Before I had my son, I lived in East Dulwich. East Dulwich, for the uninitiated, is aggressively delightful. With its Edwardian terraces, Oliver Bonases and organic balsamic vinegar emporia as far as the eye can see, it’s one of the few parts of London that actually resembles the London of the Bridget Jones films. I loved living there.
One thing I didn’t love, though, were the Mummies. The Mummies of East Dulwich were the bane of my life – dripping with Orla Kiely, filling every shop they entered with the scent of Jo Malone and constantly blocking the pavement with their enormous, million-pound prams.
When I lived in East Dulwich, I was freshly broken-hearted from the end of a 10-year relationship, and largely fuelled by vodka and obscure indie playlists. And I judged these Mummies. I judged them when they shouldered their way self-importantly into tiny cafés, squawking, "Excuse me, can you move? I have a bébé." I judged them when they drank wine on terraces, issuing a languid, “Flicky? Dayn’t kick the bards, darling”, whenever their toddlers tried to behead passing pigeons.
I knew these Mummies and I were worlds apart. I knew I’d never be like them. And, from behind my hangover-grade sunglasses, noise-cancelling earphones and cheap pleather jacket, I judged them HARD.
The other day, though, I found myself honking, “Herbie, get away from the houmous!” at my own son, and now I’m reevaluating everything I know to be true.
These days, my life is so different. I still wear a pleather jacket, but one several sizes bigger and mainly because pleather is wipe-clean. I now say the word “lovely” several times a day. I live in a series of increasingly raggedy Breton tops and leggings. Instead of vodka, I drink industrial-grade coffee from 5am right through to 8pm, when I switch it up to a nice crisp Riesling and fall asleep after half a glass.
These Mummies and I were worlds apart. I knew I’d never be like them. From my hangover-grade sunglasses, noise-cancelling earphones, and cheap pleather jacket, I judged them HARD
I barely recognise myself in the married woman with her own spiraliser and custom water bottle and Slimming World membership. I am in a different universe to pre-baby me. And that’s OK, because at the centre of that universe is the constantly exploding sun that is Herbie, my 16-month-old.
Herbie is a happy, chaotic little boy who always has a finger in everything. Herbie loves to dance, and to call me “Len”, and to charge around the house chanting “Da, Da, Da” in a voice identical to that of the demon Pazuzu in The Exorcist. Since the second he was born, he has been a stye in my eye – the thing that I am always looking at and thinking about.
And he takes up all my time. Waking him, changing him, feeding him, entertaining him, singing him to sleep, making sure he gets enough air and gets socialised enough not to turn into Kevin from We Need To Talk About Kevin. This is my life now. I work when our part-time nanny is here, and save any non-Herbie related activity for when my husband can take him.
In a way, having limited time forces you to be picky. I won’t waste my precious scraps of free time on a shitty film or a TV show I’m not crazy about. But I’m finding ways to slot the old me in around my new manic schedule. Audiobooks and Spotify are the soundtrack to my day and, when Herbie is sleeping on me and we are drenched in gorgeous oxytocin, my WhatsApp is alive with messages.
Now that my son is over one year old and the terrifying bumrush of new motherhood is ebbing away, life is becoming more manageable, if exhausting to the point of mania.
Today, I wouldn’t judge those Dulwich Mummies as harshly. Today, I’d understand the monumental achievement that is spraying yourself in Jo Malone (and not baby sick). And, God, the number of times I have shoved my giant pram into a tiny cafe just so I could feel like an adult human and drink a hot coffee for once, I daren’t even count.
And my edge? Well, let’s face it, I barely had one. And is that a bad thing? Who wants an edgy mum? Occasionally – and I mean occasionally – I find myself among a gaggle of Mummies all complaining about their husbands and arranging to meet at garden centres – but then I realise it’s not about maintaining my edge. It’s about maintaining my sense of me.
A few years ago I went to visit the Grand Canyon. I stood right on the edge of it and looked down into the chasm. And the thing that filled me with most horror was the fact that I was wearing flip-flops. I could have gone over at any moment.
In conclusion: edges are overrated. There’s nothing wrong with clearing some space in the middle, and making it your own.
Robyn Wilder is our new Up With The Kids columnist.