Parenthood is this weird club where one is required to seek out and befriend others who are also by default of having pushed a human out, part of the club.
The aim is to find a fellow parent whom you can spend time with so your child can be friends with their child.
There is no prerequisite to share anything in common from the actual real world, so long as you both have the shared experience of mother or parenthood.
This whole thing is so weird, because lets face it in normal life you don’t ‘make friends’ or share your free time with randoms who happen to have one shared endeavour, if in every other aspect of life you have nought in common.
This is the forming of friendships with ulterior motives to that which normal friendship is forged.
When I first had my son, none of my close friends had kids. This meant being the only one with a sprog whilst everyone gets shitfaced.
It wasn’t that I actually wanted friends per-se, it was hard enough to keep up with the ones I already had, but when you are on maternity leave, it can be a lonely and isolating time, and you also want to have people you can actually talk to about your baby.
The ranting, the worries and even to brag. Your friends without kids really couldn’t give a toss. They will tolerate 5 minutes of gush when they first see you and ask for good manners only, how the family is, but then they want you to stop. Perhaps they will even allow you one quickie photo dump but you start cracking out the videos and you are going in the bin. Or if they do see you again, they combine the visit with another mate, to dilute their pain and suffering.
This is where NCT mates shine. In that maternity leave when your baby needs you constantly and every single conversation is interrupted by wailing, feeding requirements or a shitty nappy, there is no time for actual real talk. There is no mind space for a personality or foundations of real deep friendship. You need some other scatty mess that you can talk pure nonsense and compare your kid to, to ensure you aren’t totally failing and to bitch and moan about how hard it is. You need someone who you will abandon, mid sentence, because your baby is trying to shove something in their mouth hole and then totally forget what you were saying, and they couldn’t give a shit because they are also distracted and likely was only paying 50% attention themselves. Don’t return and ask them to remind you what you were saying..they don’t know! Yes that’s the kind of people you need at that stage.
The kind who will arrange to meet you at 10am at the park cafe and you’ll text them at 9:55 to say you are so sorry but you are running late because you got puke and shit on you and they will respond 10 minutes later to say not to worry they haven’t even left yet!
These parents who landed in the eye of the storm at the same time get you. It doesn’t matter if essentially you hate everything else they like or do. They are a parent and at this stage all you need is company based on those shared experiences.
NCT mates are great as you’ve already done all those basic pleasantries of ‘getting to know’ each other and you all know your role. You are a purchased parent friend. No judgements allowed.
But then you go out without them.
You might go to a baby group, a sensory class, baby massage or a local drop in centre.
You’ll look around at all the other new mums bug-eyed.
Equal measures of wanting to belong and make connections and also being filled with serious amounts of dread and anxiety at the idea of speaking to anyone.
This is out of the safety zone.
This requires an actual capacity to think and be coherent.
These parents are allowed to judge you. Unlike the other NCT mums, there is no unwritten agreement to have each other’s back. These mums in the wild require real conversation. They require SMALL TALK!
Urgh, the exchange of names (both child and parent) which you will instantly forget the moment they tell you and then you’ll be forced to have all conversations henceforth in a manner which hides the fact you have completely forgotten.
It may move on to ‘work chat’. What do you do, when are you going back etc etc and of course the inevitable what is your child doing vs what is my child doing obligatory comparison.
In these early chatters you will get an instant idea of whether you like them or not. This will shape whether you start to nod and smile politely whilst wrapping that shit up and then avoid them for the rest of time or whether they will be the token baby group mate you make a bee-line for each session to avoid the horror of going through it with anyone else.
I was the bloody worst at this. As the kind of person that thinks they are extrovert and friendly it is surprising just how much I hate actual people and the active avoidance I adopt to avoid any social interaction.
I went to a large baby music class for well over a year with my son and I literally made not a single mate. I think I spoke to the lady that ran it maybe once.
I would arrive, dishevelled and sweating like a beast, nearly always on the cusp of lateness. I would sit on the outskirt of the circle and make eye contact with nobody.
There were some parents that I had noticed that looked like cool peeps who I might get along with, and I kind of wanted them to come and seek me out. But I certainly wasn’t going to do the approaching.
In retrospect I imagine my eyes gave off a “please be my friend” vibe, whilst my body language was screaming “stay away demon”. It’s perhaps absolutely not a shocker that I made zero friends.
I overwhelmingly really wanted to avoid any of that awful mum banter. The whole thing made me want to vom.
But that was ok. I had my NCT buds and after all, I’d be going back to work after maternity leave and the need to make friends would go.
Until he starts school!
This picture above is an actual real life picture of me and my son at music group. You can spot me at the bottom left, bright red hair, avoiding eye contact like the plague ?.
(All other pictures are free from copyright images taken from Pixabay and Unsplash)