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.

Why be 100% when 65% will do?

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
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on Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A thing that a lot of working mothers say about their lives is that they feel they are not really succeeding at home or succeeding at work and that this lack of satisfaction at a job well done is what really gets them down.

For me, one of the great joys of taking on a bit of work while having a baby is precisely because you have the most terrific excuse not to do anything particularly well. I have always been Miss 65% at everything I do, whether it’s washing-up, exams, childcare or freelance journalism.

When you are exclusively trying to do a job or exclusively trying to bring up a child or children there isn’t really anywhere to hide, there is no excuse for not really putting your back into it and achieving only 65% feels a little bit like failure.

For example, I went round to my friend Becky’s house for tea yesterday. Becky is Miss 100% - she has a 12 week old baby and her house is always tidy and she had made me cheese scones for tea. Cheese scones. She is not going back to work, partly I suspect because she is the sort of person who wants to do one thing perfectly, rather than two things just competently.

But when you’re doing two things at once, trying to work and also trying to bring up your first child, being a 65%-er feels just right. Everything really pressing gets done, sort of, possibly a bit sloppily. But it gets done.

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French Children Don’t Throw Food

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
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on Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The two things that frightened me most about having children were sleep deprivation and toddler tantrums.

Now Kitty is nearly a year old, and has been sleeping through the night for a while, toddler tantrums are about to be a very real thing – and I’m scared.

So I fell on the recently-published French Children Don’t Throw Food like a crazy person. In it the author, an American journalist called Pamela Druckerman who lives in Paris with three children, attempts to explain why it is that French children don’t throw food, or take off their clothes in restaurants, or interrupt, or generally make a nuisance of themselves.

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Motherhood and guilt

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Before I had a baby I was confident that a thing about me, which would make motherhood bearable, is that I don't really feel guilty about things. I mean, I feel guilty if I do some awful, (although I tend not to do awful things), but I don't feel guilty if something was an accident, or if my intentions were good, if I did my best. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I don't beat myself up.

But I had never been involved in a Minor Baby Accident THAT IS ALL YOUR FAULT before and thus had no idea the crashing wave of guilt and self-hate that knocks you sideways when it happens, rendering you unable to think straight for days.

This morning, for example, I was taking my 11 month old daughter, Kitty, out for a morning jaunt. We were going to the post office then we were going to the toy shop round the corner and then we were going to the City farm. It was going to be brilliant. We had snacks and a buggy book and nothing was going to stand between us and a good time. I wheeled Kitty out of the door, applied the footbrake to the buggy, turned to shut the door, turned back to see ( .... no it can't be... it CAN'T BE! ...) the buggy rolling down the incline of the garden path, heading for the steps down to the street.

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A bit of a "phase"

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

A friend of mine, who has a beautiful but classically unruly toddler, is due to have another baby in June. “I can’t believe I’m doing it again,” she said. “It’s all worth it, though isn’t it, right? RIGHT?”

Just now, after two months of illness-free, frustration-free bliss, Kitty is having a bit of a “phase”, as people politely call it. She will be 1 year old in February and I can already see her gearing up for toddler tantrums; she shrieks and arches her back when I try to dress her and clenches her little fists, purple with rage, as she tries to communicate to me through the medium of anger, what it is that she wants.

It is only going to get worse. And what would it be like with another one?

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Blow the detox

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 03 January 2012
Flowers to cheer you up

Why does everyone go on about how much they hate January? I love January. It's my favourite month. There are so few expectations of joy and happiness that I, personally, love it.

I can be as depressed as I like. No-one invites you out for dinner, or to a party, or anything. It's great!

And I always find the run-up to Christmas a tiny bit like the run-up to the end of the world. Quick, quick, quick... got to get everything done by this looming deadline. And you hold your breath and do it all and sort of expect the sky to fall on your head. But then January 2 and 3 and 4 roll around in the usual fashion and you feel like you've been given a second chance at life.

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