Once my husband had gone back to work after paternity leave, I threw myself into baby classes.
I needed an excuse to get out the house, a way of entertaining the little one but mainly I was desperate to meet other mums. I longed to meet a little group of fellow mothers living nearby for nappy/feeding/sleeping/life chat and company, who would hopefully become life-long friends.
What I didn’t expect was to be plunged into a crash course in mummy “dating”.
It sounds ridiculous, I know, but at each class I found myself nervously wondering who I’d get on with best, who looked friendliest, who should I make a move on? No wonder really, when you consider this was the first time I’d been around adults all day.
It reminded me of ‘fresher’s’ week at uni, when students go around like blue arsed flies, joining clubs and making friends and chit chatting with literally everyone. All with the aim of making friends as quickly as possible.
It’s almost as if, even though it’s over a decade later, the same survival/pack instinct kicks in. This was the case for me. Big time.
I sat there looking wild-eyed at the other mothers, trying to catch eyes with the one who looked just as bemused as me. I remember letting out a hysterical laugh (intended to be a conspirational “what ARE we doing here?” ice breaking moment). The mum in question just looked rather startled.
When I did strike up a conversation with another mother, I suffered what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience – I listened to the stream of nonsense coming out of my mouth at the rate of knots but could do little to stop it.
A little voice inside my head warned me to “Stop it! Calm down! You’re scaring them off!” but it was too late. The verbal diarrhoea was in full flow and inside a little part of my self-respect died.
But I was desperate to find The One, my confidant, my bosom buddy, someone who got me and understood what I was going through because they too are experiencing this crazy journey.
Sometimes I clicked with another mother in the most wonderful way only to find they were moving away next week.
We both realised it was going nowhere so we said our goodbyes without exchanging numbers. “If only we’d met sooner” I sighed, as we pushed our prams in opposite directions.
I met one of my first mum friends at swimming. We had both enrolled our boys to start swimming as soon as was possible – 4 months.
We spent the whole first term just occasionally smiling at each other, but mostly trying to maintain decency while trying to dry ourselves off, dress and do the same with our babies in a very small changing area. I felt that we would get on.
I was waiting for the right moment to ask her if she’d like to meet up outside swimming. It was the last day of term and I asked if she was joining again next term.
She said that she wasn’t and I suddenly realised I had to make a move. Now!
I asked her if she wanted to meet up for coffee some time.
Reader, she said yes. That was more than three years ago now and we’re still great friends.
The nursery drop off and pick up was always going to be a natural place to meet other mothers with children the same age. I was, as you can imagine, very excited about this opportunity!
Sadly, despite my own pep talk, the blabbermouth was indomitable, and at its worst during the first few days. The joy of nursery though is that I had to keep going back every day so I got a second, third, fourth, fifth chance to show my fellow mammas the real me.
We were all rushing so much that it was a bit like speed dating. Nevertheless, over time I’ve bonded with some wonderful women.
The place I find it hardest to meet other mums is in the playground. It can feel so unnatural to strike up a conversation, a bit like trying to engage with a stranger on the Tube. So many mums just don’t seem interested in my approaches and this can be a bit awkward…
One of us will move on with our screaming bundles of joy to the animal springers, mumbling something about letting other children have their turn on the swings.
Other times I’m happily chatting away with another mother by the slide, everything seemingly going well, when the mum they have arranged to meet turns up. Ouch.
You’re never formally introduced to the other mother – their ‘real’ friend – and you back off, feeling just a tad uncomfortable, leaving them get on with their catch up.
I love company. I don’t like to be alone, and I find having friends in similar situations a huge comfort and I’ve learnt that happily, just as often as I’m given the cold shoulder, I meet someone who makes my day go by just that little bit more interestingly.
Perhaps we’ll meet again, but even if we don’t we will have a lovely time chatting about this and that, sharing a little bit of ourselves with one another.
Four years in and I’ve now amassed a small, close-knit group of mummy friends to hang out with. But my door is still open.
It’s amazing how quickly you can discover that motherhood isn’t the only thing you have in common with someone.