’ll socialise for an hour. Teach her how to plan her socialising and she’ll butterfly her way through the next six months. Or something.
When did you last read a book? A proper, actual book with a plot, a protagonist and a hero? What you’d benefit from is a modern day mum book club, where a poor sod with an NVQ in childcare is drafted in to man a small creche facility (aka a zoo). Mums then laze about in an adjoining room with noise cancelling headphones, reading that book they got for Christmas 2014. If brain cells have been suitably depleted, then a quick thumb through Marie Claire will do. Snoozing optional. Coffee and cake served at the mid-point, with unfettered access to a luxury toilet that boasts Molton Brown handwash and moisteriser. Fuck it, and a chipper young goodtime gal from Benefit to do your make up. Double fuck it, and some new shoes to go home in. At the very least, it’ll be held in the afternoon so you can drink wine straight after the coffee. That’s the best bit of any book club anyway, right?*
(*Actually, that really pisses me off. I’ve been in two book clubs that have disbanded because no-one actually read the sodding book and everyone just drank wine and gossiped. Yes, I am a book club geek. Sue me.)
All babies eat lunch at 11.45 because they can’t bloody hang on for it, greedy little shits. So, get all of that out the way, and draft in the lovely creche manager from Bookish Belles to clean up all the mess. While that’s going down, mums a plenty will sit, AT AN ACTUAL TABLE, and eat a hot lunch, undisturbed. They can use a knife and fork simultaneously, because they have two hands free, and they don’t have to siphon off some stray pasta to pacify a baby who’s suddenly got a second wind and had a shit to make some room for more food.
After lunch, coffee will be served and conversation will be had. Then, would you look at that – after a quick wipe down and wee break, it’s time for a snack.
Laying Lotus Loves
You know that quiet time bit at the end of some baby groups? Where curtains are drawn, lights are dimmed, and some battery-operated fake candles are lobbed about on a huge rug? That. Basically that, for an hour. Someone will rig up their phone to an iDock and flood the room with whale song or white noise, and those who don’t feel sleepy may use the time to catch up on social media, without fear of prejudice or judgement. If you absolutely have to, you can bring your baby in from that helpful creche manager (yep, them again) and give them a cuddle. If they “start up” though, out you go. Other mums are paying for this, don’t ruin it for them.
How about you, what groups do you dream of while you’re trudging on the maternity leave treadmill?
– SJW November 2016