By Rebecca Hanley
It takes A VILLAGE, right, mama? But what if you’re not sure what your village looks like? Here’s who you’re gonna need and where to find them.
1 // The Mum Friend
When you’re pregnant, every mother you know will tell you that you’ll need some mum friends. And Before Baby you think, “What could be more boring than talking about small humans with a stranger you have nothing in common with except small humans? Not me. I’m not becoming one of those mumsy mums. I’m not going to lose myself in nappies and poonamis, thank you.” Except, you probably will (at least for a while). All of it and more. You’ll hear yourself talking one day and think, who is that? You’ll wonder, quite perplexed, slightly in awe and a little bit frightened, “When and how did I get so serious, so obsessed with things I never thought I’d care about, so… responsible? What happened to all those things I used to love? What.. uh, were they again?” Yep, and for that period of time when you’re all but lost somewhere deep inside the Mum Vortex, it’ll be crucial that you’ve got a playmate or two to keep you company down there. Because a new mum is akin to a swimmer lost at sea, with a very flimsy life jacket that may just float off at any second – and fellow new mums are the life rafts to which she clings for dear life.
The Mum Friend might be from your mother’s group, a friend of a friend or a lady you got chatting to standing at the lights purely because you were both pushing prams. Some days after your small human enters the world you’ll want to talk of nothing but nap schedules, swaddling techniques and whether to introduce rice cereal first or go straight to pumpkin mush. Yep, and just like your eyes once glazed over at said topics, they’ll now glaze when the convo veers to anything but baby stuff (that new book? Politics? Who has the time for such things?) and for this, the Mum Friend is your girl.
Disclaimer: You may have literally nothing else in common once the baby chat dries up, but that’s OK – at this point in time, you need each other in the kind of primal way that happens when humans just need to connect with others going through exactly the same thing as them. You’ll feel like no one else around you gets what you’re going through (even – and especially – your partner), and that’s where this friend is a gem. She’ll lend an open ear, throw a knowing glance and offer tips on how to get the baby the f*ck to sleep. She’s there on the days when you just need to vent, cry and feel seen. When they talk of friends being for a reason, a season or a lifetime, this mate likely falls into one of the former, but she’s nevertheless a gem – the beacon of light who reminds you that although you may be lost at sea, you’re not out there alone.
2 // The New-Baby-Don’t-Care Friend
She took three days to reply to your birth announcement text, turned up for the obligatory meet-the-baby visit sans booties/Bonds Wondersuit/home-cooked spag bol – but definitely carting some bubbly (“What do you mean you don’t want to drink while you’re breastfeeding?! Come on, it will help the baby nod off”). She indulged you in three minutes of how-cute-is-she, but-you-wont-believe-how-tired-I-am, I-think-I-last-fed-her-on-the-left-side-or-was-it-the-right-let-me-check-my-app-thingy monologue before gently diverting the conversation to the fabulous restaurant she went to last night and the guy who’s been texting her.
This is a friend you love and hate in equal measure as a new mum, usually depending on the day you’ve had. (Note: she may also trigger an awkward sense of guilt at the realisation that you behaved exactly the same to your mum friends before you were one). You’ll likely slide down a few rungs on each other’s favourites list as your worlds diverge in a monumental way, but she is nevertheless essential. Essential – to remind you that there is still indeed a whole world that exists beyond your hazy, milky little baby bubble, to regale you with tales from said world yonder when you need a laugh/distraction/conversing adult – and to ensure you never, ever get sucked in completely.
And props to her – because for all the child-free mates whose texts become ever so slightly infuriating for their focus on things you can’t believe once took up all your headspace, and the lack of real enquiry into how you are actually doing, yet who just recently grew a human and pushed it (or had it sliced) out of you, there will be two more mates who suddenly ghost on you once you’re no longer available for impromptu after-work rosés. The ones who stay around once you’ve morphed quite beyond recognition from the girl who used to meet them for hangover corn fritters at a text’s notice, when their lives are travelling along quite nicely on the same path, there’s something to be said for those ones.
So don’t be tempted to ghost on this mate coz you “so don’t get each other anymore” – one day your lives will no longer be quite so other-planet-ly; some version (albeit moulded anew) of your old self will emerge and you might find you quite enjoy chatting to her about The Bachelor – just like you always did. Oh, and she deserves a diamond-encrusted medal for enduring you crapping on about sleep schedules for two years’ worth of coffee dates. Yep, whatever your sleep addled brain might be telling you now, she’s a keeper.
