Esther Walker: “I have been ruthlessly seeking out other normal women who have children”

In about mid-February I get an attack of “Spring Hope”, which is when I start believing that Spring is “just …

In about mid-February I get an attack of “Spring Hope”, which is when I start believing that Spring is “just around the corner”. I keep saying to everyone “Spring is nearly here! I can smell it!” only to look a fool when the temperature keeps plummeting to minus 3 and it snows for the whole of March.

My Spring Hope has arrived for me early this year as back in October I delivered the manuscript of my book, based on my food blog Recipe Rifle, and I have pretty much been twiddling my thumbs ever since, sitting out the endless rain.

Winter takes on a new dimension of horror when you have children: I have one, Kitty who is nearly two and another due in May. Pre-children, bad weather was an excuse to stay in bed, reading a spicy novel and eating Turkish delight.


With any under-5s it means norovirus, too much telly and the stench of exhaustion and boredom everywhere. The easiest way to entertain children is outside, where they can’t break anything and they can bring themselves to their knees by running round and round and screaming for no reason. But even an energetic toddler will turn his nose up at a grim, windswept, deserted playground.

Last winter, when Kitty was not yet one and I was still a tragic novice mother with no clue and no friends, (NCT failed to provide any kindred spirits), I would dutifully wheel Kitty to the swings at least once a day and wonder where everyone was. We’d have a little swing, decide it was too cold and go home again, like two sad little vagrants.

The Bull & Last for kids? Talacre
The Bull & Last for kids? Talacre
This year, I am no-one’s fool. I know now, for example, about Talacre, the indoor play centre tucked behind that baffling new development off Dalby Street. Sure, the Talacre ticketing policy is Kafka-esque in its permissions and restrictions, but I don’t know a toddler who doesn’t go mental for Baby Gym and Treetops. It’s the kiddie equivalent of The Bull and Last.

The other thing I have been doing is ruthlessly seeking out other normal women who have children about the same age as Kitty: what I realised last winter was that no-one was at the playground, not because they were sailing around the heath pretending that trudging along in the wind and rain and bitter cold was simply bracing entertainment, and not even because they were at Talacre or the One O Clock Club or the library – no-one was at the playground because they were all round each other’s houses, having cosy playdates with tea and cake.

This may not be strictly true, but it’s how it felt – like in the summer wondering where all your friends are and finding out that they’ve all gone on the same villa holiday without you. You know? Or did that just happen to me?

Anyway, so far I have found one friend and she’s been a lifesaver on those long, cold, dark afternoons. I confidently told her the other day that I thought that Spring was nearly here – and she didn’t even laugh.

Esther Walker’s column first appeared in our February print edition.

  • Show Comments

  • Asta

    This is possibly the most middle-class thing I’ve ever read on here!

  • AB

    If Ms Walker is really interested in meeting ‘normal mothers’ (I’m not sure how she defines normal – maybe it means having a food blog and a professional range cooker), she might like to note that most of us are not twiddling our thumbs waiting for books to be published or enjoying cosy playmates. We have jobs which require us to run around like headless chickens, juggling work and childcare responsibilities. Maybe if she showed a bit more imagination about the lives of others she would find it easier to make friends.

    • moona

      That’s a bit mean!

      • moona

        Why oh why do women turn on each other. I have sneaky feeling that when someone is having a bit of a crap time, they tend to vent on others.

    • Kate

      Blimey. I assume all your friends (if you have any) are all male if that’s how you react to other women? Try being nice for a change. The world is a much nicer place.
      Esther – I have 14 month old twins and make it to talacre a fair amount. See you there and we can plan that villa holiday

  • Dudisimo

    Well, the comments so far are really helpful and sympathetic. Surely harassed mothers would rather be in her situation than be running around like headless chickens, so why criticise her? She’s highlighted a problem that I can quite understand, although as an aged, childless male, there’s no help or advice that I can give.

  • LucyBT

    Kindred Spirits plus tea and cake twice a week at Tufnell Park Parents Support Group
    I made some great friends when my son was a baby – and we are still meeting up and sharing the school run 9 years on.

  • Maria

    Her definition of normal mother is a middle class non council estate residence mother pushing an expensive push chair. It’s so funny snobs like her get so bored at home so they turn up at the local children’s centre to mingle with human beings the fact most of them are not normal in their middle class eyes is thrown out the window when depression and loneliness kicks in

  • Pauline Brown

    Oh do shut up! Jealous are we, that she is a little bit well known, a writer, a blogger, has a famous husband. Who do you expect to read about in The Guardian? So she is middle class, she is a woman & mother, who needs support & friendship, like the rest of us, maybe you should stop judging her and say hello!

  • Dr Wanda Wyporska (@WandaWyporska)

    The reality is, that many mothers have to spend a lot of time with other women, simply because they have children. Then one is not choosing who to socialise with. Many of us are not just obsessed with our children and their achievements and also want to carry on with a smidgeon of our adult lives and speak to other women about non-child-related subjects! In time you find the few mums with whom you get on well and would also have wanted to be friends with pre-child.

    I’m a mum working full-time. I am not twiddling my thumbs, but am waiting for a book to be published and I live up the road. Happy to say hello.

  • Harriet

    Blimey! What a lot of unpleasantness. I fail to see what class has to do with any of it. Load of rubbish! The idea of sitting around waiting for our book to be published may be some hard-working mothers’ idea of heaven but, speaking as one on maternity leave from a stressful job for the second time, I can say that there are days when I feel lonely and isolated and Esther Walker’s words rang very true to me.

  • bridgetthefidget

    I zestfully found this site and looked at the article and said phew it’s not Giles Coren’s wife. Then I realised that is was! Quite a sweet article better than twee cooking stuff Tweets out her!

  • Harriet

    What amazingly unnecessary vitriol. A close friend of mine is about to be the first one of us to have kids, and is terrified that she will feel horribly alone because none of us can empathise, come along to the playground, share clothes etc. She’s made no friends in NCT (understandable, it’s a pretty small cross-section), and doesn’t know anyone else who is pregnant. It must happen all the time, regardless of social class, job and location, and it sounds pants.

  • Mark

    Esther will write anything requested of her provided the fee is right. Including horrific comments about mothers and sons (including her unborn child, google it) Then she whines and complains on her blog that people are rude and ignorant. Pot, Kettle and Black.

    • moona

      You really don’t get her do you Mark. Esther is a refreshing young woman/mother who tells it how it is. She is so refreshing to read due to her honesty and is a rare writer who isn’t smug about her lifestyle/wealth.
      Do yourself a favour and make a cake from her her excellent blog recipe rifle. It might make you a nicer person.

  • LM

    Esther – I used to go to the library a lot – my two year old loved charging around pulling out books and attending the while I had time to read.