Mum friends. Who are they? Why do we need them? Why are they so special?
Making friends when you have a new baby can be pretty straightforward: you go to a baby group, you see other parents with babies of the same age, you chat about the babies. Sounds so simple doesn’t it but actually it’s not always that easy.
Getting to a baby group can be tricky in itself. Perhaps after day three without a proper shower, your inability to find a single item of clothing that doesn’t smell of baby sick is enough to compel you to stay on the sofa with another box set. Maybe the idea of small talk about babies is enough to send you demented – the only thing you have in common is the month your babies were born. You’ve downloaded the Hoop App and found the nearest baby group but you’ve got to get there, find the right room, time feeds and sleeps, and remember all the baby paraphernalia. Or maybe you are just a bit nervous about being the new kid again because the last time you made a new friend was circa 2005.
BUT making mum friends is so crucial and it really is worth all the effort. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that. The early days of parenthood are tough; tougher than anyone could ever imagine. Just knowing that someone else is experiencing it too can make the world of difference. You are not the only one to have 7.2 seconds sleep last night. You are not the only one who can’t quite get that breastfeeding latch right. You are not the only one to cry because you can’t open the jam with one hand. You are not the only one to buy that white noise playing sheep from Amazon at 3am. You are not the only one.
We all need that friend to text with those random mum questions about nappy contents and sticky eyes and dummies and dairy-free formula and coping with vaccinations and how to potty train the toddler whilst breastfeeding the newborn and when really is the best time to introduce a sippy cup. We need our mum friends to listen without judgement. Everyone makes different parenting choice and real mum friends will support you to make your decisions without offering advice unless you ask for it. No one likes unsolicited advice (take note, bus stop lady!).
Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between post-natal depression and the support network new mums have (Dennis, 2008). Mums need someone they can talk openly and honestly with and receive help from friends without having to ask for it. Mums who feel socially isolated are at a much greater risk of developing mental health issues (Dennis, 2008). Lack of a support network ranked third on Nicholson’s (1990) list of post-natal depression risk factors. Loneliness consistently featured in mother’s own accounts of coping with depression (Ugarizza, 2000).
New mums need new mum friends to negotiate the crazy obstacle course of motherhood. Together we are stronger.
So, new mummies: get yourself along to a mummy activity that will enable you to get chatting to other new mums. Parent and baby playgroups are a good place to start – there are usually biscuits too! Baby classes that includes a good opportunity to discuss and share experiences are really valuable (like Baby Massage or Baby Yoga with me!). The mum apps are great (dating apps for mums?) but meeting IRL is way better and that’s why there are more mum meet ups popping up. Just remember, that everyone has been the new girl at some point.
And not-so-new mummies: be welcoming, smile at the new mummy nervously arriving in your class or group. Remember what it was like for you and think about the difference you could make to that new mummy’s day – week. There is always someone who boasts about their baby that slept through the night at ten minutes old, only eats home made, home grown carrot puree, has never seen Baby TV and is already learning Japanese. Don’t be her. Instead, just listen. And make new-er mummy a cup of tea.