Motherhood: How to navigate the social minefield

Perseverance is key when navigating the maternal network.
Perseverance is key when navigating the maternal network.

I was prepared for new motherhood to be a challenge but no one warned me about the social minefield I was about to be thrown into. A world of morning coffees and play dates, kids teas and birthday parties. A world for which I had no reference point, no script and certainly no mentor (because how could I ever admit to anyone that I was struggling with the mummy social scene?).

Right from the start, I massively underestimated how lonely it would be at home alone, just me and the babe. After a nice weekend of hanging out with my man and enjoying life as a family of three, Monday morning would come around, he’d trundle off back to work and I’d stand in the kitchen staring at the white spaces on the calendar.  What I know now, but didn’t know then, was that I going to have to get my head around a whole new set of social rules that govern the intricacies and subtleties of inter-mum relationships and networks.

Why was it that I felt like I had landed right back in the middle of the dating game?  I thought I was done with all this!

Reasoning that I needed to put myself out a bit if I was ever going to have a social life, I found myself checking out potential mum friends in the supermarket. “Hmmm – she looks nice. Kid about the same age as mine. I like her dress…”  Nothing ever came of these supermarket crushes: after some momentary eye contact, I’d shyly dash down an aisle and hide behind the mountain of formula boxes I was stacking in my trolley.

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Eventually I got so desperate to meet other mums that I ventured into a couple of church-run toddler groups. I was under no illusion as to why I was there – it was ALL about me and from the moment we walked in I’d be ruthlessly assessing possible friendship opportunities. At a few months old, my daughter was more focused on mastering the age-old skill of rolling over than meeting new pals. I’d have a pleasant enough time, chatting with a couple of mums but on the drive home the incessant self-questioning would start:

“Should I have asked for her number? If I see her next week and ask for her number then, is she going to think I’m coming on too strong? Will she think I’m a stalker? What if she comes over and we have nothing to talk about? And based on initial preconceptions (of which there are admittedly many), do I really want to get into a ‘relationship’ with this person anyway? What if it doesn’t work out – am I going to be able to end it? Maybe she’ll start stalking me?” GAAAAH!

 I stuck with the maternal networking though, and I’m so glad I did.

Why was it that I felt like I had landed right back in the middle of the dating game?  I thought I was done with all this! I stuck with the maternal networking though, and I’m so glad I did. Six years on, I have two daughters and scores of playdates and kids teas under my belt – many of them genuinely enjoyable. Due to the nature of my husband’s job I’ve lived in three different places since my first daughter was born, and each time we move, I have to start again. It’s exhausting but despite that, or maybe even because of that, I’m now more confident and more experienced at navigating the social minefield of motherhood. Nowadays it’s actually a real treat to have a bit of time alone with one or the other of them.

5 tips for navigating the social minefield of motherhood

1. Be patient

Hang in there. If you are finding it lonely and a bit of a struggle on the social front, you are not alone. The transition to motherhood is a big one in so many ways and you are not a social outcast. It just takes time.

2. Get out and about

Try to get out of the house at least once a day, even if just for a walk, but ideally for some face-to-face contact with another adult.

3. Be open minded

Be open to meeting different sorts of people from the ones you might have been friends with in your pre-baby life. You might actually find it enriching.

4. Take the plunge

Be brave and invite a couple of other mums and babies over for coffee at the same time. It might be a bit less intense than one-on-one. The chances are they are just as isolated and will jump at the invitation.

5. Remember that everyone is in the same boat

Every new mother is navigating the maternal network for the first time. Any full-time dads out there? Well – respect! If I found it hard, I have NO idea how you do it!

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