During my pregnancy I had brilliant daydreams of my new life with the twins, giggling babies lying on a blanket gnawing their fresh carrots, whilst chatting to friends over a glass of wine and cooking up a feast. Boy was I wrong! I was terribly naive regarding the energy and effort required to look after twins and the strain it would put on my friendships. I really wish someone had told me. Well, that’s not strictly true, my GP did say ‘nothing will prepare you’. When the babies arrived I had an epiphany and felt incredible awe and admiration towards my friends who became mothers before me. I now truly appreciated the demands on their time and was grateful for their friendship.
The early days
When my twins were born, I was inundated with curious visitors all vying for a peek, but after a few months and the initial shock and blurriness had passed, things went a little quiet. Of course this was largely attributed to my new busy schedule and unwavering distain for late nights (in my world, caring for young babies and hangovers never happily co-exist!) I also wasn’t meeting my friends in the same places. I had given up work and withdrawn from many nights out and gatherings. Consider all the different groups of friends you have – work friends, friends that live down the road, someone you met at Pilates. If you were to change jobs or move house, after a while you’d soon notice how you had less contact with them. As our circumstances change, our networks of friends change also. However when we have a baby, the effect of these changes is much more profound. We may have (temporarily?) given up work, late nights and Pilates, all at once. This can have a very unsettling effect on your friendships. For these reasons, I witnessed my group of friends undergo some major restructuring.
Thankfully, the majority of my friends have been really supportive, and only one or two weren’t quite on my wave-length. I realised as they hadn’t had babies yet, they had no clue what I was going through. And how could they? To expect them to understand is expecting a little too much. I recall being on the other side of this scenario, when an old friend, the first within our group, had her first baby. We all wondered where she’d gone and complained of never getting to see her. On the rare occasion that we did meet, she talked about her baby constantly. We were feeling a sense of loss. Although you have experienced huge changes in your life, it may take some friends a while to adjust to you and how you’ve changed. Don’t rule them out for dragging their feet in accepting your transition to motherhood. Hopefully these problems should only be temporary. Instead, try to empathise and remind them how much you value your friendship, and look forward to the stage when you’ll have a little more freedom to spend time together. Organise a babysitter and plan a girls’ night out. Some friendships may appear to cool off for a time, but they may rejuvenate, most likely when your friends begin their own families. They will have that ‘light bulb’ moment, look back and realise why you couldn’t find a baby sitter at such short notice, or can’t talk on the phone for more than two minutes. Then you will enjoy the position of mothering expert, a go-to for all their parenting conundrums!
Armed with my massive changing bag (think Mary Poppins!) containing two clean outfits, two bottles, two soothers, two cuddly toys, wipes, snacks and a million nappies, I was ready to get back out there, babies in tow to meet the girls. We had our share of misunderstandings. One friend couldn’t see why meeting for lunch at a nice restaurant with two babies would never work (my meal would go stone cold and I wouldn’t get a chance to eat it), or why I couldn’t wait until Friday night for her decision on whether to meet on Saturday afternoon. Some couldn’t grasp how impromptu gatherings belonged to my previous life. I was baffled by another friend’s behaviour – she called to see me, and whilst elbow-deep in baby, we attempted to chat. It lasted all of five minutes. ‘Oh I can see you’re busy, I’ll come back another time’. I thought ‘when are you going to come back? This is kind of the way things are now!’ I knew she was uncomfortable when I asked if she’d like to hold one of the babies – she glanced down to make sure she was wearing old clothes that day! I wondered why she didn’t get it. After she regaled me with stories of how busy she was and how she never intended on having babies, she left and I haven’t seen her since. How could she not appreciate that hidden underneath the unkempt hair and baby paraphernalia, her old friend was dying to hear her news? As difficult and hurtful as it was, I have had to accept her resistance and allow the friendship to fade.
Welcome to Mummy Club!
I’m sure you’ve heard on more than a few occasions ‘welcome to mummy club!’ And it’s true, upon entering motherhood, you are granted instant, privileged access to an entirely new network of people, whom you might not previously have spoken to or had anything in common with. Say hello to your new friends. A trip to the playground or mother and toddler group (or almost anywhere!) creates a great opportunity to strike up conversations with other mums. I remember my first encounters and it seemed rather odd but lovely too. I can’t think of any other situation where it’s so normal and almost expected to start chatting with those around you. If you are feeling isolated and lonely, try chatting with another mummy, chances are she’s dying for a chat too and you’ll have lots in common. This is a brilliant way of making new friends and if your children are of a similar age, you’ll always have shared experiences. I’ve met some lovely, like-minded mummies since my kids have started pre-school, even another mum to boy and girl twins!
Maintain the friendships you have
Early motherhood can be a lonely and challenging time for mothers, so it’s important to maintain the valuable friendships we have. Friends can help us navigate through the stressful times, we can compare notes when our children are ill or simply help each other not to worry so much! The majority of our friends have most likely been incredibly supportive and we shouldn’t take them for granted. Take time for yourself to socialise with your friends, even if it’s only once a month. You’ll feel the benefits and this will help prevent resentment building when you pine for your old life! Despite all the comings and goings I have found that I have more friends and stronger friendships in comparison to my pre-baby life. I can confidently say ‘I know who my friends are’.
(Originally published in Mums and Tots, Winter Issue 2013).
Photo credit : FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici.
Categories: Mummy time