I always love the posts in our Hills District Mums Facebook group about mums connecting in shopping centre parent rooms or putting it out there that they’re not doing so well and feel a little isolated. That’s exactly what the group is there for and the support they receive is amazing.
A while back one of these types of posts got me reflecting on a time in my life where I felt most vulnerable – when I had my first baby. I was recalling how tough it was – I couldn’t breast-feed, I was so tired, I had lost all confidence and I had no idea what I was doing. But I did ultimately muddle through it somehow. And a huge part of that was my foray into what I call mum dating. Has anyone done it? You may have done it without realising. It’s basically trying to find a perfect mum match (usually with a kid the same age as yours) to spend time with, to ask for advice, to cry and laugh with. Basically, a mum version of your husband but with some additional perks such as not having to iron her shirts and no snoring. Here’s my mum dating story.
Considering the dazed and confused state I was in, I remember my introduction to mum dating very well, maybe because of the long-lasting impact it’s had on my life since. It was 9 days after my son was born. At the home visit, the early childhood nurse had suggested I attend the mother’s meeting at the local clinic – am pretty sure she mentioned this solely as a way of getting me out of my pjs and into the shower.
The main reason I decided I should go was to meet a few mums with babies my son’s age who lived in my area. You see, I had a sufficient number of friends. Wonderful, dear friends who I’ve known for a long time. However, I was reasonably new to the Hills and these friends lived in far away lands like Bondi. I figured I needed to be realistic about my new found limitations that now lay in the capsule in the back seat. The Hills to Bondi and back on a regular basis probably wasn’t going to happen.
So, on that fateful Thursday, I dragged my husband along (bless him) so that I didn’t have to drive the two kilometres to the clinic solo with a scary newborn. Hubby could assist in the class if scary newborn did anything controversial like cried or poo-ed.
I was thrilled to see that all the mums looked as dazed and confused as I did. In fact I realised I wasn’t doing too badly considering. We made a beeline for a couple of spare seats in the corner – little did I know how significant that choice was, as my mum husband was sitting right next to me! The thing that sealed the deal was when she said something inappropriate and sarcastic – my actual husband whispered when we were leaving “That’s her. She’s the one you need to become friends with.” He could see the potential match made in heaven with that one tiny sentence!
And so, after this first meeting, I added my name and number to the contact information sheet and took a copy. Everyone’s mobile numbers and email addresses were right there in front of me. It was my real life husband that continued to encourage me to put myself out there and make contact … and thank goodness he did.
After a few more of the official mother’s meetings at the early childhood clinic it was time to form a break-away group with a handful of like-minded mums. So I strategically devised a text to send to ‘Liz’ we shall call her. (Because that’s her actual name.) My hubby insisted I include a question in the text to ‘encourage a response’. It was like asking out a guy. I felt nervous and worried she’d think I was a tragic loser and whether she’d text back. I waited. But thank goodness, I didn’t have to wait long. Liz basically replied straight away because, I now know, she’s that kind of person. Kind and uncomplicated. If she was a guy she wouldn’t play mind games with you!
And so began a tradition of Monday morning coffees with a small group of great women. It saved me from having Mondayitis and from fearing a whole five days looming in front of me with a tiny baby. There were boobs, tears, poonamis, celebrations, cracked nipples, crankiness, confusion, baby vomit, sleeplessness, laughs, first solids, first words, first steps and coffee…always coffee. We muddled through together and leaned on one another.
Fast forward four years and a handful of these women are now very good friends. Our friendships have been forged through our babies and all that accompanies those amazing little people. These women know things about me that no one else does and have seen me at my most vulnerable… as well as makeup-less, with bloodshot eyes, in trackies and with no bra. They were at my wedding and one even ‘had a feeling’ the morning I was in labour with my second baby. I’ve even formed a little Facebook group and business called Hills District Mums with one!
Our first borns are older now and we’ve all had more kids, there have been house moves, stints living overseas, marriage breakdowns, losses and more. Life is busy and we don’t see each other very often now but we keep connected via Facebook and we’re about to catch up face to face in a few weeks. But I’ll always treasure our Monday morning catch ups and be grateful I had these women in my life during a really challenging period.
So if you’re a new mum and you’re feeling isolated or you simply have no idea what you’re doing, reach out. Go to your early childhood clinic to meet some women in the same boat, join a local playgroup, post in our HDM Facebook group, start talking to the mum sitting by herself at the park (I promise, she won’t think you’re a nut.) Motherhood is a crazy, daunting, exciting rollercoaster – a ride that’s more fun to go on with good friends.
Playgroup Australia – playgroupaustralia.com.au