We have all spent our formative years at school learning socialisation, sharing, numbers and where Africa is on a map. But who knew that schooling doesn’t really prepare you for making friends in your thirties?
Upon starting maternity leave, I suddenly realised I had very few friends, and had no idea how to make new ones! Sure, I had my high school buddies, Uni housemates and friendly colleagues but they were scattered all over the UK and very busy with work. How was I going to fill my time now that I had a baby and was awake 22 hours a day? It was a strange, and rather worrying, realisation.
I talked it over with my husband – how did one make adult friends? How should I go about it? Where would these like-minded local people hang out? He was torn between amusement and concern at my lack of confidence, but he tried his best to make suggestions. And no, my Mum was not enough. I needed local Mummy friends who I could obsessively talk about baby sleeping habits with, plus moan about teething and other vital topics. But HOW was I going to meet these people?
Using dating apps for mums?
As is often the case in the 21st century, I turned to the internet. And to social media. There were several websites and apps that promised i’d be inundated with hundreds of local mums just like me. I signed up eagerly, and checked my emails once every three minutes. Several days went by and nothing had happened. I was upset – was my profile not cheery enough, did I look strange in my profile photo, what was I doing wrong? Again, I shared these worries with my husband who laughed in my face (nice) and said “I didn’t realise you were dating, Alice!” But wait a second, I thought my dating days were over? I’m happily married for almost 8 years, have been with my husband for 10 years, and honestly never thought i’d have to ‘date’ again. And then it hit me, finding Mummy friends is just like dating!
You put yourself out there online, create a profile, agonise over what photo and words to use. You wait eagerly for messages and emails, checking every few minutes if there are any new members who look friendly or live locally. And then, hurray, a notification! Someone wants to meet! Then it’s back to choosing carefully what to say (you don’t want to sound too eager) and arranging to meet in a public place.
On the day itself, you wake early, carefully apply make up and head out hoping the baby is also on its best behaviour. Oh ladies, it was a disaster. My ‘date’ was a perfectly nice mother of two, but it was soooo awkward! We didn’t know what to say to each other, I kept starting conversations and she wasn’t giving me anything back. I thought her Harry Potter bag was a sign we were going to be best buds, but she didn’t want to discuss which House she’d be in at Hogwarts (I’m a Hufflepuff). I was deflated, took down all my online profiles and told my husband I was destined to be a hermit throughout my maternity leave, looking longingly at large groups of happy chatting mums in shops and cafes as I walked past; a spectre at the feast.
Hanging out in a coffee shop?
Having decided there weren’t many local Mums on the websites I’d chosen (self-preservation, it could just be that they didn’t like the look of me!) I decided to try traditional dating techniques. I made up my mind one lonely Tuesday morning that I was going to my local Costa, and if there was another Mummy there i’d chat to her. As I walked in to the coffee shop I scanned the room looking for potential candidates. I desperately tried to make eye contact with a Mum in front of me in the queue, but she just smiled and went back to checking her phone. I couldn’t bring myself to start a conversation, even though “your baby’s super cute” would have done the trick. I got my coffee to-go, and left kicking myself that i’d failed.
Braving the playgroup!
The following week, it was game on. Playgroup time! Time to brave my first ever baby group, and the place where most mums reportedly make their new friends. I walked in, and was immediately met with smiles and an offer of coffee. Thank goodness, i’d done it! I relaxed immediately, realised I recognised a few people from my school days and that was that. I have been going to that playgroup for almost 3 years now, have reconnected with primary school friends, met new friends and had hours of supportive chats and rants to help with current baby-related issues. It’s my safe place, where I can go on a Wednesday morning and find someone to talk to.
So ladies, I’ve tried various dating techniques to make Mummy friends. Some have worked and some were disastrous – sound familiar? Is it just me who’s struggled to make mummy friends? No, I don’t think so. Because what my three years on the Mummy Dating Scene has taught me is this – everyone else is looking for a friend too! Everyone else lacks confidence, wants to make eye contact, wants to ask advice on weaning and arrange caffeine-fuelled cake sessions. As soon as you relax, become less desperate and cotton on to key conversation tactics (always compliment the cuteness of their baby, then ask where the outfit is from and how old they are) making Mummy friends becomes easier. So hang in there if you’re new to the Mummy Dating Scene, it’ll get easier!
It’s taken me three years to get to this point, and my self-confidence has improved rapidly. By the time my second maternity leave started, I was ready and prepared to ‘get myself out there’ and I’m now the ‘chatty Mum’ who is always ready for a conversation – whether that be in shops, cafes or baby groups. And yes, I’ve recently met a great friend online too through MOLO Mates! So both traditional and digital dating techniques have paid off. Phew.
But i’m not done on the Mummy Dating Scene yet! I’ve recently started taking my 3 year old to the local primary school preschool and i’m already making eyes at the other school-run Mums. Here we go again…
Image credit: Cover image courtesy of Libby Vanderploeg for Loft.