flowers in a garden centre

Hanging Out in Garden Centres, and Other Things I Do Now I’m a Mum

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on some of the slightly-strange habits I’ve developed since becoming a mum, but, to be completely honest, those things are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways in which motherhood has changed me. Because, it turns out that introducing a small, completely helpless – and yet incredibly demanding – human into your home DOES actually change things just a bit. I mean, WHO KNEW?

Er, not me for one, because hi, I’m Amber, and I was one of those endearingly misguided souls who was all, “Nope, having a baby won’t change things ONE BIT for us! I mean, they sleep a lot, yeah? And they’re pretty portable, really? So, where’s the problem?!”

I’ll just pause for a second here while you allow the hysterical laughter to subside a little, shall I?

The fact is, all throughout my pregnancy, people kept asking me if I was at all worried about how I’d handle new parenthood, and I was just all, “Nah, not really: I’m sure it’ll be fine!” Which was REALLY unlike me, now I come to think of it. Like, I’m the kind of person who overthinks pretty much EVERYTHING, but I think the whole pregnancy/childbirth thing was just such a big deal for me, that I couldn’t even allow myself to believe we might actually HAVE a baby at the end of it, let alone have to look after it. So, any time those thoughts did creep in, I’d just kind of vaguely repeat my whole, “They sleep a lot, don’t they?” mantra, and then fondly picture Terry and I sitting side-by-side at our desks, just as we always had, while a tiny baby either sleep peacefully in a crib between us, or played happily on the floor.



Looking back, I now think I was possibly confusing babies with puppies? I mean, easy mistake to make, right? It turns out, however, that babies are NOT actually much like puppies. Sure, they’re both cute, and they both need near-constant attention, but, when we had Rubin, for instance, once he was past the chewing phase, we were pretty much able to go about our lives as usual. Max, on the other hand? Max has changed EVERYTHING. And now, instead of sitting at my desk all day, and lying in bed for as long as I like every morning, I find myself doing things like…

Things I do as a mum that I never expected to do

Hanging out in garden centres

“I was thinking we could go to the garden centre for lunch,” said Terry one day last week.

“Ooh, lovely!” said I, rubbing my hands in glee.

I meant it, too. Because, I used to think garden centres were for old people (And, well, gardeners, obviously…), but I now know that garden centres are actually for bored parents, who’ve exhausted all other options for entertainment, and who just can’t listen to, “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,” ONE MORE TIME without losing their minds.

And, when you think about it, a garden centre is a pretty good day out, really. There’s pretty flowers, no matter what the season. There’s often a section selling things like Yankee Candles or Jellycat toys. (Our local one even sells a small selection of Joules clothing – HELLO, SNEAKY BRETON TOP!) Best of all, most of the garden centres we visit are basically just thinly-disguised excuses for coffee shops, so you can pretend you’re having a lovely day out, when, actually, you’re just sitting in your local garden centre, because it has high chairs and a bottle warmer, and what more can you ask for, really?

It’s not just garden centres, though: I’ll basically go ANYWHERE, just to get out of the house for a while, and I do mean ANYWHERE. Honestly, I used to be totally happy pottering around the house all day: I had work to keep me busy most of the time, after all, and, as my mum always says, “Who could possibly be bored when there are so many books in the world to read?” Well, EXACTLY.

These days, however, I’m stuck in the house all the time, but, when Max is awake – which is pretty much ALL THE TIME – I can’t work, read, or even clean, because he’s at that tricky age where he’s not mobile/independent enough to be left to play on his own, but he still requires constant entertainment. This is the point where pre-baby me had fondly imagined us going out for lot of lovely long walks together, but, it turns out that the second you leave our village – which is tiny, with absolutely nothing of interest in it – the footpaths aren’t really passable with a pushchair, so, instead, we have to get in the car and do things like…

Late-night supermarket shopping

We used to get all of our groceries delivered: in fact, we’ve been doing it for so long now that when we decided to switch from Tesco to Sainsbury’s lately, the manager of our local Tesco called us up and, in a hurt tone, said we’d had more deliveries from them than anyone else in the area, and he just couldn’t BELIEVE we were breaking up with them. Or words to that effect, anyway.

