In the beginning there were the groups and the apps and the desperation to speak to another adult.
From attending pre-natal classes to those early days of playgroups in random church halls, I’ve tried my hardest to get out and make friends with other parents. As I was the only person in my friendship group to have a child, I knew I’d need to find new people to share the mental load and double shot lattes with.
But it’s not always easy to make meaningful connections. Everyone at the baby-sensory class has one clear aim: to speak to another adult who is not serving you in the local supermarket or coffee shop. We’re a little worried about our child’s development if they aren’t hearing all of the nursery rhymes at 5 weeks old… but mostly we want to meet the eye of another mum across the room, roll our eyes and then pluck up the courage to ask them out.
The opportunities for connection are out there
While I was on maternity leave, I ran a ‘bumps and babies’ coffee mornings and organised walks in the local park; I volunteered to ensure local parents were never lonely. I could see that, weeks into motherhood, people needed to make friends, connections, lifelines at this seemingly impossible juncture in their lives.
Even on those days I didn’t really want to walk around the park, I did it because I had volunteered to. Those chats about nappies, sleepless nights and bruised undercarriages with the brand-new mums made me realise just how far I’d come. And they also gave me the chance to see my friends, those who I would spend many more hours with, way past our maternity leave.
But how do you find your long-term pals?!
Whatever your hopes, sticking women together who have little in common aside from their due dates, isn’t always the recipe for a lifelong friendship. These, funnily enough, take time.
Throughout my maternity leave, I met lots of women, some of whom I had very little in common with. Some I felt judged by, and, I will admit, some who I judged. We’re human and just because we’re mums doesn’t mean we’re going to get on! And I think that’s okay. I’m not in primary school, I don’t have to make friends with everyone.
For that one coffee morning or soft-play you can try to ignore the awkwardness of being thrown together by your matching ovulation cycles. After a while of polite nappy/sleep/tummy time based conversations, I began to open conversations differently – talking about a book I’d read or something political.
I needed more than someone who would recognise me at Rhyme Time but struggle to place me if we passed on the street.
They know the real you
Finding new friends to share the next stage in my life was a vital way of reminding myself that I was not to be solely defined by the job title ‘Mum’. These women supported me through many of the difficulties of early motherhood. Equally, we have continued laugh, cheer and encourage one another, through difficult choices and exciting adventures.
As my child grew, I didn’t worry about attending every class or group or saying yes to every Mums Night Out. Instead, I’ve spent the pre-school years nurturing relationships that will last, by spending time with families I felt a true connection with. The transition to motherhood is definitely a tough one. Fantastic mum-friends can make this more manageable. They know your darkest secrets and can guess the punchline to ‘You’ll never guess what I did…’ in one.
Keeping in touch on next stage of the adventure
One of the difficult choices we made recently was to move away from our nest. We left a well established support network to find a work/life balance that worked in our favour. Not our employers’! So far we’ve found that maintaining close friendships long-distance, as well as carving out time for new ones, is a real challenge. It takes time, effort and determination. Thanks to these 3 ingredients, and to technology, I’ve continued to be supported and uplifted by my friends, from many, many miles away.
Regardless of how far we are, we’ve maintained our dedication to carving out time for one another. Rather than over a coffee or a glass of wine, I now hear about the usual day-to-day realities on the phone. To me, it’s just as important to catch up on these ‘little’ things as the Big News. It helps me feel connected to their lives and them to mine, and means I don’t have to give much context when I call up for a really big rant!