Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Home sweet home

When I was a working girl (in the cleanest sense of the word), I used to see my home asa glorified hotel, somewhere to sleep of the excesses of the week and occasionally spend the odd rainy Sunday afternoon slouched on the sofa. It certainly wasn't somewhere I spent much time, and its location was chosen solely on how close it was to the tube and how many restaurants I could frequent on foot to avoid the chore of heating up microwave meals. 

It wasn't until I had son number one that I realised just how important where you live is once you have children. From spending a maximum of about an hour a day of awake time in my flat, I was suddenly a stay at home mum in the most boring sense of the word, stuck in staring at its walls 24/7. 

By some fluke or subconscious brooding instinct I actually found myself living in North London's baby central, where the local Boots stocks nothing but nappies, teething gel and formula - something which had been frustrating when all I wanted was Alka Seltzer, but now was a Godsend. As I pounded the streets around my flat in a vain attempt to alleviate the boredom and get the baby to shut the hell up, I learned more about the area in the nine months after his birth, than I had all the years I'd lived there before baby (BB). 

BB I had the local takeaways on speed dial, knew where to get the best pizzas and where the loos were in all the pubs. After baby (AB) I knew which pharmacy stocked the widest range of soothers, which cafes didn't mind if your baby regurgitated his lunch on the floor and the fastest route to the duck feeding pond. I also knew which shopkeepers would open doors for the buggy and pass the time of day with a harassed housewife, and which laid traps for the unwary mother like steep steps to the loo (thanks Starbucks) and staff employed exclusively to recoil at the sight of a child (thanks childrens' book shop and cutesy toy shop). 

I knew which expansive, expensive houses I dreamt of living in as my tiny flat became ever more crammed with the garish plastic detritus that is part and parcel of becoming a parent, I knew which parks attracted the beautiful Eastern European nannies of the rich, and which welcomed the dowdy mothers stuck looking after their own offspring, which playgrounds had cafes where the food was edible by both adults and children and had a clear view of the climbing frame, and which had a children's menu that ran the gourmet gamut from soggy chips to cardboard chicken. I discovered what a babyccino was and why crayons are such an important addition to the dining table. 

But it wasn't just the local environs that I was getting to grips with, I was also getting to know my home anew. Where once I'd loved its charming old fashioned features, now all I wanted was wipe clean surfaces and no nooks and crannies to keep clean and germ free. I got acquainted with my kitchen on midnight puree preparation marathons, bemoaned my tiny freezer as I cooked ahead to meet the appetite of my tiny charge. I discovered what a mouli was (thanks Annabel Karmel) and why anyone who has ever used one understands just how essential a piece of kit a food processor is. 

When we finally moved on to accommodate son number two, instead of looking for period features and great eateries, I searched for a house with easy access to a park, a supermarket and a child friendly cafe. And don't get me started on our third move where the only thing we cared about was school catchement areas. 

So having children has certainly taught me the importance of home comforts, but as one once again imprisoned by the relentless schedule of babies feeding and sleeping routine, forgive me if the staycation imposed on us by our credit crunched finances this summer isn't quite as appealing as the colour supplement trend makers would have me believe. Because no matter what home might be to me nowadays, the one thing it categorically is not is a holiday. 

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing isnt it, that after having a kid, your life/priorities change. When you've had two, can still see things as they were but things become fuzzy, after three - well, basically your doomed! But dont worry you only have 18 years of it.....I've got a 13 year gap between my eldest and the youngest...what a fool! I could have been soaking up the sun and knocking back tequilas by now.....