Aug 29

Diary of a Freelance Working Mother: Park Life

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A term time break. The summer holidays. This used to mean something when I was in school, but since my son is still in toddlerhood it does not hold the same excitement. I am not saying it has no effect on my life: the toddler groups close or become less frequent. When they are open they are busier than ever. It seems like everyone, apart from our family, has taken August off and is having a wonderful time sunning themselves in an exotic location. Cry. But what really changes during term breaks is that I end up going to the park with my little one. Parks that are busier than ever.

Usually my little one and I are too busy to go to the park. His social life is packed with different events and lessons. From Monkey Music to his toddler groups. But toddlers need to learn, get fresh air, and burn off their energy. Fun for toddlers, but not always for the mama. I usually love taking my son on the swing, and watching him do the assault course. There are a lot of parks near where we live in South-West London, and they all have something different to offer. But the real interesting thing is the people that each park attracts. Some are easy-going with friendly toddlers, others are full of aggressive children and mothers who do not care. General piece of advice to them: it is called parenting, not let-them-do-whatever-they-want-ing. I reckon I could write a book just on the politics of park life.

I recently had a lovely conversation with a little girl about Star Wars, had an aggressive 10-year-old call my two-year-old a ‘s**t f**k’ because he wanted to go on the bus, and strike up a conversation with a friendly Irish mother whose sons toy my son kept trying to steal. It went well until she told me that 5-year-olds are harder work than two-year-olds and then I just wanted to start drinking, everyday.

I have had many great conversations with other mothers and their children. Not every experience has been great however. Where there is all of life that will not happen. Recently it started to rain just as I took my son to the park, we waited under a tree until it passed. Another mother came to the fence near us and started saying how she had lost her phone to a friend, and had left it on the fence. She gave me the eye and I gave the eye back, irritated. She then went all over the park looking for her phone. A while later she came up to me and asked ‘if I had seen a phone’. I told her, no. The rain passed and I took my son into the park for some fun. I looked over at one point to see the mean mother, who had previously been bitching about me to all of her friends, On Her Phone. No apology. Difficult mothers cannot be entirely avoided. Neither can the competitive ones. One mother kept telling me my son was 3 ‘because he looks 3’ It is hard to argue with that kind of logic.

Negative moments aside I now get why I saw so many mother in parks before I become a mother. Some looked exhausted and spaced out, others were on their phones, and some looked happy as they watched their child play. The park allows parents to socialise while the children burn off energy. On a tough day, it takes some of those hours away when they feel endless. So I might see you at the park, but I will make sure it is a friendly one. Feel free to strike up a conversation.