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
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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.

But I have persisted, even though I hate doing it, even though I find the act of asking myself round to someone’s house for tea humiliating. It’s working, sort of, and I have managed to source within wheeling distance some like-minded misanthropes with children approximately the same age.

After all, learning humility isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not very nice. But no-one said children were easy.

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