This post is a response to an open letter I saw on Huffpost about making mum friends as a new mum, especially to her opening paragraph (see quotes below) which is just so wrong I was inspired to counter it in the hopes I can reassure even one new mama who feels lonely and out of her depth.
Making friends as a mom is hard. Real hard. Hard like trying to go to the bathroom while holding a screaming newborn, hard. Hard like trying to walk your dog and push the stroller, hard. Hard like trying to eat and breastfeed at the same time, hard. I think you get the picture, it is pretty stinkin’ difficult.
Dear new mums hoping to make friends,
You may have read the piece by Rosie Majka saying it’s hard, or maybe you haven’t but you’re worried about stepping into the unknown, alone, without the companionship of your usual wing-women going through it all with you. Whichever it is please allow me to reassure you: being a new mama is an ideal way to make friends and it couldn;t be easier.
Having a new baby, especially the first time around, is difficult: true. Switching your life from being you-centric, to putting this tiny, wailing, needy blob’s needs before yours is an alteration of mindset that no amount of advice could prepare you for. More than at any other time in your life you need the company of others who understand.
Put yourself out there – join online ante-natal groups, do an NCT class, go along to ‘bumps n babies’ type groups – and do it all before you have your baby. Pregnancy is tough and it’s a great way to bond with other mamas, but still so much easier than trying to do it around your new baby when you look like you’ve been run over by a train and don’t feel much better.
Becoming a mama is like being given access to an exclusive club. There is no secret handshake, and the only uniform are the markers of motherhood, whether that’s a sick-stained shirt, bags under your eyes, or just a nappy bag roughly the size of a suitcase bulging with all the essentials a tiny person needs for a twenty minute trip.
See, this is the thing, you may not become lifelong friends, true, but every mother you meet, however old her child, understands what you’re going through and the ones who are going through the same things at the same time feel like sisters-in-arms. More than anyone they empathise, understand and support because they are in the middle of their own battle and sometimes it feels like they get you more than your husband, more than your own mother even.
It isn’t hard to talk to these women. Start a chat at the park, at a group, in the supermarket. Ask how old ‘theirs’ is. Ask where they got that gorgeous rompersuit. Every friendship has to start with a small conversation and it doesn’t take long before you can progress to going out for coffee. Their kid doesn’t have to be on the same schedule. You don’t have to like their kid. When they’re under 3 the kids don’t even have to like each other as they play side by side (after that they start to have more opinions on such things, but that’s a long way off – right?).
Sure, some people find it harder to start a conversation or a friendship than others, but that will surely have always been the case – it doesn’t get any harder now you’re a mother. Children can, in fact, provide a buffer. Something to talk about, something to focus on when there’s an awkward moment. Like dog walking, there’s an instant topic of conversation and the other mums are in the same boat and will most likely just be grateful you made the first move. Ignore your kid in this situation – the friends are for you, not them. They’ll get their chance to express a preference when they start preschool.
Rosie’s not wrong when she says it’s worth making the effort and getting out there – having friends who understand is an absolute essential of motherhood. But she is wrong when she says it’s harder than it was BC (before children). I have never had so many friends – good friends. Friends I can call when I’m having a mental health crisis or am stuck at home with a sick child and need eggs to make dinner. Do not be discouraged or dispirited. Motherhood is not the end of friendships, it’s a wonderful opportunity to make new ones.