So, we were big advocates of online grocery shopping, basically, and, until Max was born, I honestly couldn’t understand why anyone would actively CHOOSE to walk round the supermarket, when they could just get the groceries delivered.

Well, now I know, people. NOW I KNOW.

I mean, it gets you out of the house, doesn’t it? It passes the time. And, like the garden centres, most supermarkets now have clothing sections, and homewear sections, and ALL KINDS OF WONDERFUL things that are at least 108% more interesting than watching Max pick up and then reject every one of the 67,987 teething toys we bought them. AT LEAST.

I still don’t often go during the day, obviously, because I’m not a masochist, but a 9pm supermarket trip, during which the baby will almost definitely fall asleep? SIGN ME UP.

One word of caution here, though: when I said I’ll go anywhere, just to get out of the house, what I ACTUALLY meant was, “Anywhere that has decent baby changing facilities.” Because another change Max has brought to my life is that I now spend a lot of time doing this:

Ranking places according to their changing facilities

“Do you want to go to Garden Centre A or Garden Centre B?” Terry asked me recently.

“Hmm,” I mused, thoughtfully. “Tricky one. Because, A does a better baked potato, but B has a much better baby change.”

We went to B, obviously. Because who would put themselves through the stress of using a pull-down plastic changing unit crammed into the busiest part of the ladies toilets, when you could have an entire room all to yourself, complete with a comfy chair and soft music? Not this girl. I still have SOME standards, after all. Not too many, though, because here’s another shocking (for me) change that’s happened since I became a mum:

Ditching the makeup, unless I’m actually going somewhere

(And by “somewhere” I DON’T mean the supermarket or the garden centre, just FYI…)

So, I’ve always been pretty high-maintenance. I’ve worn a full-face of makeup every day since I was about 15 years old, and, until recently, the very idea of going out without it would’ve made my blood run cold. I remember I once went on holiday with my parents, and didn’t speak to my dad for an entire evening, because he insisted on going out for dinner before I’d done my makeup. We had a stand up fight, and I’m pretty sure I remember using phrases like, “I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN, YOU KNOW!” and “WHY DID YOU EVEN HAVE CHILDREN, IF YOU WERE GOING TO BE SO NEEDLESSLY CRUEL TO THEM?!”

And I was 25 years old at the time, true story.

(I wasn’t. I wasn’t exactly a little kid either, though.)

There exists a single photo of me from that evening. In it, it’s very obviously night-time, and almost pitch dark, but there I am, scowling like George from the Famous Five, while wearing a pair of dark sunglasses, in an attempt to hide my makeup-free face.

Yeah, I was an absolute ASSHOLE, seriously.

I was, however, also very, very self-conscious about my appearance, which I believed to be so ugly that there was a real risk of me turning people to stone just by looking at them, so, as I got older, I grew into the kind of person who wore makeup to the gym, and who would get up two hours before an early flight, so she had time to wash and style her hair, and apply every item of makeup she owned, before leaving for the airport.

By contrast, I’m writing this post completely bare-faced, and, honestly, if you asked me when I last washed my hair, I’d have to think about it and get back to you. For real.

I’d love to say this change is the result of my increased maturity, but it isn’t. I still hate my pale eyelashes and colourless lips: I’m just too tired to do anything about it – and, if I’m going to be spending the whole day in the house anyway, what’s the point? It’s like, I’d have to put all of the makeup ON, and then, before bed, I’d have to take it all OFF again. WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT, I ASK YOU?

In most of my photos from this year, then, the only makeup I’m wearing is lipstick. I do still do full-makeup if I’m going to be seeing Other People, but if the Other People are just going to be Terry, Max and the staff at the local garden centre, then… meh.

