I have never had a ‘girl gang’ or a big group of friends, I’ve always been quite shy and it takes a while for me to feel confident enough to approach people. I have a few small groups of friends and one very close friend that I’ve known since school, who has always been a huge support and a font of parenthood wisdom for me.
Everywhere that I’ve worked I’ve stayed in close contact with a few people and that had always meant that I had more than enough friends when it came to socialising. When I met my husband his friends became mine too and we found ourselves busy most weekends. We would work all week and then feel that it was hard to manage to see everyone in the short weekends.
When I had Ted and my husband’s paternity leave was over I realised that I had 5 days to fill. ‘No problem’ I thought ‘I can happily spend all day snuggling and watching my beautiful baby sleep’. And at first I was right, everything was such a novelty that the days seemed to fly past. Ted slept loads, I watched tons of box sets, it was winter and we were cosy in our little bubble of newborn love.
A lot of our early days were spent like this.
Gradually, however, Ted became more awake and alert and entertaining him, alone, for 13 hours a day suddenly seemed a mammoth task. We went to classes but they were quite full on and busy, there didn’t seem much time to chat to other mums. I started spending a lot of time at Bluewater, our local shopping centre, just wandering, window shopping, giving Ted other faces to look at. The long empty weeks were becoming lonely.
Most of my friends were at work during the week. I had friends from an NCT group but the group Whatsapp was a bit quiet so I assumed they were all busy. I noticed that Bluewater was full of Mums like me, wandering with their prams, stopping with a sleeping baby to quickly get a hot coffee. Did we all feel the same?
One of our many Bluewater shopping trips.
The change came for me when two old friends that I hadn’t seen for a while got in touch through Facebook, they both had babies around Ted’s age and we started meeting for the odd play date. It was lovely to get out with the babies, compare poonami horror stories and watch our children grow together. Around the same time I started meeting up with some of the ladies from my NCT group and had regular days with my best friend and her kids. This meant we’d usually have at least one play date a week and they became a highlight for me.
Ted had started a Baby class at 4 weeks old and I’d been chatting to a couple of mums for months by now. ‘Just ask them for their number and go for a coffee’ my husband kept saying. But I couldn’t, I just felt too shy and a bit scared that they might not want to. Eventually one of the mums asked about going for a coffee and it turned out we had all been feeling the same way.
Charlotte over at @bettymagazine was telling a story of swapping numbers with another mum. She was wondering how many days she should leave it to text without seeming too keen. I was amazed that other people were feeling the same way and it has inspired me to start being braver.
I’m trying harder now to talk to other mums at playgroups, in the park, at the supermarket. We might not end up being friends but we are probably all craving a little adult conversation, even if it’s just to interrupt the Baby Shark on loop in our heads.
I’m forever grateful to the ‘Mum friends’ that I have in my life. Their friendship means that Ted gets to play with other children and I feel like a person again rather than ‘Just Ted’s Mum’. Those women have become friends who I can confide in and talk about the great days and the tough days without feeling like I’m boasting or moaning because I know that they’ll share theirs too. Women I can text a picture of Ted’s nappy rash to to see if it’s normal, whatsapp conversations where baby poo photos are regular and long days can be cheered by a chat and a little empathy. We don’t just talk about our children but the babies are now a good excuse to meet up for a chat, a coffee and usually cake.
These are the women who get me through the week, good or bad, feeling like I’m doing ok. And for that, if you are reading, thank you.