Mum friends are my new BFFs
I had my prejudices. Like mum jeans and mum hair, mum friends were just not cool
Why would you want to hang out with women simply because they gave birth the same time as you? Photograph: iStock
For the thousandth time, I wouldn’t listen when they told me.
“You’ll definitely need people who have babies around the same age as yours,” they said. “You’ll be lost without mum friends.” I smiled and nodded, but I felt I knew better.
I worked alone in a home office all day. I was more than used to solitude. I craved it. I already had trouble keeping up with everyone in my social circle. I had plenty of people around for company; a cast-iron support network. I definitely wouldn’t be needing any more friends, of that I was sure. I’ll talk to those who know and love me best.
I admit, I was initially hostile to the idea of mum friends. I had my prejudices. Like mum jeans, mum hair and mum dancing, mum friends were, to my mind, just not cool by their nature.
The vibe among mum groups, I assumed, was slightly combative and judgmental
I’d been fed a stodgy diet of pop culture where alpha mums wielded terror over those just trying to do their best. In various cultural messages, everyone was trying to subtly “outmum” each other. The vibe among mum groups, I assumed, was slightly combative and judgmental. We’d be comparing Bugaboos and Babybjorns. There’d be hierarchies and subsets: the breastfeeders; the mama-warriors; the babywearers; the cloth nappy converts.
In the same way that you don’t necessarily want to be friends with the people you share a stretch of office carpet with for eight hours a day, why would you want to hang out with women simply because they gave birth the same time as you?
I suspected that too much time in antenatal groups might feed insecurities, rather than allay them.
Well, how wrong I was: Number 246 in a series of about half a million.
To say that my existing social circle were out living their own lives is almost too boilerplate a line to recall. And yet here we were. My friends are amazing for many reasons, but the daytime became mine and mine alone.
And while new parents have been told plenty about the sleeplessness, the love avalanche, the bleary-eyed euphoria of it all, no one’s talking too much about the sheer loneliness. Even if you’re raining down with visitors seven days a week, this mothering lark is oddly isolating. There’s only so much craic you can wrestle out of a four-week-old, no matter how much of a legend she is.
The day is shaped by naps and nappy changes and feeds and bloody tummy time. The clock slows down as you wait for your partner, or any sort of adult conversation, to walk through the door.
And yet for the first few weeks, I was hesitant to leave the house. It felt scary; like too much hard work. I had a next-door neighbour, and a neighbour three doors down, both of whom kindly extended invites to simply hang out, have tea, whatever. I was too afraid that I would walk into their homes, cry for an hour and wreck their afternoons. And so I stayed inside, befriending the biscuit tin and marvelling at how many adverts there were on afternoon TV for buying your own funeral.
One friend generously gifted me a course of infant massage classes. I politely accepted, even if I was still harbouring my old mum prejudices. Yet that first morning changed everything.
In our circle of truth, we lay down our fears, our perceived weaknesses, our frustrations
At the risk of leaning on a cliché, it was a revelation to find women – all kinds of women – similarly struggling with new motherhood. There were those who hadn’t slept in weeks because their baby was a bit of a buzzer. Those who had birthed stone-cold screamers. Stunning, polished mothers with all the requisite baby accessories who would cry at how hard it all was. Brilliant women who proclaimed, “I don’t even have a steriliser.”
Not one of us had motherhood down pat. In our circle of truth, we lay down our fears, our perceived weaknesses, our frustrations. Someone admitted that they were about ready to deck their partner. We laughed appreciatively. It was a revelation.
“Motherhood is a sh**show, girls,” affirmed the course instructor, and there was something in her authoritative voice that felt like a storm port. We all nodded wearily, and something in this awareness that anxiety and loneliness is commonplace appears to have fed us. We decamped to a local coffee shop en masse, where we had adult conversations about our lives. We admitted to weird feelings – corporeal, emotional, social, psychological. We parked oneupmanship at the door.
These days, I meet a handful of new mums for coffee or lunch. I’m not sure I’d have met them under any other circumstances, but I’m glad I have. I go home feeling anchored.
And once again, ready anew for the sh**show.