How it all began

My recollections of initial post-partum life are, for the most part, a vast haze punctuated by lucid memories of discomfort and confusion.

For instance, I distinctly remember various painful episodes of learning how to nurse.  I remember the different ways I experienced sensations of being covered with both kinds of milk, fresh and regurgitated.  I remember standing on the cold marble floor of my bathroom unable to remember where I had come from, the bedroom or the sofa or where my new-born was.

I also remember leaving home one Tuesday morning, for what seemed like the fist time in weeks, because my child and I were awake, happy, fed and clean at the same time. Arising from our garden flat into late-November, mid-day sunshine, my child strapped onto my chest in the baby carrier, we wearily made our way into the basement of a near-by church I had heard about. I sat down on a worn sofa, was kindly greeted by another half-dozen shell-shocked looking women, drank a cup of tea that someone else had kindly made for me and joined a post-natal support group.

Our weekly meetings on Tuesday mornings included a forum to discuss activities to do with your baby.  The mid-wife running the group clearly wanted us to focus on speaking and playing with our child, I wanted to focus on where we could go and what we could do. There was a city out there I was too busy working to enjoy and I wanted to get out and discover it.

By the time my daughter was born, I had been living in London for two years.  I had no family near me and the only friends that I had made were co-workers who, because they did not have young children, seemed to live on a different planet than me after my daughter came along.

We lived in a tiny, central London flat; not being much of a homebody to begin with, my new-born and I immediately set out in October 2005 to discover what London has to offer the under 5’s.   I have found this city to be amazingly friendly to carers of small children.  In 2007, we moved to a different neighbourhood and I discovered an entirely new part of Central London.  Now that our son has joined us in 2009, I can continue to discover London for babies, toddlers and mums with more than one small child.

My reviews are the result of nearly eight years of caring full-time for my daughter and son, in London while also experiencing being a parent travelling to different cities and towns in Europe and North America.  This web site is based on all the friendly chats that we have had in playgrounds here in London and elsewhere about destinations and activities for our small children.  Further, as a teacher I have accompanied and led groups of children around greater Chicago and London and I bring these experiences to this site.

Having listened to and given so many reviews of these destinations and others, I guarantee they will have exactly the kind of information that you will need for you and your baby and/or toddlers.

Why London Baby?

When I first contemplated what maternity leave might entail, I envisioned sitting care-free in a café with a book in one hand, a latte resting on the table in a giant ceramic mug with my sleeping child quietly perched next to me in the pram or perhaps I would be pushing the sleeping child happily through a leafy park, surrounded by friends looking slender and sleek in our trendy yoga gear.

In reality, my maternity leave was a constant battle against hunger, wind, filthy nappies and dirty clothes.   By the time all of these issues had been addressed, it was nearly 4 o’clock in the afternoon and I only had the energy to walk to the nearest park bench from my front door.  As for friends, they were all at work.  The only exercise I wanted to do was lift a chocolate biscuit to my mouth.

I don’t know what I thought I would be doing all day long on maternity leave, read and write, work on another degree. I quickly found out that some new-born children need a good deal of attention and don’t like merely staring off into space from their bouncy chairs.  After the first few weeks of being at home, I wanted to leave the flat so I could simply stop cleaning for a few hours.  Fortunately I found a post-natal support group where I was introduced to the concept of a play group.

It turns out that there are good and sensible people all over London who set up play groups for mothers and their children at local churches and halls.  They meet usually once a week, sometimes more, and set out lovely toys for the children to play with and tea, juice, fruit and biscuits.  Most people are very friendly and offer kind advice and support to parents and carers.

My first time to a playgroup felt part infantilizing and part embarrassing.   As I held my baby sitting on the floor of a room filled with toys, I was flush with vivid flashbacks of my own childhood games of mums and babies; memories that I had not thought of in years.  Chatting away as I fed and winded my own child, I eerily noticed the little children around me playing the same game with their own dolls while talking to their own peers.

Then there is an uncomfortable newness to making small chat with complete strangers.  Somehow, over the years, I have found myself with increasingly homogenous groups of people who had similar educations, work environments and career goals.  At first, it’s extremely awkwardidly chatting away about caring for small children.  If you can endure this initial discomfort, you meet friendly people with whom you can easily reciprocate kindness to without having to wonder why on earth they are speaking to you.

As I am now a mother of two, I am gaining new-found support and knowledge from the playgroups we attend on “life with two”.  I honestly cannot fathom how one can care for children full-time and without of toddler groups – these are a godsend for me.

You learn invaluable feedback on schedules, teething, temper tantrums and in-laws in addition to insights into holidays, schooling and other ins and outs of life in London.  Where else in London can you begin a discussion “Do you think your child is colour blind, too?”

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