What constitutes as civilised when eating out? When is it acceptable to wake up for the day? Neither question had I ever given much thought to before becoming a parent, but it struck me recently that since being a mother my expectations and definitions of many things have changed somewhat.
To give a recent example, this week a friend and I decided to brave a local chain restaurant with our 11-month old babies and 2-year-old toddlers. At the beginning of the meal I commented on how civilised the meal was, my friend agreed, and we were very pleased that despite our fears; A busy chain, way past our children’s usual lunch time, was in fact going very well. However, I can’t help but wonder if the ‘civilised’ 2 adults and adolescents on the table next to us would have agreed with our definition. My friend’s toddler was just wearing a top and a nappy as he had fallen in the mud prior to lunchtime. My weaning son was eating off the table and throwing half the contents of his lunch on the floor, over his shoulder, across the table and at his sister. My daughter was scooping ice cubes out of her water, sucking them and putting them on anything she could and my friend’s baby managed to get a good tug on the paper tablecloth sending cutlery flying. We laughed at how this could be seen as civilised, yet it was for us now. It was as good as it gets as we were a) able to order our lunch, b) able to eat our starter in peace, c) have a full conversation about one topic from start to finish.
Needless to say the rest of the meal quickly escalated into chaos and by our main meals we took turns to eat whilst the other rocked one of our babies or settled one of the toddlers. Yet, this was definitely a win. A successful meal out. A pat on the back all round. I expect of course, that’s exactly the opposite of how the staff and the family on the table next to us felt as when we left as it looked like we had been participating in a food fight.
As well as my definition of ‘civilised’ having a slightly new slant. I also now have a different view on when ‘morning;’ actually starts. My pre mother self would have been appalled at the idea of waking before 7am on a weekday and probably before 10am on a weekend. My post baby self considers 5:30am a good innings. This is because for about 6 months my firstborn liked to start the day at 4:30am, despite readjusting bedtime to try and overcome this. By 5am she was ravenous for food and many a morning we would have finished breakfast and be washed and dressed before sunrise, even in the summer!
It is funny to think that so much changes when you are a parent, but I wasn’t expecting my definitions of such things to change. Perhaps you could argue I have just lowered my expectations, but I like to think of It as just adjusting them to fit around my relatively new family life. Think of all the extra hours I have now to enjoy my civilised days!
( I originally wrote this piece for ETC magazine Horsham and Mid Sussex Edition, published June 2016)
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