3 // The Random Friend
She’s the friendly face you happen to bump into getting your morning latte or when trying to manoeuvre your enormous pram out of your apartment, always just when you need to. When you’re tipping quite precariously close to the edge, whether from 90 minutes of screaming baby or you just haven’t spoken to anyone over the age of two for what feels like years, she can be a lifesaver. Because sometimes just a few seconds of eye contact from another adult, some sentences exchanged about the steamy weather and a friendly smile can literally lift your entire mood.
Even if you’re the type who, pre-baby, pretended to look for something in her tote – or even crossed the road – so she didn’t have to greet Mavis from down the street, we’re here to tell you that A.B. you’ll likely became more like the stalker-ish lady who deliberately slows down while out strolling just so she’ll cross Bugaboos with another adult. When you first become a mum, you can feel suddenly a bit invisible, like you’re no longer ‘you’ or even really a legitimate person in your own right, but just “Alfie’s mum” – and so, while it sounds trivial, a simple heads-up by an acquaintance that you aren’t just a figment of your sleep-deprived imagination, you do in fact exist and you are worthy of acknowledgement, can go a long way to making you feel alive again.
So thank you, Random Friend. Purely a mate of circumstance, she’s nevertheless part of the social tapestry that forms your own personal village. It really is true that the tiniest things can make a difference to how you feel as you go about your day (especially when your days all look more or less the same).
4 // The New Friend
Once you’ve settled in to mum-hood, whether that’s after a few months or a couple of years, you will emerge from the Mum Void as a slightly re-shaped version of you. Sure, you still look the same (maybe plus a mum tum) and sound the same, but you’ve no doubt left the old you behind somewhere between the birthing suite and toilet training, and emerged a little tougher on the outside, a little softer on the inside and a whole lot more fluent in Wiggles lyrics. This new you will no doubt be drawn to a new breed of friend, and as such, life will likely beckon you to seek out new people.
Embracing the experiences you’ve gone through and the changes they’ve created in you will allow the person you’ve become to open wider to life. So whether you decide to take up CrossFit to help you feel empowered again after a shitty birth experience, or you realise post-kids that you can’t leave your cherubs to return to your cubicle and decide to embrace your creative dreams, along with these experiences, new people will start to enter your life. And with no baggage from years gone by and no expectations about who you are or should be (lest the equilibrium of the little microcosm that is your friendship be rocked), the friends you pick up post-motherhood will forever after hold a special place in your heart as the ones who appreciate, and see, fully, who you are now.
5 // The Before-And-After Friend
This is the one who knew (really knew) and loved you before, and still does. Somehow, quite magically, your respective lives have coasted on (fairly) parallel trajectories as the years have rolled on. From 21sts to post-uni Europe travels, first jobs, house parties, breakups, promotions, first apartments, more breakups and more parties and now motherhood, you’ve walked each other through it all. Now, you can connect equally on which brand of bibs to buy, as on that hilarious night at Goodbar in 2003. From your work wins to that loser you dated before your now-partner, she knows you pretty darn well and she hasn’t resisted the way you have, inevitably, changed along the way. She’s changed, you’ve changed, you’ve no doubt drifted apart and found your way back to each other several times over as the years have ticked on, but she’s the one who can still see the ‘you’ in there when you no longer recognise the face in the mirror.
This friend is the one who knows your baby’s birth date and your birth story as well as your partner’s name. The one who you can call on one of those mornings when you’ve been up with the baby since 3am and you don’t even know how you’re going to get through the next nine hours until your partner returns home from work. The one who will laugh about it with you afterwards, and hopefully again in years to come when you’re walking each other home from brand new adventures you can’t even fathom yet. All of the women in your village are precious, but in terms of friends, she might just be The One, so hold on tight.
WHERE TO FIND YOUR VILLAGE
Need your new army of mum friends? Here’s where they’ll be lurking…
AT THE PARK //
Depending on your own views of hanging out in kids parks, you’ll either gravitate toward the woman enthusiastically organising a running race with a bunch of toddlers, or the woman engrossed in her phone while her babe digs in the sand. Find your tribe, sister!
AT MOTHER’S GROUP //
It’s intimidating to go along to that first one. But go. And then go for the proposed coffee date afterward (there is ALWAYS
a proposed coffee date).
AT THE DAYCARE DROP-OFF //
We know. It’s busy. Kids are being dropped off as mums dash to get to work. But make eye contact. Organise a playdate for the kids. Or jump right in and suggest a mums’ night out.
AT THE SUPERMARKET //
If she’s wandering, glass-eyed, through the baby’s aisle, or absent-mindedly chucking tomatoes into her trolley, chances are she’s a mum. And she needs a village too.