Isolation. New mum. These words often find themselves in the same sentence whether it’s in the press, baby magazines, on TV, in conversation. There always seems to be a lot of discussion around the topic and now that I’ve become a new mum I can see why.
My case was always going to be a bit different as I had to move from London to Portsmouth 2-3 weeks before giving birth due to my husbands job. All the midwives we saw down here thought we were crazy especially when Isla came a week early! But we’re used to moving so try to take it in our stride.
I’ve moved around quite a bit throughout my life and have always eventually managed to settle wherever I am. So when people started chatting about having to get out and about and make new friends I thought that I’d be pretty practised in it. I don’t think I fully appreciated how different making friends is when you’re ‘someone’s mum’ rather than just you and the only thing you have in common with the people you meet (to begin with) is your babies….
When we lived in London it was go go go all the time. I worked 9-5 Monday to Friday in a busy retail head office and had made really close friends there. I had close friends and a few best friends from other places I’d lived who were living in London. We met even more friends through friends as a couple and through Rob’s work as well. To be honest at times it was so hard to keep up with everyone! Week nights filled up just as fast as weekends and it was lovely to always have plans.
Cue a huge big shock when not only had I just had a baby (which let’s face it, no matter how prepared you think you are, it rocks your world a little!!) and gone on maternity leave, we’d also just moved away from where we’d lived for the past 4 years. The sudden realisation that I didn’t have any friends and had a new baby to stay at home with all the time threw me into a bit of a feeling-sorry-for-myself state of isolation. I’ve also always been really independent with my social life and having to adjust to being dependent on Rob for social interaction in the evenings has been hard.
I’m rubbish at being at home alone at the best of times. When I was working I was rarely ever off sick and even when I had bronchitis I had to be forced off work and got bored after a day at home. So, to begin with, looking at my beautiful new bundle of joy whilst on my own at home filled me with a sense of dread rather than excitement.
We do have Rob’s brother and our sister in law and nephew near by which is really lovely but they obviously work during the day so I had to begin a mission to try and get out there and meet people.
I knew that if I didn’t get up every day, shower, put make up on and get into some sort of routine with Isla that I’d end up in a vicious cycle of feeling alone, isolated and sorry for myself. I figured as long as I was doing something with my days then that would be a start on the road to trying to settle here.
We’re lucky in the sense that Isla is pretty well behaved and loves the car. If I couldn’t take her out and about in the car without her screaming I’m pretty sure I’d be a lonely, isolated recluse by now.
I started scoping out baby groups on google and Facebook and got a lot of info from my health visitor on what goes on baby wise around the area. In a way it’s lucky that there are a lot of groups, classes and things that go on around here.
I started off slowly and went to a stay and play session at a sure start centre with a neighbour who has a one year old. It was good and there was a whole range of ages of kids there. The parents didn’t really talk to each other much but it was fine as I chatted with my neighbour lots who is so lovely and has been a great help so far. She popped a note through our door one day when we moved in and has been really friendly ever since!
The next week I found an NCT group specifically for babies that was being run at the local library so I thought that might be good as it would be all babies rather than a range of ages. I tried to go along two weeks in a row but had meltdowns with Isla that meant I didn’t leave the house which was upsetting. Eventually I went along one week and everyone was sitting in a circle. They all looked like they knew each other and we’re chatting away which filled me with a horrible anxiety (I’m sure most new mums have felt at one point or another!). I tried to join in the chats as much as possible but at times I was left just sitting there wondering what to do as Isla was sound asleep and I was just sitting there in silence. I didn’t want to look like I was overly talking but at the same time didn’t want to look quiet, it was hard to find a balance whilst really nervous! At the end of the group two girls came up and started speaking which was nice and told me about another group they went to at the nursery they worked at. They also asked my name and said they’d find me on Facebook which was so so nice of them!
I went along to that group the following week and it was a really nice group. Very chatty and the person running it also did a bit of an info session on weaning. They do different ones every week. There’s also a little sensory room for the babies which Isla loved. And there were also lots of sensory toys and pillows to prop the babies up on which is great for them.
This past week I went to another group at a church hall that I had heard was a good one. They were nicely organised, had tea and coffee etc and lots of toys for the kids and were pretty chatty.
I like getting out of the house and Isla is loving the social interaction with other babies but I don’t feel like I’m getting very far with making actual friends. There seems to be different people at the groups every week which makes it hard and I think that often people are just going to these groups to fill time as they already have their own friends and family in the area. The two girls I met at the NCT one the first time, who are really nice and friendly, have given me their numbers and we’re hopefully doing something after the group next week which I’m excited about.
You do start wondering if you’re worth being friends with when people don’t seem to take you on which doesn’t do much for the old self esteem which is bruised and battered after having a baby anyway! It can be hard to gauge whether people actually like you when it’s all about the babies.
It’s obviously a lovely thing that we all have babies in common but it’s just finding out whether you have more in common with people other that just babes in order to form proper friendships.
I really miss not having family around at this time too, I think that’s making it even harder. I hope that for the next baba (if there’s one!) that we’ll be closer to my home.
I’m now looking at baby yoga, baby sensory and swimming classes to fill our days with too. There’s also a baby PEEP class that my health visitor recommended we go to as it’s a good one for baby development. Talk about filling time up just to be out of the house!
I also made such lovely friends at my antenatal class in London so I’m planning to travel up once a month to see them and their beautiful babies, which is a nice escape!
I’ve been up to London on my own in the car with Isla to see friends a couple times so at least I know I can do that when I’m missing them and Londontown.
I guess I maybe need to accept that, whilst on maternity leave, I can’t force friendships and they will hopefully just come with time. When I start a new job there will be also be another avenue to hopefully meet people through.
I always have this beautiful little creature to keep me company too…
How have you all found making mummy friends? Does it help having family and friends in the area already?
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A twenty-something, full time working, mum of two, with a love for all things cat, cacti and scandi related.