“Just like you, I get lonely too” — Drake
Trying to make a mum friend is like trying to catch a flighty Pokémon.
Our local playground is teeming with them, but I’ll be damned if I can get one to exchange contact details with me.
I’ve tried everything.
“How many teeth does yours have?”
“Is she walking?”
“Is he eating?”
“How about you, are you sleeping?”
I thought that my curiosity was indicative of interest, but I feel I’m coming across more like Ted Hastings than Chrissy Teigen.
I try to look approachable, I make all the right mum-noises, but I feel like the other mums can somehow sense the stutter in my delivery.
I think part of the problem might be that I’m too afraid of judgement to commit to connecting.
So instead of allowing my baby to draw me to other mums in the same position as me, I find myself using him more like a Patronus, shielding myself from the genuine effort of trying to connect to other women.
Before you mention it, I’ve tried Peanut, and it’s terrifying.
Peanut is Tinder for mums. You swipe through profiles looking for potential mum-mates, and if you swipe and match, you can begin a chat.
My issue with Peanut is the same problem I have with Tinder. You’re making a selection based on (mainly) pictures, and I can only swipe through so many cool mum selfies before I’m paralysed by the fear, and I close the app, terrified I’ll accidentally ‘wave’ to a mum, and we’ll need to start talking.
Don’t get me wrong, the app is thoughtful and beautifully designed; the problem is me.
I desperately want to meet other mums or have someone I can share war stories with, but I’m scared of letting other women into this private little world I’ve created with my baby, only to discover that I’m doing it wrong, or that my baby’s schedule sucks, and by extension, so do I.
I’ll give you an example.
Last weekend we went to Nando’s, and when I (inevitably) went to the loo, a waitress came up to my husband and (without asking his permission) pulled the rain cover off our sleeping son’s pram saying “I’m sorry, I have to do this. You shouldn’t keep the cover on*; he’s going to cook like an egg in there”.
*Calm down, we had unzipped the cover!
When I came back, my husband told me what had happened, and my immediate reaction was FURY. How dare she intervene like that!
I go to Nando’s for the delicious chicken and the cheeky napkins, not for parental intervention from the clucking staff.
The whole experience left a peri-peri bad taste in my mouth, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to that branch again. For the record, I did absolutely nothing to respond apart from seeth over my meal.
Later in the evening, my fury turned up again but this time dressed in the familiar guilty-mummy-rumination that I’m more familiar with because here’s an emotional roller-coaster I’m tall enough and stupid enough to ride a million times a day.
Am I a bad mother? Did I almost cook our son like an egg? Would he have turned into an egg? What does a cooked baby look like? Why didn’t I remove the cover myself? Does that b*tch know how long it took to get that nap to happen?
What about all of the friends I already have?
The short answer? They don’t have babies.
I used to think my son would trail after me like one of Philip Pullman’s dæmons and our lives would be intertwined in glorious synchronicity. I don’t quite understand why I thought this would happen, but for the longest time, I envisioned having this lithe little baby draped across my shoulders like a python, or gently scurring at my feet like a kitten.
Needless to say, having a baby is nothing like this, and there is no ‘ballet of spirits’ where mother and baby meld into this wonderful, unified life force.
Instead, meeting non-parent friends is a sweaty affair where I GENUINELY try to be present while my baby cries and struggles to get out of the pram a million times, or has an epic meltdown because he’s run out of Ella’s Kitchen crisps.
While I love my friends and the support they have given me, all the love in the world isn’t a substitute for the knowing nod of another mum acknowledging your struggle and smiling at you because she’s having a shit day too.
Having a baby changes friendship dynamics and not all friendships survive the transition.
Do you remember how when you were younger, your friend might bring a friend of theirs to hang out with ya’ll, and because you’re such a good friend, you’d tolerate the third party stranger?
Well, that’s kind of what having a baby is like.
Some friends will amaze you with how gracefully they flex to make you feel comfortable, but some friends will make it clear that they don’t ‘do’ babies and hey, that’s just something you’ve got to accept.
Other friends will straight-up ghost you.
I’m not sure if this is because I had a baby, or because I got married because both events seem to invite a friendship cull…But while we’re on the subject, I’m not ashamed to admit that at 30 years old, I’m lonelier than I’ve ever been, and I’ve never felt so disconnected and overwhelmed.
Which brings me back round to why struggling to make mum friends is such an issue for me right now. I have never craved support the way I do now.
The way I see it?
There are friends for every season of your life, but the season when you become a mother is winter-quiet and still, and while you adjust to a pace that is all at once slow and fast, the world keeps on turning, your friends keep on posting their never-ending holiday stories, and then there’s you. You, standing in the snow, holding onto your beautiful bundle of baby, and thinking about how cold it is out here, all alone in the motherhood.
If you’re reading this as a mother and you feel the way I do, please don’t give up. Since starting this story, I mustered up the strength to post on Peanut and so far, no ‘nutters!
I’ve also started attending playgroups and trying to find more mum hangouts in my area. Granted, no one at my local playgroup knows who Kafka is, but the tea is hot and sweet, and they’ve got a massive box of plastic bobbins which my baby goes absolutely wild over.
If you’re a friend of a mama or know someone who has a baby, ask how they’re doing. To you, it’s a quick question, but to a mother, it’s an invitation to articulate her feelings, and that forum can feel so small when your life belongs to a baby now.