Do you remember as a child, the gut-wrenching, heart sinking feeling right before you asked someone that you’d just me what is your name? The amount of times I would be playing with a new friend, but just couldn’t pluck up the courage to ask them. My mum and dad would encourage me, Just say ‘My name is Louisa, what’s yours?’ But I couldn’t. It was too scary.
As I got older and friends would come and go, I can’t actually remember when the what’s your name dilemma changed. I got over it and have been pretty good at making friends ever since. School, university, work is where I have picked up my mix of wonderful friends. I still have friends from primary school and to have them at my baby shower really made me happy. I also have the Uni Girls and although we might only see each other a few times a year, it is fourteen (gulp) years since we left so it is fantastic that we are all still in contact.
Then there are my best mates that I have scooped up along the way through work and friends of friends… friends that have laughed, cried and laughed some more through numerous relationships, breakups, marriage, divorce and now baby! As they say in Sex and the City these girls are my true Soul Mates.
Two year ago I moved in with my boyfriend and moved to a new town forty-five minutes away from my home. I was a stranger. I didn’t know anyone or anywhere. Nothing was familiar… road names, landmarks, pubs… everything was strange. Everyone was strange. I didn’t recognise anyone. I was so homesick. At night, I would picture my old bedroom and almost sob. I wanted to be back home so badly.
It was so strange driving blindly around unfamiliar roads. When I would go home, as soon as I came off the motorway it felt like the town gave me a hug. Every bend and bump in the road was welcoming and comforting. But at the time I was so busy in my new role as Head of English that I hardly had time for the boyfriend, step-son, friends and family that I already had, so I didn’t worry too much about finding new friends.
And then I had a baby and was at home… all the time.
With no friends nearby.
When I first had the baby the expected flock of visitors descended. It was the summer holidays so my teacher friends were free and so lots of play dates and meet ups were arranged. I had heard of some people putting themselves on lock down and not allowing visitors for the first few weeks, but I couldn’t wait to share my joy and share my baby and so the visitors came in abundance. Knackering as it was, I was glad to have so many people to share my little bundle with.
And then the summer ended. My teacher mates disappeared into the abyss of the new school year, the new baby novelty wore off and I was alone.
I don’t struggle to strike up a conversation. In fact, I talk to anyone. And I mean anyone – in the post office queue, at the butchers and of course in the pub… I can always spark a conversation. But how as a grown up living in a strange place do you say to someone Will you be my friend? without sounding completely desperate?
Surely now in our thirties people have enough friends? By now we’ve all settled on who our best friends are – gone are the party mates and the bitchy mates and you are at one with who your friends are. I have never really given much thought as to why my friends are friends with me. The good thing about your best mates is you don’t have to try or think about what you say or do. I just know that we laugh and love each other and I couldn’t be without them.
So I didn’t need more friends but also at the same time I needed friends more than ever.
I also didn’t have any structure to my days. I would go out and walk round the local town centre – but resisting spending money due to crappity crap maternity pay made this very little fun. One day I sat on a bench for an hour rocking the pram drinking a flat bottle of pop and some chocolate raisins from the bottom of the baby bag as I’d forgotten my purse and couldn’t bear to go home.
I really needed some friends.
I’d met two lovely mums in the park in the summer and they kindly took me under their wing and so I ventured to my first baby group. It was so nice to be with other humans. To talk and have a hot cup of tea made for me! Wow! But I still felt a little out of it. I felt fake. I felt like I was an intruder and that I didn’t really belong.
The Health Visitor came to see me for our 12 week check and gave me the local ‘What’s on’ guide. I tried for two weeks to attend a class. But I always seemed to be too late. By the time I’d decide to go either she was either asleep, feeding or I’d missed it all together. I wanted so badly to meet other mums and make friends but I didn’t know where to start.
Eventually I made it to a Rhythm Time class. There were two others mums there and I was looking forward to having a chat to them after class. This was the first time that I had met women with babies the same age as mine. The class finished, the teacher asked me a few questions – I had to sign in and fill in the papers. (As I had been late!) And then, by the time I looked up they had gone. I’d missed my chance. No mum talk. No ‘Is yours sleeping through?’ No ‘Are you breast or bottle?’ No ‘I know how you feel it’s actually quite shit isn’t it?’ chat. They were gone. I was so disappointed. But we’d made it out and there was always next week.
Around this time I’d also started blogging and had had my eyes opened to the blogging community and the virtual friends that were out there. This was keeping me going, but I still needed more. I joined linkies and had a defining moment when I read a blog about how important it is to have Mummy friends. People had been telling me that it would all fit into place once I got some Mummy friends and into my new routine. But how did I meet people? I didn’t even know where all of the groups were. I was still flying solo and travelling back to my old town in search of friends. The blog talked about how this lady had made friends at her Anti natal classes.
And then it hit me.
I had the email addresses of all the women that I’d attended Hypnobirthing with. I should email them! I have no friends please save me… No that makes me sound really desperate.
Hmm maybe not. I didn’t want to sound like a Mummy stalker.
But surely they were in a similar boat to me?
We all had babies around a similar age. Maybe they felt the same as I did. So I did it. I put myself out there and sent an email. As Monica from Friends would say… It was breezy… casual… I’m actually quite good fun and yes a bit desperate so please be my friend…
No seriously… I actually just asked if they fancied meeting for coffee and doing whatever new mums are supposed to do… No Mummy Olympics… no competitive who is sleeping, pooing eating the best… just a few mums to get together.
I sent the email. I waited. Wow this was worse than internet dating… I couldn’t even remember who was who… life before baby is a complete blur, so I couldn’t remember who anyone was.
I got a reply! Yay. I had a mummy date.
So I emailed the group again (still breezy) with the date and location of where we were meeting and two other lovely mums emailed back!
So we met. A trio of mums all on a first mummy date. We met at Costa, (trying to fit the prams in was interesting) I was nervous, almost killed myself trying to get there on time (which I did – just) and it was lovely. We chatted, drank coffee and laughed. It was just what I needed.
We’ve met up quite a few times now and it is so nice to have a life line outside of my ‘normal friends’.
We are now so social that I can hardly keep up. I have also made more friends at Rhythm time. Here I had to attempt some stealth Mummy Stalking. There is very little time to chat at the class and for the first few weeks everyone disappeared quite quickly at the end of class. And then I wrote a blog about Rhythm time. The class teacher shared the blog and my fellow mums ‘liked’ my page. The week after class was totally different. Suddenly everyone was talking and interacting more. I also invited them all to an Usborne book party that I was hosting at my house. Two girls showed interest and one turned up. On her own… to my house. Wow… she was even braver than me. And it turns out she felt exactly the same as me. We both wanted time to get to know other people at the class but there just wasn’t time. We are now like a group of naughty school girls talking in class and passing notes…
So it seems that by putting myself out there and showing that I needed friends made me realise that maybe other people feel the same. It may have been heightened for me as I am new to the area, but all new mums are in the same position. Mummy friends are very important and even better as our little ones will all grow up together.
We now go out somewhere every day. We go to Rhythm time, Aquatots, Baby Massage and have a Costa Coffee meet up group with girls from my Hypnobirthing class and when we can fit in go to the Baby and Toddler groups. I still see my other friends and family all the time but this new world of Mummy friends and Baby groups has given me the friends, structure and routine that I desperately needed.
So if you are reading this and are feeling how I did, my advice to you is: be brave, ask someone what their name is, stalk a few mummies and ask if they want to be your friend. What’s the worst that could happen?
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