In fairness, this change has been made possible, partly by having my eyebrows microbladed earlier this year, which makes me look less like a young boy without my makeup, and partly by the unusually hot summer we’ve been having, which means that I’m wearing sunglasses all the time anyway, so who’s even going to know what I look like under them? I’ve also, however, just booked an appointment to get eyelash extensions again, so, you know, the old me is in there somewhere, and I really hope she has my makeup bag with her, because, God knows, it’s not like I just don’t NEED it any more, that’s for sure…

I actually had a few more of these to add to my list, but I’ve pretty much used-up my childfree time for the day, so here’s one final thing I do now that the old me just wouldn’t believe:

Flying by the seat of my pants, work-wise

in the days BM (Before Max), by blog basically WAS my baby. Not only did I meticulously plan out my posts for each week (Sometimes up to a month in advance), I’d also make the effort to go out and shoot photos on location, and track my stats every day, so I could monitor what was working and what wasn’t.

These days, on the other hand?

Yeah, these days none of that is happening. I’m not proud to admit it, but, right now, I’m only just managing to keep my head above water. A single post will sometimes take me days to write, purely because I have to just grab a few minutes whenever I can, and although I have tons of things I want to write about, I just don’t have the time to do most of those ideas justice – which is actually a bit depressing to me, because my blog is still my hobby, as well as being my job. It’s such an important outlet for me, and I find it so frustrating not to be able to write about all of things I’d like to, or to be able to take care of all of the non-writing tasks that are so important, but which have been totally neglected since the start of the year. I keep trying to remind myself that many women are still on maternity leave at this point, and that I’ve done pretty well to keep the blog running AT ALL, but, yeah: it’s hard – and even more so when you’re relying on it for income.

Still: at least I have those garden centre trips to keep me going, huh? And, rumour has it that there might even be a new Starbucks being built near us, the thought of which makes me almost dizzy with hope and excitement.

And who knows: by the time it opens, I might even be wearing makeup again.

(I won’t. I will at least look like I have eyelashes again, though.)

5 things I didn't do until I became a mother


25 things parents think at soft play

7 strange habits I’ve developed since becoming a parent

6 things I wasn’t prepared for when I became a parent

15 things that happen when you’re a new parent

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  • Myra


    It just isn’t possible to tell someone how a baby will change everything in their lives. Even if we could, who would believe it? Even your global perspective changes as you begin to think of the world your child is growing up in, rather than from your own – that’s why it’s often parents who change the world.

    As ever, this is a very funny post, but at least you won’t ever direct an adult to “Look st the moo cows,” as you pass a field from s bus.

    July 23, 2018
  • Even though I was aware that my life would change after having kids, I would never have imagined HOW exactly. I figured things like being sleep deprived and wearing less makeup would happen, but things like garden centers and grocery shopping for fun never even appeared the list. Yet here they are.

    Anne – Linda, Libra, Loca

    July 23, 2018
  • Ha, yes to all of these! Except long walks have been a saviour to me, thanks to carrying her. Without a carrier I could literally just go up and down the main road outside our house, everywhere around us is hills and all the nice walks involve woods and footpaths and definitely not pushchairs. So she and I and the dogs have spent long hours tramping round the countryside in an effort to stay sane. Thankfully she loves it. But I appreciate baby-wearing is not for everyone. I offered my sister my carrier for her new baby and she said she can’t because she has back problems (which I didn;t even know about – what an appalling sibling). But if you haven’t tried it, maybe worth a go? I think you can borrow carriers from a sling library to find one that works for you.
    But yeah, I thought my life would be the same too, but turns out nope. Nope, and nope. So naive! But hey, nobody told me how incredible it would be that I could ask this gorgeous little thing for a kiss and she would give me one like it was the best thing in the world to her either, so…. <3 xxx

    July 23, 2018
      • Alice


        What sling do you have? It might be worth trying a different brand, there are some that are commonly reported to cause back pain and others are much better.

