Sometimes I wish I was one of those people. The type who ‘tidy up as they go along’ and ‘ruthlessly de-clutter’ every week. My house would look a lot less like it just got hit by a typhoon. Actually I don’t, because my children are professional mess makers who can trash rooms in minutes and so it would be a constant tidying job (yawn), which would leave precious little time for more important things like cuddling them all and watching telly. Also when inside other peoples clean and tidy houses I am (a) tense, (b) instantly exhausted at the thought of having to keep my sticky, dirty children from touching anything and (c) suspicious – how? Much better to have toys scattered, smeary windows and crumbs on the work tops because it makes guests feel more relaxed.
Occasionally I wish I was one of those mothers who didn’t bribe their pre-schooler with magnums and chewits. But I’m not, and it’s not so bad.
But honestly, truly, I do wish I was one of those people who loved doing exercise. It would be so great. Mr G is one of those people. When I was first getting to know him I assumed he was pretending, as a way of impressing me. Oooo I’m so fit and healthy. But it’s been over ten years and he still loves a good run and goes to the gym without anyone even suggesting it. And it’s not just so he can buy fancy lycra exercise kit – he darts about in his stinky old school PE kit for most of the time.
I know about the endorphins and all the feel-good-afterwards jazz, I just want those things without having to run about. Everything jiggles and I can’t be arsed. Except – when it’s with Tess. Tess is one of my favourite people. She runs postnatal fitness classes on the common at the top of our road. You take your baby with you and they sit in the buggy receiving lots of lovely fresh air while you jump about so it kind of doubles up as an outdoor playgroup. It’s brilliant, even for an exercise-phobe like me. And I’ll tell you for why:
* Your baby doesn’t have to be quiet. (I still shiver when I think of the Pilates class my baby ‘sang’ through.)
* Tess tells you what to do, so there is no need to think. Constant reminders to suck your tummy in and squeeze your pelvic floor are included in the price. (I often wish that there was a tiny weeny Tess who could live in my ear.) You can’t talk yourself out of doing it and slump back into the changing rooms as you would at the gym – and actually the thought never occurs to you. This is mainly because:
* You get to hang out with other mums and chat. Because you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, you can just do it whilst having a (bit of a puffy) chat. Ace. (You’ll have noticed that this never ever happens when you put a fitness DVD on at home. Davina is all well and good but the conversation is pretty one way.)
* When Tess makes you run around she stays with the buggies and makes all the babies happy. Better than leaving them with randoms in a gym creche (and paying for the privilege), no? Tess is a mummy too. She loves babies and she’ll really love yours. Also, she knows her shit about exercising after you’ve had a baby, which is handy because I do not know mine. She differentiates effortlessly between those hardcore mamas who want to work up a sweat and those who want a more gentle pace (me), so the class is always tailored to the women attending it.
* Most of the time you are jumping/squatting/lunging/planking (ouch) etc next to your baby so you can pop raisins in his or her mouth while you do it.
* Other people look at you and think that you are cool. (This is what I tell myself.)
* It’s over before you know it. Suddenly, it’s stretchy time and you’ve been exercising for AN HOUR. And your body feels all compliant and relaxed and you feel massively virtuous. You are now One Of Those People – and you didn’t even have to try.
* The next day your thighs tell the story of the day before – and you can pat yourself on the back. (Because now you will be able to reach as you’re so stretchy and bendy.)
* You learn tricks for every day use – on many of my four million trips up and down the staircase each day I often hear Tess’ gentle voice in my ear (maybe she does have a little version of herself in there?) telling me to ‘engage my core’ and stuff like that. So I do. Now, I’m never going to get my eighteen year old tummy back, but bit by bit, day by day, my estranged stomach muscles are at least making an effort to become reunited.
* At the end, there is basically a party. We end up where we started – at the cafe. And because of all the fun and chatting, everyone is keen to continue the fun and chatting and so they stop for a bit of cake and a latte and a natter. Party in my book nowadays.
* With the school holidays on the horizon it’s good to know that in the summer, we stay on the common all day. Picnic lunches appear and everyone lazes about on the grass in the sunshine instead of going home and doing the washing. The big kids climb trees and the little ones crawl about and it’s heavenly.
I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’re local then come and join us on Tooting Common. Tess is at the cafe every Monday and Thursday from 10am. (See Train Happy Mums for more information.) And if you’re not from round these parts, find a local outdoor mum and baby class near to you and get your trainers on. You’ll love it, and your bambino will too!