It’s taken a while but I’ve finally done it: gained admission to the local mums’ What’sApp group.
Listings for second-hand Bugaboos and 2am breastfeeding chat might not seem like much of a prize to you, but trust me, to someone at my particularly pitiful life stage, it’s the equivalent of getting a seat at the mean girls’ table in an American high-school movie, being called to the Bar in Lincoln’s Inn and initiated into the secret Westminster MPs freemason lodge, all in one wild night. Bitches, I have arrived.
Best of all, my long-awaited promotion up to that middle-management level of the matriarchy has happened just in time to ease the annual trauma of Mother’s Day.
It’s this Sunday, but don’t panic if you’d forgotten because Mother’s Day is the easiest occasion to last-minute shop for.
Gift options are limited to flowers, chocolates or a Tesco compilation CD featuring the latest Frank Sinatra cover with an R’n’B twist from X Factor’s Olly Murs. You can’t go wrong.
In fact this is at the root of the identity crisis that besets many new parents: the assumption that, at the very moment of conception, previously distinct individuals will happily cede their old personalities, interests and even given names, to become simply “Mum” and “Dad”.
For women especially, the anxiety is not unfounded. Having children means losing the career status you’ve spent years achieving — if you’re lucky, only temporarily, but still.
It means all your favourite, face-the-world outfits no longer fit over one thigh. And it means you barely have time to scroll through Instagram on the loo, much less keep up to date with the gigs, books, films and exhibitions you’ve been missing.
Child-free Londoners, imagine it: all the things that make you, “you” disappearing in a puff of baby powder, just like that
That’s why, in the months after the birth of my first child, making friends with a bunch of NCT randos felt like the most senseless act of self-annihilation.
If there was any time left over after work and family, I wanted to spend it with the old drinking buddies, comrades and collaborators who made me feel like myself again. It’s taken me until now, halfway through my second pregnancy, to realise that’s exactly where I went wrong.
Making new mum friends isn’t an admission of defeat. New mum friends are the keepers of the esoteric, time-saving wisdom that will actually help you get back to yourself again…eventually.
The fact that so many of them are willing to reach out, despite us having nothing but a fertility window in common, makes that support all the more touching.
Happy Mother’s Day, then, to all the mums of WhatsApp. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and your favourite Olly Murs tracks individually.
And in the meantime, I hope someone buys you the good chocs on Sunday. Y’ know, the expensive ones with the booze in.
From Russia with high-street, chain-brand lunch
There are certain London experiences that always feel like you’ve wandered into the pages of a spy novel: dining in Covent Garden’s historic Rules restaurant, strolling past the dolphin lamps on Embankment on a rainy evening, or meeting a stranger in the lobby of a swanky Mayfair hotel.
That’s because all have been in countless espionage thrillers, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s upcoming BBC series, Killing Eve.
Yet if you wisely wish to avoid entanglement in any real-life international incidents, such glamorous locations may actually be the safest spots to hang. Notice that when secret agents break cover, it’s always in the unlikeliest of places.
This week, the suspected poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal took place outside a branch of Zizzi, the serviceable sit-down Italian chain, pitched somewhere between Carluccio’s and Pizza Express.
Back in 2006, it was the Piccadilly Itsu that featured in the plot against Alexander Litvinenko — and everyone still prefers it to Wasabi. So rest assured that any bad taste you experience over lunch in the coming weeks is unlikely to be polonium-210 poisoning. It’s probably just the restaurant industry marketing men trying to push their new Bond-themed branding.
Divorce: it’s good for women’s looks
Jennifer Garner’s was emitting it in her Oscars epiphany meme from earlier in the week; Louise Redknapp has been pulling it off since the beginning of the year and, in the new series of Sharon Horgan’s Divorce, Sarah Jessica Parker has come closest to embodying it.
Divorcée chic — even the word “divorcée” is chic — is difficult to define exactly, but it must be something to do with the facial- cleansing effect of bitter tears, combined with a new sartorial confidence, which includes the flirty fun of one’s single days plus some hard-learned fashion wisdom.
Looking good, ladies.
Can I relax that stress is not linked to cancer?
At this point, “Things that Give You Cancer” is a recognised journalistic sub-genre and probably has its own Pulitzer Prize category.
How surprising, then, to read of at least one everyday phenomenon that won’t result in serious illness. Or at least not that particular serious illness.
Delicious bacon sandwiches are still off the menu and smoking ciggies is still a slow suicide, but at least we now know there’s no link between stress and cancer, contrary to the assumption of 50 per cent of surveyed Britons.
So I guess we can all relax?