I want to say right from the beginning, I have nothing personally against mums (or dads) who participate in baby coffee clubs, baby yoga, baby sign language classes, sing-along’s, etc. There are many out there who have found a great deal of solace from new parenthood in these activities, and I know for a fact that my mother’s generation would have benefitted from them greatly. But they are not for me. I have never had a desire to meet up with anyone from my pre-natal NCT group. The thought of doing yoga with my daughter fills me with dread; teaching her sign language seems pointless.
So what’s a new parent to do? Or more specifically, what’s a new parent in Brixton supposed to do, when faced with the monotony of parenthood, in need of stimuli and a bit of release? Here are some tips:
Treehouse Work and Play
As a freelancer, being on maternity leave was a bit trickier than anticipated, and for financial reasons going back to work when my daughter was six months old was the right decision for both of us. I needed my space and she needed more socialisation. Treehouse Work and Play is a rather clever idea for those in similar industries, who need the flexibility freelancing affords but also, the freedom to get some actual work done. Essentially, Treehouse Work and Play is a pay-as-you-go crèche, located across from Mothercare on Brixton Road. Admittedly, it is on the first floor, which makes negotiating it with a buggy a bit awkward, but the staff are more than willing to help clients and their buggies make the climb upstairs. The open plan playroom gives children from all ages the opportunity to play, climb and generally muck about. Next door, parents can work uninterrupted, knowing full well their little ones are safely romping about, and, crucially, burning off energy. There is a small coffee and tea point, snacks available for purchase, wifi, photocopiers, and reference books. It is a simple space, but what it provides for me is invaluable: time to think, time to write, time to focus. Alternatively, if work isn’t an issue and a couple hours are needed to run errands without a child in tow, Treehouse offers a reduced rate to those only using the crèche facilities. Use it when it’s needed, but unlike the typical nursery, if your child isn’t there, you don’t have to pay for the privilege to hold their space.
Big Fish Little Fish
One of the difficult things about adjusting to parenthood is the sudden shock of inflexibility. The impromptu decisions, the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle is out the window, as are regular nights out on the weekend. I missed the rave culture here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it. Granted, going out clubbing now we have a 11-month old baby at home makes me shudder – the hangover, the crowds, the overpriced drinks, the young people who were most likely born in the 1990s – all of it is hugely unappealing. Enter Big Fish Little Fish, started last year by Hannah Saunders, who saw a gap in the market for post-rave parents like her who wanted something different to do with their Saturday afternoons. Big Fish Little Fish’s strap line is “2 to 4 hour Party People”, which sums it up perfectly. BFLF has events at Brixton Jamm on Saturday afternoons that appeal to children and parents alike. There’s the dance floor in one room, complete with DJs spinning eclectic but cool tunes at a loud enough level to feel like you’re at a party, but not loud enough for the children to be required to wear ear protectors. In the neighbouring room, there’s a cake and wrap stand, a bar, a crafts space run by the effervescent Captain Cookie (see below), mini-tents and tunnels for children to explore, as well as space for littler babies and crawlers, featuring bean bag chairs, sofas and a ball pit. What struck me the most about this was how carefully considered and well organised the BFLF raves are. There are stewards in hi-vis to help parents keep an eye on their children, but parents are able to have a chat and a drink, and together with their kids, listen and dance to fantastic music, yet leave when it’s still daylight outside and get the children home in time for their tea. Utterly genius and I’m so grateful it exists.
Captain Cookie Presents The Minnow Club
An associate of Big Fish Little Fish, Captain Cookie’s Minnow Club is 10am-12pm Thursday mornings at the Prince of Wales on Coldharbour Lane. Parents can bring their little ones down and enjoy conversation with other local parents. Captain Cookie herself is warm and energetic, bringing loads of creativity and interactivity for the children in the form of songs and crafts. Despite being geared more towards preschoolers with its pop-up tents and inflatables, there’s a special play area for babies too. Entrance is only £5 per family, and the Prince of Wales has a special coffee and a pastry discount for £2 and an early lunch offer for £5, all in all making it a pleasant and relatively inexpensive way to pass the morning.
Buggy Friendly Cafes
Learning to negotiate your buggy on public transport is a right of passage for every London parent, as is knowing what baby supplies are needed for a 40-minute shopping trip in Brixton Market and all the countless other little nuances that are so personal in the parent-child relationship. There are times when all I want to do is capitalise on the limited window of time our bundle of joy is sleeping in her pram and sit down for a spot of quiet and a nice cup of coffee or tea. Here are a few of my Brixton favourites.
• Federation Coffee: Love it or loathe it for what it represents about recent changes in Brixton, there is plenty of space to park your buggy outside the main space. The coffee is pretty good, but the food offerings are where it’s at. I am partial to their bacon muffins with tomato chutney, as well as their famous ANZAC biscuits.
• Costa Coffee: Perhaps controversial to include this, but I have often used Costa as a pit stop when shopping in the Market. Standard coffee, yes, but there is a baby-change, room for buggies, and they take credit cards, great for when you can’t be bothered to trek to the cash point.
• Kaff Bar: What’s not to love about Kaff Bar? There’s room to manoeuvre your buggy, the drinks are reasonability priced (non-alcoholic or alcoholic, depending on the day you’ve had), and the food is spectacular. Jambalaya Po’ Boys to soft-shelled crab quesadilla, Chef Richard Meyers’s offerings are always flavourful enough to perk up the most ragged of days.
• The Lido Café: A busy destination point for local mums and dads but that’s for a reason. The café is a welcoming oasis in Brockwell Park, and the fact they serve Allpress coffee is reason enough for the visit. The breakfasts and baked goods are my personal favourites of all the Lido Café’s offerings.
Life with children is exciting, stressful, exhausting and utterly fulfilling. And, as those with kids know, it is not for the faint of heart. The key is to enjoy yourself as best as you can along the way. For me, trying to retain some semblance of myself is the hardest part, but all of the above help make the crazy adventure that is parenthood complement the person I was before. Although, I have to say, I’m in my 30s, I think I’d have loved a daytime rave even without a baby.
What are your tips to being a parent in Brixton? What do you like to do? Let us know!
Lindsay blogs at blondevsbland.com