Making friends as a grown-up

And why it’s so different once you have a baby

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I’ve never found it hard to make friends. I was the child who on family holidays would befriend other children in the pool or playground and spend the rest of my week with them. I even went to visit one of my holiday besties at her house in Hertfordshire when we returned home, so bonded we felt after a week in the sun.

In fact, as an older child and teenager, I perhaps wasn’t selective enough. The making friends part was fine, but I wasn’t the most discerning and would realise far later than I should that I didn’t really like my new confidante. Shaking someone off who has your name written next to the letters BFFs 4EVA I.D.S.T. on their school folder was harder than I thought.

Fast forward 25 years or so, and I pride myself on my friends. We are apparently a combination of the people we keep in our closest company and mine are a pretty lovely bunch. Kind, compassionate, loyal, and understanding, they’ve made me who I am today and always make me want to be better.

But when I had my first baby, I stumbled into a whole new arena of friend-making and it wasn’t as easy as I thought. The rules were different: rather than meeting people through shared acquaintances, interests or work, the main precedent for our friendship was based on pro-creating. And that, I found, isn’t always enough.

My husband and I joined an NCT group, and I had high hopes for the new group of parents that I was certain would become my most trusted inner circle. How disappointed I was, then, when they revealed themselves to be a total washout.

One woman rolled her eyes at me every time I asked the course leader a question, and the majority were pretty unenthusiastic when it came to meeting up. At the post-birth social, one of the mums asked me how my birth had gone.

“Good,” I replied while telling her about my natural water birth. “Hard work but no complications. I was really lucky,” I told her.

“Ha ha,” she guffawed. “I had an emergency C-section. You did all of that pushing and I did nothing at all”.

This was my first experience of competitive parenting. It was weird and I didn't like it.

I looked at her in shock. Did she really just say that? Oh yes, she really did. Two weeks later, she removed herself from the WhatsApp group after one of the other mums asked for advice on feeding. I was quietly relieved, but I also didn’t understand.

Wasn’t this supposed to be a ready-made network of fellow parents who WhatsApped each other at 3AM to offer support and camaraderie? Of course, not everyone is going to be your cup of tea, but shouldn’t we at least try? Apparently not.

It wasn’t until I started going to a children’s centre that things really started to click. The centre was very popular and mums from all over the area headed there for free play groups, visits to the health visitor and alike. It was a safe haven and everyone was exactly as I’d hoped: warm, open, and there to find friends.

I spent my first year of motherhood in brilliant company, attending walking groups, soft plays, and lunch dates with some of the kindest and open-minded women I’ve ever met. It was heaven and I loved it.

Of course, as everyone started to go back to work, things changed and that lovely bubble we’d created couldn’t last. It was hard to meet up as often and taking toddlers out to cafes is – as you know - a total nightmare. We also moved to the other side of London, and I had to say goodbye.

Since then, I’ve had my fingers burned a couple of times. I joined the parenting app Peanut which is a brilliant invention and is helping so many mums feel less isolated. But, like dating apps like Tinder, not knowing someone from Adam can be risky and I was disappointed on a couple of occasions.

There was the mum who I started going to a weekly baby group with. She was really easy to get along with and seemingly laid-back. But then, out of the blue, she stopped replying to my texts and deleted me from Instagram. It upset me for weeks.

There was another who would come over for play dates at my house and wipe down my son’s toys before giving them to her baby daughter. She was, as you can imagine, not for me. Like dating, being a serial friend-maker is hard work and not always that fruitful.

But amongst the fails, there have been a couple of successful local friendships, and I’m happy to say they’ve become brilliant sources of support and company - especially over lockdown.

Of course, when the new baby comes, I'm sure there will be a whole new world of friendships to navigate. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned during the last three years of parenting, it’s that when it comes to parenting and friends, quality really does over-ride quantity and I’ll treasure my smaller circle for as long as it lasts.

Until next time,

Cat x

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