Before I had kids I asked my friends what I needed to stock up on, and nappies, muslin cloths, changing mats and a Jumparoo featured highly. While such tips helped ensure my offspring had a comfortable existence, they did nothing to prepare my partner and I for the chaos that ensued once baby arrived.
Here is a list of the purchases I found invaluable in making our lives a little bit more bearable. You’re welcome.
1. Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals
So your newborn is still stocking up on the 24-hour breastmilk bar and your toddler has a freezer full of homemade, organic butternut squash tagine. Great. Now what are you going to eat? When my first child was born, me and the other half lived on crumpets with cheese for two weeks, before progressing to the dizzy heights of beans on toast. Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals saved us from repeating this dire meal planner when baby number two landed. I’ve yet to muster up one of the dishes in under 40 minutes, though Jamie assures me with practice I’ll soon get up to speed. But that’s irrelevant. What matters is this book has revolutionised our meal times, replacing crackers and crumpets with such delights as Gorgeous Greek Chicken and Chilli Con Carne Meatballs, all in less time than it takes to order a takeaway. Mr Oliver, I salute you.
2. The number of a good beauty salon
So your hair is a disaster, your face looks like an arse, and you feel like crap? It happens. I’ve never been what you could call glamourous, but pre-children I at least made an effort. Before stepping out of the house, I’d ensure my legs were shaved, my barnet was straightened and I was wearing just enough mascara to make me look half awake. Three months into parenting and I had more hair on my legs than on my head, while a hastily administered hair bobble was the closest I got to a hairstyle. As for make-up, it simply didn’t happen. Realising there were people I could pay to wax the fuzz from parts I didn’t want to have hair on – and that this would last for months – was a revelation. Getting them to shape and tint my eyebrows at the same time, thus making me look half awake, even without make-up on, was the icing on the cake. I swear by the lovely ladies at the Powder Room in Hull, whose number I now have on speed-dial.
3. A dishwasher
I had visited enough houses with stinky dishwashers to put me off buying one of my own. Then my life was turned upside down by children, at which point I quickly changed my mind. They might be small, but kids can create more dirty dishes in the time it takes for Bing to load on BBC iplayer than the average retirement home musters up in a month. Many families already have a dishwasher in their homes. If you’re not one of them, maybe it’s time to add one to your wishlist.
4. A slow cooker
In much the same theme as Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, our trusty Crockpot has further relieved us from a diet consisting of tinned beans and egg-fried rice. It takes a small amount of forward planning, namely buying the ingredients and chopping up some veg, but once these have been thrown in the slow cooker you can go let it do its magic while you go about your business. Even better, you can make 6-8 servings in one go, and batch freeze the leftovers for quick and easy dinners in the future. A word of advice, however: remember to switch the darn thing on, otherwise you’ll return after 8 hours to find a bowl of raw meat (yes, I speak from experience).
5. Dr Beckmann’s Colour & Dirt Collectors
Are you the kind of person who divides their laundry into white loads, colours and dark jeans? Me too. Or at least I was until I realised life is too short for such nonsense. Besides, the average child creates 1,431 loads of washing a week (only a slight exaggeration), so unless you start washing everything together you’re going to have a mammoth task ahead of you. Dr Beckmann’s Colour & Dirt Collectors allow parents to wash their baby’s white vests with their toddler’s red socks and blue jeans, without turning everything a murky shade of pinky grey. Genius.
6. A bottle of fizz
Ok, so fizzy wine is not likely to make your house run more smoothly, and if like me you breastfed then it may be a while before you crack open the bottle. Nevertheless, I found having a bottle of Prosecco in the house made even the longest, most tiring days that little bit more bearable. Yes, I had to wait months before I could drink it, but knowing it was there, ready for when I could crack it open, gave me almost as much pleasure as actually drinking it.