I have always been the world’s very worst stay at home mother – especially when I was off on maternity leave. This is basically because I cannot bear to stay at home with my children.

There is literally nothing I dread more than being stuck within my own four walls, in the company of my own offspring. This is why from very early in their lives both of the small people have been dragged around Sheffield attending myriad baby classes, groups, museums, libraries, parks etc and blah.

The fact is that to this day I remain a far better parent in public than I am in private. This is due largely, I believe, to the fact the routine of social niceties and the momentum of perpetual motion have often been the only things holding all my pieces together – especially on the very darkest days of parenthood.

The poonami days. The reflux days. The zombie days. The screaming days. The desperate days. The days when you’ve failed yourself and your small people over and over and over again.

If everyone is getting on each other’s last nerve, if the baby can’t get out of it’s scream-funk, if you can’t get out of your own head – if you can’t get anyone out of the day’s rotten rut – for the Lord’s sake do yourself a favour and just GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.

And the place I have always ended up more than any other is the @851 Baby Cafe off Ecclesall Road South.

It’s a proper family business run by three generations of seriously lovely women. And it’s so SIMPLE. It’s so simple I can’t understand why there aren’t more of them in every neighbourhood in every town.

It’s just a cafe, with a toy corner, a buggy park, and a whole bunch of high chairs. Now here’s the really genius bits:

  • It’s got wipe clean floors and seats.
  • It’s got parking right outside (two hours only, be warned).
  • The radiators are off the floor away from little hands.
  • They serve kiddie food – simple sarnies, beans on toast, veggie sticks and half-portion baked potatoes.
  • They’ll warm your milk or baby food for you without complaint (I’m looking at you Costa Coffee – get a freaking grip!)
  • They even CLEAN THE TOYS AND THE BABY CHANGE so you don’t have to worry about your little darling contracting impetigo or tetanus from the ingrained grime and crud you find on your average public change table/toy box (radical, isn’t it?)
  • They also serve decent coffee, cake and grown-up sustenance.

None of that is really it, though. The true secret of the @851 Baby Cafe is Joyce, Lisa and Sophie themselves.

  • You will always get a warm welcome. I don’t know how they remember everyone’s name and their baby’s name (not an art I’ve mastered), but they do. And they actually mean it.
  • Although it’s a great meet-up place you can walk in solo and be perfectly comfortable.
  • It is also the only public place I ever felt at ease wapping out a boob. (And if the bf-ing is taking a while they’ll look after you with table service).
  • They will serve your tea or coffee without wobbling it dangerously on a saucer directly over your precious baby’s head (still talkin’ about you, Costa).
  • They will hold your baby for you while you go for a wee.
  • They will source nappies and wipes for you from other kind patrons when you are too disorganised to have remembered your own.
  • They will kindly, firmly (and far more effectively than you) call your ratbag/feral preschooler to order when they can see you are too exhausted to keep fighting them and are just trying to eat your damn dinner (thank you Joyce!)
  • They will re-warm your food for you once it goes cold because you’re attempting to feed the children.
  • They won’t judge you on tantrums (yours or your progeny’s) and will even come over to commiserate and distract.
  • They won’t throw their own tantrum if you bring along the only two foods your eejit-fusspot child will consent to consume (as long as you’re buying something – they do have costs to cover), and yes I’m STILL talking about a chain cafe rhyming with BOSTA.
  • They don’t give a blue goat’s gaboozy if you turn up unwashed, covered in spit-up/toothpaste/porridge, and wearing your cardy on backwards (my look of choice).
  • They will always provide a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, and basic adult human contact.

My only argument with these ladies is that occasionally they have the temerity to go on holiday. The absolute cheek of it.

They also don’t open on weekends, which is a bummer as Dadonthenetheredge and I would really, really like to go somewhere simple and kid friendly at 8.30am (having already been up for 3 hours) to eat bacon sandwiches and look at our phones while completely ignoring both each other and our beloved children. Otherwise known as the holy grail of weekends.

[The reason they don’t open on a Sat or Sun, btw, is that they do kids’ parties. Traditional party games led by ex-nursery teacher Joyce, plus traditional party food and the odd Princess appearance courtesy of Sophie. Completely effortless for you and fab for younger birthdays].

In all seriousness, the @851 Baby Cafe has been an oasis of calm for me in the storm of parenthood. (As long as I remember not to go at lunchtime on a Friday when it’s insanely busy). I have met and made great friends there, eaten my own bodyweight in cake, cried, snivelled, and laughed my pelvic floor into spasm. I think the Big Small Person even took her first steps there.

As we all know, angels rarely wear wings or halos. And sometimes they wear aprons and a smile, and they’re holding a very strong cup of coffee.



Want to find out more about what’s on for parents and small in Sheffield? Check out Little Sheffield here.

Want more fab reviews of places to go from another Sheffield Mum Blogger? Go visit the brilliant Trips with a Tot here.