If Granny lives outside of London, the city can still provide a support network, says  Bell from Bow

Since having my two sons I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to afford childcare to return to work.

My mum didn’t have the opportunity to “lean in”, she was stuck at home with two babies whether she wanted to or not.

I had the choice, and I am so grateful that I get to do a job I adore, with people I respect.

Just being able to wear lipstick and shut the bathroom door is a start; earning money for doing something I enjoy is icing on that cake. In many ways, my life is easier than my mum’s was at the same stage.

What she did have, though, was her family close by: a built-in babysitter and extra hands whenever she needed them.

I may have no family close, but I’ve got lots of friends. Not in an “I’m-so-popular” way, but because I’ve lived in the same city for 14 years, and on the same street since having both my kids.

So my network from East London NCT and Bow baby classes is pretty broad, and I’ve met other parents in Hackney’s finest coffee shops, buying double-shot lattes and hoping that a ration of avocado on toast is enough nutrition for the day.

While my parents are fantastic grandparents, they have their own lives rotating around golf, tennis, and being the only people who still visit the supermarket in person, as if Ocado doesn’t exist.

That is to say, they are busy people, they’ve raised their own children and are too busy planning their retirement holidays (do I sound jealous? I am!) to want to raise mine. In the absence of Granny-next-door, I have my friends, but also my neighbourhood.

The local hairdresser who rocked my baby’s pram while I scoured the street for my mislaid house keys. The next-door neighbour who always takes in my parcels and doesn’t judge me wearing pyjama bottoms to the corner shop.

It does take a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to support knackered parents.

My East London village is gritty, urban and ugly in parts, but has a pub and a coffee shop, and some incredibly kind locals.

My kids are lucky to have the best of both worlds – family to spoil them, but also a neighbourhood to teach them the value of where they come from.


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