Barnes Mum

Local Mum Lucy blogs for us about her new life in Barnes, SW London

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For the love of Barnes…

I recently moved from Central London to Barnes. I am a Mum. I am self-employed. I am almost divorced and I am slap-bang in the middle of my 30’s.†

Over the last 4.5 years I have managed four relocations (one to Sydney, three within the UK) and probably triple that in house moves. Throw in a divorce, four school changes, trying to earn a living, a new relationship and it is fair to say, it’s been knackering. And yet, it has been profoundly life-affirming. Probably because it has entailed feeling every emotion available on the human spectrum. I know I am very much alive and here.

Over the years I have lived in a variety of areas in London but the first time I ever lived alone (with the children) ended up being in Soho. I know it sounds random. My children were at a tiny and beautifully run school there and at the point where my life unravelled, I found us a great modern flat, two minutes from school and five minutes from my work. Despite being possibly the most chaotic part of the city it was a perfect fit. In a place where the Tiger Mum most definitely doesn’t reign, Soho felt like it saved us.

It is well documented in books and all over social media just how tough the pressures of motherhood are right now. When you’ve got parents setting up sites dedicated to what you wear for the school-run (click here for the latest in designer-wear etc and watch me pout on Instagram by the yellow zig-zag lines), whole Facebook pages of women bashing each other for their parenting choices (cue guilt for letting my kids cry it out as babies) and generally living in fear that your kid might have a major tantrum in the middle of Waitrose, then you know that your middle-class anxieties are about to peak. Soho in general, doesn’t buy into any of this. It’s creative, liberal and without expectation. So when I was only just getting through the day by the skin of my teeth it was truly a haven. We stayed for a year and half, snuggled up together, 4 floors above the noisy streets, bumped into friends from our little community every day, enjoying seeing familiar faces amidst the tourists.

So why Barnes? Well, with divorce comes a financial change and although Barnes is a posh village and certainly not cheap, it was a saving from a Zone 1 lifestyle. Schools are very good and my children’s Dad lives about 20 minutes away. My boyfriend also conveniently lives nearby in Chiswick but mainly I had always wanted to live South West. Post university, I lived in Southfields and spent a lot of time in Wimbledon Village. Barnes has a similar feel. It is bigger and without the tourists and fundamentally, I could rent a little house for less than the price of a flat somewhere more central. My kids were over the noise and pollution of town and desperate for green space (don’t feel too sorry for them - they learned to ride their bikes on the Mall and spent their weekends playing in St James’ Park with Buckingham Palace as a back-drop).

I am now 6 months in (where did half a year go?) having arrived knowing nobody. After three months of commuting back into Soho we surrendered and changed schools and I am working out how to make a living in a way that I can accommodate the children. I’m somewhere between figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and taking any role so long as it fits in during school hours. Throw in the school holidays and really there hasn’t been much time to look for the right thing but given that I’ve been self-employed since I was 23, I’m not sure that a permanent position is going to work for me now. I do look but the fear creeps in and not being able to dictate my own hours feels horribly suffocating. However as the latest ‘Bad Moms’ film states, we need essential things like money so there’s only so long I can faff about for.†

My skillset requires my business to grow through word of mouth.†I work holistically with women and generally don’t advertise so trying to network in an area where you don’t know anybody isn’t brilliantly straight-forward. I’d actually consider having a baby right now just so I can meet some other parents! Of course there have been some lovely mums at the new school and it will come. I am also well-practiced at moving by now but make no mistake, being a single mum comes with its own issues. It is certainly magnified in Barnes compared to Soho. In Soho I felt no stigma but plonk yourself in a village where giant diamond solitaires enter the room ahead of time and I feel more aware of people’s reactions to my marital status.†

I can’t speak for the people I meet but I know it can be an issue because I lost all sorts of people during my split (which didn’t come down to any bad behaviour or betrayal etc on my part for the record), most shockingly my best-friend.†We’ve known each other since we were 12 and our friendship naturally ebbed and flowed over the years but we’d been eac hothers’ bridesmaids and I’d supported her during some gruelling and emotional rounds of IVF. I love her like a sister and I can’t tell you what hitting rock bottom and losing these people from your life at the same time feels like. She just literally backed-off. Out of sight, out of mind.†

Other friends stopped inviting me to things because I didn’t have a husband to bring along or they only ever saw me away from their husbands. Nothing was ever said directly but it was very clear there was a concern I would be husband-nabbing. It happened at a friend’s party when another guest and I knew very few people there. He was married with children but there alone and we sat chatting about our kids and what life was like for them in New York compared to raising kids in London. Over trotted a friend of his who pointedly ignored me and proceeded to ask about his wife as a way of warning me off. I was cast as the seducer. Women can be awful to each other. We are honestly the source of our own downfall. It has made me nervous about establishing myself in Barnes and although people seem perfectly nice, finding the other flawed women who might fancy a mid-week gin and tonic to hit the reset button is taking time.

And yet… one lovely wife of a friend I’ve known for years was able to put me in touch with a Mum on the other side of the river and once a month I now help at an incredible group for new Mums. It’s amazing being part of a small group of professionals doing everything they can to support women at their most vulnerable, who can come along whatever the mess and are championed simply for getting out the house and turning up on time as a new parent. When you are sleep-deprived and doubting yourself, it can manifest in all sorts of ways and I love being part of the open-arms to love these women. I wish I had had something similar when I was a new parent instead of other mums comparing milestones and trying to make themselves feel better by making you feel worse.†

The professionals I work alongside have a down-to-earth compassion and a great sense of humour and while I have been giving myself a hard time for moving my kids yet again and starting over for what feels like the millionth time, I finally feel it has given me a little glimpse that I am in the right place and starting my journey for what I will be doing in the long-term. Maybe I do know what I want to be when I grow-up after all… someone who stands alongside other women, whatever is going on. In a place where I really worried that I wouldn’t fit in (people have actually run in the opposite direction when I’ve told them I lived in Soho) and I still don’t really know that many people, I know for sure that I am not the only woman who struggles and who needs her women around her.†

Luckily I had my own little tribe to hand over the last few years who held me up when I doubted every decision I was making. So after six months of wandering around Barnes feeling dazzled by all the yoga-latte bodies and designer handbags, pining for my beloved Soho, I am now finally mentally present and ready to find my local tribe. Maybe, just maybe, it will finally lead me to what I want to be when I grow up too!

Lucy is a massage and wellbeing therapist who has been highly recommended by local mums. Find out more about Lucy’s work here

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