Why it Matters: fear of “mummy-fication”

I must admit to witnessing with some alarm, the gradual creeping in of more and more chain coffee shops, with their airport lounge furnishings and bland coffees

baby-on-board-badge copy2I’ve lived in south London (Battersea, Brixton, and now Camberwell) for most of my life. I love it for a million reasons – one of which is the glorious familiarity of my favourite independent cafes, shops and bars, and also the regular excitement at discovering new places to enjoy. South London has always been wonderfully diverse, but I must admit to witnessing with some alarm, the gradual creeping in of more and more chain coffee shops, with their airport lounge furnishings and bland coffees.

And who goes to them? First thing in the morning it’s commuters but I’ve noticed that later in the day they’re often populated by suburban yummy mummies, pushing their Bugaboos into Brixton and Borough for a bit of a day out, who feel safest and happiest in the same brand coffee shops they could have gone to if they’d stayed local.

The thing is, and bearing all of my sneering snobbery in mind, I am now eight months pregnant. A big part of me is terrified of “mummy-fication”: apart from the daunting responsibility and my total ignorance of how my life’s going to change, a much shallower part of me wonders if I will have to start hanging out with people with whom the only thing I have in common is that we all have babies? Will we meet in big branded coffee shops after baby-yoga/music/swimming/algebra and talk slightly competitively about our babies’ development? Will I suddenly get a taste for bland, overpriced, corporate coffee and only feel safe and clean changing my baby in the corporate loos of the establishments selling it? Does becoming a mum mean I have to stop being me? Shit, I really hope not.

On the other hand, when I try and think practically about life with a baby, I can see the obvious attraction of Costa Coffee’s baby-changing facilities – but I’m still not keen to become a customer. So to help me try and get a grip, I’m trying to start planning places to go and things to do that don’t necessarily involve hanging out with loads of other mums (unless they happen to be brilliant mates) while keeping a practical eye on available facilities (but please, not in Costa or even worse, Starbucks.)

Brunswick Park Wooster Stock
Brunswick Park, SE5 (image: Wooster Stock)

Obviously, I’m going to be spending more daytimes out and about in the local area than I’m currently accustomed to, so it seems to make sense to think about locally accessible parks – and happily there are more than I realised, right on my doorstep: Within a 30 minute walk from our flat are no less than seven parks: Myatt’s Fields, Loughborough Park, Ruskin Park, Lucas Gardens, Brunswick Park, Camberwell Green, Burgess Park and, with a following wind and an extra slice of toast for breakfast, it’s not much of an extra stretch to reach Brockwell Park or Peckham Rye.

As for cafes and shops – I realise increasingly that I’m going to have to jettison at least some of my hideous inverse snobbery and get whatever buggy is smallest and nippiest and least likely to prevent me getting round the markets, on and off the buses, and in and out of the tiny independent shops in south London I’m so fond of. I realised the other day that there’s a baby-changing facility in the the excellent public loos in Brixton Market so that’s one fear squashed – no need to visit Costa or Starbucks there…which just leaves me the rest of south London to map out. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Words: Holly Atkins, actor and trepidatious mother-to-be

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  • Show Comments

  • ellen (@nellefant)

    I’m a new mum in Tooting and I’ve yet to step into a chain coffee shop! I’m afraid your world gets restricted mostly by space, no more pokey cute places if you have the pram. (Bear in mind you can use a sling/baby carrier if you do want to visit the pokey/busy places!). Also if you’re breastfeeding you’ll soon start preferring places where you feel comfy doing that (physically ie nice chairs, but also somewhere you don’t feel self conscious. I’ve never had a problem with the latter, you inevitably don’t sit right in the window!).

    Some recommendations in Balham: Trinity Stores (no baby change but usually space for a pram on weekdays), The Grove pub, The Regent pub, Bertie & Boo’s. In Tooting Broadway, Graveney and Meadow is excellent, it’s where the “Tooting Baby Network” holds meet ups as it has LOTS of space for many prams, and baby changing facilities on top!

    I split my “coffee outings” between meeting new mums (like you suggest, it can be a struggle as all you have in common is a baby! But sometimes that’s what needed), and other friends who happen to be free despite it being a weekday!

  • brandarling (@brandarling)

    Colliers Wood mum here. Must admit, I do frequent Starbucks/Costa/Nero/etc for the convenience factor, but I haven’t given up independents either. As Ellen mentions, there is always the sling option (Ergobaby FTW!) Get out and meet some other mums – you might find you have more in common than *just* a baby. And as for the buggy, may I humbly recommend the Baby Jogger City Mini. Reasonably priced (esp compared to the ubiquitous Bugaboo) and SOOO easy to use – you can fold it with one hand. Can also be used with a Maxi Cosi carseat. We don’t have a car, but I used it for the first 8 months and it was much easier to get Junior in/out of a first-floor flat (added benefit: didn’t have to wake him up if he had fallen asleep). Good luck!

  • Miss E (@ell2414)

    Slightly off topic, but as a newish mum and therefore having recently been on the other end of this, the yummy mummy thing does bother me a bit. The “yummy mummies”, who have probably spent the morning mopping up poo, breastfeeding and wondering what happened to their careers, are an easy target in contrast with yummy daddy, who is safely back in the office leading a relatively normal life. Most of the yummy mummies I’ve met aren’t inherently evil. In some areas of the internet, the yummy mummy thing does feel a bit like the acceptable face of sexism at the moment (I’m absolutely not accusing you of this – I get your ironic tone).

    So… enjoy being a yummy mummy. Go buy your Bugaboo Bee with pride (it has an amazing turning circle, you can easily fit it between the seats on a London bus, and they are very reasonably priced on Ebay). Sit in Caffe Nero and breastfeed, happy that you have escaped from Homes Under The Hammer for a bit and safe in the knowledge that the baristas will protect you if you get evils from the other customers. If anyone accuses you of being a yummy mummy, tell them where to go!

  • Millay

    As a new (not very yummy at all) mummy in Camberwell, I share your misgivings – fear not, there ARE ways to find yourself in pram-land without succumbing to the chains. Actually, leaving the pram behind is usually best…but I’ve been finding that our wonderful independent coffee shops are extremely welcoming and accommodating of us mums and their paraphernalia. Plenty of buggy space at Daily Goods,surprisingly fantastic changing facilities at Pigeonhole Cafe, always a welcoming smile at Love Walk Cafe…

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