I think being a mum, and making friends, is actually pretty hard sometimes.
I remember when I first had Bill, and because I had to go back to work so soon afterwards, I never did those things that I felt like I was supposed to do. Go to a café for a coffee and a cake while my baby finally slept. Go to a baby group and smile shyly at other mums until maybe one of us had the guts to say hello.
I was really excited for that this time around. But it’s not exactly gone to plan as Daisy spent a lot of time in hospital and only now am I starting to feel in a better place, mentally and emotionally, where I feel like being more social and getting out there.
Bill has recently started school and it such a new concept for me. I feel so ‘new’ again as a mother. I am out of my depth, I am excited, I am curious. I am watching my son grow up. Every day I take him into school I notice that he is more confident, less shy, more adventurous. I see a cluster of fluffy heads, crowding around a toy or activity. Chatting away. Making friends. And I feel like there is so much promise for them all. Primary school friends last after all. Maybe some of them I will get to know really well and I will have a group of lumbering boy teenagers emptying my kitchen in the future. And that sort of made me think – oh, maybe I will make some friends too?
Before the summer began, back when I still did the nursery run, I always felt so nervous. A lot of people were expecting to see my own mum I think – as it was she who had been doing it for so long. And I remember dropping Bill off, at the beginning of my maternity leave, and one day I had a great big bump, and by the time I finally came back, I was without my baby, with dark circles and bloodshot eyes and struggling to talk.
I went to the park the other day and it was full of parents and children laughing and chatting. I was really jealous in that moment as I was there pushing a pram and trying to follow Bill as fast as I could and still play with him. And I sort of wished I was there, with friends his age, so he wasn’t bored or on his own, and I was able to chat to a mum and enjoy the sunshine.
And now school has begun, I find myself just a tiny bit nervous when we approach the school gates. Why? I don’t know really. I suppose I’m looking for my tribe? Some mums know each other already. Some mums won’t be like me, and I won’t be like them. And it’s silly to assume that motherhood will just automatically make us friends.
But I must admit – I am looking for friends. Is that sad to admit? If it is – then at least I’m being honest. I have friends all over the UK – the nature of being a woman who puts her life on the internet I think – but none as are close to home as I’d like. I do have one friend who I see when I can, but it’s not enough because motherhood makes things really difficult to organise sometimes.
And I know I’m not alone. I think becoming a mum is a huge change. When you’re pregnant – socialising is harder. No drinking. Sore feet. Sickness. Falling asleep at the table at your work Christmas party. Your life changes. You might not see friends as much, if they don’t have babies.
And you feel like you are starting school yourself when it comes to making friends at the school gates.
How do I know if she’s ‘my type’? I give my kids Fruit Shoots and her kids have just water – will she judge me? This jumper with ‘MOTHER’ emblazoned across the front of it felt really cool on Instagram five minutes ago, but on the streets I’m wondering if people just think I’m weird. I didn’t wear makeup today – I’m too tired – I bet I look awful. How the hell do I ask if she wants to grab a brew?
Then there are the mums you chat to at the shops – sharing a bond over a toddler tantrum. Or the ones you meet at the park and your kids hit it off and then you are too much of a wimp to ask whether she would like to do it again. What about the mum at soft play who sits at the table next to you and seems to dress like you, and act like you and you both have kids the same age?
Saying hello is hard.
I was emailed recently about an app, and I get a lot of emails like this that I don’t often act on, because the things they mention aren’t for me. And then I figure they probably won’t be for you either.
But Huggle is a new app that basically let’s you discover and connect with people who go to the places that you go. So whether that’s the playgroup round the corner, or the baby sensory class on Wednesdays, or soft play, or that café that you go to a lot because they are great with kids. You can find who else goes there to, and reach out if you want to.
I think the places we go to say a lot about us as people. Preferring Italian to Chinese food. That coffee shop who does flat whites just right. The soft play that is the best value and doesn’t look like someone did a wee in the ball pit. Someone else doing Slimming World and trying to lose the baby belly. Having something in common is a relief. And it makes that – “Hi, our kids look like they like each other, and I really need some adult conversation – want to meet at the park next week (or have some wine one day)?” – a hell of a lot easier.
It gives you an ice breaker and a chance to get along. And if Tinder can work – surely something designed to bring friends together can never be a bad thing. So I’m sharing it so that, if, like me, you could do with some mama buddies, it might just work for you. It’s free on the Apple Store, Google Play and the Windows Store.
In the meantime, I owe my friend a text. And I need to up my school run routine because I still find it the most stressful thing I’ve ever experienced, and I used to commute to Manchester every day. And I don’t think my haphazardness will do me any favours in the friendships stakes.
That is, unless, there’s a mum like me who is thinking – how the hell am I going to get there on time without forgetting a book bag, lunchbox, or possibly even a child?
I can hope right?