Down & Out In A London Kitchen

Esther Walker started a food blog called Recipe Rifle in 2009 when desperate and unemployed. In 2010 she married restaurant critic Giles Coren and far, far too quickly had a baby daughter, called Kitty.

Humble pie

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Before I had a baby, whenever people said that having a child makes you “humble”, I always dismissed it as utterly pathetic - because what I thought they meant was that you were so humbled by the miracle of life and the marvel of the child.

No: what they mean is that having a child teaches you humility. It teaches you that although you might think you’re a big shot or a tough nut or an independent, don’t-need-nobody type, that all goes out of the window once there’s a buggy in the hall. It teaches you that you are wrong about everything – wrong, wrong, wrong!

Your plans for being a super-strict routine queen with the baby sleeping in its own room collapse as you welcome junior into your bed on day three and can’t get rid of it until it turns ten. Your loud assertions to breastfeed exclusively for six months even though you know it will be “hard” crumble as nothing but a weak dribble of milk ever appears. Your vow to keep going out, up with the news and down with the kids vaporises as you discover your attention span, free time and energy drying up like a puddle in the sun. You learn you have to rely on the kindness of others, as you block gangways with your buggy, trash restaurants and silently beg others to be nice to you when you are tired and tearful, un-showered and broken. You learn that you are no different from anyone else.

My own personal humiliation journey has been about socialising. I am naturally anti-social, not sporty, not especially a fresh-air type. I don’t get bored easily and used to spend days on end at home just pottering about. This, I discovered, was not possible with a baby over about seven months old because both you, and it, will go insane with boredom. What I discovered was that an hour of childcare goes quickest when it’s spent with other people.

So we had to make friends, fast. And this is, basically, the thing I am worst at. I don’t get on that well with most people I meet – I am too gloomy, liable to say odd things and in general I talk too much. So I don’t really call people and arrange tea parties, I am not “always out”. And the other thing is that the people I get on best with are often similar types, so the process of us making friends is like trying to get two incredibly shy pandas to mate.

...

A breakthrough at breakfast

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 03 April 2012

Everyone makes fun of how rigid I am as a parent. Whether it’s to my face or behind my back, I know that the thing about me, the thing that people snigger about, is how neurotic and to-the-second I am about timings, how strict I am about bedtime routines, about sitting in high chairs for meals, about not getting a toy back that has been thrown out of a buggy more than once, about not napping after 10.30am so that the lunchtime sleep goes well.

You know my sort, I’m sure. Maybe you’re the same.

But we are living back at home with my parents at the moment, while there is building work done to our house, and being around my mother has had a surprising effect.

...

Mummy Cool

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 27 March 2012

It’s difficult to feel cool when you’re a mother. Pretty, yes; sexy, maybe (sometimes), but cool? Edgy? No. It’s the lack of real danger, you see. Isn’t danger what’s cool? And when you’ve got a child, you can’t kid yourself, or anyone else, that you’re actually going to put yourself in harm’s way. (Unless trying to park in Waitrose at 11am on a Saturday can be considered mortal danger.)

My friend B summarised it for me. She emailed, having returned from Monkey Music with her two under three. “I am having a fag in the back garden to recover my edge,” she wrote. And I totally know what she meant.

It’s not like I was ever actually cool. I am too ruddy of complexion and round of cheek to ever look cool to anyone: even in sunglasses, sitting on a motorbike, smoking a fag, chatting casually to Angelina Jolie, I don’t think I’d look cool. But I might have felt cool.

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Silencing my voice of doom

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 20 March 2012

I have always had a strong inner voice of doom. No holiday, party or weekend plan has ever been able to escape my critical logistical eye – and with a baby it has raged out of control. “We can’t do that,” I will say gravely when my husband suggests grabbing a morning coffee with the buggy. “It’ll be a nightmare.”

Some people don’t mind “nightmares”. Some people think they are, in fact, quite fun. War stories. Battle scars. Not me. I think “nightmares” are just that and I avoid them at all costs. My instinctive urge when invited to do anything is to say “no,” because I basically just want to stay at home and change Kitty’s nappy in peace.

 

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I boast all I like about Kitty - but only to myself

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 13 March 2012

When things are going well with your child – especially if you only have one – it is difficult not to feel a huge upsurge of smugness. They are sleeping like tops, eating like horses and smiling all day long. “What a pleasant child!” people shriek.

Yes, yes, you say to yourself, it’s all paid off. I AM the world’s greatest mother, I AM the best at trouble-shooting and problem-solving. I am firm yet fair, my routine is structured yet flexible. My child is a dreamboat and it’s all down to me, me, me!!! Your favourite thing is people asking you questions about your child. “I am just very strict,” you say, beatifically, beaming at your progeny. “We have a brilliant routine. S/he seems to respond really well to it.”

And then, 48 hours later, your world caves in as your kind-hearted baby turns into a demented, raging toddler. You lurch from one ineffective parenting technique to another. You wonder what Jo Frost would do in your situation. You question every single thing you’ve done up until now. You conclude, sitting on your stairs and weeping into your knees, (covered in fish pie and crayon), that this is all because you didn’t breast-feed for long enough.

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