Now don’t get me wrong, I love children, after all I taught primary aged boys and girls for 17 years and was endlessly amused and inspired by them. But during those 17 years, quite surreptitiously, something was happening, quite unknown to me at first due to my hectic life- the rise of Mummyville.
The area where I live is a pleasant, leafy area, which has always been popular with commuters due to the easy access to London. Once upon a time, not so long ago, during my adolescence and even my student days, it was an easy going, friendly sort of place with a varied cross section of inhabitants. Elderly people chatting in the Post Office queue, teenagers hanging around in huddled groups on the cricket ground, children playing noisily on the swings and a few novice parents pushing prams.
But in the last 10 years certain changes began to happen. It started with the league tables that segregated the area and drove out the less affluent families. Then came the housing boom, which had similar results.
London was just that bit too expensive for aspiring parents, so they moved out to the leafy suburbs, bringing their aspirational lifestyle with them and a striking sense of entitlement. There have been mothers of all types since the dawn of time, but in recent years being a mother has begun to be portrayed as a badge of honour by some in this area.
A good friend of mine summed it up for me when she was pregnant with her first child.
“If I turn into a Yummy Mummy, you will let me know” was her request.
She joined a mother and baby group but couldn’t stand the competition that applies even to the progress of the smallest child. If they aren’t going to baby French classes by two years old there are raised eyebrows all around.
On a typical trip to the high street in 2014, one has to weave your way through a fleet of traffic, of the non-motorised, double-seated, fully suspended kind, the clumsy designer buggies that are all the rage.
Enter the many child friendly coffee shops and tearooms and every table and most of the floor is piled high with the detritus left by little Florence, Hugo and Orlando, who, bored after finishing their organic shake and rye biscuits are careering wildly around the café or crawling underfoot whilst their mother, loathe to discipline them for fear it stunts their development, studies her diamond where to buy tamoxifen for pct studded tablet.
Every event advertised on the noticeboard is aimed at the mummy army. Baby yoga, mum’s book club, mum’s walking club, mum’s swimming, mum’s cinema, mum and baby music, mum and baby craft group.
If you dare to enter alone and-gasp-without a child or two in tow, all eyes swivel from their non-fat Chai latte as if to say “yerrr not from these parts” and you end up crushed in a corner by the swing door that leads to the nappy changing area. I know this sounds cynical and you may rightly say, if you feel that strongly about it, go elsewhere. But where exactly can an adult go, other than a pub? Believe me, I’ve tried! After a day with 30 children, I was happy for a few moments without them and it is nigh impossible.
Then there’s the effect the advance of Mummyville has had on the shops. The Post Office, butcher and baker (there never was a candlestick maker as far as I know) have been replaced by quaint but useless shops selling hand crafted llama wool booties for £85, ‘distressed’ furniture and yoga wear. The school playgrounds have become an extension of London Fashion Week as mothers in oversized sunglasses and Hunter wellies or stressed looking foreign nannies wait to ferry their children to an array of after school clubs in the 4-wheel drive.
So how did we get like this? My mother’s generation, who became parents in the 70’s, had none of this pressure to be perfect. I remember my friend’s mums being down to earth, sometimes disheveled, but relaxed. If we decided to plot an impromptu visit to ‘go and play’ at someone’s house, the answer would invariably be yes. Because there always seemed to be time, as every waking moment wasn’t filled with ‘enriching’ activities. We had time to be bored. We got on with our games and only surfaced for tea. The only friend I knew whose parents were into organic food was mocked as being “from the muesli belt”.
I may be looking at this with a touch of the rose tinted glasses, but perhaps it would be nice to reclaim some of the straightforwardness of the past. If we have moved on somewhat in terms of women’s rights and the right to choose if we have a child, surely we should try to cultivate the strength to break the Yummy Mummy mold imposed on women?
My friend has managed it, just…..