I’m not a fan of the term ‘mum friends’, though I use it all the time. Why? Because it implies that I can only or should only be friends with someone because they have also grown/raised a small person and are in the process of teaching it how to be a normal human being. The simple fact is though, we change when we become parents. I’m not saying everyone becomes a carbon copy of each other, oh no. You only have to stumble on to Mumsnet AIBU to learn that isn’t the case, but what I mean is everyone becomes a more enhanced version of themselves. Sleep deprivation, stress, being overwhelmed, being under supported, it could be any number of reasons but I truly believe it happens to everyone.
I became a grumpier, more dramatic, more emotional and a lot more sarcastic version of my pre baby self. Before having my daughter I actively avoided people who I classed as ‘huggers’, now I practically run towards them begging them to embrace me while I sob on their shoulder about the time I got poo in my hair that wasn’t my own (I told you I was a little bit dramatic). Other people I know became a bit stuck up, looking down their nose at any choice that was different to theirs and a friendship was therefore difficult to maintain when you inevitably decided to parent your child the way you see fit.
You may be one of the lucky few that already has your girl gang (gag – I’m running out of ways to describe it) in place before you even think about procreating – great. If they end up all having kids at roughly the same time as you then it is likely you are on to a winner. If you are the first by a long way, you my friend may have to go adventuring to find yourself a new tribe.
It all begins when pregnant, with your antenatal classes. Do you attend the free ones at your local hospital? Or do you fork out a ridiculous amount of money and attend the NCT ones? Everyone raves about NCT, they say that is where they found their mum friends and they all bonded over mucus plugs and ‘Is this my water or am I just peeing myself?’ anecdotes. Even better, your babies are all the same age and reaching milestones at a similar time, ideal for advice and sharing the pain that is parenting. I couldn’t bring myself to pay to make friends as I thought I would be fine flying solo, because let’s face it, most of the info you learn at these classes is freely available on Google, everyone goes to make buddies. I decided to go to the free NHS classes and then just wait till after the baby arrived and I just presumed I would make loads of friends at the coffee shop or while draped in beautiful maxi dresses holding my sleeping newborn baby at baby massage.
Wrong. I made one friend, we bonded over our dislike of Tumble Tots and continued to meet up with our offspring for a good 2 years after. Unfortunately, I have just moved away. A reasonable distance away that I can no longer pop round in my scruffy clothes to let our children run wild in the lounge while we hide in the kitchen drinking coffee. I am in the position of needing to make new mum friends.
You have to start by realising what kind of parent you are. I don’t mean all of this ‘I’m a crunchy mummy’ vs ‘I’m an attachment parent’ bullshit. Nope, I don’t even know what that means but neither sound like something I would enjoy. I just mean, think about what you do that could potentially offend people and HIDE IT until you know they do it to. I don’t care if you breastfed or bottle fed. I don’t care how you weaned. I don’t care about whether you co sleep or cry it out. What I want to know, is what ‘mum you’ is like. She is likely to be an enhanced version of pre-mum you, but less impulsive and with a bigger handbag full of shit (just for the record, sometimes actual shit is in there).
I want to know how you ‘mum’.
For example, swearing. I swear. I do, I have tried to stop. I can’t. My daughter hears me swear, I fully intend on teaching her that swearing is something only grown ups should do and it isn’t nice but I don’t get too worked up about it. Now if you are a serial swearer like me, it won’t do you any favours to befriend someone who thinks swearing around anyone under 18 is diabolical. You can try and hide it until you find out this vital little nugget of information, but eventually you will slip up and you will have wasted vital ‘friend finding’ time. I suggest watching how they react to their children, if you see an eye roll and an exasperated sigh they might just be on board with the whole swearing thing. Listen out for the muttered under the breath ‘for fucks sake’ as their child demands to be carried when they have armfuls of stuff. This person may be someone who feeds their kid coco pops for breakfast or someone who lovingly makes overnight oats with chia and hemp. What I am saying is that this bit doesn’t matter, how you parent your kids isn’t the important bit, its how you ‘mum’. They could lovingly stare into their child’s eyes and say ‘of course sweetheart’ before muttering obscenities under their breath, it is the bit they do for themselves that matters. Does that make sense?
Look at it like this. If you do eventually go for a coffee together, do they order cake? Do they suggest wine?? These are all clear indicators that this person is one to befriend. If they are dieting and cannot order cake, do they look longingly at it? That is enough in my book.
I find myself at the nursery gates looking around at the other parents and looking for the one that looks slightly bewildered, like me. The one that probably hasn’t brushed her hair and has a questionable stain on her trousers. At the coffee shop (I don’t spend ALL of my time drinking coffee I promise) I look for the one who is just sitting for a minute relishing the silence, or hovering near the cake. I look for the mum that gives me a smile or an eye roll if theres a feral kid near by (even if it is her own).
Once you have made that mum friend, you know things will turn out ok when they tell you about their vagina. That sounds weird, I’ll grant you but in my experience it is a common topic of conversation amongst mum friends. Birth stories are a given, nothing is off limits. It becomes the norm to tell people how many stitches you had or how long your post baby poo took. This is NORMAL. Don’t be alarmed if your new mum friend starts telling you this. Your new mum friend will totally get it when you text at 2am with the crying emoji. They will understand if you cancel because your kid has some kind of illness, but they will also surprise you sometimes and suggest you still come over because they have been housebound for a week and are willing to risk a cold for a bit of adult company.
Good luck out there mamas – good luck finding your tribe. I apologise if my excessive swearing and talk of vaginas has offended anyone, I am not everyones cup of tea and so the people I look out for may be the people you actively avoid and that’s fine! I hope you find your tribe too.