Motherhood is a Lonely Hoodby Gemma Campbell
With my first, I was super naïve. I had no idea about antenatal classes and making bump friends that would become friends for life. I didn’t know that the dads would form a kind of dad tribe from these classes and by the time you signed your child up for school, you would be so out of the loop that standing in the school playground at pick up, you’d be thrilled if the group of mum friends actually involved you. And then, one day at a kids party another mum would notice you were on the fringe and chat to you and confide the very same feelings. I had no idea that being a mum could be so lonely.
With my first, I was lucky that my old school and uni friends were also having babies and so, you could arrange little playdates when you were in the area. If money and time permitted you could drive to Manchester to go to their little one's birthdays, christenings or just to meet up as you were all still on Maternity Leave together. But these were few and far between and that actually beyond social media, being a mum could be so lonely.
With my first, I had no idea how scary walking into a toddler group could be. At best you were totally ignored and sat there just watching your little one play or occasionally get up to explain to a toddler about sharing and not bashing each other on the head with the toy car. At worst, all eyes would stare at you, then as you smiled hoping someone might start a conversation, they’d turn to their friends and ignore you. I had no idea being a mum could be so lonely.
But with my second, I decided it would be different. Unfortunately whilst my old school friends popped out baby number 2 and even 3, I was still desperately trying. By the time baby number 2 came along, their Mat Leave’s were finished. Their babies were in nursery and so I paid for private antenatal classes. I thought the mums there would be friendly. And they were. Just they weren’t forming the tribes of old, as these were mums only classes and more about yoga and hypnobirthing than the NHS ones. When baby number 2 was born I paid for Buggy Fitness classes, for baby swimming classes, for baby yoga and massage classes. Anything to try and get my own little mum tribe. And they were friendly and chatty, but not coffee date mums. Not mums who wanted to meet up and brave a baby and toddler group with you. Not mums you could ring to bemoan another sleepless night. They had their own friends and I was far too try-hard and needy.
Baby and I would go for coffee alone. Over the months the coffee shop owners would chat away. I’d bump into women who were passing acquaintances and soon they became friends to chat to. The same faces would be at groups we went to in the local library or at play events and we’d chat away. And I realised, that actually these were my little mum tribe. We didn’t message and make arrangements like the mum tribes did with my first, but we did chat and we did end up at the same places. We started to tag each other in events on social media, hoping we might see each other there. We ‘liked’ each other’s posts and we even shared tips on how to get babies to sleep.
And once I gave up on this idea of a mum tribe of women who would always do everything baby-related together and be over at each other’s houses and monthly mums nights out and a once a year mum holiday, I actually stopped feeling quite so lonely. I adjusted my expectation and now I enjoy bumping into these people and just enjoying the time spent together. Not making arrangements and having to cancel last minute due to baby illness, means one less stress in my already stressful life. And having my little mummy Instagram blog has meant that many mums pop up who often feel the same way as I do, or have similar experiences to me or just want to say “hi you are actually amazing”, is in fact, amazing!
And as for my friends whose babies are that little bit older, if our work commitments allow, we do meet up. It might only be an hour, or it might be an afternoon in a farm zoo place. It might be at a surprise birthday party or a sneaky before school pick-up Prosecco. And we aren’t mum friends, we are just friends who are mums. And that is great too.
You see, motherhood is surprisingly lonely. But you make friends where you find them. Those chatty shopkeepers or those old dears at the bus stop are just as worthy of your time and talk. I read a fab little quote which really summed it up for me “What screws us up most in life, is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be”. Make it what it is, not what you think it should be!