        July 23, 2018
          • Alice


            Fair enough! I suppose you could say the same about us – our daughter doesn’t like buggies! But we have actually only tried two………

            I’m a big fan of carriers (still use one on occasion now my daughter is nearly two, I can fit it in my handbag so when she is tired of walking I can carry her, easier than having to take a buggy everywhere) but have to accept that they are not for everyone! Our first one gave me back ache even when my daughter was tiny, though, whereas the one I have now is OK even now she is 22 months and 12 kg.

            I think a lot of it depends on if you drive or use public transport, too – if you go on public transport a lot buggies are such a hassle you don’t want to use them if there is another option. I’m sure it’s mostly my fault that my daughter doesn’t like buggies because I have never persisted enough to get her used to them.

            July 23, 2018
  • Lila Athanaselis


    Hahaha Amber ??? too finny ?

    We only recently started going roind garden centres ?

    When the children were young 20 odd years ago we didn’t have a car and we just went walks to parks, walks firther away, walks to daddy’s work, walks to nanas, mostly with a buggy or a carrier. And this was also because there was nothIng around for years, only a McDonalds when my youngest came into the world, and the creche at the shopping centre.
    Now I just go to the garden centres for home baking,, which is done better by the garden centre next to the one with the baby changing room.
    I have a card for the one with the room,, but haven’t used it for the whole of this year!

    July 23, 2018
  • Frida


    I can relate to that. Life before a baby? I can’t even remember what was I doing all day long? and WHY I was always saying I didn’t had time for this and that? NOW I don’t have time – for real. And my baby is now 3 years old. He plays alone sone times, he goes to kindergarden and now I do have some free time back, actually. But still, he likes to stay and play with me, to show me things he discovers, he chats a lot, he calls mama a lot, quite a lot, and life goes all around him, of course, and we love it. It takes time to get used to a baby and then a toddler and then a kid, but when you do… you’d never go back to the “before baby” time.

    July 23, 2018
  • Alice


    it’s interesting what you say about supermarkets. I had the complete opposite experience – I used to love wandering round the supermarket. When J was small enough to carry I still went. But now she is old enough to run off and put random things in the basket, but not old enough to reliably obey instructions, so I shop online.

    Doesn’t help that I don’t have a car, carrying a toddler who wants to walk AND all the shopping is too much.

    Overall, though, I find having a child has motivated me to enjoy life more. When she is with me I *can’t* work so we might as well have fun together!

    July 23, 2018
  • Erin


    Just so you feel ever so slightly better (as Rubin must have been an EXCELLENT puppy), last summer I did indeed get a puppy thinking “well, at least it’s not a BABY” and oh how sorry I was. I also work from home. That puppy spent a year tormenting me with his neediness, bad behavior, and general anarchy about the house. Never again. Only adopting good old dogs from now on. Don’t get me wrong, I love him, but taking care of anything from their infant stage isn’t something I want to do again…although I have been looking at pictures of him back in the puppy days recently and have almost forgotten how terrible he was…I guess I get baby fever now 😉

    July 23, 2018
  • I live in the US and garden centers here, at least near me, do not have coffee shops and grocery stores do not sell clothing. I am feeling a bit deprived.

    July 23, 2018
    • Alice


      I’d never heard of garden centres with coffee shops until I had a child (I’ve still only been once, with a friend) – it’s only a certain type that does, I think.

      Grocery shops might not have clothing in the US (don’t they? Not even the really big ones?) but your “drug stores” have an amazing range of foods etc!

      July 23, 2018
        • Alice


          I suppose Target isn’t technically a grocery store.

          Walmart is, though, isn’t it?

          Amazing what you forget. I spent all my childhood summers inthe US, went to grocery stores with my mother, I remember going in, the heat, the air conditioning – but not what they sold inside!

