How did you spend your Saturday night? Well I spent mine (some of it anyway – in between eating cake and watching trash tv) doing something I do far too much recently – scrolling through the comments on a Facebook “mummy group” (sad I know). This thread in particular was about baby groups and some of the comments read; “my family live far away so mostly I stay at home by myself” “I’ve never felt welcomed” “I come out feeling lonelier than before” “being a mummy is lonely” – how?! how can so many mums (and these comments were in their hundreds, literally) feel the same?! Surely if we’re all feeling the same it should be a piece of cake to socialise as mothers as we all know how hard it can be?! I don’t know if I want to cry reading this thread because I’m sad that I can relate to so many comments, or because I’m relieved it’s not just me; either way it gets me thinking that surely something has to give?! What are we doing wrong?!
If you haven’t had a baby, think back to the last time you made a new friend – a new job, perhaps a new neighbour, or maybe its been longer, not since school maybe?! I know that before Joseph, I hadn’t thought about making any new friends – not since university and when you make friends there, your full of youthful confidence and exuberance: having not long had a baby you feel completely the opposite – drained and a bit bewildered. But it’s the one time in your life where your forced to make new friends because your existing ones perhaps don’t want to hear about your bladder weakness since pushing out a baby when they’ve yet to endure it themselves and maybe they don’t understand why you no longer care about nights out because going to aldi solo is enough of a thrill.. You don’t stop loving your old friends (there my utter faves) you just kind of feel in need of a set of human beings, who won’t mind you carrying a shit covered baby round with you 24/7 and who understand that you need to plan days out based around changing facilities and cake selections instead of shot selections and jäger bomb offers… Ah those were the days!
So you turn up to a baby group expecting to meet other mothers feeling much the same (drained and bewildered and who also don’t know what day it is), sip a warm cup of tea and chat perhaps, about a time when you weren’t wiping arses from dusk till dawn and being sicked on. Instead it’s often a group of polished women in an intimidating circle discussing the exact shape and shade of their little darlings last bowel movements like it’s a pleasure to witness… Joy.
Having spent a lot of time between my families in reading and home in Bristol, I’ve never really been to a group regularly (or felt the need to since we usually always have a family member to see, big family!) but this week I was at a loose end so pushed myself to go to one down the road from me.
I dragged Joseph out of bed and spent the obligatory three hours getting ready (washing, dressing, feeding the baby, running to draw eyebrows on, changing the baby again as he’d burst through another bloody nappy, feeding again, running to put something resembling clothes on myself, chuck him in the pram and away) I made my way to the group feeling a little hesitant about what to expect but optimistic never the less. Once inside the health centre I followed the sounds of rattles and crying eagerly, like a baby bounty hunter, only to have my awkward “Hiya.. Is this the baby group?” (Duh) met with stony silence. There were three women and their babies sat at one end of the mats and a lady on her own at the other end so I sat next to her. The other women carried on chatting between themselves about the previous weeks activities (goody goodys) while me and this poor lady grasped at awkward small talk about the one thing we had in common; childbirth (that’s how far we grasped). The other three ladies did glance over occasionally – when Joseph let out a cry (probably on hearing about his head being pushed through the birth canal) or noise of any kind – but nothing even slightly resembling a welcome or conversation; just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the lady running the group announced it was time for us all to introduce ourselves.. Kill me now. I went first: “I’m Hollie, this is Joseph, he’s 3 and half months old” *silence*
The other ladies then went on to give running commentaries about their sprogs: “fin just loves bath times and is really enjoying chewing his hands!! We think he will be an early walker too!”
I couldn’t get out of their quick enough. I left certainly not feeling any better for going and in fact, worse, that I was officially shit at being a typical “baby group mum” and left wondering… where are all the normal ones!?
I was also left wondering why all baby groups seem to be like this? What is it about having a child that makes women revert back to children themselves?! Do we really need to have “best friends” at these groups and assigned seating arrangements?
I have a couple of mum friends that were friends before we had babies (thank god for them!) and we’ve all agreed that getting to a designated place at a set time is achievement enough – why then after making said effort should we be left feeling like we shouldn’t have bothered in the first place?! Many a time now I’ve actually applied liquid eyeliner and chosen a “trendy” outfit, only to spend ten minutes in a cold hall (both physically and emotionally) sipping tea from a plastic cup before deciding to run home and return to my favourite rainbow pjs (thanks Laura!!) and the safety of Holly and Phill.
Being a mum is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done – the love you feel overwhelms you, the joy you feel in your babies accomplishments astounds you and the fun that fills every day is beyond measure, but it can also be a lonely place. I remember when I was pregnant thinking “fuck I’m so young! Too young to have a baby!” Forgetting that at 25, I’m of prime child baring age and no longer a teenager as I quite often see myself – esoecially since we still don’t own a complete cutlery set and only own one hand towel (unlike my mother’s aray – all perfectly ironed I might add) In my parents day and age, it probably would have been odd to have not had a baby by my age, but I’m the first out of my friends to do so and that does make it a harder place to be, as I’m sure a lot of first time mums would agree, so why this struggle with baby groups? Surely these places should be our saviours, our sanity and a little boost to an occasionally lonely week.
I haven’t thought of a solution yet but I am working on it… I’m working on it for all legging-wearing, running late, shit “mum group” mums out there like myself – give me time ladies…. ive got this.