Hanging Out in Garden Centres, and Other Things I Do Now I’m a MumA 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.
To which I can only say HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHALOL.
And also: YOU ABSOLUTE IDIOT, AMBER, SERIOUSLY.
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…
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.)