By Charlotte Colehan
We have recently moved to a new town – new country in fact. To be accurate, we are back in our original country, but newly arrived as parents, and thus aliens on our home turf. We are in a whole new town though, and experiencing the absolute lack of a social life that comes with it. As the unemployed one domestic goddess of a stay at home mum, I have been charged with the job of making us some friends. It’s a fair balance I guess, one person brings home the bacon, and the other brings home random strangers that they have hounded with barely concealed desperation for adult conversation. I hasten to add at this point that we do have friends and aren’t aggressive sociopaths. It’s just that none of our friends are both a) geographically proximate and b) currently attempting to learn the rules of this crazy parenting game. Old friends are the most important you will ever have, but old friends are far away, or planning a round the world trip, or revelling in mad bachelor-hood. It is also vital to have a circle of friends close by who are going through similar shit as you, i.e. other young parents.
So, enter the Toddler Groups. Now, I am not a novice at this. When M was a newborn in the deepest darkest depths of the Canadian Rockies, I did ALL the baby groups. I did the crazy hectic one with the free lunch in the community centre. I did the cosy breastfeeding support group. I did the story time session at the library that she was far too young for. And it’s scary stuff showing up to these groups as a newbie. Think first day of school, but you haven’t slept for three weeks and you’ve got a seven pound wriggle monster producing questionable smells permanently attached to your permanently bare breast. No pressure.
You have met someone who actually wants to talk about all the things that occupy your baby-fevered mind day and night. And before you know it, you’re both sat there, boobs akimbo, sharing stories of episiotomies and baby poo like you’ve known each other for years.
But then, you settle in a bit. Someone starts chatting to you, asks your baby’s name, how much did she weigh, how’s her sleeping, isn’t meconium gross? And magic happens, because you can chat back, you can ask the same questions, you have so much in common with this complete stranger. You have met someone who actually wants to talk about all the things that occupy your baby-fevered mind day and night. And before you know it, you’re both sat there, boobs akimbo, sharing stories of episiotomies and baby poo like you’ve known each other for years. And then more mums join in, and you’re all giggling and sympathising with each other in this big beautiful sisterhood. But then it’s time to go. And you wave goodbye, trying not to call any of the mums by their baby’s name. Everyone lingers a little bit, but not too much as to seem desperate, and then they go their separate ways. Until next week.
After a few weeks of this, you have a new mission. The sisterhood at baby group is all very well. You’re settled in, you’re established, you’re one of the gang. But you want more. You want a Real Friend for The Outside World. And you’ve singled out the one you are going to snare. I probably sound crazy right now, but this was my actual mindset on the day that I built up the courage to ask my friend Jess for her phone number at baby group. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was like dating, with a very real fear of rejection. The whole two hours of the group I was preoccupied, second-guessing myself, making excuses in my head. What if she was just being polite to me? What if she’s actually a bit nuts? (Maybe that’s why I like her though). What if she fake-numbers me? What if she rejects me in front of the other mums, how will I ever show my face again? It’s a good thing no one can see inside your head at that level of sleep deprivation.