parent opinion

'I was in the 'cool gang' of Mother's Group. I didn't like the person I became.'

I hadn’t always wanted to join the club of motherhood. Becoming a mum? Yes. But the ‘club’? Not so much. I’d seen mothers in the park, meeting in clucky cacophonous broods preening amidst a forest of designer prams. I’d lean in to eavesdrop: their conversation always seemed to be about the shade of their offspring excreta. I certainly wasn’t ever going to join a group like THAT!

But then at around 37, an intense baby craving took over me. I dreamed of all the things motherhood would bring, including being in the ‘Big Club’. There, nobody could callously revel in letting me know I ‘wouldn’t understand’ anything child-related, because I was ‘not a mum.’ I became so sick of hearing that!

Along came my baby. My beautiful, much-longed-for girl who arrived after 13 excruciating rounds of IVF. Oh, the stories I had for the mother’s group.

Watch: A spoken word video staring Laura Bryne articulating the contradiction of pressures that mothers face in their daily lives. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

As an older mum, and a Solo Mum by Choice, I’d been through a lot of unusual stuff to get pregnant. I craved normality. I was even ready to discuss baby poo! And to sit in a circle of fluttery breast-feeders exchanging nappy cream recommendations.

I would bond with the other newbies of motherhood, and my baby and I would make lifelong friends. I just knew it.


I didn’t anticipate the time warp back to my fractious high school years, where girls not-so-silently intimidated and vilified each other for the smallest things. 

Disparaging daggers were cast at a mother’s group inductee who dared to bottle-feed her four-week-old without embarrassment. (‘Breast is best’, after all.) (‘Fed is best’ in actual fact, but that’s a discussion for another time.) I thought we were there to support each other and have a laugh. But I encountered a gossip-fuelled calamity.

Our huge mother’s group split into cliques. I became friendly with a group of lovely, but mouthy women who really made me laugh. We would discuss the other mums at length, always resisting the urge to scrutinise their offspring; that was off-limits. But the mums? Free game! We were having a laugh at motherhood itself, and it felt light and good. 

Late at night, when our newborns were keeping us mercilessly sleepless, our phones would be ‘pinging’ back and forth, at first with pleas of desperate solidarity:

“2 am Poonami. Anyone else?”  

And then we would flow into discussing the other mothers:

“How could Tracy put her six-week-old into daycare? It just seems so young.”

“Did you know, she’s been sleep-training Noah since he was three weeks old? Who DOES that?”

It felt delicious. I was part of the gang.

Later, we actually dared to wonder out loud whether baby Anton was secretly being given walking lessons by his mum, because “It’s just not natural for a baby to be walking at eight months.” (Ours weren’t!)


I’d somehow landed in the ‘cool gang’ (just like high school, eh?) of my mother’s group and was, by my undertaking, cut off from other potential friendships in the wider circle.

There were also other ‘gangs’ that had formed. 

The ‘worriers’ were ever present. Akin to the kids in high school who panicked at the mere mention of a test. In the mother’s group, they were clearly recognisable by the luggage under each eye from getting only forty-five minutes of sleep the night before. They always sat together, randomly throwing out questions like “Whyyyyyy doesn’t my baby sleeeep? Does anybody else’s baby never sleeeeep? (Sigh).” They worried endlessly about everything and vocalised every iota of it.

Then there were the ‘prefects’. The mothers who seemed to really have their sh*t together. They knew the answers to everything and represented motherhood in an outwardly perfect ‘Type-A’ way. Whether they were actually falling apart on the inside or not was a question we ‘cool kids’ would ponder during our 2 am messaging marathons.

The problem was, I didn’t like who I was becoming. I had become so entrenched in the mother’s group thing, that I’d lost touch with my core values and the example I was putting out in the presence of my baby. I didn’t like it.

How dare I make a judgement on other women’s choices? So what if they sent their child to daycare early? I didn’t know the inner workings of their households. None of my business. And the eight-month-old who was walking? Honestly, I think we were all a bit jealous. We wanted OUR kid to be the first, and the ‘cleverest’. 

Was I that desperate to fit in that I allowed myself to advocate for such a linear perspective of motherhood? My intense craving for normality had blinded me. After my tough fight to become a mum, my primary need now was to blend in and shine a spotlight on someone else for a change.


I eventually made a break, ending up with no lifelong friends. I felt backed into a corner, under the assumption that being a mother would automatically afford me friendship and understanding. Seeing the other, much grimmer side was a sad disappointment. And in hindsight, let’s be clear: the blame stops entirely with me, and my choices.

Listen to Me After You where writer Laura Jackel tells us how she felt she couldn’t be herself in her mother’s group. Post continues after podcast.

For me, mother’s group was a vital rite of passage. Even with all the high school stuff, I shared a moment in time with those women. Together, we turned up to meetings, wearily wide-eyed with newborns in our arms. We needed that irreplaceable connection to others going through the same. That’s what drew us there in the first place. And that purpose was well and truly served.

I made friends for a season only, but I couldn’t have survived those early days without them. Coming out of the baby fog was my revelation. The time to be true to myself and gather my integrity. I was ready to find out who I was as a mother, and that’s where I have ended up:

Grateful, remorseful and able to be the role model in life that my daughter needs me to be.

Lorena Otes is an accomplished classical ballet/contemporary dance teacher and choreographer with an Honours degree in the latter. She is also an avid diarist, writer, bookworm, motorbike rider, and devoted Bonnie Tyler fan.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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