We all need our friends, and Lucianne Lewis, stay-at-home-mum and blogger at The Tantrum Times offers a tongue in cheek look at hers!
The Rules of Engagement:
There are 4 types of friends it is socially acceptable to have as a mum. We all know the rules, extend the arm of friendship to someone outside of these situations at your peril. People will either think you are trying to rob them or sleep with their husband neither of which is a great foundation for a lasting friendship.
The 4 times you are allowed to make friends are:
Uni friends: Typically acquired playing “I have never” in your filthy halls kitchen; mainly contacted these days via an out of control WhatsApp group, meeting annually or biannually at best.
Work friends: Initiated while playing “I have never” at after work drinks, typically on a WhatsApp group full of office “banter”; meeting daily in the queue for Starbucks. LinkedIn contacts don’t count, no matter how many times they congratulate me on my work anniversary at a job I left 5 years ago.
NCT friends: Originally befriended playing “I would never do that with my baby” and eating biscuits at an NCT class; despite the initial 9 months where you were in contact at 3am most morning and shuffled your buggies into cafes looking like the soul survivors of the apocalypse. Today you bump into each other at play groups and feel slightly awkward that you both know the inmate details of what befell your lady garden during child birth.
Mum friends: Here is the rub, the scenarios above usually involve, at least some degree of alcohol fueled debauchery, or is that marriage? Both in my case. Offering a potential new “mum friend” a can of pre mixed gin and tonic at the school gates isn’t the “done” thing, even if she looks like she needs a stiff drink. That leaves us with dreaded small talk, “Good weekend?” will see you through until Tuesday pickup and from then on it’s, “So, what are you up to this weekend?” and so on. The best you can hope for is an awkward play date to ascertain whether the children actually like each other, if they don’t all bets are off. If successful your play date becomes a regular feature, this is eventually cemented at class drinks, a night out to the local pub where we all breathe a huge sigh of relief as we are safely back to the safety of over sharing and alcohol fueled debauchery A.K.A friendship.
I have 3 close mum friends from school, that’s right 3! So I guess you could say I’m nailing the social side of parenting. Here are my 3 golden rules for making long lasting friends:
Keep It Real
Since becoming a mum I have become much more open, more empathetic and way more emotional. I used to have quite a lot of friends but remain quite private and closed off. We all know the realities of getting children ready in the morning so the most appealing quality in a potential mum friend is to be authentic. It’s hard to stay too guarded when your children declare “My mummy has hairy boobs” when you pull up alongside them at the school gate.
Be Yourself, Nobody Likes a Try Hard
Friendship usually blossoms where you have a common purpose but there has to be some chemistry. This is what I think people mean when they say “making mum friends is like dating.” People tend to let their guard down when they are around people with children and there is a common understanding of the challenges of parenting to discuss. I have often been envious of the universal language of football that allows men to form bonds so effortlessly. Procreating at a similar time does not a friendship make, there needs to be some chemistry. Inevitably, the more you try at something the less you will succeed. This sounds annoyingly counter intuitive when you want to make friends but the harsh reality is, no one likes a social try hard, it smacks of desperation and makes people suspect you are somehow flawed. This is where it has a lot in common with dating. I’ve learnt this the hard way. There was a mum in my daughter’s kindergarten who I tried to befriend last year, she was a working mum so I tried to be accommodating and took her politely declining coffee invite after coffee invite as her being busy so I tried harder to engage with her and to find a suitable time until she stopped replying to my texts at all and blanked me in the playground. At first I was affronted but the reality was, I was behaving like an over-zealous puppy and as my very good and unwaveringly honest mum friend put it “Maybe she’s just not that into you?” Once the penny dropped I was fine I understood the rules of engagement and began the grown up pursuit of ignoring her right back. One morning I was so busy trying to ignore her in the school car park I hurried along staring down at my 4-year-old and tripped over the wheel of the buggy falling at her feet. Playing it cool fail, but at least I was back to being my usual clumsy self. I am now the proud owner of a humungous pair of black sunglasses so I never have to make eye contact again.
Be Your Child’s Example
Being a people pleaser can be a positive trait but the need to be liked also comes with it’s own mind gremlins and I don’t want to pass that on my 4 year old. She is incessantly talking about “best friends”. She is not particularly discerning and has bestowed this liberally on everyone from her school friends to the middle aged man at our local Londis. Hopefully being this fickle with her affections won’t set the pattern for her romantic liaisons in (much, MUCH) later life. Initially I tried to stop her doing this for fear of excluding other children and upsetting them, and I do get involved if I hear “you are NOT my best friend” but the reality she is just beginning to enjoy a close bond with her friends and while I can be there to guide her, ultimately she has to learn to navigate her own friendships. The best I can do is to lead by example with my mum crew.
How did you meet your mum friends? Let us know in the comments!
About the author:
Lucianne Lewis is a stay at home mum, writer and blogger. Before becoming a wife and mother she earnt a Law degree from Warwick University in 2005 and spent a decade working in marketing in both England and the US. She writes a parenting blog where she always writes honestly about her experiences of raising two girls only twenty months apart. She tries to be hilariously funny but admits she often lands awkwardly in mildly amusing. Chocolate ice cream and stand up comedy are the way to her heart.