Monday, February 23, 2015

how to do coffee outings with a baby

I think I have the Mums Who Coffee With Their Babies dialled.

Been meaning to impart this wisdom survival tactic now that I know what I'm doing my baby has started crawling and I can't actually visit coffee shops with him anymore because it's uncharted chaos.

For mothers-to-be, or those simply venturing out to buy a hot drink while carrying a child, this is how it is done. (It mustn't be crawling yet. I don't [yet] know how to do a [dignified] coffee visit if the child is moving. Sorry.)

Put a bib on the child

I've tried to do the whole "oh I'm just giving him five raisins, so he doesn't need a bib" thing before. I've also tried to just casually let him gnaw on an Organix Carrot Finger, thinking the whole rigmarole of pulling out the bibs, wipes, etc negates the relaxed atmosphere of grabbing a quick coffee.

There is always mess, and there is always aftermath.
I've given Sebastian his tea ("supper") while I've tried to casually sip on a flat white. This is so he is distracted for at least 45 seconds and I can then savour the taste of the Ethiopian beans.

If you like it, you shoulda put a bib on it.

Pick your coffee shop according to these three very important things
1) Your buggy must fit through the door without any heaving;
2) Notwithstanding, the cafe should ideally have a spot for you to park your buggy so that it doesn't take up space next to your table;
3)  Most importantly - it must have big tables that are not clustered close to one another.

I've been to coffee shops where there are lots of little tables all packed in together and I have had a bad time.

For one, Sebastian will turn around and try to pick the toast off a stranger's plate. Or knock over their teapot. And the whole session quickly becomes about trying to stop a cascading crescendo of destruction before it starts.

Secondly, other mummy friends have the same problem, so you end up throwing your coffee everywhere, apologising profusely to everyone around you, and not finishing a sentence with the person with whom you're trying to have a conversation with.

You need a big table, not one of those piddly Parisian cafe things. I live in London, and sadly restaurant tables the size of a dinner plate are commonplace. People are stuffed into small corners and are all but sitting on someone else's lap. So if you find a coffee shop or restaurant with wide[r] tables, stick with it.

You see, when you bring a kid to a public area, you bring a lot of crap with you. Wipes, hats, bottles, bibs, spoons, teething toys.
Then you forget that most tables at have a vase on it, salt and pepper shakers, a menu holder. Knives and forks.
You want something big. You need a dumping ground. So go to a place with big tables and lots of space between each one.
Chains are [sadly] usually more 'buggy friendly' than independent coffee shops, at least around Clapham anyway.

Some of the more buggy friendly chains in the UK are All Bar One, Byron Burger, Bill's, Costa Coffee, Nero.

Pay while the going is good

This is really important. It's the difference between being an amateur Mum Who Coffees and a professional. Some places do table service - a delight when the waiter thinks ahead and puts the coffee out of reach of little hands, but is a disaster when they plonk it down in front of the child - but this means you usually only pay right at the end.

Nine times out of ten I leave a coffee shop, my baby has declared he has had enough sitting around and starts to scream a little.
A panic starts to happen, and there's furious hunting through handbags for the right change or waiting for the card to be fucking approved and it's mayhem and disorder as the baby basically has a meltdown on your face.

Or, like one of my mummy friends, the child projectile vomits up her salmon risotto over everything and instead of being able to pick up her bag and run the fuck away, she has sit in her child's vomit waiting for the bill.

So. The moment they serve the coffee and cake, get the bill. Pay it.
If you have to leave in a hurry - which is pretty much always the case -  at least with my baby - you can.

Bring more snacks than is necessary

Ply little hands, and friend's baby's hands, with snacks. Do what you can to get your cuppa Joe. Out in a public place. With another adult human. Snacks are more distracting than toys.

(Even if, like mine, they eat their toys).

Do it in the afternoon

For some reason, there is more time. As your baby starts to drop naps and becomes more active, and then starts to eat and basically become a mini person, you'll find the day stretches out and starts to really lag between their afternoon nap and their bath time.

There are a good few hours there where you'll need to get out of the house and need a change of scene. This usually happens around 3pm, which collides pretty nicely with your dire need for a coffee because you haven't slept the night before and you're completely catatonic.

Morning coffees work well when the child is still sleeping four times a day.

After six months, it's afternoon coffees all the way.

People without children will stare at you

When you're a mum, you get judged. Especially by those who don't have babies. Yours will cry for no reason, or you'll wipe up its vomit with the arm of your coat instead of a muslin, or something will happen in public whereby other mums will look at you knowingly and give you an encouraging, exhausted smile, but others will just passively-aggressively frown at you. Because they somehow think you WANT your child to kick off. 

Learn to ignore and don't even look at these people. Sometimes your baby will start crying for no reason and you won't be able to stop it. It will feel like the whole world is looking at you, and you'll desperately start to sweat and beg your baby to calm down.

Just keep doing what you're doing. Don't even look around you. Your baby is going to drop stuff on the floor, smear stuff all over the high chair, scream loudly because they think it's fun, and cry. And it's going to be loud and messy.

If you care what others think, it'll debilitate you. So just keep on keepin' on.

Your coffee will never be hot

Just a final note. It's a common known fact that mothers never manage to finish (or sometimes even start) a cup of coffee. Because you'll have to attend to five other things the moment you sit down to take that first sip, and sometimes you forget you even made yourself a cup.

Don't worry, you'll get used to cold, or at best, luke warm, coffee. You might even start to not notice.

When I do finish a cup and it's still actually hot, I silently high five myself and get a real feeling of complete and utter satisfaction because I have managed to bust through my last best score.

It's like a little game of Tetris I play with myself to see how far I can get in my cup of coffee.

Try to pwn that shit.

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