The Complex Dynamic of Having 'Mum Chums'by Nicola Henry
I sat opened mouthed, staring at my friend of 10 years and wondering had I heard her correctly. I’d recently given birth to my second child, four months after my friend had given birth to her first.
I thought back to a few months earlier when we had excitedly discussed getting maternity leave at the same time, all the days we would get to spend together and how our two children would grow up to be total besties...........
How naïve was I??
So, what had she said that left me gobsmacked? We had met for a coffee and I was discussing how I was finding it a bit difficult to adjust to having two children. I explained that my newborn would happily be held 24/7 and would scream bloody murder every time I put him down. I told her how I was feeling mega guilty that my four-year-old was missing out on my attention and how, sometimes, I simply had to let my newborn cry when I was in the middle of tending to my eldest. That if he was fed, clean and dry, he would simply have to wait for mum’s cuddles, as I couldn’t split myself in two.
I looked at my friend for a supportive head nod, a soothing “Mmm”. Nothing. Instead, I received a look of horror. “Oh my goodness, that is so cruel! I could never do that to my child!”
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise that being a mum for four months had turned you into f**king Miriam Stoppard!!
“Erm, I’m taking a couple of minutes, not hours. And I have another child who needs me too, I’m doing my best” I spluttered, trying to defend myself and justify my actions.
I zoned out at this point, as she imparted the mothering wisdom that she had acquired in the four short months since she had given birth.
That day I got lectured on everything from baby-led weaning, and how I was making excuses when I said I thought I would struggle with the mess and the time it took, to the age my firstborn had to go to private nursery when I returned to work after maternity leave.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I get that the above discussion and my approach or views might not be everyone’s cup of tea. We are all different. BUT! I would expect one of my close friends to at the very least be sympathetic to my dilemma. To at least understand where I was coming from! Not to make me feel like the shittiest mother ever!
This was someone who knew everything about me. Who I have had some of the best times of my pre-baby life with. And now, as I stared at her across this table, I could not have felt more like she was a stranger.
Three years later, and we barely speak. When we do meet up through mutual friends, it is awkward, and conversation is stilted. She still loves to impart her mum expert wisdom (whether or not it has been asked for).
I never had any issue with the fact we came from different perspectives. I had just thought that, despite this, we would stay as we were.
At the other end of the scale is my old uni friend. We have known each other for 17 years. I also have had some of my best times with her. We regularly meet up and we bitch about everything, from how one child has been a little asshole that day, to trying hard not to smother our husbands in their sleep. We have laughed together, cried together, and I always feel lighter and refreshed after we meet. We never judge each other, and our rants are simply that. They give us a chance to offload, and, I feel, be more patient with my children.
And take the mum chums I’ve made since becoming a mum. Some of them have become my closest friends. They keep me sane when things can get tough. They’re always there with a bottle of wine and a listening ear. I’m so grateful to have them in my life.
We can’t deny we have changed after having children. However, the friends who remind me of who I was before, who allow me to just be me, who get I can be a good mum but also want to down the occasional shot at the bar whilst dancing my ass off. Those are the friends I treasure, and I am so blessed to have them in my life
I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Not all friendships are for life. And that’s ok. I will treasure the memories of the fun times my friend and I had. And I will appreciate the friendships I have these days. The older friends, and the newer mum friends.
So, ladies, hang on to those friends who you can simply be yourself with. Let go of the ones who cause negativity and make you question your abilities as a mother. We need to support each other because being a mum is hard! It’s the best thing you will ever do, but it is hard!
And, if a Miriam Stoppard type asshole tries to impart their pearls of parenting wisdom. Feel free to tell her where to stick it!