Babycare? It's a walk in the park

10th December 2004 at 00:00
Days at home trickle by in a whirl of inactivity for new mum Gemma Warren

So here's what I do with my day while I'm on maternity leave. I get my baby son up, and we have breakfast in front of the news. We play with his large collection of cuddly, furry insects - if someone could explain to me why most baby's toys come in the form of insects, by the way, I'd be grateful.

His playmat resembles the creepy-crawly exhibition at London Zoo.

We have another sleep. We get up again. We have another bottle. We stroll to the shops, stopping en route in our local park, a concrete monstrosity made up of a skateboard rink and a sign that says "ornamental gardens" while pointing at a wire fence.

I sometimes wonder if it's like platform 93Z4 in Harry Potter, and that if I try to walk through the fence, I will arrive at the ornamental gardens.

At present they are a local myth. Maybe I should write to the council.

We come home. We watch telly. My four-month-old has developed a fondness for daytime TV, particularly Dr Phil, and screams furiously if I try to remove him from the screen before Dr Phil's thought for the day. We chat on the phone and deliver up-to-the-minute, detailed health reports to both sets of concerned grandparents. We dance a bit to MTV. I look at my watch.

It's 11am. Bugger. What the hell are we going to do for the rest of the day?

One thing that was not immediately apparent from the pages of OK! magazine, where, pre-birth, I gleaned most of my information about the so-called reality of living with a baby, is that tiny babies don't do much. I've come to the shattering realisation that all those glossy celebs, svelte and rested three weeks after their pre-planned caesareans and tummy tucks, don't know much about babies either. The next time I embark on motherhood, I might read something more realistic, like Miriam Stoppard, although admittedly, I don't think OK! magazine intentionally sets out to be a guide for prospective parents.

I had glorious visions of me and my newborn romping through green fields and gazing lovingly into each other's eyes. He would giggle at my funny faces and smile cutely at strangers. I would get his literacy off to a good start by spending happy hours cuddled up on the sofa, leafing through brightly coloured and politically correct children's stories.

Surprisingly, it hasn't worked out like that. My baby will make eye contact only with his cuddly spider, with whom he has developed a close and loving relationship, and catches my adoring gaze for a split second as a warning precursor to screaming, puking or launching himself off his changing table.

He falls asleep the instant he is placed in his buggy, and so our trips round the park seem largely pointless from the point of view of both his developing intellect, and my diminishing waistline, because all I do is plonk myself down in the cafe and down cappuccinos like tequila shots.

The onslaught of winter means gambolling through green fields in dappled sunlight is sadly impossible. He's not interested in books. Is it because he's a boy? Maybe I should invest in some football magazines. To my friends' horror, the only thing he seems genuinely to love is the telly, visibly relaxing once I sit him in front of the screen. He watched Kill Bill with his father the other day and I've never seen him so content.

I adore him, of course. But the days don't half go slowly when you're not working. Bored is the wrong word; readjusting might be more appropriate. My lovely health visitor is convinced I have postnatal depression. I haven't - I don't think it's unusual to miss a job you love. Is that totally incompatible with being a mum? It doesn't mean I love my baby any less.

People tell me to structure my day by following his lead. Fine. I'm junking the activity books and we're off to Blockbusters this afternoon to get some DVDs. I promise I won't just get romantic comedies.

Gemma Warren is on maternity leave from her job as a Senco at a north London comprehensive

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