So once I’d had the child I dutifully took myself off to Tiny Toes mothers’ group, baby swimming lessons, music sessions and yoga. It was all rather exhausting, but I did meet a couple of like-minded souls, so it was worth it in the end.
After a while we sort of naturally outgrew Tiny Toes, in that my son is not a small child and I no longer felt the need to recount my birth story in visceral detail to anything with a pulse, which seemed to be the main therapeutic function of Tiny Toes. And then I was informed that my son would need to repeat Stage One of swimming lessons, as he didn’t like being dunked underwater, and that brought up a lot of my issues about being picked last for sport, so we ditched that. And yoga was at the local Surestart children’s centre, so got axed, obviously.
The only group we stuck with, albeit sporadically, was Music & Movement at the Sebright Children’s Centre. The session is run by a musician called Coram. He’s a bit of a character, takes great pleasure in yanking dummies from babies’ mouths and hurling them at the mothers, and sometimes doesn’t show up because he’s at Glastonbury with his band or some other glamorous excuse. It’s standing room only at his sessions. You sing, bang drums, fling children around and generally have a ball.
Other things to do in East London with a cling-on in tow are:
Movies at the Rich Mix in Bethnal Green and the Rio in Dalston. A godsend in the early days as a kind of dimly lit retreat from the shock of it all. Rich Mix also has a play session with a qualified movement therapist. Slightly pointless if your child doesn’t actually move yet, but I had a fascinating conversation with a crime scene investigator mum so it was worth the trek.
London Fields Lido is nice on a sunny day if you bring a couple of mates and take turns to swim.
Hackney City Farm is awesome – homestyle Italian food and the odd guinea pig or donkey wandering about to make it educational.
Buggies & Bikes at Broadway Market hold baby signing classes and other things.
Up in Stoke Newington you have baby swimming lessons at the Sunstone Women’s Gym and Mothers Talking sessions with Naomi Stadlen, author of the brilliant What Mothers Do (Especially When It Looks Like Nothing) and How Mothers Love, which I’m still to read.
Hackney Library has singing sessions and a good book selection.
And don’t forget to get your Real Nappies For London cloth nappy voucher from Hackney Council – pictured above. Ok, you might not use them all the time, but even one nappy a day means 365 fewer a year into landfill.
But if you stay in your PJ’s all day then that’s fine, too. Other suggestions/tips welcome.