I moved out of Clapham to Tunbridge Wells a few years ago & a kernel of a germ of an inkling of an idea that had been brewing away for some time started to take hold. Maybe it was the space, the trees, the removal of the fear of getting mugged on the way home. Perhaps it was just the right place and the right time for me to take a breath & let something happen.
I yearned for a place – a shop, a cafe, a space where you could safely take your kids, where they could be fully engaged in activities, but where you could have a good cup of coffee & not feel like a weird stalker for chatting to other mums. So that rules out the industrial estate soft play situ, it also makes the cute, vintage cafe option (aka bull in a china shop/nipper in Juliet’s) completely unviable.
A gander at the rents & business rates around town quickly eliminated any kind of premises lease (you’d need to sell a lotta cupcakes to break-even) and to have a garden, with the potential for chickens or an allotment simply didn’t exist. That’s when I looked around me, at my own home filled with all the realities of our life; the mess & the chaos but also the warmth and the simple act of flicking the kettle on which has prompted so many chats, advice, offloading, laughs & tears.
Something that started out around my kitchen table with my then 4 year old daughter & a few of her friends has now mushroomed into something else.. It’s still firmly around my kitchen table but it’s something that is mine, something that I understand instinctively & something I am immensely proud of. It has started me off on a path of honesty and penny dropping clarity.
“Alright love, calm down – you do baking/gardening workshops with kids & their mums” Oh hello Inner Critic, how lovely of you to join us. Perfect timing (the IC can be relied on to pull us down, neg us out & generally make us feel like shit) come on in, take a seat.
My venture started out about a year ago; ‘Little Springers’ was born out of a need for me to connect, share & do something for me. Not that my children didn’t tick these boxes but to be completely honest, whilst starting a family no doubt nourished me, it also stripped me of my identity and (dare I type it) my sanity.
At the time I thought I was alone, I looked around me & saw all of the yummy mummys speed walking down Northcote Road – I was one of them, shades on, smile fixed, tears falling. Motherhood completely overwhelmed me, the responsibility, the tedium, the intensity, the whole ‘this is forever’ thing. I didn’t talk, I cried into the washing machine. I didn’t ask for help, I howled into a towel with the shower running. I was lost, miserable & wondering why everyone else seemed to be so robust & well-adjusted whilst I was drowning. My relationships took the strain, my own perception of myself was dinted & after a brief nose-dive to the seabed, I started the slow, painful journey back to myself.
I ‘came out’ after I came to Tunbridge Wells (not sexually – I don’t think 3 days in Ibiza in 1997 counts, does it?) I got brave, I started counselling & CBT, I took responsibility for my stuff & just sat with the guilt of a few dark years. I spoke honestly to friends, to friend’s husbands (cue uncomfortable shuffle) I discovered my appetite for the good mumblogs, I cracked a smile – here were real, genuine, funny, sincere, struggling women. I found my fucking sense of humour!!
I now run workshops for pre-schoolers where we cook in my kitchen, we do a little crafty activity & then we pull on the wellies and run down to my fully secure garden (she said, pulling on the high-vis health & safety tabard) to play, potter about, plant veggies, water the plants, collect the hens eggs & just generally have fun, make a mess, find new friends. The sessions are as much for the mums as they are for the children – we all know the golden rule: if the kids are happy..
And that is why, when mums walk through my door, with their shy pre-schooler curled into their skirt, whilst grappling a planking toddler & simultaneously trying to balance a sleepy newborn filled car seat, I have only one question for them: tea or coffee?
Article by Aimee Cooper of Little Springers
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