Here we are in Greater Manchester staring down the barrel of a never-ending spiral of restrictions. In Manchester, we’ve been living under tighter lockdown restrictions since the end of July (that’s right London, since July) and I’m struggling to comprehend what normal life was like. Sometimes I revisit the memories of frequenting packed bars, squished against a sweaty stranger, standing on my tiptoes trying desperately to get a barman to acknowledge my existence in exchange for a pint of delicious cheap lager. Ah, those were the days.

Every now and then I’m reminded that not everyone has been under the same restrictions that we’ve been subject to up North. The eased reins bestowed on some postcodes is a life goal right now. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for just a sip of your ability to socialise inside, to have a brew in someone else’s house. As a new mum on maternity leave, now is a stinker of a time to have strict limits put on your ability to mingle.

Sometimes I daydream about the ease of taking my baby inside someone else’s home. Not a random stranger’s house, obviously, a friend, of course. He could just lie on a playmat and gurgle happily as we adults chinwag merrily while hugging a hot mug of Yorkshire’s best. How easy it would be to feed him inside and not a park bench literally freezing my tits off. Not to mention the absolute crystal maze of changing a baby single-handedly on a park bench while trying to avoid him rolling into a patch of COVID-19.

Also, as an egotistical new parent it’s difficult to show off my proudest creation in his best light while plodding the grounds of a park. As soon as he’s wrapped up to go outside, he falls happily asleep and no-one gets to see him perform at his most charming. Basically, I worry that our friends are missing out on the best of our little guy as he’s probably just the boring sleeping baby when I’m out. I know, I know, it beats a boring and crying baby. But, seriously, at home he smiles and giggles and cocks his leg to fart. What more could you want from a baby?

I should say that I’m under no illusions that, quite frankly, most people aren’t that interested in our bambino’s developments. The fact that he’s quiet and we adults can converse in peace is probably an impressive performance in itself.

Autumn parkBut the life of an alfresco mum is riddled with many annoyances. My baby who is essentially a glorified barnacle counts as a person in his own right under the rule of six. This would be laughable if I hadn’t used all my sarcastic chuckling on all the other ridiculous caveats we have to deal with as routine. I guess the presumption is that he might take himself off down the pub or do a lap of the Trafford Centre when we’re not looking.

Right now, I’m clinging to my one baby group, the teeniest semblance of a ‘normal’ mat leave. Of course, the catch is that it appears baby groups are only accessible to those who can afford it. Never a more apt testament of our time. Boy, did I squint when I saw how much some of these classes cost. Good job my outgoings have been on a diet during COVID-19. But it shouldn’t go unnoticed that for new mums during this pandemic, there are no casual coffee mornings, zero free drop-in sessions and basically nothing of courtesy to assist an isolated new mum along the way. As with so much in recent times, we’re sitting on a ticking time-bomb when it comes to mental health.

If I think about things too much, I’ll get depressed, so let’s focus on the positives. I’m pretty happy that I get to spend every day with my little guy and, as a payoff from working at home, his other mum gets to see him during the day far more than she ever would have in normal circumstances. And if anyone really is interested in the daily development of our baby, you’re in luck because we have an album of 1,433 photos and videos and counting for you to catch up on. Just say the word.

By Hayley-Jane Sims