          July 23, 2018
        • Hmm, I suppose that is true but I don’t really think of Target and Walmart as grocery stores though it is becoming more common for them to include full grocery stores as well as all the other departments. My local Target sells some food but if I said I was going to the grocery store no one would think I was going there. Targets and Walmarts are a whole different category of store. But you make a good point and it is probably just a case of my brain jumping to an unwarranted conclusion. Maybe the stores you are describing are more like Targets and Walmarts than I was picturing.

          I’m still envying you the garden centers with coffee shops! That I know I don’t have locally though I am sure they exist somewhere.

          (I read this over three times and I am hoping it just comes across as expressing interest and not as arguing about what is and is not a grocery store.)

          July 23, 2018
          • Alice


            I agree re target! I did think Walmart was a grocery store! But haven’t been to the US for years. What are the big grocery store chains these days?

            July 23, 2018
  • Kristian


    Oh man! I love hte idea of going to a garden center with a little one (we couldn’t leave the house with ours till he was 4 or 5 months old nad even that way pretty touch and go. He was super colicky and high maintenence.) Now that he’s 18 months, all our outings revolve around “his” social calendar. Storytime at the library, a mommy and me class, seeing grandparents. I am so happy to see other adults at these places though, I’m just as jazzed to be out and about as I was pre-baby to be going out to a concert or something. And its funny, but I can already see how things will change again in a few months when he can start being left at a children’s class (while I take an exercise class or something. Which I am also looking forward to doing and which I never thought I would ever look forward to) etc. becuase he’s matured and because other places are more able to take care of slightly older kids than infants (due to laws about child to minder ratios…)

    I guess what I’m saying is- no one can really understand how having a baby changes everything, but then…. they also keep changing things on you and something do go back to more moments you can have a moment, but also new challenges and exciting things you never knew you were missing.

    July 23, 2018
    • Alice


      That sounds miserable, hope you weren’t just at home on your own for 4-5 months.
      I found those first few months the easiest, put baby in the sling and go anywhere I want (including adult things like museums, markets, conferences). Now she is mobile and noisey it’s much harder but much more fun too.

      And there wouldn’t really be much point in having a child if they didn’t change anything, would there!

      July 23, 2018
  • I was exactly the same about makeup all my life… until I hit maternity leave in a heatwave. Turns out being 9 months pregnant with a sprained back (thanks, baby!) in 30 degree heat will not encourage me to spend time on my hair and face just to walk the dog and then sprawl on the sofa feeling sorry for myself… so I’m glad I got that practice in early for the days when I not only won’t care but won’t have time either 😉

    July 23, 2018
  • Ooh, is there a garden centre near you WITH FISH TANKS? The Dobbie’s in Aberdeen is referred to by parents as “the free zoo” (the big pet store down the beach with the degu rats is also called “the free zoo” – it’s all very confusing). Alas, neither of them are easy to get to from our flat, so we have to make do with pointing the kids at the cats and saying “GENTLY! GENTLY!” over and over again.

    I hate taking the kids to supermarkets, but spending twenty minutes wandering around one on my own is some kind of special treat these days. Although all I seem to buy is kids’ clothes and baby snacks…

    July 23, 2018
  • I am with you on the garden centre joy Amber! Heck, my ‘baby’ is 18 now and we go to garden centres together for coffee and to buy even more house stuff that we don’t need (flamingo candle holders galore). A friend once described parenting to me as ‘being hit by a train and being dragged along for eighteen years…in a good way!’ ? Lisa

    July 23, 2018
  • Give yourself more credit. I am honestly super impressed that you find the time to blog still. I have 2 kids at home for the summer who are 6 and 9, and I barely have time myself. A baby is SOOOOO hard, but you are still doing it!!! If I had any time to do anything when I had a baby, it was sleep. 🙂

    July 25, 2018
  • Alice


    What do you do for childcare? As you and Terry work from home do you just share it 50/50 then both work when he is sleeping?

    Will he go to nursery/childminder when he is older?

    I can’t work when my daughter is there, even if my partner is around she always wants me – but she has grown up with me being the primary carer so that is to be expected.

    July 25, 2018